Poulet Vallée d’Auge (roast chicken with apples)

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Normandy is a region known for several things: cows and amazing farm-fresh butter and cream, beautiful cliff-lined coasts, the D-day beaches, Camembert, Livarot, Neufchâtel and Pont l’Evêque cheese, and of course, all things apple: Calvados (an apple Brandy made in the sub-region of the same name), hard cider and Pommeau (an apple liqueur), to name a few. Imagine a recipe that combines several of these gems into one succulent dish and you’ve got the Poulet Vallée d’Auge, which just means chicken from Vallée d’Auge, a small sub-region in Lower Normandy. It’s just as rich as you might expect, but the tart and sweet apples cut right through all of that richness, bringing balance and amazing sweet and savory notes.

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Crispy duck confit with pickled raisins

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I was ecstatic to find this recipe in a recent issue of Bon Appétit. Confit de canard is one of my all-time favorite French recipes, but one that seemed too complicated, expensive and time-consuming to try and make at home. For years now I’ve been perfectly happy buying my duck confit in big, round cans, but I knew that it could clearly be so much better. A good duck confit is tender and falling off the bone, with a crisp, perfect, browned skin. Obviously the canned alternative can’t get the skin right, offering rather a very unappetizing, fat-soaked white mass of skin that is immediately discarded before serving. This recipe, which is genius because it doesn’t require you to buy additional duck fat, gets the skin so right that it was basically my favorite part of the meal. Continue reading

Classic gougères (cheese puffs)

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Pâte à choux is one of my all-time favorite things to make. It’s one of those recipes that seems daunting but isn’t. At several points during the process you’ll probably think you ruined them. You didn’t. Have faith in the process, and have fun! Pâte à choux is not only a crowd pleaser but it’s also one of those easy things that people will think you slaved over. It’s delicious without being overwhelming, it’s light enough that you can eat several without feeling too guilty and I think they’re a blast to make. This is a very classic savory take, as opposed to a cream puff, where shredded cheese is incorporated directly into the dough giving the entire puff a subtle flavor. Continue reading

Culinary school 101: crêpes, two ways

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Ahh, the crêpe! The French answer to the American pancake, crêpes are thinner, eggier and, in my opinion, more versatile. I guess I’ve never tried a savory pancake and there are probably tons of awesome recipes out there, but for me, nothing beats a thin and crispy buckwheat crêpe filled with whatever savory ingredients my heart desires. Usually it’s ham, egg and cheese. Sometimes it’s bacon and caramelized onions, or even egg, olive and spicy guacamole. A crêpe is the perfect envelope for whatever you’re craving, and I’m going to tell you how make them according to my newest culinary bible, “La Cuisine de Référence,” otherwise known as the official guidebook for French culinary students. Continue reading

Culinary school 101: scrambled eggs

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I never craved a big, all-out American breakfast as often as when I moved to France. I have always loved breakfast, even breakfast for lunch or dinner, but once I came here and traded bistrots and brasseries for diners, I knew that I’d have to make up for this lack of breakfast food myself. Enter in real pancakes not made with a mix, learning to make hashbrowns from scratch (blanch and shred and fry? Fry and bake?), and of course lots of experimentations with eggs. I learned to make scrambled eggs at a young age, by whisking eggs and milk together, dumping it into a frying pan and scraping the runny eggs around with a spatula until they were all cooked. Oh, and usually topping it all off with American cheese squares right before serving. These eggs, in all their different variations, were perfectly delicious until I learned how scrambled eggs were supposed to be made. And my mind was blown by the incredible texture and most of all the rich, in-depth flavor. The ingredients had barely changed and the method slightly, but this was a whole ‘nother egg. Continue reading

Double chocolate macarons

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This post is an ode to my fabulous new Kitchenaid Artisan, and a special thanks to my Mom who gifted it to me for my birthday. I tried my hand at macarons once before, a few years ago. They are notoriously tricky to master and any number of things can go wrong during the preparation and the cooking process. From what I can tell in my personal adventures, one of the most important factors is the quality of the meringue or egg whites. Beating nice stiff peaks into egg whites was just not possible during my first go at macarons, but with the help of my new Black Beauty, it was a cinch.

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