Friday, December 31, 2010

Au Revoir 2010

Remember when we were all freaking out about the “New Millennium” and how we thought the world was coming to an end (HOW ARE WE GOING TO FIX THE DATES ON THE COMPUTERS?!?!?)?

Well, here I am saying farewell to the 10th year after that conniption. Whew.

Looking back at the last year I’ve changed a lot in my life. I’ve stressed myself out to my wits end at a job that many would call their “dream job”. Okay, yes, designing award winning 5-star hotels all over the world is a nice thing to throw in the faces of those kids who gave you swirlies in high school, but working your ass off for 40, 50, 60+ hours a week? Sorry, but I’m not a workaholic and I didn’t want my job to be my life… not yet anyways. So I put my balls on the table and moved my life across the Atlantic, and parked my sweet little butt in Paris. I vowed to myself that I’d make a big change in my life, and see where it took me.


So have I?

I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here… I’ve mastered the art of the “chocolate soufflé”, unearthed the secrets behind the illustrious French macaron, and even learned how to fillet a rabbit.

Râble de Lapin

I’ve been here just shy of 6 months now, and without taking any French lessons, can now comprehend most of what people are saying. I can even *sometimes* understand Quentin’s older brother, Thomas, (who speaks very quickly) and in his words, “If I can understand him, I can understand anyone.” I have only started the brain-achingly difficult transition from speaking English to speaking French. That has been the hardest part. I think I’m getting there though… j'espère.

Looking back at my 2010 Resolution List, I wanted to see what I’ve stuck to and what I’ve… ahem… let slip through the cracks:

-Move to France

-Start a Blog (and keep up with it)

-Learn to speak French – Workin’ on it…

-Find a job in Paris – Does freelance Interior Design and Food Blogging count? Hehe.

-Read more books - I read a total of 3 1/2 this year! A new record for me!

-Get back into my daily yoga routine – Aahh… yeah, umm… I’m working on that one?

-Stop drinking soda – Grr… I just love Coke… what can I say?

So the few resolutions that I’ve been able to tick off my list from last year, I guess you could call more like “goals” but at least it’s something. Now to work on next year…

Here’s my 2011 Resolution List (and I’m going to be a little more specific this time):

-If you know how to say something in French, say it in French.

-Yoga routine 4 times per week

-Stop drinking soda!!!

-Do more traveling: Philippines, China, London, Spain, Egypt

-Read at least 5 books


I’m making a 2011 Cooking Resolutions List also… only seems fitting:

-Cook more seasonally & sustainably

-Use more whole grains, less pasta

-Cook more French and Filipino food

-Cook at least 12 dishes out of your comfort zone (1 per month), and blog about them.

I think I’m going to stop there… If I put too many things on the list it’s likely that I won’t do them, so better to start small. I’m printing out these lists and taping them to my mirror! 2011 Here I come!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tartine Tuesday: Foie Gras and Fleur de Sel Tartines

Christmas Tree

This was my 2nd Christmas in a row that I've celebrated in France. The first time, I had the unfortunate luck of coming down with the flu, and was bedridden most of the week of Christmas. I even slept right through Christmas dinner. That being said, this year was much much better. 

Christmas Eve, as is the usual, is spent at Quentin's parent's home. They celebrate with a big family dinner the night before Christmas and open the gifts that night. Who doesn't love opening presents early?

Christmas Eve dinner is a little different here than it is in the States. Back home I imagine a perfectly spiral-cut honey glazed ham with buttery mashed potatoes and my Dad's pumpkin pie. In the Isackson home, we started with the aperitif; bowls full of mini boudin noir and boudin blanc, green olives(my favorite), and salty pistachios which were all washed down with a few glasses of foamy eggnog (a little American tradition was inserted here and there). 

Christmas Eve Dinner

Dinner started with a typically French Christmas specialty: Foie Gras. Foie gras is the liver of a fattened goose or duck. The way foie gras is made is not the most ethical. I won't go into detail, but one basically force-feeds the animal to make it delectably plump. It is however, absolutely delicious. It has that devilishly creamy and you know it's not good for you taste... like butter, only meatier. So we started with toasted bread, topped with slices of foie gras, and quickly moved on to the main dish... Le Chapon de Cyrano de Bergerac: capon or castrated rooster stuffed with (more) foie gras and chestnuts. Delicious. Following that was of course lots of cheese and then 3 different desserts... I hadn't been full like that since I was in the States. My stomach hurt so good.

Christmas Eve Dinner

So for my last Tartine Tuesday of 2010 I give you something simple and straight from France...

