Borgers with No Borders.

our lives, our loves — through our earthly adventures.

Archive for the tag “cooking”

Self-Reliance.

“Self-reliance is the only road to true freedom.”
~ P. Sampsom

Some of you might start thinking that I have either gone psycho or am heavily into drugs.  No.  I am neither of those.  I am just home-sick.  Now I realize that spending two months of the summer vacation has its minor drawbacks.  But hey, I’m not complaining.  I just want my ensaymadas.

Huh?  Did anyone just say ensaymadas?  Again???  Are you still on that page?  Hasn’t your craving already been satisfied by two dozens of them coming all the way from New York?

(Take a deep breath….)

Nope.  I’m afraid not.

I did a whole lot of research on the good old web for the perfect recipe that would match the ones in my dreams.  (Not that the ensaymadas of Chari didn’t match my dreams.  They did.  Only I would be a fool to ask her for the recipe!)  Turns out, the daughter of a friend who just finished her “stage” days at Alain Ducasse’s resto here, has a friend who has a (supposed) killer recipe on hand.

I am truly blessed.  How these things just happen to fall on my lap is a good sign.

I knew I could not keep ordering ensaymadas all the way from California and having them shipped over to me in Paris, right?  I knew I could not keep begging my sisters to send me some.  I knew my hubby would not dare ask his airport friend for more.  I knew.  I knew I just had to be … SELF-RELIANT! Because it is only when one is self-reliant that he is truly free!  At least that’s what they say.

So off I went into the kitchen this morning to cook up a storm.  My first attempt at making my very own, self-reliant, from the heart, ensaymadas.

Lesson # 1:  Freakin’ don’t ever try to cook ensaymadas using muffin pans.

Lesson # 2:  Try and try until you are happily and securely self-reliant.

I’m not there yet.  As you can see from the pictures.  But I will not give up.  And when I do get it right, by golly, I will share with you my very own, labored-on, tweaked, tried and tested recipe of my self-reliant-making-ensaymadas.

Someone is hiding some secrets which I have yet to uncover.  Like:  How do you keep the grated cheese from not falling off the top of a round ensaymada like that?

Stay tuned.  🙂  I promise I will be back.

P.S.  I just ordered 12 brioche molds.  Then I’m back to the kitchen!  🙂

Home is where …

Home is where the heart  ensaymada is.

After spending two months of our summer vacation in Manila — which we consider to be our REAL home — we were faced with “la rentrée” blues.  Not that we were complaining to be back in Paris — but just reveling at the wonderful time we had at home with family, starting with all the food indulgences we embarked on and … well, ending with that.

I must have been terribly homesick because two weeks after we returned, I found myself writing on my Facebook status:  “I would do anything to have an ensaymada and a gallon of Chef Tony’s Popcorn right now.”  And what do you know?  Glorious FB does its magic… and soon enough, I had over twenty comments and tons of “Likes.”  It was comforting to know that other people who were not in Manila could identify with this sudden urge to eat ensaymada.  It was more than an urge.  It was an impatient craving, and one that would not wane.

Enter my dear high school classmate, JF, who lives on the other side of the world:  in America, where, I believe, you can find anything your heart desires.  She whets my appetite even more and tells me about a friend of hers who lives in California, who makes the best-ever tasting ensaymadas in the whole wide world.  Two days later, I find myself writing this much-acclaimed ensaymada maker, asking her if she would please send me some via DHL.  The cost was not an issue, knowing that it would cost me more to see a psychiatrist to manage this urge than to actually satisfy it myself.

So I met my Ensaymada Goddess who so lovingly humored me by actually finding a way to ship it to me!  Then, suddenly, the heavens opened — and I swear — I saw those God-like-sun-streaks pass from the clouds straight into my window … just as I realized that my hubby was actually going to NYC… and would be back in four very short days!!!  (Times like these remind me that there REALLY must be a God!)

Before I could spell ensaymada, I made a paypal account payment, emailed Chari (the Ensaymada Goddess) a hundred times to give the hotel address, arrival date, departure date, and all other information that would guarantee that the precious shipment would make it to NYC in time to make it to Paris.  Chari got everything perfectly done … including getting an insurance, yes… an insurance! … to make sure it landed in the right hands at the right time.

Of course, during all this frenzy, my hubby had no clue about what was soon to arrive in his hotel room.

Very sheepishly, I sent him an email saying:  “No need to bring me something from NYC (like he does in all his trips).  Just bring home the box that will be delivered to your room on Monday.”

