French Butter

Nothing beats a croissant from France. It’s light, flaky, and buttery. When we came back to the states, I ordered my “favorite” croissant in LA at Amadine patisserie. Prior to the trip I didn’t mind it, but it just doesn’t taste the same. Sadness. What is it about the those croissants in France? Obviously I’m not a baking expert, I think it’s the butter! French butter totally tastes different from American butter. One of the couples we met in Paris (traveling from Australia) told us that they bought  some butter at the market and “ate it like it was cheese.” hmmm. The day we made scallops in our Paris apartment, we bought butter at the local Carrefour. We bought one of the cheaper butters, President (which they also served in the Eurostar):

It had an awesome flavor. Yummmy. If the cheap stuff tastes like this, imagine the greatness of the pricier butters!

On chowhound I found that a lot of people liked the Pamplie butter, which we purchased at Surfas in Culver City.

However, it didn’t taste the same. Actually, it tasted like half president and half American butter. Maybe it tastes differently in France? Maybe transporting the butter over made it lose some of its freshness.

The next butter I purchased was something I never knew about. As you may know, the Vietnamese cuisine has some French influence. I learned that a lot of my Vietnamese friends ate canned French butter while growing up! Luckily I was in the Little Saigon area yesterday and my gal pal found it for me! Apparently most of the major Vietnamese grocery stores sell this and at $4.99 a can, it was worth giving it a shot!

I didn’t have this growing up because we lived in Pittsburgh. Since I was only a kid living in Pittsburgh, I assume products from overseas are more difficult to locate in Pittsburgh. So I didn’t grow up eating this canned butter like some of my Vietnamese friends that lived in CA since they were babies. I can’t wait to try this butter. I’m waiting until ❤ returns home so we can experience it together. I will keep you updated!

As for purchasing French butter, I feel fortunate that we live in Los Angeles where there are so many gourmet shops. I believe Surfas has three brands of French butter: Pamplie,  Isigny Saint Mere, and President. BTW, Surfas is an awesome store for reasonably priced cooking ware and other types of gourmet groceries. I love visiting this store! In my search for French butter, I found that if you don’t live near Surfas, the other places that will sell French butter include cheese shops! In my area, that will include Wally’s Wine House’ Cheese Box and the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills.

Enjoy!
Surfas
8777 W Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

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Shepherds pie

What to do with leftover mashed potatoes?  Make a pie!  According to Gordon Ramsay, in order to have a crispy potato layer, you need parmesan cheese.  It worked!

 

Furikake Chex mix

For the holidays one of my coworkers made the team furikake chex mix.  I’ve never had this and she told me that it’s a Hawaiian thing, where they’ll mix together furikake and honeycombs with chex mix.  This is SO addicting!  I decided to make some for our recent group trip to Big Bear.  I think everyone liked it!  If you like chex mix and you like furikake, then you will love this!  Most recipes say to use corn syrup but I tried it with honey.

Here is the recipe that my coworker gave me:

½ cup light corn syrup (karo)
½  cup of sugar
½ cup of vegetable oil
1 stick of butter (unsalted)
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
1 box of honeycombs cereal
½ box of rice chex mix cereal
½ box of corn chex mix cereal
1 lb bag of mini pretzels
1 bottle of furikake
some people like crispix cereal as well  – it’s really your preference.  I’ve also added popcorn before (but not this time) and some people add nuts.

1. preheat oven to 250
2. heat and melt the first 5 ingredients above in a pan.
3. using a roasting pan (like the ones you make turkey with), mix all the dry ingredients together (MINUS THE FURIKAKE).
4. pour the melted butter/oil/sugar over the cereal and mix well.
5. place in oven for an hour, mixing about every 10 – 15 minutes.  after the first 10 minutes, pour furikake over the cereal mix and mix well ( I pretty much use the whole bottle, but it also depends on your bottle size.
6. after it’s done for an hour, take it out and let it cool before you put it in containers.

 

White truffle oil pasta

Are you a fan of truffles?  The smell of truffles can permeate a room quickly, so I’m not sure if one would like the taste if they can’t stand the pungent smell.  Personally I don’t mind truffles.  I won’t go out of my way to eat them though.  One of my friends gave me white truffle oil for my birthday.  We decided to make a recipe that we saw the Barefoot Contessa make recently.  She used white truffle butter so we improvised a bit by modifying our truffle oil and butter ratio to accommodate her recipe.

We couldn’t find the pasta brand that she used.  We also added a poached egg to give the dish more protein (though I think shrimp would work well).  This may seem like a lot of chives but the chives adds a lightness to the heavy taste of this dish.  It tastes heavy because you use egg pasta, butter, a poached egg and white truffle oil.  It took about half an hour from start to finish to make this dish! I think the dish worked well with a medium to full bodied red wine.   The red wine helps cut through the heaviness of the white truffles.  Another easy meal!  Enjoy!

An easy gift

The thing I love about my department is that we are all pretty health conscious!   Everyone does some sort of physical activity, such as the company basketball team, running, mountain biking, surfing, or just working out.  On top of that, they all appreciate healthy food.  It’s awesome working with a team that encourages and lives a healthy lifestyle.  I get tons of support for all of the running I did over the past year.  Because of that, I decided to make almonds!  This is a quick, easy AND cost efficient gift to give to a group of people.

I got the bags and ribbons from World Market!  Note that it doesn’t have a lick of Christmas theme to it.  Happy holidays to all!

