CLASSIC FRENCH HOT CHOCOLATE – Chocolat Chaud Classique

I can’t think of a better antidote to a damp and rainy New England afternoon than this classic, French-style hot chocolate. Much richer and darker than its American counterpart, this recipe – derived from Pierre Hermé – uses less sugar and the best dark chocolate and cocoa powder you can get your hands on. Made with more water than milk or cream, it really lets the flavors of the chocolate shine through without being heavy or cloying. Luxurious and delicious…break out your favorite cups, curl up and enjoy!

Chocolat Chaud Classique

Makes 4-four ounce cups or 8-two ounce cups (demi-tasse)

Ingredients:

125 g/ 4-1/2 oz. dark chocolate, 67% or more cocoa solids

450 ml/ 3/4 cup water

50 g/ 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

25 g/ 1/3cup + 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted

65 ml/ 1/4 cup half & half

Directions:

  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and set aside in medium, heat-proof bowl
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with 125 g/ 1/4 c of the water until a smooth paste forms
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the water and sugar
  4. Reduce heat, gradually whisking in the cocoa powder and water mixture
  5. Bring back up to a simmer, whisking briskly until completely smooth
  6. Remove from heat, mix in half and half
  7. Pour a third of the hot mixture over chocolate pieces, whisking from the center. Once chocolate is melted, add remaining liquid
  8. Stir until smooth and glistening, pour and serve!

Some of my favorite additional serving suggestions:

Add a wee tipple of Grand Marnier or cognac

A dollop of whipped cream

A grating of fresh nutmeg

(In the unlikely event you have some left over, store in the fridge, then gently reheat on a low flame, just don’t let it boil.)

All content © Veronica Wirth and The Buttery Fig, 2011.

Advertisements

TARTE ALSACIENNE – Alsatian Apple & Custard Tart

You can be certain the first phase of spring has arrived in New England when the day starts out sunny and pleasant and by the time you’re ready for that afternoon cuppa joe…it’s snowing. Yes, you heard right. I know…you’re jealous. I’ll definitely be needing something sweet to go with that coffee. You’re nodding your head, yes? Glad you agree.

I happen to have some heavy cream I need to use up and a few last lovely Vermont Cortland apples begging to be eaten before they’ve lost their tart crispness…now this is my kind of problem. The perfect answer to my quandary is an old and dear friend, a tarte Alsacienne.  Buttery, flaky crust cradling carmelised and flambéed apples, and just the right amount of creamy custard. To my mind, a perfect combination.

Let’s get started, shall we?

First for the crust:

Pate Briseé – makes enough for two 8 or 9 inch tarts

  • 250 grams/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 135 grams/10 tbsps cold butter, cubed
  • 65 milliliters/1/4 cup ice water

After measuring, sift your dry ingredients together. Cut in the cold butter until you’ve got lentil-sized bits, then add the ice water and blend in. Don’t overwork the dough. Divide in two, wrap and place one in the freezer for a future something yummy (always prepared!) and the other in the fridge to rest for a half hour. Tip: you can make this ahead, chilling for several days well wrapped or thaw frozen Pate Briseé overnight in the fridge.

Roll out the rested dough, 1/8” thick, into a circle 2 inches larger in diameter than your tart pan.

Transfer the dough to your (un-greased) tart pan and gently work into the corners and sides, taking care not to stretch the dough as you work and thoroughly mending any little cracks or holes. Chill until firm, about 10 -15 minutes (or overnight if you want to do ahead).

Line the chilled shell with parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dry beans and blind bake until lightly browned. Once no raw spots remain, take out of the oven and remove the parchment and the pie weights or beans, setting the shell aside to cool.

While your shell is blind baking, get started on the apples:

  • 3  tart, firm apples (granny smith or golden delicious work well)
  • 25 grams/2 tbsps granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon armagnac (calvados, cognac or brandy are fine substitutes) pre-measured into a small ramekin or cup

Tip: you can substitute a good apple cider for the liquor if you want to do an alcohol-free tart.

Peel, core, and halve the apples and cut each half into five wedges.

Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the apple wedges moving them around here and there until they begin to brown.

Sprinkle the sugar over the apples, moving things around and adjusting the heat so everything is browning evenly. Allow the sugar to caramelize, but not too dark. You will gain colour quickly in the next step.

Are you ready to flambé? Done it before? No problem? If so, then jump right in and flambé the apples with the armagnac and cook for a minute or two to burn off the alcohol and to reduce the liquid. You’re looking for some nice colour and carmelisation, some dark brown tips and edges, but not burnt. Remove the apples from the pan and set aside to cool.

