Saturday, November 29, 2003

Turkey Drumsticks Braised in Cranberry Sauce Recipe

When you love Thanksgiving as much as I do, you want it to prolong it. One year instead of the traditional Thanksgiving feast at my parents house, we ended up at someone else's house. All was well and good until the following day--no leftovers! One of the best ways to relive the joy of the holiday is by eating a nibble of what you had the night before. So I suggested a second night of Thanksgiving, much like many Jewish holidays that are celebrated two nights in a row. "Who would come?" asked my mother. "We have a turkey" said my father and with that I made a few calls and the first second night of Thanksgiving was born.

Now that I am married, Lee and I spend at least part of the holiday weekend with my parents and part of the weekend with Lee's family. So two nights of Thanksgiving has become the norm for us. But I don't know whether I will ever host Thanksgiving at my house. Our apartment is too small, we only have four chairs and in any case it would be a serious break with tradition.

Cooking a whole or even half a bird for two people is not such a great idea. Too much turkey for two people to eat. My solution is to either roast a turkey breast and feast on turkey sandwiches and soup or to cook turkey legs. Cooking turkey legs mean that both Lee and I get the skin and dark meat we crave. Turkey legs can also be stewed or braised much like a lamb shank until the meat melts off the bone. This week we will have a cranberry relish (the raw one with oranges recipe right on the package) garlic mashed potatoes and probably brussels sprouts. If you want to make Thanksgiving stretch out into next week, consider doing the same. Here's my recipe for braised turkey drumsticks (apologies to Mark Bittman who I stole the idea from)

Turkey Drumsticks Braised in Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 turkey drumsticks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion peeled and sliced
1 cup stock or water, or more as needed
1 can of cranberry sauce, smooth or chunky

Instructions

Heat oil in deep skillet or casserole large enough for turkey legs to fit comfortably. Turn heat to medium high add turkey legs and cook for a minute, brown on both sides (they will brown unevenly, because of their shape), sprinkling with salt and pepper. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is soft. Add 1/2 cup liquid and cranberry sauce. Bring to boil, cover and adjust the heat for to a simmer. Cook about 1 1/2-2 hours, checking every 30 minutes and adding more liquid if necessary, until meat is very tender. Taste sauce, and add more salt, pepper, if necessary.
Enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thank You!


On this Thanksgiving day I'd like to say thanks for reading, and thanks for your support and encouragement. I've been writing recipes, restaurant reviews, mini essays, tips, interviews and general reminiscences about food for almost six months now. In that time Cooking with Amy has been praised by Forbes magazine, recommended by the San Francisco Chronicle, been visited 3500 times (the counter is new so it's not accurate) and been linked to by too many other blogs to count.

So what do YOU think? Now it your chance to tell me!

Too personal? Not personal enough? More recipes? Less recipes? More interviews? Let me know what you think by clicking on comments below or the guestbook.

And have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday and here's why:

1. Friends and Family
2. Open to everyone, no citizenship requirements
3. Great food
4. Nothing required of you other than to eat and be thankful
5. Devoid of excess commercialism unlike you-know-what
6. You get two days off from work (most people do anyway)
7. Completely secular
8. Did I mention great food?

This year I will be making three desserts. A cranberry walnut tart, a pear ginger upside down cake and a third surprise dessert. I'm terribly sorry that I didn't get organized enough to write up the recipe for a special creation of mine involving pumpkin and filo dough, but I promise to write the recipe this year and post it next year.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Monte Cristo Sandwiches:Recipe


Brunch. Such a problematic concept. Don't get me wrong, it's great. Would I have chosen it as the meal for my wedding if I didn't love it so much? But it's the heading out of the house on a Sunday morning, and invariably standing in line waiting for a table that ruins it. Then there's the whole sweet or savory thing. The eggs benedict or the blueberry pancakes? Bagel cream cheese and lox or French toast and maple syrup? This may be how smoky meats like sausage and bacon became such popular brunch side dishes, born from the difficulty of deciding what to order in the first place.

