Monthly Archives: April 2009

Fabrice is Coming to Town

Root Hill Cafe

Root Hill Cafe

(In case you haven’t heard).
(and pending he is actually allowed to enter swine-flu territory)
.
(and is not afraid to do it).

Fabrice is a good friend of my husband – a very good friend, even. The kind of friend who Florent is so much looking forward to seeing that each time we go to a nice place (or rather, the kind of place Fabrice would like), I get the usual:

Oh dis donc, on devrait y retourner avec Fabrice, je suis sur qu’il adorerait. (Let’s come back here when Fabrice is here, I am sure he’d love it).

So Fabrice: for you to be able to overcome your fear of the flu (and I know that your are scared), here is a list of the places we will go back to – with you.

For petit-dejeuner en semaine, we will go to Root Hill. I love their coffee, really. Nice stop on your way to the subway before hitting the streets of Manhattan. Just avoid to go there around 3pm on a school day – the place transforms into a huge day care. Perturbing.

For brunch on week-end, I actually have two places. One if you don’t mind waiting (no reservation):  Cheryl’s .  Just

Al Di La Trattoria

Al Di La Trattoria

a really simple, warm tiny place full of love. Great pancakes (some of my favorite pancakes ever actually). Ideal to make you feel better before the first symptoms of the swine flu kick in. Get fresh is for when you convalesce: everything is organic and fresh and good (merveilleux Park Slope).

For lunch/showing off the mac you will have just bought at the apple store, we will go to ‘sNice (Park Slope, on 5th avenue, corner with 3rd street). Nice music, nice vibe.

For dinner – oh la la, so many places. Italian: al di la (and now they also have a wine bar – better for the 45-min wait) – applewood if we want to get fancy to celebrate that we are still alive. For old time sake, Beast in Prospect Heights. Can’t believe I forgot this place (went there two years ago, right after I arrived in NYC). Spanish Tapas. Delicious.

For binge drinking – after all, we might all be dead very soon so what the hell. Well, there’s the beer garden across the street (and if we’re lucky – i.e. if everybody else is home with the flu – we might be able to find a seat outside). And of course Union Hall – just to show all these Americans how to play Petanque.

And Alex, I know you are even more scared than Fabrice to come (and I am not sure I want you either after all. With all the trips you make to Asia I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d brought us a nasty form of H5N1 H1N1). But in any cases, rest assured, we’ll have a little something ready for you too.

Union Hall

Union Hall

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Mon frigo est COM-PLE-TE-MENT vide – day 1

How many times have you looked at your fridge in utter disarray, asking yourself how you could possibly make even a single meal with the two desperate carrots and three eggs forgotten in some remote corners of your fridge (that is, besides carottes rapees et oeufs au plat). So that was my state of mind last Sunday while staring rather blankly at my poor fridge, and thinking:

  • I don’t want/I don’t have time/I hate grocery shopping. Plus, in case you haven’t heard – it’s RECESSION time. The least you can do is try and not waste food you might be able to use.
  • It’s spring already, so let’s try something a little springy like for a change.

So here’s my challenge: let’s try and make as many meals as possible with the remnants of my fridge and see where this leads us. Sunday was really sunny in Park Slope, the first day you would actually venture outside, and I thought salad, like a nice hearty salad with many colors for diner. I had a few carrots (two), some italian parsley, a can of corn kernels, and some frozen green beans. I know, I know, there is nothing better than fresh ingredients in season but hey, please see above. Oh – and I forgot I had some celery too. And parsley, and olives.

So that’s how I came up with la salade du frigo, a sort of macedoine of corn, celery, carrots, beans and parsley. Ok, granted, macedoine is not necessarily the first dish that would come to mind, at least for the French: Macedoine is a potato-carrots-beans-peas salad with mayonnaise, typically French, but also typical reminder of les dejeuners a la cantine (that’s were kids eat for lunch in French schools), right about the time when my mother forced me to wear this horrible bib with a pink elephant on it and the other kids would make fun of me. But that was UNTILL I tasted the ultimate macedoine, made by a friend of my mother I was visiting in Alcala de Henares, Spain (famous for its gigantic jail – no kidding). OMG, OMG, OMG it was good: fresh ingredients, and first and foremost, very very good, homemade mayonnaise.

