Monday, June 28, 2010

What to do with... girolles

One ordinary morning in June, my dealer texted me. "The delivery has arrived" he said, "straight off the plane". "How much do you want ?". "A kilo", I replied, thinking I would have no trouble dealing with that much. We met in a secret underground location (an MTR station, at rush hour), for the delivery. I made sure to bring sufficient cash to pay on the spot (even if this shipment had come straight from the "wholesaler", this stuff is not cheap...) and walked away with my big anonymous grey bag, hiding its precious content from the eyes of my fellow commuters... I am talking about mushrooms, of course, and not of the magic type.

Girolles are not fun to clean, especially baby ones like these... It takes about half an hour to clean 200gr, which is about what you will need for a good omelette...

Baby girolles, before cleaning...

Omelette aux girolles, cooking...

A simple country-style omelette (girolles sauteed in butter, eggs beaten with a bit of crème liquide, thinly chopped chives, freshly ground black pepper)

Auntie Froggie's poulet aux girolles (cream sauce with cognac and shallots, served with fresh tagliatelle)

Omelette with fresh girolles (serves 2)

50gr fresh girolles, cleaned
4 eggs
10cl liquid cream (“crème fleurette”)
10 blades chives, thinly chopped
25gr butter
salt, freshly ground black pepper

·       Heat the butter in a pan, sautée the girolles until cooked (about 8 to 10mn depending on size).
·       Beat the eggs with the cream, add salt and pepper to taste.
·       Pour over the mushrooms and cook on medium heat until the top of the omelette starts to set.
·       Fold in half and slide the omelette on a plate. Garnish with the chives and serve piping hot with a green salad topped with fresh goat’s cheese and seasoned with walnut oil and a few drops of good balsamic vinegar.

Poulet aux girolles (serves 2)

½ chicken, cut in 2 pieces, or 2 chicken thighs (or whatever your favourite part of the chicken is)
2 small shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
20cl liquid cream (“crème fleurette”)
10cl “Vin Jaune” or other sweet white wine
5cl cognac
20gr butter
salt, freshly ground black pepper

·       In a cocotte, heat the butter and stir-fry the shallots until translucent (do not let them brown).
·       Remove the shallots, add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides.
Pour the cognac over the chicken, let it heat up for a few seconds and when it starts boiling slightly, light it up with a match or a gas lighter (be careful if you have a hood above your stove!). Once the flame is out, add the white wine and the cream, season to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30mn, or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked (if you stab it near the bone with a knife, the juices should run clear), stirring occasionally.
·       Serve with fresh tagliatelle or gnocchi.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I ♥ cake - Madeleines

Made after my own childhood recipe... I shall try out the Robuchon recipe soon and dutifully report.

My oven! Very happy with it :-)

Madeleines... baking
Little fluffy pillows of happiness

Madeleines (makes about 24)

150gr flour
150gr unsalted butter, at room temperature
150gr caster sugar
3 eggs
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract or orange blossom water or 1 tbsp grated lemon or orange zest

·       Preheat the oven at 175°C
·       In a bowl, add the butter and the sugar and cream together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
·       Separate the egg yolks from the whites, add the yolks to the sugar/butter mixture.
·       Mix the flour and baking powder and add to the bowl, one spoonful at a time.
·       Whip the egg whites “en neige” until stiff peaks form and add to the bowl, 1/3 at a time, lifting the batter with a fork rather than stirring it.
·       Spoon the batter in Madeleine forms and bake for 15 minutes at 175°C.
·       Serve with a chocolate, caramel or coffee pastry cream to dip.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What to do with... okras

I have always loved okras (also called ladies' fingers) and cannot miss an opportunity to cook them. This veggie dish is just one of the many possibilities, and also works well with added ground lamb. Okras are great in stews and veggie curries, and I find they work particularly well with tomato-based sauces.

Okra casserole with home-made spicy tomato sauce: onions, dried Bali chillies, green bell peppers, sous-vide cooked Japanese pimentos fresh bird's eye chillies, red bell peppers, garlic, black olives, tomatoes... lots of tomatoes, okras

Okras in spicy tomato sauce (serves 2/3)

300gr okras
1 large onion, thinly chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1kg tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and cubed
1 dried Bali chilli
2 fresh Bird’s Eye chillies
20 black olives, deseeded and sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
salt, freshly ground black pepper

·       In a pot, heat the oil and fry the onion until translucent, add the garlic and chillies and stir-fry until fragrant.
·       Add the bell pepper, tomatoes and olives. Cover and let simmer for about 30mn, until the tomatoes are mushy and start forming a sauce.
Add the okra (whole or sliced, according to taste) and cook for a further 25 to 35mn depending on their size, stirring occasionally.
·       Serve with steamed rice or vegetable biryani.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

High on 'shrooms

I returned to Caprice to bid farewell to a colleague (and fellow foodie) who was relocating back home to Singapore. We got a very nice window-side table (perfect light for shooting), the service was on its usual ultra-attentive-but-not-intrusive mode and the food was divine. In return for me treating her, my guest promised death by food next time I'm in Singapore, which I am very much looking forward to :-)

Awesome olive oil - tastes very "green" just as I like it... I am told by the Elfette in the kitchen this is an AOC oil from France (Château d'Estoublon) praised by chefs the world over...