Today the solution was simple. Homemade Monte Cristo sandwiches. I wish I could tell you some fabulous story about the Monte Cristo, but I can't. In doing the research even the esteemed James Beard Organization concedes the origins are unclear. Where did it come from? Why dip a sandwich in egg? Why is it named Monte Cristo? The name seems to date back to as early as 1941, when it starts showing up on menus in Southern California, coincidentally the same year as the movie, The Son of Monte Cristo was released. Beyond that, there's not much to tell. There are very few stories about it and they aren't very compelling. Not nearly as compelling as an odd sandwich with several different variations--sometimes made with turkey, other times with chicken or ham, sometimes served with jam other times sprinkled with powdered sugar, sometimes triple decker, sometimes not. The best thing about it is it's like several different dishes in one, a ham and cheese sandwich, French toast, and bread and jam. Sweet and savory, solved in one fell swoop.

Here's how I make it, I make no claims of authenticity only of tastiness:

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

Ingredients

4 slices sourdough French bread
4 slices Fontina cheese
4 thin slices of black forest ham
1 egg
splash of milk
Dijon mustard
fruity jam of your choice, strawberry or blackberry recommended

Instructions

Spread one slice of bread for each sandwich with mustard, leave the other slice plain. Place the cheese and ham on the bread, then carefully dip the sandwich in a combination of beaten egg and milk. Fry in a pan with oil or butter until cheese melts, about five minutes. Serve with a spoonful of jam spread on top. Eat with a fork and knife.

Enjoy!

Friday, November 21, 2003

Caramelized Onion Waffles with Smoked Salmon:Recipe


Sometimes what inspires me most is a cookbook. I read cookbooks like some people read magazines. Browsing, skimming the index, picking and choosing a recipe here, a recipe there. Like many cooks, I don't necessarily follow recipes to the letter, but I do get great ideas from them.

Right now I have a pile of cookbooks next to my bed. I am reading several by Paula Wolfert and several more by Nigella Lawson. I'm actually trying to decide if I want to purchase any of them. I check out cookbooks from the library when I can to live with them a bit and see how it goes. The one cook book I did purchase recently is "The Secrets of Success Cookbook, Signature Recipes and Insider Tips from San Francisco's Best Restaurants", written by SF Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer. It came highly recommended and I have to say I have not been disappointed.

One of the recipes that inspired me this week was the Caramelized Onion Waffle with Smoked Salmon and Radish Salad from Michael Bauer's cookbook. What appealed to me so much was the idea of a savory waffle. I have a buckwheat pancake mix but it's generally too earthy tasting so I try to doctor it by mixing it half and half with buttermilk pancake mix so using it for a savory waffle seemed like a terrific idea to me. My recipe is only similar to the original in that it combines caramelized onions with waffles, topped with smoked salmon. It is very easy and as you can see from the photo impressive to look at. Note: This recipe serves 3 but the proportions make this a very easy recipe to multiply.

Caramelized Onion Waffles with Smoked Salmon

Ingredients

Batter:
1/2 cup buckwheat pancake mix
1/2 cup buttermilk pancake mix
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon oil
1 egg (or fake egg replacement)
pinch of salt

1/2 onion, very thinly sliced or shredded with a mandoline
pinch of sugar

3 Tablespoons sour cream
1/2 lemon

10-12 slices smoked salmon (enough to cover your waffles)
Capers
Fresh dill (optional)

Instructions

Cook the onion with a pinch of sugar in a lightly greased heavy pan over medium heat, until caramelized, let cool in pan off the stove. Whisk the batter ingredients together until combined but not smooth, until the lump just disappear, mix in the cooled caramelized onion.

