Posted by: Allyn | August 6, 2009

Pastry school, week quatre et cinq

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Bonjour a tout! So I’m slacking off as usual, but it is because I’m having so much fun here in France. Sorry you have to suffer such delays. The picture above is of our work group in the laboratoire with our chef Herve, i.e. my favorite chef so far. So it’s me, Herve, Brennan, Danielle, Becky and her daughter Sage.

Thursday nights are typical for cooking regional food. Last Thursday I made enough gumbo to serve 30 people and I’m pretty sure they all loved it. There were a few changes… like okra. Yeah, no okra here. Also no andouille so I mixed chorizo with a regular sausage. Great flavor, actually. Also, no crab as it was WAY expensive. I managed to get everything else right, though. Here’s to Mom for teaching me these last few years. Apparently I was paying attention. Here are some pics:

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Posted by: Allyn | July 28, 2009

Pastry school: Week trois

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One of our translators, Michel-Ange, lightening the mood around the chateau.

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Here I’m spraying my red fruit tart with cocoa butter to add shine and protect the fruit.

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Strawberry tart… Dad, you would really like this one. :)

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An incredibly good lemon meringue pie. French people really like almond cream, so there’s a layer of that at the bottom topped off with a buttery lemon cream and Italian meringue.

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Someone’s red berry tart at the showcase. I liked the pistachios on the border… beautiful colors

DSCF0920.Fruit paste and raspberry marshmallows… YUM

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Macarons filled with sorbet and presented on sugar pieces. We had to eat them right after they were presented at the showcase… what a shame.

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No evidence.

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The advanced group made a centerpiece. Pretty impressive for 5 hours of work.

Posted by: Allyn | July 16, 2009

Pastry school: Week Deux

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After a nice, quiet week of school for professionals there was only a short rest before the throngs of eager Summer Pastry participants would arrive. One by one they stepped off the bus Sunday night, each looking hopeful and anxious. There are people from Portugal, Spain, Greece, Turkey, UK, Japan, South Africa, Columbia, Mexico, Canada, and the good ol’ US of A.

Turns out, there is also quite a mix in expertise here. There are a few people like me who have no training or experience that just have a passion and have tried to teach themselves everything they can. Most everyone here is currently in pastry school. Then, there are a few who are established professionals and teachers who have been doing pastry for at least a decade. Let’s just say this has caused some problems. I understand their frustrations, too, because these folks could make a perfect genoise with their eyes closed. Hopefully there are other things they can learn. The French are so clean and precise in everything from filling the pastry bag, measuring every ingredient, wiping down equipment to the actual decorating. There is still much to learn for them, I hope.

I am learning TONS and loving every second in the kitchen… well, when I am able to ignore the bitching I enjoy every second.

The first week we made traditional and modern apple tarts, traditional and modern pear tarts, traditional and modern Ambassador, eclairs, and milk rolls (not sure what that is in French because “milk roll” doesn’t translate for me… it’s not brioche, but something different).

DSCF0869Traditional Apple Tart

DSCF0870Modern Apple Tart

DSCF0868Modern Pear Tart

DSCF0871Milk rolls. There is chocolate in there and those are giant sugar crystals on top. Cut the rolls to look like wheat.

DSCF0876(Sarah’s) Traditional Ambassador

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DSCF0877Chef Jean-Marc Guillot telling us about the first week and what to expect for the second. Michel-Onge translating.

DSCF0878Several of the students listening. Christos the Greek, second from the right, looks so bored, poor guy. He’s one of the professionals.

DSCF0883Our first set of teachers. As you can see, it was a rough first week because these guys were so serious.

DSCF0898Chef Vincent and me. He was my chef for the week. We had too much fun. I’m not sure why but he and I got along really well even with a large language barrier. I can’t remember what he was doing in the picture, but it was funny as you can see.

A la prochaine!

Posted by: Allyn | July 11, 2009

Pastry school, week one

What a whirlwind of a week it was here in Yssingeaux. My first week of class was a class for professionals on classical French pastry. I had only made a few of the things listed in our booklets, but my mind was clear and ready for learning. That is, until Chef Jean Francois Arnaud began to speak. Oh boy, this is going to be difficult. Yes, the class was in French and my understanding of the language just wasn’t going to cut it. Fortunately, there was another amateur in the class that spoke English and she helped me understand important things the chef said, like what temperature to bake things… why that wasn’t written on the recipe every time, I’ll never know.

The rest of the summer should be quite different from this previous week. It will be a slower pace and with different teaching levels. You have people like me here, who have no training, but want to learn, but there are also professionals and other pastry teachers from other countries coming. It should be quite a mix.

