"Luxury is having someone do something for you that is extraordinary." -Thomas Keller
During my semester abroad in Paris, I frequently turned to the blog of American turned Parisian, David Lebovitz, for advice on the best places to eat, er gorge, on chocolate and other French specialties. One of my favorite posts of his was called the "Paris Hot Chocolate Address Book." In it he features 12 of the best shops to sip le chocolat chaud. Ma copine, Kelsey, and I successfully made it to 11 of the 12 on David's list. On a sunny day in early May, we ventured over to one of the last stops on our tour de chocolat. We were promptly told that it was much too warm outside for hot chocolate. C'est la vie!
When I returned home, I yearned for the drinking chocolate that I had enjoyed in all of those charming cafés and chocolate shops in Paris. I found several recipes to try, and then I stumbled upon a local chocolatier's hot chocolate offering. The shop, Artisan Confections, is the creation of Jason Andelman, a fellow W&M grad, and a talented CIA-trained chef and chocolatier. I attended a class at his store last year and it was a blast. Not only did each "student" leave with an impressive haul, but we all received a brief education on what process is involved in getting chocolate from bean to bar, or truffle in this case.
In addition to the wide array of unique truffles, AC sells a tin of bittersweet hot chocolate. Swiss Miss this is not. Inside the tin are tiny shards of bittersweet chocolate mixed with a little bit of cocoa powder. Adding piping hot milk results in thick, rich and decadent drinking chocolate. Top it off with a homemade marshmallow and it is truly indulgent. Artisan Confections is doing a lot of things right, including providing a luxurious outlet for chocolate lovers nationwide. Ah, the sweet smell, and taste, of success...
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
It is the fourth night of Hannukah, and though I am not Jewish, I decided to honor the holiday or, at the very least, the cuisine. I had hoped to braise a brisket for several hours or prepare the sweet little jelly filled sufganiyot, but alas time was not on my side this evening. Instead, potato and parsnip latkes accompanied by ginger and clove infused applesauce were prepared, and thoroughly enjoyed by all.
First, the ingredients were assembled. The recipe calls for clarified butter. You may scoff at the notion of separating the milk solids from the butterfat, but clarified butter actually has a much higher smoke point. If you still think it's not worth the trouble, just add a little bit of oil to the butter when you go to fry the latkes. This will achieve the same effect.
For the applesauce, I peeled the apples...
and then chopped each apple into eight pieces. Then I added it to a saucepan with sugar, ginger, a couple of whole cloves, and lemon juice.
If you do not own a lemon reamer, please buy one. It is easily one of my favorite tools in the kitchen.
Then I let the applesauce cook on the stove, and started to work on the latkes. I peeled the potato and parsnip and then grated them. I put the mixture in a bowl with egg white and chives, along with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Then, I heated some of the clarified butter and fried little three inch mounds of the mixture. As soon as the latkes were finished cooking, I slid them onto a plate lined with paper towels.
We noshed on the savory potato and parsnip pancakes along with applesauce.
Potato-Parsnip Latkes with Applesauce (adapted from Epicurious)
- 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled
- 2 parsnips (about 1 pound), peeled
- 2 large egg whites
- 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
PreparationIn small, heavy saucepan over moderate heat, bring butter to boil. Boil, uncovered, until layer of foam forms on top, then reduce heat to very low. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thin crust begins to form on surface and milky white solids fall to bottom of pan, about 8 minutes. Strain through sieve lined with triple layer of cheesecloth into heatproof liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
Using medium holes of box grater, grate potatoes and parsnips into large bowl. Stir in egg whites, chives, salt, and pepper.
In large nonstick sauté pan over low heat, heat 1/2 of clarified butter until hot but not smoking. Drop 3 (1/4-cup) portions of potato mixture into pan and flatten with spatula to form 3 1/2-inch pancakes. Fry until golden-brown, turning once, about 5 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in oven. Add more butter as necessary and cook remaining pancakes in same manner.