Prepare waffle iron and use slightly more than 1/2 cup of batter to make the waffle. You want the waffle iron to be completely filled with batter, if a little seeps over the edges that's OK. Keep the finished crisp waffles in the oven at 200 degrees until ready to serve. While the waffles are cooking, make the lemon cream sauce by combining the sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind and juice of 1/2 a small lemon. Top the waffles with slices of smoked salmon, drizzle with lemon cream using a fork, sprinkle with capers and chopped dill. Makes 3 waffles.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Happy Garden:Restaurant


Certain things it's just better to go out for. In this category of could-make-it-at-home-but-won't are really elegant multi-course French meals, sushi and Chinese food. Oh I guess I make a Chinese meal at home from time to time, but it's usually just one or two dishes and rice. I'm spoiled. San Francisco has some outrageously good Chinese food available in restaurants that are a hop skip and a jump from my front door.

A recent find is Happy Garden in the Richmond district. Happy Garden is on Clement street, where there are plenty of enticing Asian restaurants, fresh markets, and cafes. This is a great neighborhood for exploring and trying new things, but Happy Garden is truly a standout amongst its neighbors for its quality, quantity not to mention price.

One of several "Family Style" meals on the menu is $38.80 and feeds approximately 6-8 people. So what do you get for $38.80? A veritable seafood extravaganza is what. It begins with a seafood bean curd soup. The soup is primarily shrimp and tofu with creamy strands of egg white in a light viscous broth. Then comes the soft and creamy fried tofu stuffed with minced seafood. After that is the prawns and tender-not-rubbery squid sauteed with crisp vegetables, in this case carrots, bamboo shoots, snow peas, you know the drill. After this comes the house special chicken, which is perfectly steamed and served with a ginger garlic paste on the side, mustard greens with garlic, and a whole deep fried grey sole. Do you think the meal is over? Well, it's not. You are then served massive steamed oysters in the shell with black bean sauce and minced scallion and something they call spareribs in sweet orange sauce. Really it's not an accurate description, they are more like thin succulent fried pork shops with a reddish tangy sweet coating and chunks of pineapple.

Dessert is included but you might want to skip it or ask for sliced oranges instead. It's something you probably had to have grown up with to love--a red bean soup with tapioca. It's not bad, but it's not one of the worlds greatest desserts either. Of course what I haven't told you is that rice is not included in the price. But still with rice, tax and tip the grand total is still under $10 per person for a meal you'd be hard-pressed to duplicate at home at any price.

Go. Be happy.

Happy Garden
815 Clement St
San Francisco
415-831-3322

Monday, November 17, 2003

All About Chanterelles


Fresh chanterelles are my favorite mushroom. Sure I enjoy porcini and I certainly wouldn't pass up a truffle white or black if it crossed my plate. But there is something about chanterelles that appeals to me the most. They are so very unique. First of all they are beautiful to look at, golden and trumpet shaped. Not a true gilled mushroom, the underside of the cap has rounded gill-like ridges or veins that branch irregularly so their texture when cooked is velvety and tender. They cook up like an oyster mushroom unlike common button mushrooms, which are often crumbly when raw or wet and juicy when cooked. Flavor-wise chanterelles are delicate and almost fruity tasting, nothing like the earthy meaty taste of a portabello for instance. Some have compared the scent of chanterelles to apricots. They smell and taste more like a flower then a mushroom.

Divine when prepared simply and served on their own, chanterelles combine well with almost every other kind of mushroom too. This past week I made a delicious woodsy stew of bacon, chicken, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, dried porcini mushrooms and fresh chanterelles. Buy and use them while they are in season in the fall and winter (or early spring depending upon what region of the country you live in) like other mushrooms they need moist earth to grow and flourish.

