France

Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)




When I was traveling, people were always asking me where I was from, and whenever I said "I'm from Texas," there was always some spark of recognition and excitement. 
Saying you are from Texas is not like saying you are from North Dakota. 
Or Wisconsin. 
It's just not. 
It was the best when someone who happened to be French asked, because their eyes would light up and they'd say something like, "OH! TEXAZZZ!" Before making finger guns and asking me about horses and cowboys and Chuck Norris. 


So while I was so far away from home, I fell in love with the with the pie-making, porch-sitting, beer-drinking, no bullshit, music-loving, Tex-Mex-eating, lonestar, cowgirl, wildflower piece of myself. 
A piece of me I didn't even know I had. 
I fell in love with the vastness and vulgarity of Texas from a thousand miles away. 

The poet Charles Bukowski wrote: 

“Texas women are always
healthy, and besides that she’s
cleaned my refrigerator, my sink,
the bathroom, and she cooks and
feeds me healthy foods
and washes the dishes
too.”

And I know and love this now as well. 

I am home now. 


I've been lying in the hammock some, drinking pots of coffee, walking the dog. 
And then, on Tuesday, suddenly, I was ready to be in the kitchen again. 
The first time I actually felt like being in the kitchen in over a year. 


So I baked a chocolate tart. Which was not Texan at all, but French--because the world is topsy turvy like that sometimes, and it is possible to crave Tex-Mex when in France and French food when back in Texas. 

And while I pressed the tart dough into the pan, I thought about Paris. 
I thought about Paris, and how the only real way to understand a city, is to walk through it. 
But mostly I thought about all the people, who made the past few months a sort of miracle. 


Roberto told me, that if you want to cook, you have to cook with "the love." 
And that it's cooking with "the love" that gives food the real flavor. 

So I thought about Paris. And I thought about Texas. 
But mostly, I thought about you.

This tart is one of the best I've ever, ever made. 


xoxo


Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)
from Dorie Greenspan's From My Home to Yours 

Another thing, is that this tart is stupidly simple, and very, very sexy. Even if you can barely bake, this tart is unbelievably doable, if a bit time consuming. Additionally, for the chocolate ganache, it is imperative that you use the highest quality baking chocolate. 

For the Filling

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below)

Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or a rubber spatula at hand. 
Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seonds. Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at the center of teh bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don't stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients-- the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be. (The ganache can be used now, refrigerated or even frozen for later.)
Pour the ganache into the crust and, holding the pan with both hands, gently turn the pan from side to side to even the ganache. 
Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes to set the ganache, then remove the tart from the fridge and keep it at room temperature until serving time. 


Sweet Tart Dough 

NB: Don't roll the tart dough out, simply press it into the pan and save yourself much time and angst. 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confections' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses-- about 10 seconds each-- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. 


To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press teh dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy handed, press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. 

To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. 
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (Watch it though, to make sure it doesn't get too golden brown.) 

Sexy Cepe Risotto



What do ou say to mushroom risotto?

You say "Yes please."

When I was in France we went to a little bistro on the sidewalk. I had some of the most memorable delicious food of my life there. The first time we went the waiter told us in beautiful accented English, "Do you want the best mushrooms in the world?" My cousin said, "Yes please." And then an hour later, she got the most beautiful, fragrant omelette, filled with these mushrooms called cepes. Which is pronounced like "sex" only with a "p." To be honest, these mushrooms are the most sexy delicious mushrooms ever.

My beautiful cousin Claire was in town last weekend and she loves to eat. She was in France too, and she loved the sexy cepes almost as much as I did. In loving memory of those sexy cepes we all bought bags of the dried fungi to bring home. Only, when you have mushrooms so beautiful and special, you want a good occasion to celebrate their specialness. Her mini-visit was a good reason to celebrate. So we made this mushroom risotto. We made it with our sexy cepes. But you can use porcini, just as the recipe calls for.

For the uninformed, risotto is something Claire wishes she could eat at every meal (other than cake). If that isn't a recommendation to make this right away then I don't know what is.

Sexy Cepe Risotto
adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

1 1/2 cups water
5 1/2 cups chicken stock or store bought low-sodium broth
1 1/4 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) dried porcini mushrooms OR Cepes, if you have them
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups (about 14 ounces) Arborio rice
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 2 ounces), plus additional for serving
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine water and 1 cup stock in a small saucepan and heat until hot. Put mushrooms and 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl and oour hot liquid over them. Let soak for 30 minutes.
Lift porcini out of soaking liquid, squeeze excess liquid back into bowl and rise well to remove any grit. Coarsely chop porcini. Pour soakin liquid through a fine sieve lined with a dampened paper towel into a large saucepan. Add remaining 4 1/2 cups stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover and keep at a bare simmer.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter with remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a 4-quart saucepan over moderate heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened,a bout 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rie is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, 18 to 20 minutes (there will be leftover stock).
Stir in mushrooms, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, cheese, salt and pepper. If necessary, thin risotto with some of remaining stock. Serve immediatel, with additional cheese.

I went to france and all I did was eat Part III


The French make the best french fries. They were BLISSFUL.
I really loved these chairs. They seemed like an old married couple, just sitting on the sidewalk, watching the world go by.
Walnut cake, a specialty of southwestern France.
Lilies.
SAUSAGE.
Gelato. It's so romantic when it's piled high.
A poached egg with pork lardons and cheese, with salad. LOVELY.
CHEESE PLATTER.