Monday comes along… and I get this text:

HUBBY:  Received your “pasalubong” (present from a trip) but it is quite a decent box and I don’t know how to fit this in my suitcase.  Remember, I’m taking a motorbike transfer from the Airport when I arrive.

Gulp.  My ensaymadas were treading in dangerous waters.

MY REPLY:  Darling, just throw the box and put them all in a plastic bag, then squeeze them all into your suitcase.  I don’t mind if they get squashed.  Pretty Puuullleeeezzzz?

No answer.  Couldn’t sleep a wink.

Wednesday morning, hubby comes home from the airport and hands me a big shopping bag with a huge box inside.  He said, “This is a present for you from the Filipino guy at the airport who has become my friend.”  Apparently, through his travels, he met this very kind Pinoy at the airport who has become a friend… and as he was leaving, he had mentioned to the guy that he was bringing home ensaymadas for me.  The Pinoy goes, “Your wife loves (understatement) ensaymadas?  Wait here!  I’ll be back.”  And in an hour, he was back at the waiting lounge with this big box of something for me.

I shook the box a bit, smelled it … and ransacked it only to find… not Chari’s ensaymadas… but someone else’s ensayamadas!!!  Just MORE ensaymadas than I had ever hoped for!  Pinoy Kind Man apparently had a sister who owned a bake shop in NYC, not far away from the airport.

Now if that is not serendipitous… I don’t know what is.

I think I must have jumped and skipped at this point.

Stunned (but still with a sharp mind), I stared at my hubby and said, “… But where is the box that I asked you to bring home for me?”

And he revealed … these two ever-so-lovely boxes, daintily wrapped in goldish ribbons, slightly squished but not losing an ounce of its familiar grandeur.

In a flash, I was in the kitchen, zapping Chari’s ensaymadas for 15 seconds, watching the butter, the cheese, and the sugar slowly melting into a sumptuous oozing blanket of plain and unadulterated goodness.

One bite.  And suddenly, … I felt like I was home again.

Order yours now, cause I ain’t sharing.

Chari’s E-Mail:  charis.kitchen@yahoo.com
Mobile:  (U.S.) 626 7555014
She is also has a Facebook account (Chari’s Kitchen) which you can find here

Sinking in the South of France: Nice, Part 2

As if our 4-hour lunch followed by a 2-hour nap was not enough … life kicked in once again at cocktail time!  Whoa!  Isn’t this just the perfect vacation ever?

Hubby woke me up and literally pulled me out of bed to make sure I do not miss a beat with the action in the kitchen.  Starting with this:

… and this:

Yep.  That’s my dream kitchen in the background — with my dream stainless steel drawers, stainless steel cupboards, and that massive industrial stove!  If that kind of equipment doesn’t make you a great chef, I don’t know what will!  I could easily see myself setting up camp in that kitchen anytime!

And you know what else was shining in this stainless steel splendor?  This thingamajig, which was roasting a cuchon. Indoors.  Wooooooooooooow, right?

So, the indispensable champagne glasses started to clink while le cuchon was cooking.  (Wait.  Do you see that uber long nail-looking thing on the left side of the awesome grill — just waiting for a kebab to happen???)  Wooooooooooow again, right?

A roquette salad (picked from their garden!) with freshly carved pata negra (in case you missed it, check out picture #1 again!), artichokes, and those crunchy flower-shaped tomatoes from Italy called “Merenda’s.”  Some very baby carrots on the side of le cuchon … and roasted potatoes drizzled with garlic.  One bite and again, I thought I had died and went to heaven.  🙂

How can such simple cooking result in a meal that is one you will remember forever?  Someone once said that along with a Chef’s ability to put flavors and textures together, is his successful choice of using only the best quality ingredients.  I couldn’t agree more.  When you have the best quality of pork, carrots, potatoes, … down to the best grain of salt, butter, and olive oil — there will be very little reason to fail.

Truly, simple home cooking … at its best!

Sur ma table: Semaine 13

Sur ma table” means “On my Table” — my new title to the second season of our Julia Child Series.  It’s the second season because it has necessitated a change.  It appears, by popular demand, that I am no longer allowed to cook on Sundays. Who would’ve thought that the weather would affect even my cooking day, right?  Right.  Now that Winter’s got one foot out the door, hubby thought we should go back to exploring Paris, or simply liberating our lazy Sundays without me stressing out in the kitchen.  Fair enough.  No argument there.