Here are some suggestions for using your fresh mushrooms:

*Saute in butter and garlic and serve on toast

*Serve as a garnish for grilled pork chops

*Saute and use as a filling for a French omelette

*Saute with chicken and make a cream sauce from the pan drippings

*Make a stew of mushrooms, onions, and chicken

*Bake in parchment with either a filet of fish or scallops

*Serve as a side dish with a mild vegetable such as pan cooked green beans

Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2003

Meet Darius Somary Part 2



Successful marketer becomes a professional chef and now caterer

Part 2 Striking out on his own

Why did you decide to go into catering after working at Oliveto?
The restaurant experience was really good, it was a perfect experience for someone fresh out of school, in their early 20's who is all excited about working hard and partying hard. But I was beyond that. I couldn't stay up until 3 am partying. And then the salaries in the restaurant industry are very low.

Also, I don't necessarily want to be a celebrity chef. If I make it on TV that would be great but it's not my goal. I like Jamie Oliver's style. He's all about understatement and simplicity. He is very creative, using basic ingredients and basic techniques. He goes shopping with you and takes you every step of the way. Cooking should be very intuitive, tangible and understandable. I love his cookbook; it's very modular. By that I mean he includes the variants without specifying exact quantities for each.

One of my key strengths is balancing the four flavor dimensions sweetness, acidity, bitterness and heat. Also, I've learned very interesting ways of boosting existing flavors without introducing more and more different seasonings, a common mistake in home cooking.

Does your past experience in market research influence your cooking/career?
Tremendously. It helps me because I know how to identify my customers' needs and what works and doesn't work. What they appreciate. For example I hardly use garlic or onion for corporate lunch clients. Onion and Garlic are essential flavor components in French cuisine, but people don't like smelling of them when they go into an afternoon business meeting.

Do you do surveys?
I haven't done surveys yet, but I plan on it. I get verbal feedback, and I have a good understanding the corporate environment. It's not about showcasing your food, but leaving people pleasantly surprised while they are focussing on other things. I have two things I do; I try to use seasonal ingredients and food produced in a sustainable and socially responsive manner. I am against hydrogenated fats, especially in pre-manufactured foods. I buy some things imported from Italy and Switzerland and it's worth every penny. I don't use products with hydrogenated fats for health reasons. It sparks conversation about what people eat.

How is the catering business working out?
It's working out very well! It took off much more quickly than I expected it to, Doing lunches at Landor (the design company where Darius previously worked) has really helped get things started. I change my menu slightly every week. As simple as it is, it has something for vegetarians; low carb diets, it's modular, people can pick and choose and they appreciate that.

Business is coming through friends or existing clients. I'm doing events, corporate events, engagements, weddings, office blowouts, holiday parties, etc. Weekly lunches help but they're not my bread and butter. Lunches alone are not enough to make a living, but it helps me stay top of mind.

What's the best thing about a career in the culinary arts?
Before when I was in market research, when I told people what I did for a living, the conversation usually went nowhere. Now it's always very animated, people are always very interested in what I do, food is highly relevant to everyone. People love to share their recipes and talk about food. It's a very exciting career to be in.

For more information about Darius Somary or his catering business, please visit SpringLoaf Catering

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Meet Darius Somary


Meet up-and-coming chef Darius Somary. Darius was a successful market researcher for over ten years before leaving the corporate world and going back to school, graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Program at the California Culinary Academy. He recently left top rated Oliveto restaurant in Oakland to start up his own business, SpringLoaf Catering

So what inspires someone to leave corporate life for the culinary arts? Why did Darius leave the fast-paced world of a restaurant kitchen? And what's it really like to be a professional chef? Read on.

Part 1 Becoming a Chef

Nurture or nature? Are you a chef by choice or were you born to be one?
Cooking has always been a hobby of mine. When I came home from business trips I used cooking to wind down, playing with flavors. It was the first career I consciously chose, everything else I slid into. More nature than nurture I guess.

You had a career in marketing for many years, what lead to your decision to switch careers?
As a market researcher I was validating other peoples' creativity and I felt an urge to "tweak" and create, but that was not the task at hand. It was to validate that which had been created by other people; not to create. I wanted to be creative myself. But I'm not a painter or sculptor. Cooking has always been something I enjoyed.