050Chef filling macarons. I think these were violet and cassis.

054Chef painting jacond before baking. See Mom? I missed the Louvre, but I got to watch lots of artistic and creative things.

070The chocolate macarons I made baking in the oven. Also, a self portrait. I make that hat look good.

071Guts of an eclair I made the dough for. Perfectly holey and waiting for filling.

073Remember the painted jacond a few pictures ago? This is it wrapped around a strawberry tarte. I think this was my favorite piece in the finished product. Just beautiful. Modern. Simple. Elegant.

074At the end of our week we presented a buffet of all our work. It was incredible to watch the chef artistically dress each piece for the showcase. I even got to garnish a few things. Here you can see the millefueille, framboise and pistache, baba rhum, macaron fraise.

075A view of the buffet and one of the interns Francisco (from Brazil) waving hello.

078A view of the various macarons we made in the week. The purple ones were amazing. I’m trying to remember what was in them. I think it was cassis and lavendar.

079Chef Arnaud is also an amazing sugar artist. He whipped up this piece on Thursday afternoon. It was incredible to watch him shape balls of sugar into legs and arms  and wings.

083Chef and I with my certificate of participation. I watched more than I participated, but I learned amazing tools from very simple techniques to the more difficult skills. I’m dying to get home and practice.

Posted by: Allyn | July 5, 2009

Lyon (with a dash of the South)

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After Paris came Lyon. I was delighted to get to a place where I could speak to someone I know, but who could also help me understand everything foreign around me. Thierry and his friend Christopher picked me up from the train station and I had my first encounter with French drivers from the backseat of a car. Wow! If I do move here, I will never drive. Those people are crazy.

That night Theirry had cooked beuf borginogne and we enjoyed a meal with the roommates and a couple other friends. I felt the Southern hospitality in Lyon.

DSCF0812These are two of the roommates, Bat and Bart. They were teaching me about appero which is when you enjoy a drink and a little food before eating dinner. French people don’t eat dinner until 9:00 so this can be a light nibble or two to tide you over.

Mostly in my stay in Lyon I walked around and slept. On the weekend when the guys were off of school we went to a park that had a zoo in it. Cool, huh? And after watching all the animals we found a patch of grass to play some cards and pass the rest of the afternoon in the shade. And then, much to my surprise, Theirry pulls out an American football out of his bag and began throwing it with one of the other guys.

DSCF0851And yes, that is a Magnolia tree. I know, right!? We were sitting next to the exotic greenhouses and other foreign flora.

Some other pictures from the park:

DSCF0850Thierry, Christopher, and Christopher’s sister. We were playing UNO.

DSCF0845Christo and his lollipop.

DSCF0817Playing poker Friday night.

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The last night we ate at a bouchon which is a very traditional and popular eatery in Lyon. They came about when the silk workers in Lyon ate big, filling “momma” meals. Sorry I don’t have any pictures. I had a salad, canelle in red sauce, and creme brulee. I have not had a bad meal yet. I don’t think it’s possible, either.

** Theirry is a friend of Liz’s, my friend from New Orleans. Liz works in a concrete manufacturing plant as an engineer and Theirry did his internship there. I stayed with Liz and Ryan one weekend for work and got to meet Thierry. I told him I wanted to come to France soon and he said let him know whenever I decided to visit. I don’t think he was expecting me so soon. Neither were his roommates, Bart, Bat and JB, but they were so nice and I am forever thankful for their hospitality.

Posted by: Allyn | June 30, 2009

An American in Paris: Day 2

Ok, everyone. I’m going to have to let down some expectations I think. I am posting this at 8:15 Yssingeaux time after finishing up just before 7 and going to the grocery store to buy some food for dinner/weekends. I’m dog tired and this long posting isn’t going to happen every time. I’ll catch up on the weekends, though.

