Sunday, April 29, 2012

FoodBuzz 24 x 24 "Paris in April"

There is one place that makes me sigh every time I think about it...


I've been twice.  It was love at first sight.  The photo above was a cafe down the street from the apartment we rented on our second trip with my oldest son who is now twelve.
Though it's now been over a decade since my last trip, I can still remember every sight, sound and smell like it was yesterday.

I've thought about doing a fabulous bistro meal the way I remembered it for years, and when my blog publisher sponsor, Foodbuzz, offered a generous stipend to produce this over the top idea and cover it for my blog, I jumped at the chance.

"April in Paris" is the quintessential song on the soundtrack of any movie set in Paris, but obviously with Northern California being a little short geographically of being in Paris, "Paris in April" became my theme..

Though all of the husbands were jealous, we decided this was a girlfriends only event.

In spite of this, my sweet husband agreed to help me.  We both loved celebrating Paris, and honoring my friends, by serving them and letting them experience all we have on our trips.

I have to admit, I haven't seen the Louvre (except for some pieces in a pass-through tunnel underneath) nor any other museums in the City of Lights, but I have had many food experiences. Talk to any food person and you will hear the same thing..."Paris all about the food".  But among them all, the standout experiences were the ones where it was a neighborhood spot and we were the only English speakers.  (Our very limited French allowed us to get tables in off-the-beaten path places.)

More a neighborhood spot, than a gastronomic paradise, a bistro is about as simple, yet as wonderful as you can get. To recreate this experience, I chose to concentrate on that simplicity and use that to develop our menu and setting.

We chose our backyard daytime event, over a candlelit indoor evening, to mimic the outdoor cafe that is common, even in the winter, in Paris. 
By the way, we chose restaurants on both of our trips by looking for dogs in the restaurants. Locals take their very well behaved dogs everywhere including restaurants, so if we saw dogs laying quietly by the tables we knew it was legit, not touristy. Our dog, Jake, complied by playing his part at our bistro recreation.

Bistro cuisine is the not the food that you would order on a breakneck speed hit-as-many-three star restaurants-as-you-can kind of trip.  This is the food you would order as someone who is meeting friends for a simple supper or Saturday lunch.  No fancy sauces or presentations that are so commonly associated with French cuisine. Starters are many times served family style or set out on a sideboard for diners to partake of at their leisure.  We followed suit.

Le Menu

Food Notes:  I kept my Cook What You've Got approach by using seasonal produce and what I had on hand to amp it up.  Even with the cheeses, I honored the idea of French cheeses - see the cheese plate below - while supporting local farms and producers who make very smiliar cheeses. The only real exception is the paté since ground pork and ham aren't normally on The List but everything else in the recipe I typically keep around.(Although I will probably try it with ground turkey sometime, which is on The List). 

 Kir Royale - Champagne with a splash of Creme de Cassis

Vichysoisse - Potato Leek Soups served cold and
blended until silky smooth with a little cream to enrich
Radishes with Basil Lemon Handshaken Butter and Grey Salt - See Recipe below.
Pâté de Campagne - Not typically a big charcuterie person, I enjoyed this as it was a pleasant balance of flavors with none of the more typical strong liver flavor.  It's like training wheels for the real thing.
Mushroom Omelets with Beet & Goat Cheese Salad  - See Below
L'Assiette de Fromage - Cheese Plate (French Equivalents)
Point Reyes Blue Cheese (Roquefort), Rouge et Noir Brie (Ummmm, Brie!)
and Vella Dry Jack (Comté) drizzled with honey and freshly ground black pepper.
Finished off with Quince paste and locally grown and very fresh walnuts.
Meyer Lemon Scented Creme Brulee with Farmstand Strawberry Sauce - See recipe below.
Espresso with chocolates - This is how it's done in Paris.  Never coffee with dessert.  It's intended to be a digestif and preferably with no milk. And there's always a tiny little treat along side.



Radishes with Basil Lemon Handshaken Butter
I had just purchased a basil plant that needed to be replanted and trimmed to get the growth going.  I had a handful of leaves so I chopped them up with meyer lemon zest from my tree and added both along with kosher salt to heavy cream.  Twenty to thirty minutes of shaking later, we had very thick and creamy butter the consistency of whipped softened butter.

After draining briefly, I packed it into a silicone ice cube mold to make the little buttons of butter.
Serve with coarse grey sea salt for a very fresh, very Spring seasonal amuse bouche or snack.

Mushroom Omelets with Beet & Goat Cheese Salad
Again, no real recipe here.  We just whisked up eggs and cooked them like crepes - 1/4 cup of batter or so at a time rolling the pan to make a thin sheet.  Cook for a few seconds and flip, then they're done.  Mushrooms were sauteed with onions, garlic and fresh thyme then finished with 1/4 cup of cream.  Folded into omelets.

The salad is simply roasted beets, mixed greens and crumbles of goat cheese tossed with a simple vinaigrette of shallots, lemon juice, dijon mustard and olive oil.  (3:1 ratio of oil to lemon juice.)

Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee with Farmstand Strawberry Sauce 
Every year I wait and wait for the strawberry stand to open in April.  Finally two weeks ago I saw the familiar hand-painted strawberry sign signaling they were open.  They are super red all the way through and fragrant just like they should be!

2 cups heavy cream
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar plus 3 tbsp for sprinkling
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place 6 1/2-cup ramekins into a 9 x 13 pan.  Have a pot of boiling water standing by.

Whisk all ingredients together well until sugar is dissolved.  Keeping the ramekins in the 9 x 13 pan, divide the custard among the ramekins. Place the pan into the oven then pour the boiling water into the pan until it's halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the middles are just set.  Remove from the oven and cool in the water bath.  Drain the water and dry off the water from the bottoms of the ramekins.  Return the ramekins to the pan and cover with foil or plastic wrap. Chill for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of sugar and then using a blowtorch (or place under a broiler), caramelize the sugar on top.  Let cool to harden the sugar then serve with the sauce. 

Strawberry Sauce:
1 pint very ripe strawberries (preferably from a nearby farm)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
juice from 1/2 lemon

Blend all the ingredients together and then strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl to store. 

Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got


  1. What a fun day! Delicious all around. Thank you! Sandra

  2. We love this fresh spin on fresh foods! They look great! Thanks for linking up to Strut Your Stuff Saturday. Hope to see you again next week! -The Sisters


Welcome. I value your comments. If you think you would like to use my site for your personal advertising purposes, I would appreciate you emailing and asking me first. I've had a recent outbreak of SPAM, so I'm a little cautious. But legit conversations are always welcome.

Thanks, Christi

Copyright 2012 TablaVie Personal Chef Service

All photos and recipes may not be used without express permission from Christi Flaherty, owner and creator of Cook What You've Got Concept and blog.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...