February 28, 2010

A very different landscape

I am staying in Erwinna, a small village in Pennsylvania by the Delaware River for another ten days before I return to Bali.

 This morning, I woke up to a landscape of snow. The roads have not yet been plowed and the world is silent, quiet and very beautiful in its white stillness. Just the soft hush of the snow falling. 

It feels so peaceful and cozy to be in a warm house, snowed in with nowhere to go when suddenly, it dawns on me that I did not buy any food before the storm. Besides eggs, milk and bread, there is barely anything to eat in the house and I have two hungry teenagers waking up, fortunately I let them sleep late!

Today we will make Rice Pudding and Pains Perdus, maybe a soup with an omelet for dinner, we will eat together by the fireplace and all will be peaceful, cozy and well!

Pains Perdus

When I was a child coming back from school in the late afternoon, these would, most of the time, be waiting for me in the kitchen and, as I devoured them, I often wished there were more bread leftovers. My mom used to turn day old bread into delightful sweet things: Pains perdus, Gâteau de Pain, the ultimate Bread Pudding, studded with raisins macerated in rum that she served with vanilla crème anglaise and in the Summer, Charlotte aux Fraises, my favorite!

1 loaf of day old French bread, sliced in medium slices
4 eggs
2 cups of milk
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp orange flower water (optional)

Beat the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and orange flower water together until well mixed. Soak the slices od bread for 5 to 10 mnts in the mix until soft but still holding shape.
In a frying pan, heat the oil and fry the bread until golden. Place on a plate, sprinkle sugar on top and serve.

Riz au Lait (Rice Pudding)

This is the simplest of rice pudding, another staple of my childhood, so comforting and so easy to make that I was allowed to prepare it without supervision at six years old and never stopped making it since then...  

1 1/2 cup of short grain rice, rinsed and drained
1 quart or so of whole milk
1 vanilla bean split in half
Zest from a lemon, left in ribbons
3/4 cup of sugar 

In a large sauce pan, place the rice, half of the milk, the vanilla and lemon zest, bring to a very gentle boil, it should barely look like it's bubbling. Mix with a wooden spoon from time to time, top with more milk (it should never be dry) until the rice looks cooked to your taste and you like the consistency (20/30mnts), I like my rice pudding soft and not dry. Add the sugar, mix it in and continue cooking for another 5mnts. Serve warm.

Life is sweet

February 17, 2010

My dinner with Loulou, a French Feast in Boston

Louise Marie-Eléonore, "Loulou"

Louise is the eldest of my children. Recently, she moved to Boston to attend college. On my way up to visit her, I was daydreaming and thinking about how much I have missed her these past five months. I was so excited to see her in her first apartment.

Louise is a wondeful artist. She has the talent to turn the most mundane objects into things of beauty. The world she creates and surrounds around herself with is truly full of wonders.

Louise is soft and gentle like a deer, passionate and fiery like a wild horse.

She has an old soul, deep and wise.

She is thoughtful and kind, she always surprises me...

She loves birds, nests and feathers...

Sometimes, when I look at her work, it is as if I could get a glimpse into her soft soul

Her art always touches my heart.

Louise has always loved to cook and is very good at it. When we are together, we like to plan for dinner while having our morning cup of coffee. And of course, with Louise, what has been bought and brought back home must be drawn first.

During the time I was in Boston, it was very cold. We decided to make a Bouillabaisse-like fish stew one night to escape the dreadful weather and a Veal Blanquette the next one to comfort ourselves.

Fish Stew in the manner of a Bouillabaisse

Serve 8
For the broth:
2 lbs of Mussels, scrubbed
8 Littleneck Clams, scrubbed
5 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 branches od Italian parsley
2 branches of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup of dry white wine (we used Tariquet from Bordeaux)
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

For the fish and Seafood marinade:
3/4 lb very fresh Monkfish in one thick piece
3/4 lb very fresh Cod in one thick piece
3/4 lb very fresh Swordfish
1/2 lb very fresh Sea Scallops
1/2 lb large raw Shrimps shells on 
1 tsp Fennel seeds
Fennel fronds from 1 fennel bulb
The zest and slices of 1 orange
1/4 tsp Spanish Saffron
1/4 cup Lillet (optional)
1 1/2 cup dry white wine
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

For the Stew:
1 large Onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium Fennel bulb, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 can San Marzano wholeTomatoes( crushed roughly)
2 cups of dried white wine
8 new baby potatoes, washed and cut in half
1 Bay leaf
2 branches fresh thyme
Sea salt to taste,
Freshly ground pepper to taste

For the Rouille:
I very fresh egg yolk
1/2 Tsp of French mustard (not French's)
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed with 1/4 tsp sea salt
Vegetable oil or light olive oil
2 Tsp fresh white bread crumbs, barely moistened with milk
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

In a pan, place over medium heat the mussels, clams, shallots, salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme. Cook until the mussels and clams start to open, add the wine and cook until all the mussels and clams are open, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat, let cool a little. Leave the clams whole but prepare the mussels on the half shell. Strain the broth in a bowl, reserve.

Cut all the fish in managable pieces to eat in a bite but not so small as to fall apart while cooking (we like 2 inches pieces), place them in a large non reactive dish (like Pyrex) with the shrimps and scallops. Add all the marinade ingredients: the fennel seeds and fronds, orange, saffron, Lillet if using, wine, salt and pepper. Marinate in a cool place for 1 hour, if longer, place in the refrigerator). After that time, drain and reserve the marinade.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottom pan ( wider than high), sweat the onion, fennel and carrot. When cooked but not colored, add the tomatoes, the reserved marinade,the wine, the bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper, cook for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook until they are tender. Add the fish, shrimps and scallops, cook 5 minutes without boiling. Add the clams and mussels, taste for seasoning.