So, onward we go. Day 2 in Paris was another day of walking. I wanted to check out a place called “Willi’s Wine Bar” which was started in 1980 by a Brit (named William) and is said to have not only great food and wine, but also an interesting cultural mix of folks speaking “Frenglish.” Sounded fun to me. I googled the directions and thought I was set. I even took the metro since it was a good 5 km away and it was already 11:00. Even though I knew what street to take and where the restaurant was in relation to the metro, I didn’t know where I was in relation to anything when I ascended the stairs onto the bustling street of hungry Parisians. So, of course, I got lost. I walked a ways and figured out it was wrong, so I kept walking to find a major street or another metro/map. Around 1:30 I realized I wasn’t making it to Willi’s for the lunch formula so I started looking for a patisserie. Sure enough, I found one and got a beautiful quiche with jambon (ham) and another eclair. Again, I walked and walked and walked finally running into the huge Lafayette’s store with a metro. I decided to take that to the Jardin de Tuilleries to eat my treats. I followed the mass of people to the Louvre and admired the scenery before finding a nice spot in the shade to enjoy these:

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My belly was full, my sugar was up and my feet felt rested so I packed up my things and headed toward the Champs de Lysee. Before leaving the Jardin, I captured this site:

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Somewhere down the path is the Louvre. Mom, I promise I’ll go inside next time. :) Nothing special about the Champs, really. Expensive stores that I didn’t go inside, overpriced food, people begging for money… The Arc du Triomph was pretty cool. I looked for the telephone booth where Kate may have stood in “French Kiss” but came up empty. I think most interesting was the traffic around the Arc. It was absolutely fantastic to watch all the cars with no lanes barging into one another’s space trying to navigate this crazy traffic circle. I was so happy to be a pedestrian.

That night I went to dinner with the coordinator of the summer pastry program. He works in Paris and was trying to set me up with a class at the Alain Ducasse school in Paris while I was there, but I was having such horrible technical difficulties that we never worked it out. We agreed to meet at a cool spot (that I actually read about before coming) and had some great food. The place seats about 16 people, tops. You are supposed to have a reservation. We didn’t, but we got a table that was between seatings, which meant it was ours for about 45 minutes… definitely not typical French dining. Anyway, the food was great.

I made it back to the hostel and hung out with some girls from my room that night. The next day I checked out at 10:00 and I had a train to catch at 12.

I’ll give you a sneak peak of Lyon by showing you Theirry’s apartment where I stayed. His name is Theirry Brisson, and, who knows, we may be 24th cousins.

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From the entryway. I was immediately amazed with how big the place was. Of course, it holds four boys on a normal basis.
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The kitchen. Charming, isn’t it? Though, ill fit for making crepes very quickly as we found out later.
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Examine the young French male refrigerator. I think that’s a whole drawer dedicated to cheese.

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Living room. One of the guys did his internship in England, hence the flag.

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And “my room.” I’m not sure what they use it for normally. Theirry had put in the mattress and put paper over the doors for privacy. See? French people are great!

Tomorrow I’ll write about Lyon and after that it will be all about making pastry, breathing pastry, being the pastry. :)

A tout a l’heure.

Posted by: Allyn | June 29, 2009

La Vie en Rose

Bonjour! Salut!

I hope you haven’t been restlessly clicking the refresh button on this page. As I reported to some of you, I have multiple computer problems along the way so I’ve been unable to sit down and have a nice write-up with pictures until now. So, this may be a long one. I hope you’ve got a cup cafe creme and a croissant so you can enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it.

— — — — AN AMERICAN IN PARIS-MED

An American in Paris: Day 1

So I arrived in Paris on Sunday afternoon after lots of sweating and huffing and puffing. For those of you who haven’t been here, there are few escalators and even fewer elevators, especially in the metro. So, my 50 lb. suitcase plus my 15 lb. backpack had to hoof it on some rough terrain.

My first Random Act of Kindness (RAK) was when I arrived in Paris after taking the Eurorail from London. I had to locate a ticket booth in order to buy a pass for the metro. I immediately began to encounter problems when I realized they didn’t take bills and I had already clicked the euro button (as opposed to using my credit card) and the growing mass of people behind me were beginning to sigh. And then, like an angel in a ball cap, I heard behind me, “Do you need some help?” I wanted to hug the man as hard as I could. Fortunately for him I was too shocked before I could do anything. I tried to side step the poor, lost American stereotype by saying, “Oh, thanks, but I need to guy to a booth and buy a carnet. I’ll figure it out. Thanks though.” Buy the time he was done I had not gotten very far when he chased me down to rescue me from imminent failure. “Excuse me, Miss. I just accidentally bought a day pass and I already have one. Why don’t you take it?” Are you kidding me??? He asked where I was from and he said he was from Canada.

I should also mention here that I was given another day pass by a girl about my age in London. I was going to have to buy a tube ticket to transfer stations for the eurorail and she saw me trying to buy a ticket with my credit card and told me she was finished for the day if I wanted it. So that is really the first RAK.

