Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rösti with Hard-boiled Egg and Toulouse Sausage

Two years ago during my visiting family in Britain, The Calm One's sister was embroiled in a rating war. Her kids' number seven out of ten verdict on her mashed potatoesmine was begrudgingly granted a fivewould not budge regardless of her tireless efforts. A potato ricer was hopefully bought. This past August, during their visit to our French home, I got to see that ricer again. While whipping it out from a crammed suitcase, she looked intently into my eyes and exclaimed, salt!

Hashbrowns, Swiss-style

It was not the variety of tater, if the milk was hot, or any other factor that was being considered. Once that simple element was added, everybody was happy, including moi as I always wanted to make rösti using a ricer or at least I did until my research revealed the desired texture is achieved by coarsely grating par-boiled potatoes: the rösti glows while the ricer glowers.

The forlorn ricer

Makes 5-6 side servings or two meal-sized portions

Potatoes, 750 grams, about 4 large
Butter, 2 T
Lard, 2 T
Salt/fleur de sel
Eggs, large, hard-boiled, 2
Sausage, sweet Italian or Toulouse, 1, cooked, crumbled
Parsley sprigs for garnishing 

Potatoes that hold their shape are the best for this dish and are usually sold as salad/steaming/waxy potatoes. The night before or a few hours before making the rösti, scrub and boil them just until tender, but not soft. The fresh, smallish potatoes I used took about ten minutes.

Jeanette, a pretty mid-season variety from our potager

Put the potatoes in the fridge for at least two hours. Peel and then grate them using the largest hole of the grater. If salt is desired, then add it to taste. The purists leave it out as they are not concerned about rating wars. Fleur de sel could be sprinkled on the finished rösti by each eater instead of adding it to the grated potatoes.

Heat to sizzling hot, one tablespoon of butter along with one tablespoon of lard in a heavy-bottomed, eight-to-nine-inch skillet, preferably cast iron.

Put the grated potatoes in the hot fat and let be for a minute or two, then give the skillet a good shake to unstick the starchy mass. Lower the heat.

Using a spatula, even out and lightly press down the potatoes, while molding into a rounded edge.

Resist the urge to compress the rösti too much, as you want it to be somewhat fluffy.

While it's cooking, hard boil two eggs and reserve at room temperature. After around ten minutes check to see if the bottom has browned. If so, then the challenge of flipping awaits you.

This is the way I do it.  Holding securely a lid over the skillet, I flipped it over, leaving the rosti browned side up in the lid.

Placing a plate over the lid, I repeat the maneuver which results in having the rösti land uncooked side up on the plate. If you are still with me, and I know you are, the last step is not to collapse into a tired heap on the sofa, but to bravely finish the task at hand. You saunter over to the skillet that now has the remaining butter and lard sizzling away, with that lovely half-cooked rösti, levelling and touching the plate with the skillet in preparation for flipping. Place your thumbs under each side of the plate, with the rest of your fingers on top. Starting slowly, bring up the plate and then quickly flip it over the skillet. You can practice with an empty plate.

While it's cooking for ten minutes, re-warm the sausage and reserve. The rösti can be cut in the pan or slid out onto a serving platter. Decoratively arrange egg slices and sprinkle them with sausage. Garnish with a parsley sprig.

Yes, all that flipping was exhausting and silly, but this is what you get to eat!

Dirac the kitten is developing a keen skill for acrobatics. One challenging 'tightrope' is the rocking chair's armrests. The program has been augmented with holding a cloth puck in his mouth while balancing his furry self.

How was he able to pull off such a concerted effort? He first practiced walking on the armrest many a time and then holding a puck right above the surface of my desk, sometimes for ten minutes, before combining the two activities. Obviously a committed artist!

À la prochaine!


La Crique Ardéchoise

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Maple Spice Cake Squares & Mocha Glaze Icing

Pumpkins? Apples? Nuts? Perhaps. However, to my nose and tastebuds, there is nothing that magically transforms a kitchen into an autumnal one more than the addition of fragrant, sweet spices and maple syrup to cake batter.

using a 9x9 inch pan, makes nine 3 inch squares, recipe can be doubled, using a 9x12 inch pan

Flour, plain, white, 8 fluid ounces
Baking soda, 1/2 tsp
Baking powder, 1/2 tsp
Salt, 1/8 tsp
Cinnamon, ground, 1.5 tsp
Cloves, ground, 1/4 tsp
Nutmeg, freshly grated, 1/4 tsp
Butter, sweet, softened to room temperature, 4 T
Sugar, white, 5 T
Maple syrup, 4 fluid ounces
Yogurt, plain, 4 fluid ounces
Egg, large, beaten, 1

Sugar, icing/confectioner's, powdered, 4 fluid ounces
Cocoa, unsweetened, powdered, 1 T
Coffee, brewed, cooled, 2-3T

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. For the cake, in the smaller of two mixing bowls, put all the dry ingredients except the sugar.

The spilled spices resemble fall leaves

Blend until the mixture has an even beige tone.

In the larger bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Using a fork, it takes about five minutes to get the fluffy consistency of mashed potatoes.