Foie Gras and Fleur de Sel Tartines

Foie Gras and Fleur de Sel Tartines

8 slices of foie gras
8 slices of baguette or toast
fleur de sel

Toast slices of baguette until brown and crispy. Top with the slices of foie gras and sprinkle fleur de sel on top. Serves 2.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tartine Tuesday: Éric Kayser's Pain Aux Noix, Magret Fumé et Orange Tartines

Due to watching From Paris with Love (which was pretty bad ass) at 3am this morning... I woke up with today with little sunlight left in the day (whoops... hehe). 

So this Tartine Tuesday, which I ate for dinner, is a quick and easy one. 

Pain Aux Noix, Magret Fumé et Orange

I'm not actually going to post the recipe here (although it's quite simple, and obvious), because one, it's not my recipe, and two, I'd rather you go out and buy the book. I'm using a recipe from Éric Kayser's, Tartinez Gourmand. Thinly sliced magret fumé, or smoked duck, is laid over toasted and buttered pain aux noix (nut bread) and topped with juicy orange segments and freshly cracked black pepper. Simple and delicious.

If you've never segmented citrus before, here's a quick video from Rouxbe, the Online Video Cooking School to show you how:

Note: I am a Rouxbe Cooking School affiliate partner. As part of their affiliate program, I have the power to give you a free, full-access, no-videos-barred, 14-day pass to their site. All you have to do is go to the Rouxbe Online Cooking School and redeem the 14-day Gift Membership. After the trial, you can join for as little as $15 per month; however, there is no obligation. This site is unlike any other cooking site I've seen. It gives you clear, step-by-step demonstrations as you would receive in a cooking class. I've already learned so much, and hope to improve my cooking skills via Rouxbe. It's awesome! Check it out!

It's a great way to get the most out of your oranges and grapefruits, and once you get the hang of it, segmenting citrus can be kind of fun... or maybe it's just me. I always love when my mom makes a huge bowl of segmented citrus. The only problem is that it never lasts very long. I can eat an entire bowl in one sitting. Thankfully, it's not nearly as bad as eating an entire bowl of potato chips... or fried chicken. Not that I've ever done that... ;)

Anyways, back to the tartine... 

The orange really helps to balance the richness of the magret, and the nuttiness of the bread compliments the smokiness of the magret nicely. Finding magret fumé might be a little difficult for some of you back in the States, but some of the fancier grocery stores, like Whole Foods or specialty food shops might be a good place to look. If you can't find it, bacon might be a good substitute... just make sure to cook the bacon first. 

Bon Apétit!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Snow Covered Paris

A few of my favorite shots around Paris before all the snow melted... enjoy!

Paris in the Winter

 Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Paris in the Winter

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tartine Tuesday: Poitrine Fumée, Caramelized Onion Jam, Pumpkin, and Crispy Sage Tartines

Today was the first time in my life that I have ever used an umbrella to protect me from the snow!! It was beautiful, but absoutely freezing, and after walking around with numb, soggy feet because growing-up-in-Florida-means-I-don't-know-what-snow-weather-shoes-are, all I wanted to do was come home and make something yummy to warm me up... 

Hotel de Ville

Since we were running errands in the 6eme, Quentin and I stopped at Eric Kayser to get a demi-boule (half-loaf of bread) and a loaf of my favorite, pain aux cereales. I originally heard about this place from our friend Romain, who's apartment (that we lived in for a month) is literally a two minute walk from Eric Kayser's front door. I later read about Eric Kayser's pain aux cereales on David Lebovitz's blog... so I gave it a try... and it is good. I mean, doesn't-need-anything-more-than-a-pad-of-butter-good (I'm doing that a lot today, aren't I?).

We stopped at the supermarket on the way home so I could get some inspiration for today's Tartine Tuesday... and inspired I got. I found some poitrine fumée, otherwise known as smoked slab bacon... thick-cut and just the inspiration I needed. A slight departure from the lovely little lardons that are my blog's namesake, but piggy and delicious nonetheless. 

Poitrine Fumée

I also grabbed a chunk of pumpkin from the produce section. I've been wanting to do a pumpkin-related tartine recently, but my previous attempts have been less than post-worthy. Too sweet, not the right texture, a little bleh... you get the picture. This time, instead of roasting the pumpkin like usually do, I gave it a different texture by cutting the pumpkin into thin strips, otherwise known as julienne, and sautéeing it. 