Jerusalem Artichokes

We learned about Jerusalem Artichokes, aka sunchokes, earlier this year when we attended Menu Minuet.  I’m not sure why they are called Jerusalem Artichokes because they aren’t related to Jerusalem or artichokes.  Anyway you can only get these in a small time period, we luckily saw them at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago!  They look like a cross between a fingerling potato and a ginger.  I asked the farmer what the best way to cook them.  He said to thinly slice them and sauté with salt/pepper.  I did some research and found that another blogger had them at ad hoc.  I wanted to prepare it similar to how Keller’s restaurant would!

I noticed that at ad hoc they left the skin on so I had to thoroughly clean the outside.  There was a lot of dirt on these guys, a vegetable brush would’ve helped a little since there are lots of nooks and crannies that you have to get into.   Just like a potato, if the skin is exposed it will turn pink.  So when you are selecting them, make sure to pick ones that do not have any pink on them, as that means the skin’s been exposed.

I drizzled them in olive oil, salt and pepper.  I baked them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes on 350 degrees.

They tasted like a starchy version of an artichoke heart.  You don’t really need to put sugar on them because they have a naturally sweet taste.  The parts that caramalized had a sweet, crunchy taste.  Overall these are pretty good.  So if you see them at the farmer’s market, you should definitely give them a try!  Now that I have an idea of how they taste, I would prepare them the same way as I would fingerling potatoes.  Ad hoc put some fresh thyme on them.  Next time I’m going to add some fresh chopped rosemary for a little bit of pizazz!

Failed attempts

So I want to share with you my two failed attempts at cooking this week.  This shouldn’t showcase all of my successful meals.  After all, if I were a successful cook then my name would be Thomas Keller!  Well that name is taken anyway! 😛

Fail #1:

Making bread in my dutch oven.  One of my bestest gal pals got me a Le Creuset cast iron oven!  Oh how I always wanted one but was too cheap to buy one!  In over a month I’ve made tons of dishes and it’s worked out marvelously.  At a recent potluck someone made bread with the oven and I SO wanted to copy it.  He said it was really easy to make and he didn’t even know how to cook.  I was sold!  I found a recipe on a blog that will not be named (I don’t want their credibility to go down bc I enjoy reading that blog).  I followed it exactly, except for the part where they used a KitchenAid stand mixer to do the kneading.  I spent almost an hour kneading the dough!  It took forever for the windowpane to show up and it reluctantly did.  More like, I gave up trying to get to the windowpane and hoped for the best.  I put the dough in the oven, covered and cooked it for half an hour. Then I removed the lid and cooked it for an additional 15.  It looked and smelled pretty but the bread was so heavy.  It was so dense!  It was like cake bread!  Lessons learned, I will never make bread that requires kneading.  I will make bread that is “no-knead!”

Fail #2 To be continued…

Thanksgiving potluck – part 2

Second potluck was equally awesome.  Wine spice anyone?  Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of this potluck but for your imagination:
– A whole roasted pig from Chinatown
-Bread infused with rosemary made from a Dutch Oven
-Spaghetti squash salad made with squash from the CSA (go awesome hostess for supporting local farmers!)
-Lentil salad with beets
-Stuffed mushrooms
-Stuffing
-Lamb roast
-French cheeses, my favorite being a cheese in the shape of a pear.  Yet the cheese tasted like pear with the consistency of cheese, amazing!
-Pumpkin pie in a cute jar for each guest as a parting gift!

Wait where’s the turkey?  Who cares, there was a lot of tasty food that no one noticed the turkey!!!  I made butternut squash soup with the squash we purchased at the farmer’s market.  As much as I love kobocha and butternut squash, I DETEST cutting them.  You can’t use a vegetable peeler to have at the skin (unless you have some kind of machete peeler that I don’t know of?).  I usually hack at the skin with my trusty henckels chef’s knife.  It’s still a bit scary.  Some say you should boil or bake it a bit to soften the skin, but that’s just additional time to kill, which you may not have!

I used this recipe.  It’s quite simple and I think fairly healthy as well.  Chicken broth can be replaced with vegetable broth.  For the amount of soup that you make, the butter in this recipe is pretty immaterial.

I didn’t want to transport the soup in a dutch oven, so I used a stock pot.  I plastic wrapped the pot first, then I placed the lid on and plastic wrapped that too!  THEN, I put the pot in the box that I purchased the pot in.  TRIPLE protection in my car!  Don’t forget to bring a soup ladle.  Also, if you make soup it’s best to bring spoons and bowls.  Unless your hostess is kind enough to supply these items for you, but it’s always best to ask ahead of time!

Note to self, I should buy some soup bowls.  Enjoy.

Thanksgiving potluck part 1

Potlucks in college consisted of  plastic/paper/aluminum flatware, plates, and trays.  You start to notice how these things start becoming proper silverware, plates and pretty serving trays.  Oh it’s so lovely and fun!  We had the honor of being invited to two potlucks this year.  I wanted to make healthy, tasty food.  I didn’t want to make anything that related to breads or the potato family.  The farmer’s market had plenty of squashes and cauliflower.  As an FYI, the price of squash and cauliflower is comparable, if not cheaper, to the grocery stores like Ralphs (when it’s not on sale at Ralphs, it’s cheaper at the farmer’s market).

For the first potluck I made cauliflower with golden raisins and pine nuts.  Stir fry the cauliflower in olive oil and sugar on lower heat to cook the cauliflower a bit.  Then add pine nuts, golden raisins, garlic, and water to the cauliflower on higher heat.  The water prevents the cauliflower from over drying.  Stick the entire thing on a sheet/pan to roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on the number of cauliflower you are making.  This is the gist of it and you can add more seasonings to it, though this is what we had at the time!

The end result:

Everyone liked this!  I think this is a great, HEALTHY alternative to all of the potatoes and breads you will see at a Thanksgiving potluck.  Enjoy.