After all, I always look on the bright side of things.  This could only mean that I can now cook in peace, in an empty house apartment on Mondays.  That makes my “Dimanche Repas” (Sunday Meal) impertinent now, ergo … the change to “Sur ma table,” which also no longer restricts me to a particular day in the week when I MUST be in the kitchen.  It’s a liberating detail, and probably one that might even allow me to cook many more times in the week!  (Like the title of my blog ever restricted me from cooking on ANY other day of the week.)  It’s a charming introduction to what you will see on my table — on any day of the week, whether edible or not!  🙂

This week, life got in the way for me … so I only managed one of the two dishes that Tina chose.  The two dishes were: Tranches de Jambon à la Crème (Sautéed Ham Slices with Cream Sauce) and Timbale d’asperges (Asparagus Mold).  I chose the latter, because along with this, I would have to learn an exciting and new sauce:  the Hollandaise Sauce.  This happens to be one of the five master sauces in the French haute cuisine mother sauce repertoire.  So heck… we’ve got to start somewhere!

Out came another one of my priceless acquisitions — which, when I purchased, raised snickers from the Peanut Gallery:  “Why in heaven’s name would anyone buy an Asparagus Casserole?”  Ha!  Pourquoi pas?  I love my little asparagus casserole — because it has a net-like doodad that holds all the asparagus, in a straight “standing” position.  Like soldiers, all being heated up equally, in a sleek casserole of boiling water.  🙂  Neat, right?  See how sweet they look:

Then… I chickened out on Julia’s recommendation to learn the Hollandaise the long and hard way.  She said that the Hollandaise Sauce is often the most dreaded of all sauces to make because the egg yolks can curdle and the sauce can turn. She says that “it is of great importance that you learn how to make hollandaise by hand, because part of every good cook’s general knowledge is a thorough familiarity with the vagaries of egg yolks under all conditions.”  Thanks, Julia.  But when you’ve had a full day, and have rushed home so you can fulfill your commitment to cook with 4 other people around the world, then blog about it, then still do your French homework, and put your 6-year old to sleep…. it just seems to make more sense to use the “Electric Blender Recipe.”  After all, “as the technique is well within the capacities of an 8-year-old-child, it has much to recommend it.”

So let’s leave it at that — and let’s just say, I passed the Junior Competition for now, and will join the Masters at a later stage.

My hollandaise did taste pretty nasty — in a good way.  I had to add water though twice or thrice because it was getting just a bit too thick in the blender as I was pouring the butter in droplets.  Never mind that my hair got quite a few splatters of the churning hollandaise.  It still tasted authentic enough.  Both from my hair and from the bowl.  🙂

The Timbale d’asperges was quite easy.  No fuss, healthy, vegetable dish — best eaten though as a side-dish to roasted meat, rather than a main course.  Next time I make this, I would add some mushrooms too — just to make it a little more exciting.  I also used stale whole wheat baguette bread crumbs rather than american white sliced bread — which, am guessing, didn’t do much to change the taste.  If anything, it probably helped to give it a little more color!   The recipe called for it to be made in a soufflé mold — which I still haven’t gotten around to purchasing.  So, I used my good ol’ reliable terrine silicone mold — which rendered its usual ease when turning over the  custard into a serving dish.

All gone in one sitting … thanks to my hubby’s vegetarian nephew who came that evening to enjoy an impromptu taste test.  All in a day’s work!  🙂

The Itch to Cook

Last Sunday, I did not get to cook the Potage Parmentier that Rx chose (through AC’s empowerment).  And, since I have been having a rather relaxed week — I decided to catch up yesterday.  Plus, my french classes were going to be held at my place today — so again, I had another excuse to be in the kitchen baking!  C’est parfait!

Off I went to tackle the Potage Parmentier (Potato and Leek Soup) which didn’t take much really.  3 cups of potatoes, 3 cups of leeks, a tablespoon of salt, 2 quarts of water, and a measly 6-8 tablespoons of whipped cream.  A suspiciously short list of ingredients.

Simmering the veggies for 50 minutes was no big deal for me because it got me all excited about once again trying out my good ol french reliable equipment:  le moulin à legumes!  A Vegetable Mill, in English.  Julia labels it as one of the two most “wonderful inventions” (she probably never owned an ipod before!) — the other, being the Garlic Press.

This witty contraption purées soups, sauces, vegetables, fruits, raw fish and even mousse mixtures.  And for this particular soup, it was perfect for straining out all the fiber in the leeks vis a vis a regular food processor (or blender).  Well, yes, there’s a little bit of manual labour involved … but nothing that could break your bones.

It comes with three removable disks so you can choose how fine you want your purée to be.  And you just turn that handle at the top, with intermittent pressure downwards, to allow the vegetables to churn.  Cool, yeah?