Pumpkin, Julienned

One of my favorite, yet most under-used kitchen tools, my mandoline, broke in transit during our flight over here. It was my go-to tool for making paper-thin slivers of cucumbers, potatoes, and sweet potatoes (mmm... sweet potato chips). Quentin, being the handyman that he is, fixed it the other day and it has been patiently waiting for it's initiation into my arsenal of Parisian kitchen tools. I haven't been able to use it since July, and now it's back in action! To bring it back to life, I used it to julienne the thick blocks of pumpkin into thin shoestrings. I paired that with some leftover caramelized onion jam from our Thanksgiving appetizers, and some crispy fried sage.

Poitrine Fumée, Caramelized Onion Jam, Pumpkin, and Crispy Sage Tartines

Poitrine Fumée, Caramelized Onion Jam, Pumpkin, and Crispy Sage Tartines 

4 slices of pain aux cereales, or any other multi-grain bread
4 slices of thick-cut poitrine fumée, or thick-cut bacon
2 tablespoons of butter, unsalted
about 1 cup of pumpkin, julienned
4 tablespoons of caramelized onion jam
4 large sage leaves
2 cups of vegetable oil
salt and pepper, to taste

*The loaf of bread I used to make these tartines is quite small (1 slice is about the size of my palm), so if you have larger slices of bread, you may want to double the other ingredients.*

Slice the poitrine fumée (or thick-cut bacon) in half and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place into a cold oven, close the door, and turn the temperature to 350° Fahrenheit (200° Celsius). Let cook for about 20 minutes, then flip the bacon over for another 10 minutes or so, until both sides are brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and place onto paper towels to absorb any excess grease. 

Heat vegetable oil in a small pot over medium heat. Once the oil is heated (you can test this by dropping a sage leaf into the oil. If it bubbles/sizzles, the oil is hot enough) drop the sage leaves into the oil and fry until crispy, about 20-30 seconds. Remove the leaves from the oil and place onto a paper towel to absorb any excess grease.
Melt butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Once the butter starts to brown a bit, add the julienned pumpkin and sauté for a few minutes, until soft. Salt and pepper to taste.

Toast the slices of bread in the already preheated oven (or toaster if you want) until browned, about 5 minutes. Spread about a tablespoon of the caramelized onion jam over each slice of toast. Top with the sautéed pumpkin, a slice of the poitrine fumée, and a crispy sage leaf. Serves 2.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

THE OUTCOME! Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for 14 in a Parisian Kitchen

I just wanted to give a quick recap for those of you who might be wondering about the outcome of our  little 14-person Thanksgiving dinner in a Parisian kitchen. Hehe.. well, here it goes...

Thanksgiving Dinner!

As I quickly mentioned in my previous post, our 14 (actually 12 in the end) person Thanksgiving dinner was a success. The food was delicious, and the two turkeys *magically* cooked perfectly (thank you turkey gods!). The only thing that didn't quite cook completely... or bake, rather, was the sour cream apple pie. It actually almost set the kitchen on fire. It was 100% my fault, as I shouldn't have dunked the apples into a bowl of lemon water to keep them from browning before I put them into the pie. This made them WAAAAY too juicy, and as the pie cooked, sugary liquid oozed out over the crust onto the bottom of the hot oven. That turned into one hot mess (literally); the burnt sugar turned into embers and before I knew it, the whole kitchen was clouded with smoke. Whoops... hehe.

Sour Cream Apple Pie... Pre-Disaster

Aside from that, my game plan worked out just as I hoped, and I was able to enjoy the party, the food, the booze (of course), and even some of the apple pie.

Alice made a boat load of delicious appetizers... 

Alice Making Apps!

Bouchées de boudin noir with a touche of compote de pomme (blood sausage with apple compote)...

Yummy Appetizers

Cheese and potato puree with chives wrapped in phyllo dough and fried until crispy, tomato basil bruschetta, and bouchées de chèvre chaud with a tranche of green apple and oignon caramélisés (warm goat cheese with slices of green apple and caramelized onions). 

Quentin Making Cornbread

Quentin really helped me out by taking charge of the mashed potatoes. 

Quentin's Cornbread

He even kicked it up a notch and made some "from scratch" cornbread.. which was a knockout hit. Surprisingly, not many people knew what cornbread was... although not surprising to me since I had a hard time finding cornmeal. It was gooood...

We spent the night drinking cider and wine and decorating our Christmas tree. We roommates thought it would add to our maison du bonheur (house of happiness) to have a tree that was created/decorated by our friends instead of hurting a poor little tree from the forest. Go green!

Thomas Decorating the Tree

Audrey Decorating the Tree

Jules Decorating the Tree

So now we have a colorful and unique Christmas tree... complete with a dead angel, melting ice cream, a Super Mario star, phantom, and a big blue snake being attacked by my rendition of Bruzer (just to name a few).

Our Christmas Tree So Far...

Christmas, here we come!