Monday, November 23, 2009

Grand Marnier Panettone Bread Pudding with Dark and Milk Chocolates

Making panettone bread pudding has become a sort of holiday tradition for me. Living far away from family I have, little by little, recreated the feeling of home far away from home. I've started my own traditions, like this bread pudding. I make it every year now, and just the smell of the panettone coming out of its package signifies that that time of year has arrived. I tweak the recipe a little every year: this year, it's more rustic, meant for every one to dig in. There is dark and milk chocolate, and a healthy dose of Grand Marnier.

Moving away from home has been a real test in growing up. I've been away for a little over 6 years now, most of my family living minutes from each other in Paris. So, new traditions are born, and, with me, they usually tend to surround Oliver, food and good friends.

Grand Marnier Panettone Bread Pudding with Dark and Milk Chocolates

Serves 4
2 eggs
1 cup of whole milk
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
3 teaspoons of Grand Marnier
1/2 large panettone loaf with candied fruit and raisins
1 tablespoon of bittersweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon of milk chocolate chips
Butter, to butter the ramekins

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, sugar and Grand Marnier. Beat until well mixed. Using your hands, tear the pannetone into large bite size pieces. Butter a large oven-proof baking dish and scatter the panettone pieces at the bottom. Scatter the chocolate on top of the panettone. Pour the egg mixture over the panettone, and lightly push down with the back of a spoon until the panettone is covered with egg mixture.
Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until the egg mixture is just set. Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Boeuf Bourguignon - or Red Wine Stewed Beef

Boeuf bourguignon is one of the main dishes of France's culinary heritage - one of those dishes that has been made by generations and generations each with its own tweaks. Stewed meat was always a classic in my family's Parisian kitchen, and making this in my kitchen sends me back to those nice family dinners.

The bottom line is that boeuf bourguignon is extremely cheap to make, the only difficult part being the wait for it to be done while the sweet smell of simmering wine and tender beef takes over your kitchen! Stewing meat is one of the cheapest cuts of meat there is - the idea being that the labor is on you to cook it slowly! As any good stew starts off, it's about searing the meat (which takes a few minutes), and then basically mixing the beef with aromatics and liquid (good red wine and stock).

In Julie and Julia, Julie Powell makes boeuf bourgignon sound rather dramatic. She forgets it in the oven while she falls asleep and the result is a big, big burnt mess. When Oliver and I were heading home from the market with our stewed meat, vegetables, and wine we were laughing about the scene and how it was made out to be so much more tedious than it actually was. I don't know if Julia Child got offended by our gentle mockery or if we were just unlucky, but after an hour of cooking time, when Oliver was taking our Creuset pot out to check on the meat, our oven rack tilted and half of our stewing liquid flooded the oven. That set us back a good half hour, the oven was a boozy mess but thankfully we had more Chianti wine and the meal turned out great anyway.

I used Julia Child's recipe, with a few tweaks, served the meet over whole wheat buttery herbed parpadelle and it was the perfect Sunday night meal.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

These types of soups always make me smile. The color of the squash is just amazing - making this soup the perfect way to celebrate Fall. My mom is in Montreal for a few days and wanted me to show her how to make an easy squash soup. This was the perfect time to do just that. Standing in the kitchen with a warm cup of green tea, I talked her through the recipe, she took a few notes, and I'm confident she will now try to make this at home!

We served the soup with crusty garlic-rubbed walnut bread, and it was delicious. The markets are full of multi-colored squashes at this time of year, and I can't help myself but buy one (or 2) every time I see some. This is my type of food: simple, rustic, flavorful and really quite beautiful. What are your favorite Fall treats this year?

Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 8

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 squash, seeded and cut in quarters
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 1/2inch slice of pancetta, cubed
1/2 white onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 teaspoon of finely chopped thyme
2 cups of chicken stock
10 sage leaves
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and add the chopped sweet potato and quartered squash. Generously drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with brown sugar. Using your hands, make sure each piece has a little oil, seasoning and sugar. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the squash and sweet potato are just soft. All pieces may not be done at exactly the same time. Once cool enough to handle, use a spoon and scoop out the flesh of the squash. Reserve the squash and sweet potato.

In a large stockpot on medium heat, add the diced pancetta. Cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add a little olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped thyme. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Add the squash and sweet potato pieces. Add the chicken stock. Add cold water until the squash and sweet potato pieces are just covered with liquid. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Using an immersion blender, carefully puree the soup. You might need to add a little water if the soup is too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, and a good drizzle of olive oil to fry the sage leaves. Place the leaves in the oil, and cook until the leaves are just crispy. Remove from the heat, place on paper towels to soak up excess fat, and serve atop the soup, with a dollop of sour cream, yogurt or ricotta. Enjoy!
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