To me cooking from an empty pantry is the best challenge. Creating something out of nothing is all about being creative. I learned that from my mother.

You grew up in Switzerland, a country known for fine dining and hotels, did this influence your career choice and cooking?
Yes. The cuisine I focus on now is strongly influenced by Mediterranean and Western European foods. What I'm trying to do is what I like to eat myself. While it was fascinating to look at the fusion thing that's not what I wanted to eat. I go back to honest simplicity through clean, intense and authentic flavors.

I do see the tendency with other catering businesses to use pre-manufactured products to save time but I still believe in making everything from scratch. Though I draw the line at making pastry shells for 200 mini-quiches by hand!

You went to culinary school, how has this changed the way you cook?
I learned a lot of basic skills and techniques and it made me more methodical. In culinary school they always say that what differentiates a cook from a hobby cook is the ability to consistently reproduce a dish and scale it up or down, without compromising the quality or flavor. Applying different cooking techniques can make a huge impact on the final product. Also knowledge of ingredients. For example, learning Asian ingredients, recognizing by smell and flavor. I had to be able to identify numerous different types of rice, vinegars and bean pastes. And identify the origins of those products.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

All About Pomegranates


My appreciation of certain foods is only enhanced by the symbolism associated with them. As an example, in Italy it's a tradition to eat lentils on new years day. The individual lentils are supposed to represent the coins that will come to you in the new year. Ever since I heard that, the thought of a big sausage and lentil stew on new years day seems like just the right thing. Jewish new years or Rosh Hashanah has its own traditional foods. I grew up eating apples dipped in honey to represent the sweetness of the new year, but I just learned that another traditional food for the Jewish new year is the pomegranate. Moroccan Jews say that the seeds of the pomegranate represent the good deeds or mitzvah that will occur in the new year and I have to say I think that the two-fold symbolism is as sweet as an apple dipped in honey.

Pomegranates like figs, feature prominently in Greek mythology, as well as the bible. They have long been a symbol of fertility in many cultures. Have you ever noticed how often they show up in religious paintings? Christians have so many different interpretations of the pomegranate it's tough to keep track. One is that it represents the Christian Church because of its many seeds in a single fruit. A second idea is that it symbolizes God's bountiful love, a third related version is that it represents generosity. Because of the crown-like top it also represents royalty and the crown of thorns. Finally because of it's dripping blood-like fruit, the pomegranate has been associated with the bloody suffering of Christ's body on the cross. Whew! I think that's all of them.

The best tasting pomegranates come into season now. The most readily available brand on the market is appropriately enough called, "POM Wonderful." They have very red, sweet seeds and are powerful antioxidants containing vitamin C and potassium and have a delicious sweet tart flavor. The fruit is labor intensive to say the least, but the seeds make a nice garnish to various types of dishes from yogurt to salads and desserts. You can buy the seeds in containers as well as the juice these days during pomegranate season, September through January.

The juice is used in cooking in some Middle Eastern countries where the fruit originally came from, and you can buy pomegranate syrup or pomegranate molasses in some ethnic grocery stores. You can slice the fruit in half and squeeze it to get the juice out, but you might have to do it in the bathtub if you don't want to ruin your clothes. Getting the seeds free is best done in a bowl of water, just cut the top off and score the outside with a knife then break it apart under water to loosen the seeds. I've been told that using the juice for roasting a chicken creates a wonderful rosy colored skin. I know that squeezing the fruit certainly causes MY skin to go rosy...

I recently came across a recipe for baking pomegranate seeds in ginger muffins that peaked my interest in using pomegranate as in ingredient, if you want to cook with pomegranates check out the recipes at Pomwonderful.com

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Hangtown Fry at Tadich Grill


San Francisco has had a wild history. It wasn't called the Barbary Coast for nothing. Brothels, saloons, gambling, opium dens, San Francisco was famous for all of that, especially at the time of the gold rush. You can still see remnants and reminders of that time in the streets of San Francisco. Many streets are actually named after "ladies of the night". Another reminder of those times is a dish that was created during that era and has been served in San Francisco ever since.

