Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving in Paris: Cauliflower-Baguette Gratin

So last week, in order for those of us studying in Paris to celebrate Thanksgiving, a group of friends decided to organize a potluck. I was delegated the task of preparing a main dish for the vegetarians(myself included). I had been wanting to prepare a recipe for the AWED French event, hosted by Priya and started by DK of Chef in You, and since I am in none other than Paris, I figured what better time to do it? And thus, after a trip trough the all-organic Marché Raspail in the 6th arrondisement of Paris from which I left with a giant head of cauliflower and a generous hunk of gruyère cheese, I devised this scrumptious, hearty, creamy and flavorful cauliflower-baguette gratin. Though not a traditional gratin, for which the béchamel sauce is made with dairy milk and is generally seasoned only with salt, pepper and nutmeg, being myself, I simply had to add herbs and seasoning to the vegetables and béchamel to lend the dish the level of flavor I prefer. I also added the baguette chunks to use up leftover baguette that I had sitting around (just like using leftover bread to make bread pudding). Anyway, the gratin turned out simply mouthwatering (what, with butter, cheese and all those herbs, how could it not? :) ). After a plate of savory dishes including tomato-mozzarella tartelettes, the gratin, a vegetarian stuffing, and of course for the meat-eaters, turkey, we all proceeded to completely polish an entire plate of dessert, including a fabulous pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream, a rich and delectable caramel flan and an apple pie (which I did not sample). Stuffed we were, but the potluck proved an immensely enjoyable way to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends away from home.


For the cauliflower mixture:
1 large head cauliflower, washed and cut into large florets
4 large cloves garlic
1 tsp. dry basil
1 tsp. dry thyme
salt to taste, or about 1 tsp.
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
For the béchamel:
2 cups plain, unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. white flour
1 tsp. dry basil
1 tsp. dry thyme
1.5 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 cups grated gruyère cheese, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
salt to taste, or about 1/2 tsp.

1.5 cups of chopped baguette cubes

Pressure cook cauliflower until tender, but still relatively firm. Heat oil in a large pan, and add the chopped garlic cloves. Cook on medium-low heat until the garlic is no longer raw, but not yet brown, about 2 minutes. Add the basil and thyme, and then add the cauliflower florets. Toss carefully to combine, making sure not to break the florets, and let the mixture cook for just one minute. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

For the béchamel sauce, melt butter in a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook over medium-low heat for about 4-5 minutes, until the roux achieves a deep golden color and the raw smell of the flour disappears. Gradually add in the almond milk, making sure the first batch is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next batch. Add the cream. Vigorously whisk the mixture over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes, or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. After about five minutes, whisk in the basil, thyme, salt, pepper and nutmeg. When the sauce is thickened properly, turn off the stove and remove from the heat. Whisk in the dijon mustard. Then, gradually whisk in 1 and 1/2 cups of grated cheese in 1/2 cup increments until completely melted. Grease the bottom of a baking dish. Place half of the cauliflower mixture and half of the bread cubes, evenly distributed, on the bottom of the pan. Top with half of the béchamel sauce. Then, top with the remaining cauliflower and bread cubes, evenly distributed, and finish with the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining half cup of cheese. Place the dish in the oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and bubbling (Start checking after 15 minutes). Remove from the oven, and let slightly cool before serving. Serve still warm.

Cauliflower-Baguette Gratin




Caramel Flan


Pumpkin Pie





Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Aux Desirs de Manon

Ok, so I know I haven't been good about updating, but I really have been extremely busy. Extremely busy eating. Yes, the City of Lights is also the city of pastries, and temptation continuously abounds! Literally, on every corner one turns, one comes across a boulangerie and/or patisserie with their beautiful displays of creatively crafted viennoiseries and patisseries. I must again give due thanks to Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini for all of her wonderful recommendations in Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris. Really, this gem of a book has served as my Bible here in the City of Lights. In my spare time, what do you think I do other than scout out the various patisseries, boulangeries, fromageries, and restaurants that she raves about? Clotilde's recommendations have never led me astray. However, one of my most favorite boulangerie-patisseries is one I stumbled across myself while wandering the Marais. I spend a lot of time in this rather chic, bustling area of Paris, and so I have scouted out quite a few of the eateries here. And, other than L'As du Falafel, the one that repeatedly draws me back is a truly spectacular boulangerie-patisserie called Aux Désirs de Manon. Every day I come to the Marais for classes, I undoubtedly make a stop at Aux Désirs de Manon, whether for breakfast, lunch, a snack, and/or to pick up their outstanding baguette for dinner. And yes, I have been known to stop by more than once a day :) Just make a trip out here yourself, and you'll immediately see why. The artful array of pastries, ranging from the classic tartelette aux fraises(tart crust filled with strawberries and pastry cream), to classics with a twist such as the pistachio éclair, to innovative creations such as the Piémond, a white sponge cake topped with orange cream and surrounded by a chocolate ganache and sweet tarts ranging from almond and quetsches to pistachio and red fruit, will make your head spin with indecision.

Pistachio and Red Fruit Crumble

Also of note are the high-quality viennoiseries and breads. Try the pain au chocolat-amande, a croissant filled with almond cream and a chocolate bar, covered with toasted almonds. So delectable, but quite heavy-split it with a friend, and don't make the mistake of eating the entire croissant like I did :) Their baguette is also perfect, and I have been lucky enough to get one warm on multiple occasions.

Piémond

Aux Désirs de Manon
129 Rue Saint Antoine
75004 Paris

01 42 72 32 91
http://www.aux-desirs-de-manon.fr/

 

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