Believe me, I would not even dare to come close to this Macedoine, but in any cases that’s what I had in mind when I prepared this salad.

Ingredients (and no need to say that if you have FRESH ingredients it’s even better):

  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 can of corn kernels
  • 2-3 celery branches
  • 1 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • oh and some black olives, that’s always nice
  • salt, pepper, cumin and a little bit of cayenne pepper

For the mayonnaise

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tblspoon of  moutarde de dijon
  • vegetable oil (I like to use a neutral oil and then finish off with a little bit of olive oil)
  • lemon juice (just a little bit)

Yield: 4

Start with the mayonnaise. Bear in mind that you should try to have the ingredients – roughly – at the same temperature (just remove the egg & mustard from the fridge a little before if you think about it)

  • Mix the yolk with the mustard, salt & pepper;
  • Progressively add oil with a whisker until it reaches the consistency/color &taste you like (I typically taste it regularly and like it when it is still a little mustardy).
  • Now : the secret (to make sure that you mayonnaise ne tourne pas): first make sure that your mayonnaise “prend” by using only a small quantity of oil at a time. The beginning of a mayonnaise is indeed a critical time.
  • Finish off with a little lemon juice (just a gentle squizz). You’ll see the mayonnaise turn to a paler color. It’s cool.

Actually, I shouldn’t call this a mayonnaise but rather a mousseline: I added half the egg white – whisked. Why? Well this way the sauce is lighter.

Le persil plat c'est important

Le persil plat c'est important

Once the mayonnaise is done, well just add the grated carrots, sliced celery, corn, and cut green beans. And of course  the parsley. Never forget parsley. And the olives. I also add a little cumin (half a teaspoon), salt & pepper.

OK – I am all for changing recipes and what not (and I don’t think I have ever followed a recipe a la lettre actually – that’s why I don’t like baking. However, here are a few things I would not advise:

  • Replace handmade mayonnaise by store bought mayonnaise, especially if you live in the US: no offense, but your mayonnaise does not taste like mayonnaise. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t like it or use it. It’s just different. It is OK in sandwiches (i.e. sandwiches you make when you come back from work at 10pm, are starving and want something quick and comfy to put in your stomach) but I would advise against it here, especially if you don’t use fresh ingredients.
  • Use canned green beans. That’s just gross.
  • Use the other kind of parsley, the frizzy stuff… Hate it. No matter how thin you slice it, you always end up with a bit stick in your throat and then you can’t talk and then you can’t swallow and then you die.

I served this with a Croque Monsieur (also a savior when your fridge is almost empty). Not that there is a need of a recipe for this, but I was actually pretty proud with this one – might share it one day.

Restaurants I Want to Go Back To

One of the perks of living in NYC  (compared to say – Boise, Idaho) is that your friends and family from back home tend to visit quite often. And for some reasons, they tend to all come when spring comes, so around now .

And of course it is always nice to have family around, that 3rd degree cousin on your father’s side whom you barely know when you lived in Paris but somehow grew extremely interested in your – somewhat uncertain – future in NYC. OR – your partner’s old friend from kindergarten who desperately needed to get in touch with him/her and a sofa to crash while in NYC.

And of course, with all these visitors, an unemployed housewife has to entertain. Thing is, sometime the said housewife does not want to entertain. And she doesn’t want to spend hours to find THE new restaurant to bring and, most importantly, having guests over means that you can indulge yourslef  in these restaurants you wouldn’t go with your NY friends anymore because, well, you’ve already been there.

This is actually a bone of contention between my partner and I : not long ago, we had a dinner with some very nice cousins of his (my partner has a very large family). And, being an unemployed housewife, I was in charge of looking for a restaurant. Turns out I was in the mood for a good burger (and the nice thing about tourists is that they are always in the mood for a good burger). And for me good burger in the city=BLT burger. Ok, I am sure my friend Emily (who could – and should – write a whole blog on burgers in NYC) would have something to say about it. And I am sure you could find a better, juicier, cheaper burger.
But BLT Burger is cozy, trendy enough to satisfy my boboitude (and my snobby Parisian friends). And the burgers are good: good meat, rare when you ask for it, crispy bacon. Fries are good too (they have different kinds but I tend to stick to the regular french fries).