Add the maple syrup.

Blend well. The mixture will look a little curdled, but it will be fine.

Mix in the yogurt and then the eggs. Stir in the dry ingredients in several batches.

The batter will have a thick, smooth consistency.

Liberally butter the bottom and sides of the baking dish. Give the filled pan a good shake or two to even out the batter.

Bake around thirty minutes until top is nicely carmelised and sides are pulling away a bit from the pan. After a few minutes, carefully remove:  I used a thin spatula to loosen the sides and bottom, placing a plate onto the top of the pan and flipping it over while firmly holding the plate and pan together. Then I slid the cake from the plate onto a rack (I use one from the oven).

The carmelised crust will stay crisp and not become soggy as it would if cooled in the pan

When the cake is completely cool, cut into nine squares and place on a flat surface, like a glass chopping board or large plate. Make the icing.

Put the icing sugar and the cocoa powder into a bowl. Starting with one tablespoon of the brewed coffee, whisk all the ingredients, adding more coffee to get the preferred consistency. Using a small pitcher, I poured various patterns (lattice, circular, zigzag) onto the squares. Letting the icing stand for about fifteen minutes will allow more control of the stream.

Using a spatula, pile the squares on a serving plate. The crumb has the right amount of fluff, the spiciness is on target, and the glaze gives a smooth, additional shot to the headiness of maple. When refrigerated, the texture is more of a blond brownie.

If applying the icing before cutting the cake, you won't get this drenched effect

The onions are now in storage, there's a few tomatoes still on the vines, and the fig harvest is just around the corner. It's time to sun dry red peppers!

Drying basket hanging on a rose bush

The asters, in full flower at present, resemble soft, blue clouds shape-shifting in the cool wind.

The pink flowers are double Japanese anemones and the white are oleanders

As we live with Dirac the kitten, the more we get to know him. Funny how that works. The Calm One who handles the feline food detail--he measures out four prescribed portions each morning and then responsibly despite beguiling craftiness from a certain furry party of diminutive stature doles them out during the day--suddenly announced, our kitten's name should be Percy, Percy for Persistant! As various nicknames accumulate, mongoose mouth is for example one of many, why not another?

Dirac the five-month-old kitten

Obviously Percy!

À la prochaine!


Lena Levin's (artist who painted the still life of strawberries on our mantle) website
The terroir of maple

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Baby Onion, Fennel, Green Bean & Sausage Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is not just a clever and delicious way to do apples, but also vegetables. Each season, our onion crop has some runts. Appreciating their tiny round form and dazzling flavour when carmelised, I let these underperformers shine in an upside-down savory tart.

The fennel and green beans are also from our potager

Though stovetop carmelised baby onions are lovely, going the extra step of cosily covering them in short crust pastry and letting the oven do its thing, brings them into such succulence that the eater ceases all thinking as she becomes one with the onions.

This plump morsel first delivers a moist pop in the mouth before it melts!

makes an 8-inch tart

Baby onions, blanched, peeled, 14 fluid ounces
Sausage, cooked, crumbled, blotted, 8 fluid ounces
Green beans, cooked, cut into 1 inch pieces, 4 fluid ounces
Fennel, fresh, minced, 1 T
Maple syrup, 1 T
Butter, sweet, 1 T
Sherry vinegar, 1 tsp
Chicken broth, up to 6 fluid ounces
Short pastry, homemade or store-bought, enough for a 9 inch round

The runts on the right are about one inch in diameter (Stutgarter variety)

To facilitate peeling, throw them into boiling water for a minute or two, and then fish them out and put in a bowl of cold water. Slice off the root end.

The peel will come off almost on its own willpower.

Put the maple syrup and butter into a heavy-bottom skillet and over low heat, melt the butter.

Stir in the onions and coat well with the glaze.  Add the broth in increments throughout the carmelisation. When the liquid is mostly gone and the glaze looks gooey, add a little more of the broth.

Those ice cubes are comprised of my own frozen homemade broth!

Keep the skillet covered. After thirty minutes, add the sherry vinegar and simmer for another fifteen minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Add the beans and sausage and stir well.

Toss in the fennel and stir again. Salt to taste.

Lightly oil a baking pan (I used a twelve-inch pizza pan). Spread the mixture in a single, circular layer as much as possible. If needed, deglaze the empty skillet with a little broth and pour that onto the filling.

Place the pastry over the tepid veggies, tucking under the edges. Bake around thirty-five minutes.

Let cool a bit, about five minutes, then carefully go under the tatin with a thin, flexible spatula. Hold firmly the right sized plate over it and turn the whole lot over. The glazed goodness will now be visible.

Served best warm, this delectable tart is brimming with autumnal comfort.

In the garden, blue asters, pink Japanese anemones, and white oleanders are softly rustling in the cool breeze.

The fat, green pods in the upper right belong to a rose of sharon

An important focus in the potager is weeding the beds now empty of veggies.

An another is to improve the soil of those beds with compost so they can be productive next season.

Yet to be sieved!

Dirac the kitten continues to make us laugh with his antics...

...and soothes us with his composure and beauty.

À la prochaine!