The beurre Bordier doux and the beurre Bordier au sel de Guérande. Little humps of fatty goodness :-)

I make a point of absolutely NEVER drinking over lunch, especially with colleagues (quelle horreur!)

Amuse-bouche: Alaskan crab with shellfish consommé and poached vegetables (baby pak-choi, fennel, green asparagus, baby carrot) - the crab was incredibly sweet and the consommé totally delish. Very elaborate for an AB. A little bird told me Elfette may have contributed to this one...

Off-menu starter (a little Elfette whispered to my ear...): baby girolles & morels in creamy sauce with fatty pork and poached egg. Oooooh the happiness :-)
In this pic: pan-fried fatty pork, poached-to-perfection onsen-style egg, what on earth was that little green thing ??, morels, baby girolles

Look at that yolk! After investigation, the "little green thing" on top turned out to be cordifolle (aka
ficoïde glaçiale). The appearance of the leaves was very much like that of succulent plants and they were thick and slightly crunchy, and popped in the mouth with a salty/juicy feel. Very interesting texture.

My guest's main course: Racan Pigeon en Croûte with Nori Seaweed, Foie Gras, Broad Bean and Artichoke Fricassee. I had this the previous time I came and it was gorgeous (guest confirmed). The jus is divine (literally plate-lickin' good... almost, I pity the other clients who have to watch me eat). The pigeon rests on a bed of blanched (or sous-vide ?) broad beans (peeled, obviously...). The rare sous-vide breast is topped with a very generous slab of excellent goose foie gras then wrapped in nori seaweed and further wrapped in sesame puff pastry. The combination of flavours just works to perfection. The first time I tried foie gras with nori was actually a few years ago at San San Trois (Chinese / Japanese / French fusion restaurant in the Citic Tower, Admiralty) in the form of a warm piece of foie gras sushi which I found absolutely delicious. Seaweed works better with foie gras than truffle I find - because it actually enhances it without overpowering it as truffle does. 

The pigeon, "vu de dos". Note the baby artichokes (gorgeous), adding a welcome touch of bitterness to cut the fattiness of the dish. Note also the tiny cute pigeon leg rsting on top of the breast, which my fellow foodie and I refer to as "Gisele Bundchen-like". This dish is just brilliant. Period.

My main course: line-Caught Sea Bass with Morel Mushrooms and Gnocchi in Morteau Sausage Sauce. The fish was cooked to perfection, rested on a very thick bed of morels, and the gnocchi were fondant and lightly coated in a delicious cream sauce. The jus was infused with the delicate meaty & smokey aroma of the Morteau sausage, and the combination with the mushrooms and the fish worked to perfection. What an awesome dish!

Cheese, Gromit!!
Should have asked Jérémy to write the names down for me :-(
The 4-year comté was at its usual best. The bleu des Causses was very intense and I enjoyed it a LOT (huuuge fan of blue cheeses...). The first 2 were goat's milk cheeses (one very mild, creamy and with a distinct woody aroma of "garrigue", the other more ripe), very good as well. The one in the middle was a stronger and more flavourful version of a reblochon made with goat's milk which I found very good and interesting. As you may have guessed by now, there will AGAIN be no room for dessert this time...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Belated B-days

Celebrating 2 birthdays & the purchase of a bachelorette pad - in style at Pierre (Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong). Over the years, I have grown to like Pierre Gagnaire's cooking style, but one of my main issues with it still remains the "satellite" principle, where many of the dishes come as a larger one accompanied with a few "peripheral" ones. I am an (extremely) slow eater, and I like to chew on each mouthful for some time to analyse the flavours the best I can, and get the most of them - which at any Gagnaire restaurant would mean I would get through maybe 2 of the dishes while they're still (luke)warm-ish if I'm lucky, and then eat the rest cold. Sorry Pierrot, I can't swallow good food that fast...