Then upon exiting the metro toward my hostel a nd climbing perhaps the 200th stair for the day with my 65+ lbs. of luggage, I began to teeter under the weight. I was about three steps away from the top and simply started to lose my balance. Some nice French man rushed to my side, hoisted my bag to the top and “Est-ce que vous etes bien?” I nodded and said merci and marched off to the hostel, thankful that the stairs were behind me… for the first day anyway.

That night was the Fetes de la Musique in Paris so the streets were filled with people playing music and dancing. I tried to enjoy some of this with the girls from my room. I felt like I was sleep walking though. I managed to stay up until 12.

An American in Paris: Day 2,

After hearing about one of the girls’ walks around Monmatre, I decided that would be a great way to start a full day in Paradise… I mean Paris. Of course, I had to have breakfast first. I chose to forgo the free breakfast at the hostel in favor of one of the recommended boulangeries on Rue de Crimee where I was staying. I found the place after several blocks of walking and opened the door to the most beautiful and delicious smelling corner of the 19th arrondisement. I thought carefully about what I wanted and asked for un pain au chocolat. When I handed her a 10E bill she looked at me, verry annoyed now, and asked if I had any smaller money. I said no, but offered to buy more. So I bought a large chunk of Pain Noir aux Olives. She seemed less upset, but still disgruntled at my flashy and crisp euros.

DSCF0782DSCF0783I walked to the nearby park, , and found a seat overlooking a nice big hill. I tried to take a pictures of all the people running in the park, but I didn’t really want to look like a weirdo. Anyway, point being that contrary to popular belief French men and women, even Parisians, do perform traditional exercise. And I watched them exercise while I ate my lovely pain au chocolat. Life was, indeed, en Rose.

After consuming adequate calories, I dusted off the buttery crumbs and headed toward Monmatre… at least I started in that direction. I walked and walked and walked… and walked and walked and walked. I definitely saw the parts of Paris very few, if any, tourists have seen. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Forgive me for not taking photos, but seeing that I was the only tourist for several kilometers I thought it wise to keep the camera hidden. I simply lifted my chin and looked like I knew exactly where I was going. Hey, at least I was working up an appetite for the next pastry. Finally, I found a street that looked promising. I found a metro (which means there is a detailed map) and located myself and Sacre-Coeur. Alas, I wasn’t too far off. After a bit more walking I finally saw a hill of stairs and thought it looked promising, and it was. Sacre-Coeur offered a beautiful view of the city (for free, unlike the Eiffel Tower). The church is grand, too. Unfortunately I couldn’t take pictures of the inside.

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After Sacre-Coeur I had really worked up an appetite and walked around Monmatre looking for something interesting. Problem was, it all looked interesting. How do I decide which restaurant in which to have lunch? The answer seemed out of reach. I watched all the people eating in the cafes lining the streets, and it all looked delicious. My question was answered, however, when I walked by a very cute patisserie where I hoped I could get another taste of Parisian pastry. I ordered un grand macaron et un eclair violet. That’s what I called them, anyway. The macaron was one of the large kind and it was chocolat filled with nutella. Mon Dieu! and the eclair had a purple top. The inside, turns out, was a fabulous fresh cream with a hint of lemon. Yowsa! Unfortunately, as I read in one of the handful of books I brought on the trip, you are not to eat standing up, especially in Paris. I didn’t really want to just sit on the curb and scarf down these delicacies, so I hunted for a nice spot. At the bottom of S-C was a nice shaded spot with some stiars. I tried there, but started to get questioned by the French scam-artists so I quickly packed up and starting walking back in the general direction of my hostel. Along the way I found a nice, new park with a picnic bench where I sat and enjoyed the eclair.

DSCF0787 (It was much more lovely looking before I hiked a couple kilometers with it dans un sac. )

I was feeling much better after having more sugar in my blood. ( The pain au chocolat was eaten at 10:30 and the eclair at maybe 4:00) I made it back the the hostel where I ordered un cafe creme to go with my enormous nutella macaron. It was oowey, goowey heaven. The nutella could not be contained. The macaron shell was barely crisp, like the pillow on your bed at night. (Sorry for the poor focusing… I was drunk with pastry delight!)

DSCF0789When I went upstairs to my room there was a new girl settling in (the

y change over pretty quickly). She was fighting jet-lag and I said she needed to keep herself busy until at least 10. I planned to do a bicycle

tour guide from 7-11 and invited her along. She agreed and we headed for the metro. After buying tickets and changing trains several times in order to get to the tower, we were 10

minutes late for the group meeting. (It takes at least 30 minutes to get from my hostel to the tower via the metro.). Oh well, our loss, but the alternative wasn’t so bad. We found a cafe nearby where we passed the time until the sun got a little lower. Then

we parked our tired American behinds on the grass to watch the lights come on.