The town in the gold country known as Placerville was once known at Hangtown. The dish that bears its name is Hangtown Fry. The legends surrounding the dish are numerous. The two stories I have heard are that either a man condemned to be hanged requested this dish as a way to postpone his hanging since the ingredients were expensive and hard to come by or that a miner who struck it rich asked a bartender to create the most expensive meal possible and he did using oysters, salt pork and eggs. Whichever story you believe, what is certainly true is that this was an expensive dish back then. Eggs sold for 50 cents each and bacon or salt pork and oysters were reportedly worth more than their weight in gold. The dish made it to San Francisco soon after being created and it has been here ever since. Over the years it has also made it onto the menus of restaurants all up and down the coast.

Many places serve Hangtown Fry and it's slightly different at each place. Some places bread the oysters, some don't. Some add mushrooms, some don't. Some add green onions, some don't. Some add bell peppers, some don't. I believe the best version may be the one served up at Tadich Grill, a restaurant that opened on the San Francisco waterfront in 1849 as the New World Coffee Salon. Here is how they do it: A couple of slices of bacon are fried until crisp. Half a dozen oysters are dredged in bread crumbs then fried in butter until plump. The oysters, bacon and three eggs lightly beaten are then put in the pan with few dashes of tabasco some salt and pepper and cooked for about three minutes. The eggs are cooked "frittata" style, flipped then cooked for another two minutes and served.

Or you can try Hangtown Fry at:

Tadich Grill
240 California Street
San Francisco
(415) 391-1849

Thursday, November 06, 2003

OTT "Over The Top" Oatmeal Cookies:Recipe


Who doesn't like cookies? It's hard to imagine growing up without them. They were a staple in my lunch bag year in, year out. But in Italy cookies are less of an everyday thing and more of a fancy treat to be served to guests with dessert wine after dinner. Elegant cookies are found at all good Italian bakeries and are made in the home during holidays. But the cookie jar filled with homemade cookies for the whole family to snack on is not an Italian tradition. When I lived there, American style chocolate chip cookies were unheard of. I made them for the family I was living with and they were horrified to hear that Americans would eat them with milk. Of course they also had a hard time understanding why we would eat french fries with Coke either.

You hear a lot about how simple food is often the best, but the opposite is true when it comes to cookies. Dare I say it? Lately I am actually bored by plain old chocolate chip cookies. Even with chocolate chips AND nuts, there just isn't enough going on for me. Give me some biscotti with nuts and a kick of crystalized ginger or a ranger cookie with coconut, nuts, oats and cereal. Even shortbread cookies need some extra punch of spice or citrus rind, something to excite the senses.

A few nights ago the house was so cold that I needed to find a recipe that would allow me to use the oven. I love peanut butter cookies, but it's the one kind of cookie that Lee won't eat, so I made oatmeal cookies instead. I found a wonderful recipe that uses a combination of brown sugar, white sugar and maple syrup to make a chewy and crisp cookie. While the recipe calls for nuts and chocolate chips I also added dried cranberries because as they say, sometimes too much of a good thing can be wonderful. Feel free to leave out the chocolate chips, nuts or cranberries if this recipe makes your head spin.

OTT (over the top) Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup halved walnuts
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2-3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Instructions

Preheat to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, oats, and walnuts together.
In a food processor with a plastic blade, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together scraping the sides, until blended. Add the egg and continue to process until smooth and barely fluffy. With processor running drizzle in the maple syrup, and vanilla. Dump the mixture into the flour-oatmeal mixture. Blend just to combine, then mix in the chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
Using a tablespoon, drop balls of dough onto a nonstick or parchment-lined cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. With moist fingers, flatten the cookies a little. Bake for 8-10 minutes. The cookies are done when they are slightly brown on top. Cool on a rack.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

French Tea


When you think about tea, do you think of England? No question the British are big tea drinkers. When I spent a few weeks in the South of England one summer we drank tea no less than 5 times a day. But when I think about tea I also think of France where some of my favorite teas are sold by a company called Mariage Freres. The oldest tea importers in France, in business since 1660, they really know their stuff.

