Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Supper Club Recipe (France). Following is Emil's information about the origin of the cheese served last Saturday, and instructions for storing cheese, etc. (Emil, Caren & Anna left)

Fromages Françaises

The French cheeses we served at our Supper Club Feast were purchased at Au Vieux Gourmet, a cheese store with a huge selection of fabulous cheeses, located at 3, rue des Orfèvres, Strasbourg, near the cathedral, and included:

Abbaye de Trois Vaux – handmade cheese of nuns in Normandy
Chevrotin – artisan goat cheese from Savoy
Gaperon – speciality of Auvergne
Grisie du Jura – Savoy
Gouda Rouge Vieux – aged for 3 to 4 years
Livarot – one of the oldest cheeses of Normandy, highest rate of consumption
Pyramide Cendrée – goat milk
Royal Briard – artisan cheese from Île-de-Françe

Resources for French cheeses:





No matter how far archaeological finds go, there is evidence that cheese came into being in prehistoric times. Cheese can not really be said to have been "invented". This delicious food must have resulted from the simple observation that milk left in a container ends up by coagulating, even more if it is hot. People living in areas where the climate changed seasonally would also have noticed the effect of temperature on this process: in warmer weather the milk would curdle faster than in the cold. This might be considered the first technological cheesemaking discovery.

There are hundreds of different types of cheese that can be differentiated both by the type of milk - raw, skimmed or pasteurised, and by the animal - cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, horse or camel.

Serving and Storage Tips

Unpasteurised cheese with a range of flavours should not be sliced until purchase otherwise it will start to lose its subtlety and aroma.

Keep the cheese in conditions in which it matures. Hard, semi-hard and semi-soft cheeses are stored in the temperatures from around 8 - 13 C.

Keep the cheese wrapped in the waxed paper and place it in a loose-fitting food-bag not to lose humidity and maintain the circulation of air.

Wrap blue cheeses all over as mould spores spread readily not only to other cheeses but also to everything near.

Cheeses contain living organisms that must not be cut off from air, yet it is important not to let a cheese dry out.

Do not store cheese with other strong-smelling foods. As a cheese breathes it will absorb other aromas and may spoil.

Wrap soft cheeses loosely. Use waxed or greaseproof paper rather than cling film.

Let cold cheese warm up for about half an hour before eating to allow the flavour and aroma to develop.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Supper Club Recipe (France). Our tireless organizer, and professional chef Tom (left) sent along his recipe from Corsica.

Mouton aux Olives (Lamb with Olives)


Meat stews are a hallmark of Corsican cooking, and with good reason: The herbs that go into them are the same ones that the animals graze on, creating a unique layering of flavors.

4 oz. bacon, diced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 lbs. lamb shoulder (have butcher cut into medium pieces)
1 tbsp. flour (I used chestnut flour, which you can find at Andronico's, but it's not necessary)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup red wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
6 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and sliced
1/2-1 cup picholine or other good French or Italian green olives

1. Render and crisp bacon in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add onions and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Stir in lamb and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring often, until juices thicken and flour loses its raw flavor, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, wine, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Add 2 cups water and bay leaves, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring often, until lamb is tender, about 1 hour.

4. About 30 minutes before lamb is finished cooking, stir in carrots and olives. Before serving, skim any fat from liquid and remove and discard bay leaves. Serve warm with slices of chestnut flour pulenda, if you like.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Supper Club Recipe (France). Now the recipes are starting to circulate from our fabulous chefs for the delights of the evening. Let's start with Paul's Recipe. Paul traveled all the way from Massachusetts for the event. I'm not particularly fond of duck, but this was GREAT. Not fatty!


4 large Moulard duck legs, including thighs (about 12 ounces each)


1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries


1/2 cup (3 ounces) dried Bing cherries (with 1 cup chicken stock, homemade
1 cup tawny port
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf

1. Trimming the duck-the day before: Trim the duck legs of as much excess fat as you can without cutting into the skin or the meat. If you've never trimmed duck legs before, proceed slowly to avoid trimming off the skin with the fat. Unlike chicken, duck skin and fat can be hard to distinguish. After removing a maximum of fat, trim off any loose flaps of skin as well. Depending on the duck, there may be as much as 4 ounces of fat to trim off each leg. Collect the fat to render at another time and use it for sauteing potatoes or other vegetables, or discard.

2. The spice rub: In a small mortar or spice grinder; combine the coriander, black pepper- corns, and allspice and grind to a coarse powder. Add the thyme and salt and mix. Sprinkle this spice mixture all over the duck legs and rub so the seasonings adhere. Arrange the duck legs in a single layer in a baking dish, cover with plastic, and refrigerate overnight.

3. Plumping the cherries-the day before: In a small bowl, pour the port over the cherries. Set aside to plump overnight.

4. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

5. Browning the duck: Pat the surface of the duck dry using paper towels, being careful not to wipe off the spices. Heat a large heavy skillet (10- to 12-inch) over medium-high heat: If you have a cast-iron skillet, this is a good place to use it. Because it holds heat so well, it sears the duck legs without having the skin stick or tear. If you don't have cast iron, choose the heaviest skillet you have. Don't worry that there's no fat in the pan; the duck legs will quickly throw off enough to get things sizzling. When the skillet is hot but not scorching, add as many duck pieces skin-side down as will fit without crowding. Sear the duck, without disturbing, until the skin is crisp and taut, about 7 minutes. Lift one edge with tongs to peek to see that the skin is crisp before turning. Panfry the other side just until spots of brown appear, another 3 to 4 minutes.