And that’s the end of my Potato and Leek Story.  Because THAT was just about all the excitement I derived from this recipe.

Following Julia’s recipe to the letter, I found the resulting soup trés trés trés watery.  The soup was much too light for my taste for sure.  And if I were to do this again — I would use 5 cups of chicken stock instead of a whopping 2 quarts of water, and a whole lotta whipping cream (half a cup to one cup, minimum).  It also lacked some flavor to it — despite my adding piment d’espilette — to help waken the flavors!

Maybe it’s my Asian tongue, and maybe this is how the French like their Potage Parmentier.   Whatever it is, you can be sure, that the next time I see this item on a brasserie’s menu — I am definitely going to sample it!  Just for my own peace of mind.  🙂

Off I went to the next agenda of the day (or should I say night — as I was in the kitchen again until 12.30 midnight):  a Tarte au Citron et aux Amandes (Lemon and Almond Tart).

This was quite fun to make, albeit a little tedious.  It called for caramelizing  sugar until thread stage, then sugar-coating the julienned lemon peel.  Neat.  Another opportunity to try out one of my other gadgets in the drawer that’s been waiting to be used:  my kitchen thermometer!

It was not until I used this thermometer that I realized how totally necessary it is to have one … especially when you are making caramel!  The first time I ever attempted caramel, it was a failure — because it was all a guessing game!  Had I, this second time around, not had my thermometer, I would have again removed the pan from the fire way too early.  But no.  This time, I waited until that red baby crawled up to 110 degrees C — and then only did I remove the pan from the heat.  Brainless.  Everyone’s gotta have one of those things.  Just like an American Express card.  🙂

The tart was delicious — but quite a lot of ingredients were wasted.  I used 2 cups of sugar to make the caramel — and hardly used a fourth of it to glaze the pie and sugar-coat the lemon peel.

A little shout-out though to those who plan to bake this:   The custard filling was perfect and delicious — but do go easy on the glaze — otherwise, the pie could turn out overly sweet.  And we all know we don’t need that extra confectionery, right?

So my little french class of 2, plus ma professeure, got their sugar fix.  But I’m staying indoors lest my neighbors start complaining about all the raging electric mixers and banging oven doors at way past midnight!

No cooking tonight.  For sure.  🙂

Pre-Dimanche Repas 7. Me got antsy.

I could not wait for Sunday.  By Friday morning, I was just itching to hang out in my tiny kitchen.  And, since the weather was being oh-so-cooperative (by being freakin’ cold), … I just had all the right reasons.  Besides, the Spinach Turnover of Julia Child on her pbs video with Simone Beck (featuring her home in Provence) was just too tempting not to attempt.  My “classmates” cooked this last week, while I laboured on my Leg of Lamb — since we are still sorta in our “free-wheeling” mode.  (Two of the 5 in the gang are still on vacation!).

It was quite easy to do on a whim because Julia “allowed” us to use ready-made puff pastry dough and even frozen spinach!  🙂  This was good — because that meant I could conserve my energy for the weekend!  I used the ready-made pastry dough but got disgusted with the water and the stems that are so frighteningly present in frozen spinach… so I bought fresh ones instead, and blanched them with no problem at all!  🙂

Anything that has cream, butter, cheese, and a good dough is almost always a sure-crowd-pleaser.  With me clapping my hands the loudest.  I did two sets of this pie:  one was vegetarian — where I used spinach, mushrooms, and gruyere cheese; the other one was a “normal” one with all that PLUS some somptueux English Banger sausages which I picked up from the aux marché on rue d’Aligre.  It makes a great lunch menu, which I served with a nice Tomato and Cucumber Salad (with cider vinegar dressing, capers, and torn basil leaves).  Parfait!

I whipped out my new toy (I mean, my hubby’s toy!… because I gave it to him for Christmas!) for real live footage.  Yay me, for attempting to be techy!  And Yay Me for giving my husband something for Christmas that I could equally make use of!  🙂

Three things worth noting:

1.  I never cook without my cup of coffee (and my ciggies!) for some sweet company; and,

2.  One spice that I never cook without:  Piment d’Espelette.  Apparently, as Paule Caillat mentioned in one of my cooking classes with her, hardly any french cooking is done without it.  I love it, because it just gives that subtle kick to the dish.  (The espelette pepper is a variety of chili pepper cultivated in the french commune of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, the northern territory of the Basque people.)

3.  Ani’s smile is just such a refreshing Asian smile, isn’t it?

À bientôt!

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