Catching Up and Taking Off

Paris05_i_032

I’ve
had a couple of things in mind to write about but we are leaving for Paris this evening and
time is tight, so I’ll jam them into a single (long) post.

Paris for Valentine’s Day!

Tonight
we head to Paris for our annual Valentine’s Day visit. Usually we go for a weekend, but schedules allowed a week this
time. It’s going to be warmer than here,
but wet, so I guess we’ll spend most of our time indoors and eating. What a chore.

Normally
I go with restaurant reservations in hand, but this time I haven’t a one. I know we’ll head to the rue de Rossiers to
our favorite falafel place. I know we’ll do some heavy duty macaroon eating. I know we
will go to a tiny dive of an Italian restaurant we love where the pizza is
fabulous. I know we’ll have at least one picnic in the room, where we shop at a
morning market and spread the bounty on the bed for a feast of bread and
cheese, meats and salads, olives and wine and spectacular patisserie
desserts. (The only downside is sleeping
in crumbs – somehow they always find their way in.)

But
aside from that, we are playing it by ear. We have lots of favorite places near the hotel we always stay at, but
this time we are staying somewhere else and we’ll check out the new
neighborhood (right next door to the old one) and see what looks good. Hope to post from there, but we’ll see how
the internet connection goes.

New Blog

An
unexpected bonus of middle age has been reconnecting with an old high school
friend and finding out that we have more in common now than we did then. Ronnie is writing a cookbook about food
memories and family traditions, and she has started a blog to share the stories
she is collecting, and to encourage some more participation in the project. Visit her at http://aroundthetable.typepad.com
and say hello.

Adventures in Braising III

Last
summer I was on a braising kick – trying to perfect the art of braising pork roast in
milk. Never got it exactly right but the
learning’s been fun (and I’m not done yet.) Meanwhile, on my list of things to try has been Seven Hour Lamb – leg of
lamb cooked at a very low temperature for, yes, seven hours until the meat just
falls off the bone – rosy pink and totally tender.

Saturday
I had folks coming over for dinner and with the opening of our winter market
the week before, access to great drug-free, grass-raised, happy, healthy meat
from the Royer and Fiedler Farms. I bought two legs of lamb (one from each farm) –- one bone in, one boneless — and braised
them together (adding the boneless two hours after the braise started.)

I
combined a couple of recipes, but the whole thing couldn’t have been simpler. As per Paula Wolfert, I boiled the meat for
15 minutes before I browned it. She says
this helps ensure that there is no surface bacteria to spoil the meat as it
cooks at low temperatures. I have no
idea if it’s necessary, but it surely didn’t hurt.

Once the meat was boiled (and looking a
pretty ugly pasty gray) I salted and peppered it and seared it in olive oil til
it turned a crusty, yummy-smelling brown on all sides. Removed the meat and sautéed a couple of
onions, chopped, in the oil until they caramelized. Added a cup of dry white wine and scraped up
all the bits that stuck to the pan, cooked the wine down by half. Added the meat back to the onions in the
dutch oven and poured in a cup of chicken broth, a cup of canned diced tomatoes
with their juice, and a teaspoon or two of dried thyme. Added 50 cloves of garlic (no panic – they
cook to a mellow sweetness in seven hours!) and brought the whole thing back to
a simmer. Stuck a piece of cooking
parchment on top of the lamb, but overlapping the sides of the pot, clamped it
down with the lid, and put the whole thing in a 200 degree oven where it spent
the day.

Occasionally I turned the lamb
(I added the second browned leg at the two-hour mark) and I did end up
cranking up the heat to a wild 250, just to get it to maintain a low simmer,
but that’s about it. I didn’t want the
meat to boil in a ton of liquid, so as the meat shrank a bit and the juices
increased, I ladled some of the broth off and let it simmer in a separate
pan. At the end I removed all the meat
(which just totally fell apart), cooked the sauce down til it was thick and
gravy-like and served it to happy guests.

Side
dishes were the braised endives from last week, but prepared faithfully
according to Molly Stevens‘ recipe this time, which means halved endives are
seared in butter on both sides and laid cut side up in a baking dish, chopped
up prosciutto is quickly slicked in the butter and then tucked in among the
endives. Salt and pepper. A half a cup or so of chicken broth is
swirled in the pan to catch the fried bits, then poured over the endives. Foil is crimped tight over the pan and the
endives braise at 350 or so. When they
are very tender, remove the foil and let cook til browned and liquid is
reduced. Then pour a half cup of heavy
cream over them and put back in the oven without a cover and cook til the cream
is mostly absorbed. Oh my god, what a fabulous dish.

I
also made the crispy potatoes from the last issue of what has become maybe my favorite cooking magazine — Fine Cooking. Boiled new potatoes (I braised mine in the oven in broth with garlic
instead), are flattened on a baking sheet, drizzled with oil and salt and
pepper and roasted until they crisp up. I think they come out like very adult tater tots. Really delicious.

And
for color (because so far this is an awfully brown meal) I roasted carrots,
parsnips and onions (separately) at 400 degrees in olive oil with salt and
pepper. When each vegetable was shriveled
and caramelized, I added it to the serving dish. Checked for salt, drizzled some balsamic
vinegar over all and voila, vegetables that taste like candy. Yum.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Lydia says:

    Bon voyage! Looking forward to reading about your Paris trip. What a nice way to spend Valentine’s Day.

    Like

  2. I didn’t know you were supposed to boil the meat before browning. I’ll have to try that. Anyway, what Lydia said…Bon Voyage! I just finished reading Without Reservations and the author has a magical time in Paris–I need to return. But in the meantime, I can’t wait to read about your culinary adventures!

    Like

  3. kalyn says:

    Paris sounds like a great place to spend Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter!) I do agree, Fine Cooking has absolutely become my favorite magazine. Every single recipe I’ve made from it has been a keeper.

    Like

  4. Robyn M. says:

    Do check out the best hot cocoa ever made while in Paris. It’s on the Rue de Rivoli, across the street from the Tuleries, I think closer to the Champs Elysee side than the Louvre side. Drat, what was that place called?!?! I think it was “Angelina’s Tea Room”. It’s a few storefronts toward the Champs Elysee from the Hotel Brighton (where we stayed). Order the $5.00 cocoa–and never regret it! Oh, I still dream about that stuff…

    Like

  5. christine, you probably won’t get this until after you return to the states (especially not knowing about the internet connection), but i hope you have a glorious, romantic, wonderful valentine’s day in paris. how brilliantly romantic…
    bon voyage!

    Like

  6. Kristen says:

    Paris and V-Day…what a beautiful combination! I hope you have a lovely, romantic and restful time.

    Like

  7. kevin says:

    Have an abundantly romantic Valentine’s Day trip. And thanks for making me so hungry with this amzaing post! I’m getting ideas! 🙂

    Like

  8. Thanks, Lydia. I do have (remarkably good) internet access, so I can post!
    Lisa, I don’t know if you have to boil the meat, but I think it’s a precaution if you plan to braise for hours at 200 degrees.
    Kalyn — great recipes, and great photos too. Gourmet’s have gotten a little gloomy of late.
    I’ll try to check it out, Robyn, thanks!
    Thanks, Melissa. Pretty glorious so far!
    Thanks, Kristen. It’s drizzly rain here, but romantic all the same.
    This post makes you hungry, Kevin? Good! Turn about is fair play!

    Like

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