Transfer the duck to a shallow braising pan (4- to 5-quart). Pour off all the excess fat and repeat with the remaining duck legs. Pour off the fat, this time reserving 2 teaspoons in a small jar or ramekin. and remove any black specks from the skillet with a damp paper towel. Don't dean away any tasty cooked- on browned bits that will later add depth of flavor to the braising liquid.

6. The aromatics and braising liquid: Return the skillet to medium heat, add the
reserved 2 teaspoons duck fat and the shallot, and saute until the shallot begins to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cherries and their soaking liquid, increase the heat to medium-high, and simmer to reduce the liquid by half, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf and stock and reduce again by half, another 8 minutes.

7. The braise: Pour the reduced port-stock mixture over the duck legs. Cover with parchment paper, pressing down on the paper so it nearly touches the duck and extends over the sides of the pan by about an inch. Cover with a tight lid. Slide into the middle of the oven to braise at a gentle simmer. Lift the lid of the braising pan during the first 30 minutes to check that the liquid isn't simmering too forcefully. If it is, lower the oven temperature 10 or 15 degrees. After 1 hour, turn the duck legs with tongs. Continue braising gently until the duck is fork-tender and pulling away from the bone, another hour or so (about 2 hours total).

Remove the duck from the oven, and, with tongs, arrange the legs skin side up in a single layer on a half sheet pan or broiler pan. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Increase the oven heat to 475 degrees.

8. Degreasing the sauce: Duck legs release a substantial amount of fat when braised,
and if you own a gravy separator, this is a good opportunity to bring it out. Pour the brais- ing liquid into the separator, and then pour the liquid into a medium saucepan (2-quart), .leaving the clear fat behind. If you don't have a gravy separator, pour the braising liquid into the saucepan and skim the surface fat with a wide metal spoon.

9. Reducing the sauce: Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and simmer rapidly
until reduced to a syrupy sauce, about 3 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, and lower the heat below a simmer to keep warm.

10. Meanwhile, crisp the duck: Once the oven has preheated, remove the foil and slide the pan of duck legs onto a rack in the middle or upper part of the oven and roast until the skin on top is crispy and sizzling, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to warm plates or a handsome serving platter.

11. Serving: Spoon the dried cherry and port sauce over the top of the duck. Serve.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Supper Club: French Regions. This evening was my introduction to the club, and I was happy to have Bretagne as my region. There were about 15 fabulous chefs present, including professional. The menu:

1. Salade d'Endives, Fromage, et Noix (Belgian Endive Salad with Cheese and Walnuts) - Auvergne

2. Fromage from different regions of France (photo left -Caren & Emil): Royal Briard, Chevrotin, Pyramide Cendrée, Livarot, Abbaye de Trois Vaux, Gouda Rouge Vieux, Grisie du Jura, and Gaperon - Various Regions of France

3. Tartare de Thon - Brittany

4. Chickpea and Spinach Soup with Almonds - Pyrenees

5. Egg and Wine Soup

6. Augergines et Fenouil Saint-Loup (Eggplant and Fennel with Tomatoes in an Egg-Cheese Custard) - Provence

7. Oysters Escargot in Mushroom Caps - Burgundy

8. Coq au Vin - Burgundy

9. Braised Duck Legs in Port with Cherries

10. Mouton aux Olives (Lamb and Olive Stew) - Corsica

13. Croquembouche w/ Grand Marnier Pastry Cream

14. "Salle Pleyel" as created by Robert Linxe of La Maison Du Chocolate on the rue du Faubourge-St. Honore' in Paris - Paris

A very slow and much enjoyed meal... did not disappoint! My dish was the Tartare de Thon. I served it in an antique lidded glass pedestal dish, with sea salt from Brittany on the side.

The salt was quite special:

Salt: Velvet de Guerande "Le Tresor"

Velvet™ by Le Trésor is light gray in color and almost the consistency of flour. This is a very delicate crystal that has a "buttery" feel and taste as it melts on your tongue. This is a terrific salt to top any dish, its texture makes it ideal for snacks such as popcorn, sauces and salads. You will naturally use less of this salt because the crystals are so fine, you get maximum flavor from a small amount of salt.

*This salt is certified organic by France's Nature & Progrés. This is the most rigorous salt certification process, which equates to purity and quality.

Tartare de Thon
Serves 4 as an appetizer

1 lb. piece of tuna
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 tbsp. salad oil
2 fl oz/1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 shallots very finely chopped
2 tbsp. capers, drained and chopped
1 tbsp. chopped chives
1 tbsp. chopped parsley salt and pepper

With a very sharp knife, clean the tuna fillets, removing all skin, bones and membrane. Chop the tuna finely with a knife and put into a bowl. Add the oils, vinegar, shallots, capers, chives and parsley and mix well. Season the tartare to taste, cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave to marinate 2-3 hours (in refrigerator). Serve with crisp pieces of toast.

Anna's tips: I made 1 1/2 times this recipe for the supper club. I used sashimi-grade tuna which is sold in blocks in Nijiya market in Japantown. This way there is no cleaning and removing undesireable parts, and it is precut in a way that makes it easy to slice, then chop and get a nice smooth finish. I used white pepper, and the Velvet de Guerande salt, with extra on the side as an add-on for individual taste. I used Enova oil as the 'salad oil'.