French Fridays: Pumpkin Gorgonzola Flans

Fall has been particularly good to us here in Washington, DC. Until this week, we have enjoyed unseasonably warm weather and bright sunny weekends. Unfortunately, things changed this week and the past few days’ downpour and cold temperatures made me long for some seasonal comfort food. October was the first month of the cook-along online bookclub French Fridays With Dorie, with Dorie herself picking the recipes for her online baking minions to make each week. For November, we were able to vote on the recipes that we would prepare as well as pick the order that we wanted to make them in. I was feeling quite down because of the grey weather and the rain, and so I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen… Initially, I thought I would prepare the Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux because, well, I was feeling quite paresseuse myself. But the recipe called for a Dutch oven and I don’t have one so I turned my attention to the Pumpkin Gorgonzola flans, which were so easy to prepare they should really be caled Pumpkin Gorgonzola Flans for Les Paresseux as well.
Pre-oven flans – I actually used my creme brulee set to make these which worked out really well.
Post-oven Pumpkin Gorgonzola Flan, topped with chopped walnuts for extra texture.
I served the flans as a light meal with a simple salad. Since I’m not typically a big blue cheese fan, I wasn’t very generous with the gorgonzola and I really wish I had been. The distinctive salty flavour of the cheese turned out to be a perfect contrast to pumpkin flan and I would have liked to have just a little bit more of it.
Bon Appétit et bon vendredi!

French Fridays: Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

I  really enjoyed this week’s recipe because Marie-Hélène’s apple cake reminded me of another Marie’s apple cake: my grandmother Marie-Louise’s.

My grandmother spent the war years in  Belgium where she lived above a bakery. Food was scarce but the bakery typically had flour and sugar that they would share with their upstairs neighbours. As a result, she spent that time making and eating breads and sweets and remained a great baker. Unfortunately, she never wrote down any recipes 😦 I made Marie-Hélène’s apple cake last week instead of the hachis parmentier I was supposed to make. Oops. But from my mistake I was able to realize the similarity between this cake and the cake my grandmother made when I was a kid. So I made it again, but with a thiner crust since my that’s how I remember her cake. I also tried to make it look like hers:

Bon appétit and bon vendredi!

French Friday: Il N’y A Que Maille Qui M’Aille

Whenever I go home to Paris I always make a quick stop in the Maille boutique 6 place de la Madeleine. The small shop, conveniently located around the corner from Ladurée, is an homage to all things mustard. There, you’ll find some of the best mustard in Paris freshly prepared and on tap, in a variety of classic and seasonal flavours, as well as vinegards and cornichons. When it comes to mustard, il n’y a que Maille qui m’aille and I wouldn’t be caught dead purchasing Grey Poupon! This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was a mustard tart (Gerard’s Mustard Tart to be precise) so I was glad to have a few jars of mustard left in my fridge from my last visit to the Maille store back in August.

The mustard at Maille is served on tap, like beer, at their store place de la Madeleine.

Gerard’s Mustard Tart called for 2 different kinds of mustard: Dijon mustard and grainy Dijon mustard. I used the Maille Dijon Originale and Maille Old Style.Both mustards are mixed with crème fraiche and eggs to make a custard on which to lay 3-inches long sticks of steamed carrots and leeks. The recipe also calls for a store bought crust, which actually makes this dish one that can easily be done on any weeknight after coming home from work. Though the end result is so pretty that it is almost a shame not to share it! I artfully arranged the vegetables in my pie crust, though in hindsight I realize that you can barely see the leeks under all these carrots 😦 Oh well…

Gerard’s Mustard Tart – recipe number 2 of French Fridays with Dorie

I probably won’t get around to making next week’s recipe: Viet Chicken Soup but I’m excited to be making hachis parmentier (think French sheppard’s pie) in two weeks’ time! Until then, bon appétit and bon vendredi!

French Fridays with Dorie: Gougères

I love reading stories written by Americans living in Paris. I miss my hometown so I devour blogs like David Lebovitz or Lost in Cheeseland. Their expatriate experience in the City of Light just seems a lot more exciting than mine here in DC. I mean, Washington is great and all, but it’s no Paris.

One of the expat I am most envious of is Dorie Greenspan. Not only does she get to live a fabulous life in the 6th arrondissement, but she also gets to co-author books with some of my culinary idols like Daniel Boulud or Pierre Herme. So I got to go to the West Wing once and saw the Oval Office… big deal!! She authored not just one but two books with the king of pastry himself. I’m officially envious! So when I heard that she was starting an online cook-along book club for her latest cookbook Around My French Table, I thought i’d try it out. The concept for French Fridays with Dorie is simple: she picks a recipe from her book, we cook it then blog post about it.

To start us off, Dorie selected the first recipe from the nibbles and hors d’oeuvres section of the book: cougères. Gougères are basically tasty bite-sized cheese puffs that a French hostess might serve to her guests during l’aperetif. They’re actually a lot easier to make than to pronounce and Dorie’s recipe is pretty straighforward. Nonetheless, I was very excited that this was the first dish that I would get to make for French Friday because I actually took a cooking class at Adour 2 years ago where I learned to perfect my gougères-making skills.

Chef Bendano of Adour pipes his gougeres onto parchment paper, but you can just spoon them out.
I made a few minor changes from Dorie’s original recipe, mainly reserving some of the gruyère to sprinkle on the dough right before putting it into the oven to add a little crunchy cheesiness to the puffs.  I also sprinkled the choux with coarse salt while they are still warm. Finally, Dorie recommends serving the gougeres, still warm, with a glass of champagne. That’s actually a great pairing but since gougères are originally from Burgundy, I always like to serve them with another regional specialty: chablis.
My cougeres, with a little extra cheese and some sea salt, came out beautifully!

 

With chablis or champagne, extra cheese, salt or just plain, I hope you will enjoy the gougères!

Bon vendredi et surtout bon appétit!