Mais voilà, my partner wanted a NEW restaurant and suggested GOOD restaurant (criteria being, not far from Philipps de Pury, CHEAP, American food). D’accord d’accord I go (am a flexible gal). Also, it was a critick’s pick in New York Mag and the two reviews I saw were very promising. So here we are at GOOD. Florent orders the House-Smoked BBQ Pulled Pork, with crisp polenta and creamy cucumber (sounded promising I thought); Rachel a chicken sausage with cabbage and white beans; Lucy a burger and Fred and I the GOOD burger with pulled pork ; mozzarella; beef and caramelized onions. And I know what you are thinking: why – on earth – would you choose something like that? Burgers are supposed to be simple (that’s Emily whispering to my ears).  A nice, soft bun, a little bit brioche on the edge and slightly sweet if you want; a rare lean patty (juicy juste comme il faut) . And I am biased towards crispy bacon and cheddar cheese.

And guess what: Emily is right; stay clear from these sophisticated patties. Or for that matter, from Good restaurant . Our burgers were dry; the pulled pork was ok but dry too (which sounds like an heresy to me) there seemed to be some kind of cheese in between the beef and pulled pork layer but I wouldn’t call it mozzarella. I did like the buns though. French fries were not salty enough; Florent’s polenta’s thingy looked like a dried out polenta pancake. I feel bad that my second post is about a restaurant I did not like; but to be fair I really was taken aback by the two raving reviews in NYMag. Alors maybe it ‘s only because we went at a bad time; the chef was trying out pulled pork because it is soo comforting in recession times.

Hence my resolutions:
– keep to simple burger;
– bring your out-of-towners to: Katz; BLT burger; and BLT Fish Shack; Bonnie’s Grill (for the Park Slopers) and John’s Pizzeria

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Poireaux Pommes de Terre

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So Alice told me that I should blog. It’s true that I don’t have a hell of a lot to do these days. Or, rather, I should be actively looking for a job. As everyone knows, and as everyone – especially my dear beloved – keeps telling me “chercher du travail c’est un travail a plein temps” (looking for a job is a full time job).

Well…okay…fine, but you tell me if you manage to write 15 cover letters a day, send thousands of emails and tell everyone all day long how amazing you are and what a great asset you would be to their companies, with you ability to strive under pressure, your particularly acute attention to details – while – it goes without saying – keeping in mind the bigger picture with your strategic mind and analytical skills.

It was time indeed to follow Alice’s advice and example (check out fantastic Quatre Cinquieme, made me realize I desperately needed a white shirt) and start blogging about the only thing I knew a little about – besides of course event planning, project management, human rights, transatlantic relations and all these skills that make me an indispensable asset to any company. That is: FOOD. And, recession oblige, it had to be food on a budget.Poireaux Pomme de terre – Potatoes & Leeks – is actually one of my favorite combination for a good – cheap – hearty meal. It IS spring, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it here in Brooklyn. So let’s take this opportunity to cook a nice poireaux pomme de terre gratin. Because soon we WILL have to cook with those boring springy summery basil, tomatoes, melon and what not. And, lesson number one: never miss an opportunity to use creme fraiche (well, here in Brooklyn, United States, I tend to use regular heavy cream. If I had to use creme fraiche each time I needed creme fraiche here, I would be broke in no time).

I used this recipe from goosto.fr – which I tweaked a little: adding two leeks (I love those leeks), using only a cup of heavy cream (250 ml) – because that’s all I had (and I did quit smoking not so long ago and find it hard to fit into my jeans) – added one fig leaf (because I always do). Oh – and I replaced the hazelnuts by bacon (I know – it doesn’t go too well with my I-just-quit-smoking-and-need-to-loose-weight-remark) but I didn’t have hazelnut.

For those of you who don’t read French (and don’t understand metrics) – here it is:

  • 2 pounds of potatoes
  • 3 leeks
  • sliced bacon (1/2 a cup I would say)
  • nutmeg
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • butter
  • salt & pepper
  • bay leaf

Set your over on 375 F.
In a large saucepan, sautee the bacon and add the leeks – sliced thin and really really nicely rinsed if you don’t want to eat dirt. Salt, pepper, bay leaf. Let it sweat for 10 minutes or so. Add cream & milk and bring to a boil. Add the thinly sliced potatoes. Pour the mix in a buttered oven dish and cook for 1 hour and a half.

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