If you haven’t flambé-d before, please read my tips following before completing the step above. Be safe…I don’t want to hear any horrid stories involving fire and whatnot. Okay???

Tips for Safe Flambé-ing: 1) Let others in the vicinity know that you are about to have flames in the kitchen. “Fire in the hole!” usually works well. I’ve taken to saying it even if no one’s in the kitchen but me. It makes me feel rather invincible and cool. 2) Have a metal lid handy just in case you need to snuff any flames that get out of hand quickly. 3) Always move the pan off the flame to pour in the alcohol, returning to light it (or ignite with a stick lighter). Be ready to pull it back off if you have a low stove hood and high flames. 4) No matter how efficient it seems at the time, do not pour your booze directly from the bottle into the hot pan and resist the urge to start slogging the liquor in the pan. For one, you don’t want to set the whole bloody kitchen on fire now do you? I’m serious – this is FIRE we’re talking about here. Also, and probably the worse sin, you don’t want the liquor to overpower the other flavours of the tart. Restraint is a virtue. I don’t care what you learned in your college years.

Awaiting flambé

Now, get yourself a nice cup of java to celebrate your bravery in the face of raw danger and open flames.

While things are cooling, it’s a good time to mix up the custard:

Tip: custard can be made up to 1 day ahead and held covered in the fridge.

  • 1 egg
  • 25 grams/2 tbsps granulated sugar
  • 50 milliliters/1/2 cup milk
  • 50 milliliters/1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (use the good stuff)

Whisk together the egg, sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla extract. Strain through a fine strainer.

Arrange the cooled apples in the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Put your pan in the oven first, then pour the custard over the apples. Bake the tart at 250°F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the custard is set.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Will keep for 1 day wrapped in the fridge.

It’s great for breakfast too!

© Veronica Wirth and The Buttery Fig, 2011.

SALADE NICOISE with Tilapia and Arugula

I recently had the distinct pleasure of spending some time in southern France – my first time – and I can tell you all the filthy rumours are true; the Mediterranean really IS that blue, the quality of light rarified and incredible, the atmosphere intoxicating…and the food? Well, yes, yes…and yes. Fresh, succulent, simply prepared – in a word: delicious!

With the warmth of summer fully upon us, my craving for all kinds of fresh salads has grown exponentially with versions of the classic Nicoise gracing my table most often of late.

Traditionally made with tuna, I decided to try something lighter and fresher tasting and came across some fresh Tilapia fillets at my local seafood purveyor (budget bonus…they usually ring in at about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of fresh tuna). I tossed in some peppery arugula with the mixed greens to give it an extra flavour component and I have to say it’s become one of my favourite combinations thus far!

Salade Nicoise with Tilapia & Arugula

Ingredients for 2 meal-size salads:

  • 2 fresh Tilapia fillets, salted and peppered on each side
  • Fresh arugula and mixed greens
  • Several small Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled, cooled and quartered, dressed in some of the vinaigrette
  • Hardboiled eggs, cooled, peeled and quartered, 1 per person
  • Tomatoes cut into wedges
  • Haricots verts (thin green beans) steamed until just tender and cooled
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Radishes, thinly sliced
  • Cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Nicoise olives
  • Anchovy slices (splurge for the good stuff)
  • Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

For the Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, extra virgin cold pressed
  • 1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
  • Parsley and some fresh herbs to your taste (rosemary/tarragon/thyme/a little mint), finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook up your potatoes, eggs, and green beans up to a day ahead so they have some time to cool. Mix together the vinaigrette and toss in the sliced onion to marinate. Prep the rest of your veggies.

Heat a sauté pan on a medium-high flame, drizzle with some olive oil and pop in your fillets. While they sauté toss the greens with the radishes, cucumbers (and onions which are already in there) reserving some of the vinaigrette for finishing.

Nothin' says lovin' like anchovy and boiled potato.

It should be time to take a sip of wine and turn over your fillets. While they finish portion out the salad between two generous bowls. Arrange the quartered and dressed potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, Nicoise olives and hard-boiled eggs around the top of the tossed greens.

When the Tilapia is just barely done, transfer to the tops of the salads, drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and finish by draping 2 generous slices of anchovy over the top. Pour the chilled rosé and enjoy!

Fin

OYSTERS IN PARIS – Brasserie Wepler

OYSTERS IN PARIS – Brasserie Wepler

‘Tis December and yet it’s not visions of sugarplums that are dancing in my head and the gingerbread will have to wait, for this time of year I dream instead of tiered trays of huîtres on the half-shell nestled in … Continue reading