In Paris the Mariage Freres shop has been in the same spot since 1854 on the rue du Bourg-Tibourg in the Marais. Visiting the shop is like stepping into the past. The shop is tiny and all the staff bustle about in white colonial era uniforms. The cool dark front room features a series of shelves lined with large ancient tea canisters. The scent of tea is everywhere and the staff is happy to open a canister and offer you a sniff of any of the 500 varieties you wish. The back room is a bright tea salon and while a bit cramped, it is lovely with tropical potted palms and decadent tea cakes on display. A perfect place to stop for a break from window shopping.

So much of what I love about France is the sense of style. The French even do tea stylishly. The names of the blends are as romantic and stylish as you might expect from a turn of the century novel--Jade Mountain, Vivaldi, Imperial Wedding, Balthazar, Elixir of Love, Exotic, and Tea of Solitary Poets for example.

In the words of Henri Mariage, "The fragrance of poetry and adventure pervades each cup of tea". If you want to enjoy a richly perfumed black tea that is a bit of an adventure in and of itself, I recommend what is perhaps their most well known blend--Marco Polo, a black tea flavored with Chinese and Tibetan fruits and flowers. If you buy it in one of their signature tins it makes an elegant gift. While Mariage Freres does not have any outlets in the US, fortunately Williams-Sonoma shops do carry a few of their teas including the famous Marco Polo.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Dutch Baby:Recipe


A couple of times on vacation Lee and I have gone out for Dutch pancakes. We like having them for breakfast, but it turns out in Holland the Dutch don't actually eat pancakes for breakfast. Needless to say, we've suffered through some very long mornings waiting for pancake shops to open up for lunch. Of course some Dutch pancake shops know what pancake freaks we Americans are and open early.

In Holland they eat an eggy crepe type pancake as big as a large dinner plate. Flat like pizzas, they come topped with almost anything you can imagine from tomatoes, cheese, bacon or shellfish to dessert varieties with chocolate or ice cream and fruit. Pancakes have a long tradition in the Dutch culture. Supposedly over 300 years ago the first pancake was created in Holland but only in recent times have they gone crazy with the toppings. Dutch pancake houses are not only popular in Holland but we've found them in Canada and in the UK. But I've never seen a puffed oven baked pancake in any of them, of the type that we call a Dutch Baby. So after doing some investigation, I'm pretty sure that a Dutch Baby is a "Pennsylvania Dutch" recipe of German origin and not really Dutch at all.

There are plenty of very good recipes for this type of baked puffed up pancake. I originally got the recipe from Sunset magazine but Anna Thomas's "The Vegetarian Epicure" has a good version as well called German Apple Pancakes. If you want to try something easy and impressive with ingredients you are more than likely to have on hand, a Dutch Baby, regardless of its heritage, is your ticket.

Note: The following recipe serves 2. You can make individual pancakes by cutting the recipe in 1/2, though don't put any less butter in the pan. (As you can see from the measurements, it is about the easiest recipe ever to multiply depending upon how many people you want to serve.)

Dutch Baby
Serves 2

Ingredients

1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 Tablespoon butter

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450-500 degrees for at least 15 minutes.

In a blender mix the milk and eggs, while blending, spoon in the flour. Put a cast iron skillet or a pie pan in the oven and when hot, add the butter. As soon as it is sizzling, swirl the butter around to make sure the pan is covered, then pour in the batter and bake for 10-15 minutes. It should puff up and then collapse when it comes out of the oven. You can bake this for more or less time depending on how eggy or crispy you like it.

Top with powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Or fresh fruit and yogurt. Or slices of apple that you have sauteed in butter and sugar till tender.

Enjoy!