Beurre Bordier
with smoked sea salt and with piment d'Espelette

Amuse-bouche: Mascarpone & redcurrant jelly

Amuse-bouche: Mascarpone & redcurrant jelly

we welcomed this AB with jaded looks on our faces (like - how common can you get) and promptly revised judgement at the first (and unfortunately only) bite - the mascarpone was very creamy and so intensely milky it would have been a gorgeous dessert on its own. And as always, I am having a thought for the poor commis who peeled and de-seeded the redcurrants...

Amuse-bouche: Vegetable spring roll & coriander tartare sauce
delicate spring roll, fresh coriander flavour, awesome sauce

More amuse-bouche:  sweet meringue & spicy avocado cream, Guinness jelly powdered with pain d'épices, sablé biscuit, ginger cookie

Even more amuse-bouche: Apple & onion chutney
this was nicely caramelised and had an intense curry flavour to it

Les légumes: mint cream peas, parmesan water, green and white asparagus with pistachio
the addition of tiny celery dice ruined this otherwise delicious dish - it overpowered even the mint in the cream peas :-(

Les légumes: onions petals salad, rhubarb and poivrade artichoke, emulsified lemon olive oil

My guest & I were both pretty sure some shaved fennel sneaked into this dish... very delish but I did not really see the point of the petals sprinkle on this dish (and a few others...)

Les légumes: gnocchi with sorrel, pear, pomelo and celeriac

The gnocchi were plump and moist - simply gorgeous

Les légumes: mascarpone & cucumber terrine, liquorice & morel tart
We could not taste the liquorice at all in the tart but the morels were very fragrant and creamy - delicious. The cucumber & mascarpone terrine was a bit of a surprise as it was not mentioned on the menu - it was gorgeous. The mascarpone had an intense milk flavour and the cucumber layers were so intensely "cucumbery" that it left us wondering how you extract so much flavour out of such a watery veggie... what a garden veggie party!

La France by Pierre Gagnaire - Marseille (cod aïoli, snail, seasonal vegetable)

this was very very good. I'm a huge cod fan, and anything containing garlic always hits the right spot with me *ribbit*. I also loved the way this dish was presented, and how it very nicely caught the light... a very photogenic composition :-)

La France by Pierre Gagnaire: Bayonne (piperade, ham & stuffed squid)

The squid was stuffed with a mix of flame-grilled peppers and cheese (very delish). The piperade was just heaven - very intense and fondant bell peppers, with a smoky paprika aroma - it was almost like a savoury bell peppers jam.

La France by Pierre Gagnaire: Nantua (chicken quenelle, Saint-Jacques, yabbies sauce)

The yabbies sauce was very intense, almost of a rouille consistency and texture but minus the spicyness. The olives added a nice touch of acidity to the dish. Pretty good stuff.

Chorizo and honey jelly

The honey was very floral, and worked very well with the chorizo. Clearly something I will try to make at home...

La France by Pierre Gagnaire: Reims (Champagne granité, mango/papaya velouté)

I am adamant there was no mango whatsoever in this velouté!! ... but... the papaya was very aromatic. The sweetness of the fruit worked quite well with the sligthly acidic champagne granité - very nicely done.

L'agneau: roasted lamb with fragrant spices, Stilleto eggplant marmalade

and yes, before you ask, the lamb was obviously sous-vide... all this pinkness was very moving :-) - I can't even begin to describe how gorgeous this dish was, that was the hit of the evening for me!
L'agneau: crunchy vegetables, green harissa

L'agneau: lamb fricassée with plums

this was lamb compote lol - the meat was totally fondant and the tangy taste of the plums worked perfectly with the slow-cooked, almost caramelised meat. I could have had seconds & thirds of this!!

L'agneau: saffron wheat semolina, manchego shavings

"surprise" B-Day dessert (papaya & passionfruit smoothie) - very fruity & refreshing

9 Conduit Street:  light pistachio mousseline with cachaça granité, cucumber and green mango, parsley, coriander and aragula "financier" with Galia melon soup
I have rather poor tastebuds BUT I am pretty sure they substituted granny smith apple for the green mango and papaya for the Galia melon in this dish... the result was still pretty amazing though (with Gagnaire, you just need to get used to having ginger cookies as appetizers and aragula in your dessert I suppose...)

9 Conduit Street: parsley, coriander and aragula "financier" with Galia melon soup
very unsure about this one...the texture of the "financier" was perfectly buttery (as it should be) but somehow the herbs concoction did not work for me. oh well...

Eau de rose: more papaya soup, bitter almond milk jelly, candied lemon verbena, marzipan cream, roast white peach with lemon paste, mascarpone & redcurrant jelly

Eau de rose: rose water, lychee & glace royale
almost like turkish delight sherbet - very arty & delicate presentation, one of the winners of the evening