Make the rouille; in a bowl, put the egg yolk, mustard, salt and garlic. Whisk drop by drop the oil until emulsified, add the bread and cayenne.
Whisk some of the rouille into the stew, do not let boil.

Serve in soup bowls with a spoon of rouille and thinly sliced toasted baguette.

This stew is even better reheated the day after, it is easier to make it in a large quantity but since it is so good, you won't have to worry about it sitting in the refrigerator for too long!

Blanquette de Veau (Veal Blanquette)

Blanquette comes from the word "blanc" which means white in French. Traditionally, this is a very pale dish, the veal, turnips, mushrooms, onions and broth with the egg yolk and lemon mixed in at the end result in a monochromatic dish, very mild in flavor. I like to add blanched haricots verts and young carrots and in the spring I often add peas and asparagus because I like the bite they give to the dish and I love the colors as well . It's up to you to follow tradtion and omit these or give a try to this variation.

Serve 4
For the mushrooms:
1 lb assorted mushrooms (white mushrooms are traditional but I like baby Portobella, chanterelles and morels; one kind is fine), brushed and quartered
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Sea salt to taste

For the onions:
16 very small white onions
1 Tbs unsalted butter
2 tsp sugar

For the broth:
1 1/2 lb of veal cut in medium pieces
1 leek washed and cut in 4 pieces
1 branch of celery, washed and chopped
1 onion, peeled and studded with 3 cloves
The zest of 1/2 lemon in 1 or 2 pieces
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 Tbs of Lillet (not traditional but nice, and I had bought a bottle for the fish stew, so I figure out, why not use it)
Sea salt to taste
1 tsp of peppercorns

For the vegetables:
1/4 lb haricots verts or very small green beans, blanched
2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
2 small turnips, peeled and quartered

In a large pot, place all the ingredients for the broth, cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook gently for an hour without boiling but bubbling gently, taste for seasonings. 
Drain the broth in another pan. Discard the vegetables and return the meat to the pot with the broth. place over medium/low heat, add the vegetables and cook for 10 minutes, do not let boil.
In another pan, sauté over medium/high heat the mushrooms with butter and a pinch od fresh thyme until nicely brown, deglaze with 2Tbs of the broth, add salt and pepper. Reserve.

Cook the onions in a covered pan with the butter, sugar, salt and pepper, cover with water and cook over medium/low heat until light brown, caramelized and fragrant about 10/15 minutes. Be careful they do not burn!
Add the mushrooms and onions to the broth, let the stew cook gently for 2 minutes longer.

In a small bowl, mix an egg yolk with 2 tsp of cornstarch, 1Tbs butter and the juice of half lemon, add some broth, mix again and pour in the pot (this is called a liaison), mix gently, heat for 2 more minutes and serve with plain rice.

February 10, 2010

Like water from the mountain

I am in the US right now and I miss very much my husband, Komang. I miss cooking with him, all the while chatting and eating in silence together, as most Balinese do.

I miss a lot of things about Komang, not only cooking but it's 7pm and I am hungry!
Komang is a quiet and passionate man. He is humble, confident and generous; with him, life always seems a little bit better, a little bit easier and, in his presence, you always feel like a better version of yourself.

For some reasons, Komang did not cook much before us being together but that certainly did change, a lot! Whenever he cooks, it is at the same time with an easy going attitude and a great focused intent; ya, that would pretty much describe him in a few words, hard and soft at the same time!

With any traditional recipe, be it in Bali or anywhere in the world, I have noticed that long discussions and debates (with the occasional heated argument) ensue for: 1) what exactly goes in the dish, 2) the proper manner to prepare it and most importantly, 3) the knowledge of the unique "truc", "tour de main" or "secret" ingredient which will end the quest for authenticity and elevate the most simple dish into perfection and Komang is a perfectionist at heart and I should add, highly individualistic as well.

He will listen to his mother's, sisters' or cousins' specific directions on how to execute something and starts by following the instructions carefully but ends up adjusting and tasting everything to make it his own. It will be reworked many times until the final verdict of "not bad!" has been reached. That's why his food, be it nasi goreng, chicken curry or jakut urab, is all so very delicious but unlike anyone else's.
So, I will just dream about the favorite dishes he makes for me until I return. In the meantime, I can always make

Bubur Injin

Bubur Injin is Black Rice Pudding served with Palm Sugar Syrup and  a jug of fresh Coconut Milk, it is easy to make and the perfect afternoon snack, comforting and always welcome, be it in the midst of a snow storm as it is today for me in the US or when the rain falls (with no end in sight, it seems) in Bali, turning everything into a new green world.

1 cup black rice, rinsed well
1/3 cup glutinous rice, rinsed well
1 vanilla bean, split in half lenghtwise
3/4 cup Palm Sugar Syrup or regular sugar syrup

In a pot with a heavy bottom, place the 2 kinds of rice, add the vanilla and water to cover the rice by 2 inches, bring to a boil and lower the heat, mix from time to time and add water for the rice to be always covered, taste for doneness. When the rice is almost cooked, add the syrup, mix and continue to cook until the rice is tender and the consistency is soft porridge like. Serve with more syrup and coconut milk to pour on the servings.

Komang said to me once " I am like water falling from the mountain, wherever it goes, it's all good! Whatever comes!"

These words opened a window in my mind, I feel that way too and for this, I can only say "Saya cinta kamu, Suamiku" You are always in my heart!