Archive for the ‘French’ Category

Day 75 – Mr. Crunch

May 11, 2007

Wednesday May 2, 2007: Croque Monsieur

Before coming back from New York we placed an on-line order for groceries to be delivered. It certainly made day 1 back home much easier, unfortunately our order focused a bit too much on breakfasts and snacks for the kids – we didn’t give much thought to having dinner on hand for our first night back.

A quick search through the fridge turned up cheese, ham and bread – so croque monsieur here we come. (My French isn’t the greatest, but I do know that croquer means to crunch, as I’m a bit of a dork, I’ve always referred to this sandwich as a Mr. Crunch…)

Essentially it’s a grilled ham and cheese that, once grilled, gets an additional layer of cheese on top and a short trip under the broiler to make it all a pile of melty-goodness.

The boy and K. (not being big fans of cheese) had mozzarella on theirs while my daughter and I enjoyed ours made with comte.

The Verdict

Was a surprisingly well received, low maintenance meal. The kids had some carrots, cucumber and cherry tomatoes with their Mr. Crunch; K. and I had a salad of mixed baby greens and a half bottle of Saintsbury Chardonnay. An easy, simple mid-week meal.


My Kitchen Diary – Dish 1

February 13, 2007

February 10 and 11, 2007

Dish 1: Cassoulet – from John Burton-Race’s French Leave 

Went for lunch at Hart House last week and had a great little cassoulet. It jumped right off the menu at me and was clearly the perfect dish for the bitter cold weather we’ve been having.  

I had picked up a duck for Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) but clearly miscalculated the date for OBTN (it’s February 24th for anyone keeping score) so poor daffy was thawing away in the fridge about two weeks too early. Clearly something needed to be done. 

The despicable cold weather, great lunch at Hart House and the thawing duck in my fridge all pointed me in one direction: cassoulet for Sunday dinner. After pouring over my cookbooks, I settled on the recipe from John Burton-Race. I picked this particular recipe not because of any combination of ingredients or techniques – I chose it because I actually caught the episode of his show on Food/HGTV when he made cassoulet with the locals during his year in France…not the best of reasons, I know, but there it is. 

This is a two-day recipe, although I didn’t make my stock from scratch as Burton-Race advises. With two little kids and a small business to run, the days of making stock from scratch are behind me (or at least another 10 years away). 

Day One: Cure the meats – salt, juniper berries, black pepper corns, fresh thyme and a bay leaf go into a tupperware with the four duck legs and some pork loin. Shake it up and toss it in the fridge.  Prep the beans – dried white kidney beans are soaked overnight in plenty of water. 

Day Two: Wash the cured meat in plenty of cold running water. I soaked those bad boys to get all the salt, herbs, pepper and thyme off. Beans are drained, brought to a boil for five minutes and drained again (Why? I have no idea – I’m just following the recipe). 

Cooking: Step I
The duck and pork loin hit a 300F (or maybe 350F?) oven for 90 minutes; the beans, pork fat, garlic and fresh and dried herbs go back in a pot of water, come to a boil and simmer for 90 minutes.

Funny how the timing works out here…

Instead of cooking stock from scratch on day one, I used a prepared beef stock that I muscled up with some carrot, onion, fresh thyme, garlic and a bay leaf. 

The recipe does not call for any seasoning (salt and pepper) to be added to any of these steps, and I wasn’t sure why. Then I tasted the roasted meats as they came out of the oven. They tasted like a moist, tender salt block…I was actually a little worried about how salty the duck and pork were at this point. 

Cooking: Step II
Once the beans, meats and stock were prepped, I cooked off three garlic sausages in some rendered duck fat and then sliced them into one inch thick rounds.

Skinned, seeded, chopped and sautéed three tomatoes with some onion, garlic more thyme and a bay leaf (this recipe would be great for folks looking to use up all of their bay leaves, I think it uses seven) in the combined duck fat and sausage drippings. 

The new Canada Food Guide has come out against butter (huh?) but as far as I know it’s silent on the use of rendered duck fat. 

Cooking: Step III
The roasted meat, sausages, stock, cooked beans and sautéed tomato-onion-garlic mixture go into a large enamel roaster, the whole works is topped with bread crumbs and baked for an hour. 

The Verdict
Considering there were about 37 ingredients, this was a pretty easy recipe. It may have taken two days, but none of techniques are remotely onerous or difficult and most of the time is spent away from the stove. Skinning, seeding and chopping the tomatoes was as labour intensive as this one got.

Had I used tinned beans, the recipe likely could be made in about 2.5 hours.

While the salt cure was a bit too strong – the pork remained rather salty – the duck legs and sausages were quite good…The saltiness of the pork and duck dissipated and I presume helped to flavour the final dish.  The kids both ate the beans, weren’t too enthusiastic about the duck and muddled through the sausages. Actually, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, the beans may have been the best part. 

Mas des Bressardes 2003 Costières-de-Nîmes Cuvée Excellence – 100% syrah, which had spent about 18 months in my cellar. Had a wonderful spicy nose with plenty of blackberry and red fruit. Bit of licorice and soft fruity jam along with some well integrated tannins and a long, slightly dusty, finish. A good match.