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I wanted to watch the lights twinkle, but it was almost 11:00 and we still needed to ride back to the hostel. The tour said goodnight with a breathtaking glow, that I also captured from a closer view.

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“Bonne Nuit, Allyn” Bonne nuit, tower; bonne nuit lune.

Posted by: Allyn | April 30, 2009

Once You Cheesecake Pop, You Can’t Stop

img_0067The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Now I  enjoy cheesecake. And I enjoy all kinds of cheesecake, from ricotta to goat cheese. I’ve made a few before with both those ingredients. I’ve made tofu cheesecakes and sweet potato cheesecakes… I love them any way I can get them. So the real challenge, as Judy so wonderfully explained, was not so much the cheesecake itself but the creativity you applied in the making of the cheesecake.

I fell in love with hazelnuts and nutella some time ago. There used to be a great gellataria here that had amazing hazelnut gelato. I’ve gone without for a while now, and thought it was about time to give a go at hazelnut cheesecake!
I did a little research and found that Craig Claiborne had a recipe in the New York Times many years ago for a hazelnut cheesecake, even deeming it the “ultimate” cheesecake. He used ground hazelnuts for flavor similar to peanut butter cheesecake using peanut butter. I was afraid of having a grainy texture since it’s hard to get hazelnuts, or any nuts, perfectly smooth without a commercial grinder. I didn’t notice any funky texture in the final product, though.
I had a block of 61% Valrhona for dipping (lucky me!). I didn’t totally immerse the pops in the chocolate because the stuff is so expensive, but also because I didn’t want the chocolate to overpower the hazelnut. I just wanted them to have a little dance together.

Here is the basic recipe. I swapped half the cream for Frangelico (hazelnut liquor) and added about 1/2 cup hazelnuts, ground to become 1/4 cup.

crust:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

cheesecake:
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too – baker’s choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done – this can be hard to judge, but you’re looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don’t want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won’t crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil “casserole” shaped pans from the grocery store. They’re 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!img_0066

Posted by: Allyn | April 6, 2009

Purple sweet potato gnocchi, or edible playdough

So I was in Whole Foods in Nashville, TN last week and saw some “local” purple sweet potatoes. They use “local” a little loosely I think, but I agree that getting these awesome vegetables from North Carolina was much better than shipping something from California.

I didn’t know what I was going to do with them when I bought the little guys. I just like trying new things, and I already love sweet potatoes. So after a little research I found a site that gave a recipe for purple sweet potato gnocchi. Eureka! I remember somewhere hearing that gnocchi is like angel farts in your mouth. And now you have to know that. Your welcome.

Ok, potato item, check. Bright purple, definitely check. So what to put with it? I went with yellow since it’s a complement of purple, so corn came to mine. Ah, a deconstructed corn chowder! Yeah, it just came to my mind after thinking, purple… yellow… corn…. deconstructed corn chowder!

I fried up a couple slices of bacon, cooked the corn and a few scallions in the grease (yes, I am from Mississippi) and then pulvarized the hell out of it with some cream until it got mostly smooth. I love my stick blender, by the way. I seasoned around til my palette was interested… added a little Old Bay and sage and plated up. It looked like Spring in a bowl!

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Posted by: Allyn | March 31, 2009

Lasagne a la Mario Batali

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

I’m terrible at posting these things on time. While I completed the challenge two weeks ago, time always seems to slip by when the posting date comes. Oh well, better late than never.

First I had to finely chop the fresh spinach for the pasta. I chose to use the processor… even though mine is the miniature kind that goes on the end of a stick blender.

img_00512Then I spread that around with the flour and cracked the eggs in the middle. Mixing this was a sticky process, but after adding enough flour it started to come together. And my hands looked like Shrek boogers.

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And it became a ball of dough.

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After rolling out the dough, stewing the sauce and stirring together the bechemel, my kitchen was a mess!

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I had quite a hard time managing the massive amount of noodles this recipe made. Boiling a few at a time, I finally got tired of it all and just dumped them all in the pot and then into the colander.  It became a sticky mess pretty quickly. Oh well. Lesson learned.

I took the lasagna to a friend’s house for a dinner party, and all went well. Everyone loved it. They oohed, they aahed. It was a beautiful thing. And not much was left.

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Spinach Lasagne Noodles

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:

Equipment

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:
With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

Combine this with your favorite bechemel and ragu, and you’re set. :)

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