- 10 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 pieces each
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 (1-inch) pieces fresh ginger, peeled
- 3 whole cloves
PreparationIn large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, combine apples, sugar, lemon juice, ginger, cloves, and 1 cup water. Cover and set over high heat. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to moderate and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until apples are very soft, about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and blend with whisk, breaking up any remaining apple pieces. Pass through ricer, food mill, or fine-mesh strainer or just stir (it may be soft enough to do so). Let applesauce cool.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
"Luxury is having someone do something for you that is extraordinary." -Thomas Keller
On a recent trip to Los Angeles to visit a close friend, I had one of the best lattes I've ever tasted. I don't claim to be a coffee geek, but this drink was divine in every sense, including the richness and wetness of the foam, a proper milk to espresso ratio, and a perfect sipping temperature. The barista had also clearly been trained in Caffe Latte Art, which is likely to thrill even the biggest skeptics. After a little web research, I noticed this little shop has received a great deal of interest and acclaim from experts in the coffee world, and with good reason. One of the partners, Mitch Hale, was one of the first baristas at Espresso Vivace in Seattle, which has received rave reviews nationally and internationally. If you're in Westwood, I advise a trip to Espresso Profeta. Or, do a little research and find a specialty coffee shop in your neighborhood. Better yet, try making your own. It may be well worth the effort.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I'm moving into an apartment in January and, consequently, on my wish list are monogrammed towels. I want my new space to have fresh towels, and a monogram just adds a certain je ne sais quoi. Non?
This got me thinking about unique personalized gifts for new apartments, and beyond.
A personalized throw blanket is a great addition to anyone's home. This is a simple and elegant customized gift that is sure to be appreciated by anyone on your gift list.
These tumblers are a great way to add personality to your modest apartment or spice up your next gathering. Know someone who loves to tailgate? Tervis offers tumblers (in all sizes) with his or her favorite team's logo. I know an Auburn fan who would love the War Eagle pints. These are guaranteed for life, too. If you break one, just send it back and they will replace it!
Hope you find some letter perfect inspiration this holiday season.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
The frosty chill in the air puts a little extra bounce in my step. The holidays are a delightful time of year to try out all of the confections from the December issues of my favorite cooking mags. Before the cookies get baked in batches and batches, I opted to try something new: candy cane laced fudge.
I scoured the drawer for our candy thermometer, which I found...broken. Thus, a trip to the store for a new thermometer and ingredients was made.
and added the chocolate to a pot of cream, sugar, corn syrup and salt.
Then I waited for the mixture to reach the appropriate temperature and then cool to the appropriate temperature (A lot of waiting to be had here!)
Next, I poured the creamy liquid fudge into a lined pan and sprinkled with crushed candy canes...
Creamy Chocolate Fudge (Adapted from Fine Cooking)
3-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 tsp. table salt
3/4 cup of crushed candy canes
Lightly butter the face of a candy thermometer and set aside.
Clip the candy thermometer to the pot, being careful not to let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot, or you might get a false reading. Let the mixture boil without stirring until it reaches 236°F to 238°F, 2 to 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter, but do not stir it into the mixture. Set the pan on a rack in a cool part of the kitchen. Don’t disturb the pan in any way until the mixture has cooled to 110°F, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of an 8x8-inch baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two opposite sides of the pan. Butter the foil. Set the pan aside.
Remove the thermometer from the fudge mixture. Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture on high speed until it is a few shades lighter in color and thickens enough that the beaters form trails that briefly expose the bottom of the pan as they pass through, 10 to 20 minutes. Mix in candy cane pieces. Pour the thickened fudge into the prepared pan, using a rubber spatula to help nudge it out of the pot. You can scrape the bottom of the pot but not the sides; any crystals that stick to the pot stay in the pot. Smooth the top of the fudge with the spatula. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. Set the pan on a rack and let the fudge cool completely, about 2 hours. The fudge will be slightly soft the day it’s made but will firm up overnight.
Turn the fudge out onto a clean cutting board and peel off the foil. Turn the slab of fudge right side up and cut it into 25 equal pieces.
The fudge will keep for a week to 10 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.