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Confession time. I don’t usually eat salads. I don’t really like them. I’ve never been a big fan of greens, and since they make up the majority of most salads, I tend to avoid them. However, I will eat a salad (especially a Caesar salad) every so often, but usually only if it’s made by someone else. As much as I don’t like to eat salads, I like making them even less. So I faced this week’s Dorie recipe without any expectations of enjoying it at all.
And, honestly, I didn’t enjoy it. At all. The salad itself was easy to make: a Granny Smith apple, white mushrooms, and pre-shredded cabbage (no celery, because ew). It took maybe ten minutes to get everything sliced, chopped, and/or dumped out of a bag. As the name suggests, it’s white. Well, the cabbage was a little green, and the mushrooms had the brown gills, but otherwise, it was pretty bland-looking. But that’s the idea. An all-white salad doesn’t promise much else, does it.
Then I set about to making the dressing, and it took 30 minutes to do. In theory, it’s simple: an egg yolk and a bit of Greek yogurt are whisked together while gradually (very gradually) adding olive oil. Then some lemon juice. Then more olive oil. Then more Greek yogurt. This would have all been a lot faster if I’d just used the food processor to do it, but that would mean more cleaning, and I like to avoid more cleaning when I can. I whisked the dressing together, and the next day, the knuckles on my right forefinger were tender to the touch. And after all that, the dressing wasn’t even that interesting. It was okay, but it was not, in my opinion, worth 30 minutes of effort and sore knuckles.
In the end, I was as unimpressed with this salad as I thought I would be, and that made me a little sad. I’d been hoping that I’d be wrong and that it would be a good salad. Maybe not a great salad (have I ever had a great salad that didn’t involve breaded chicken? probably not), but a good salad. It wasn’t even that. It felt like a chore to eat it. Geordie was just as unimpressed as I was.
It probably didn’t help that we had some great meals this week. This was definitely the low point, uninteresting in both appearance and flavor. That was part of the problem. It’s not that the salad is inherently bad. It’s just boring, for lack of a better word. I usually love mushrooms, but they didn’t stand out here. Granny Smith apples don’t do anything for me, and they didn’t do anything for this salad either. A little bit of sweetness might actually have improved this salad a bit, but you’re not going to get that from Granny Smiths. And it still wouldn’t help the lackluster dressing. Geordie and I both felt that the salad had nothing to offer other than the uniqueness of being a salad almost entirely sapped of color.
This will probably be the last salad I make for a long, long time.
Check out the Dorista links to see their all-white salads from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. Looking forward to next week’s crepes – now that should be an interesting experience, no matter how it turns out! Happy cooking!
Once again this week, I took the road of least resistance. Instead of beouf à la ficelle (beef on a string), I made hachis Parmentier. I did this for two big reasons (and a third smaller one): it was less expensive, and Geordie and I could eat it all on our own. The third reason is that I could make a “quick” version of the hachis Parmentier by using store-bought beef stock, but then it was suggested by other Doristas that the beef on a string could also be made simpler by doing that. I do want to make the beef on a string, but not at the beginning of February. It would suit us better as a splurge meal, one for guests who can keep Hannah occupied while I’m making bouillon and who can also appreciate the effort and the awesomeness of a good cut of beef. So, Christmas, probably. I look forward to it!
But for the beginning of February, I would prefer something cheaper and less showy. Not that the hachis Parmentier was not lovely to look at. But its strong point is definitely its satisfying nature. It’s a dish that’s made for mid-winter. It is, after all, comprised almost entirely of meat and potatoes.
Sausage and beef are heated together on the stove (andouille sausage and ground beef for us). A little beef broth is added to moisten the meat, and then it’s simply placed in a greased casserole dish. This is covered with a generous layer of mashed potatoes decadently mixed with butter, cream, and Gruyère cheese. And into the oven it goes. When it comes back out, the Parmesan-topped potatoes are golden and slightly burnt (in an awesome, delicious way), and everything smells meaty and wonderful.
I mean, really. Is there anything else you could want from this?
Well, some vegetable matter would be good. While the hachis Parmentier baked, I sauteed some asparagus to serve with it. The greenery matched nicely with the heavier meat and potatoes, adding freshness in addition to some color. A nice, homey meal, all things considered.
We really liked how this turned out. Plenty of meat-and-potatoes for Geordie, plenty of flavor and satisfaction for me. I love these kinds of dishes, cozy comfort foods meant to warm a cold winter’s night. I’d be happy to make this a regular dish for February, a month which I am not overly fond of. Maybe meals like this will make it seem a little bit better. I’d like to try making the bouillon next time, because it does sound pretty awesome, and that kind of thing interests me.
So, even though I did not get to indulge with beef on a string (yet), it all worked out in the end, because this was definitely worth making. Will definitely be keeping this one in mind when I’m looking for a good winter meal!
To see how boeuf à la ficelle should be done, check out the Dorista links. Happy cooking!
They’re actually supposed to be something known as a Paris-Brest, a particularly special variant of a cream puff.
It all started with a bicycle race called the Paris-Brest-Paris (named after its route), which began in 1891 and is still run today, although not as an actual competition apparently. This celebratory version of a cream puff was created to commemorate the race, because everyone knows that pastry cream is exactly what you need when you’re riding a bicycle for 1200 kilometers (roughly 745 miles).
Traditionally, the Paris-Brest is a cream puff that is piped into the shape of an 8-inch ring, cut in half after baking, and filled with an almond-spiked pastry cream. It’s said that the ring shape mimics the shape of a bicycle wheel, which I suppose is true enough considering that they’re both circular. The dessert can be quite impressive to look at and undoubtedly requires some pastry-making skill.
I like to think I have some pastry-making skill and could make a Paris-Brest if I had the time and energy to do so. But, I have a two-month old baby, and time and energy are in short supply. I decided to simplify things and just make cream puffs.
I’ve made the pâte à choux before, long ago when the Doristas made the goat-cheese puffs in 2012. It’s easy to do, but – as I noted then – once started, they require full attention. Just like a baby! The pastry cream is pretty much the same type of thing, in that it demands full attention once it’s started. I made the pastry cream Wednesday evening while Geordie watched Hannah, and I was exceedingly pleased with it. It may be an involved process, but it’s a relatively short one, and one that ends with glorious results. One moment, the milk and egg and sugar mixture is all liquid and loose – the next, it’s lovely and thick and creamy. Very fine, indeed. The choux pastry I didn’t have a chance to make until today, in the afternoon. Hannah cooperated, for the most part; she woke up just as I was mixing in the eggs, cried a bit while I spooned out the puffs, and then pouted all the while they were baking. I think she’s just upset that she’s going to have to wait quite a bit before she can have one herself.
I’d pout too if I were her.
They’re not the prettiest little cream puffs ever made, but they’re delicious. I wish I’d made less of them, because I’m extremely tempted to make them my dinner. Much like the goat cheese puffs, I find these completely irresistible. The puffs are delightful enough by themselves, but the addition of the pastry cream puts them completely over the edge. Delicious doesn’t actually do them justice. They are beyond terrific. I want them all the time, except I also want to lose weight, so that’s right out.
I’ll be dreaming about these cream puffs tonight, that’s for sure. They’ll be haunting me for weeks. I can’t wait to make them again. Perhaps when Hannah is a little more autonomous. It certainly is a nice little treat I can’t wait to share with her in a few years.
To see some very lovely and proper Paris-Brest creations, check out the French Friday links. This seems to have been a popular dessert with the Doristas, no matter how the pastry came out. And no surprise!