Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Potage Crème de Cresson (Cream of Watercress Soup)



My mom was a little wary of this soup, as we have never had watercress. I know it's some fancy herb they add to salads at overpriced restaurants, but I've never actually eaten it. I managed to find some at the specialty market, but I couldn't make the soup until a week after I had bought the watercress. By that point, half the watercress was yellow or turning to slime, so I was afraid I'd have to trash the stuff and start over. Luckily I was able to rescue just enough tender green leaves to complete the soup.

Potage Crème de Cresson (Cream of Watercress Soup)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

⅓ cup minced green onions, or yellow onions
3 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 packed cups of fresh watercress leaves and tender stems, washed and dried in a towel
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons flour
5½ cups boiling white stock or canned chicken broth
2 egg yolks
½ cup whipping cream
1 to 2 tablespoons softened butter

Cook the onions slowly in the butter in a covered saucepan for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender and translucent but not browned.  Stir in the watercress and salt, cover, and cook slowly for about 5 minutes or until the leaves are tender and wilted. Sprinkle in the flour and stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes.  Off heat, beat in the boiling stock. Simmer for 5 minutes, then puree through a food mill.  Return to saucepan and correct seasoning.

Blend the yolks and cream in a mixing bowl. Beat a cupful of hot soup into them by driblets. Gradually beat in the rest of the soup in a thin stream. Return soup to saucepan and stir over moderate heat for a minute or two to poach the egg yolks, but do not bring the soup to a simmer. Off heat, stir in the enrichment butter a tablespoon at a time.

Makes 6 servings

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Potage Veloute Aux Champignons (Cream of Mushroom Soup)



I have to admit, this is probably my favorite soup. I love mushrooms with a passion that is probably unhealthy. And nothing can be better than mushrooms in a creamy broth. Except maybe more mushrooms.  Since Julia didn't specify what type of mushrooms to use, I'm assuming that American housewives used regular white button mushrooms in the 60's.

The soup is earthy and incredibly rich. This one can definitely be a meal in itself, with a chunk of good bread on the side. I've noticed that most of Julia's soup recipes serve six to eight people, but I think it's really maybe four modern servings. Yes, we are gluttons now, but who can help it with soups like this?

Potage Veloute Aux Champignons (Cream of Mushroom Soup)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

¼ cup minced onions
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
6 cups boiling white stock or chicken stock; or canned chicken broth and 2 parsley sprigs, ⅓ bay leaf, and ⅛ teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
The chopped stems from ¾ to 1 pound fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
The thinly sliced caps from ¾ to 1 pound fresh mushrooms
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 egg yolks
½ to ¾ cup whipping cream
1 to 3 tablespoons softened butter

Cook the onions slowly in the butter for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are tender but not browned.  Add the flour and stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes without browning.  Off heat, beat in the boiling stock or broth and blend it thoroughly with the flour.  Season to taste.  Stir in the mushroom stems, and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes or more, skimming occasionally.  Strain, pressing juices out of mushroom stems.  Return the soup to the pan.

Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a separate saucepan.  When it is foaming, toss in the mushroom caps, salt, and lemon juice.  Cover and cook slowly for 5 minutes.  Pour the mushroom caps and their cooking juices into the strained soup base.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Beat the egg yolks and cream in a mixing bowl. Then beat in hot soup by spoonfuls until a cup has been added. Gradually stir in the rest. Correct seasoning.  Return the soup to the pan and stir over moderate heat for a minute or two to poach the egg yolks, but do not let the soup come near the simmer. Off heat, stir in the butter by tablespoons.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cocolat: Chocolate Hazelnut Torte


I have this problem.  See, I can never keep myself from buying a cookbook if it is full of pictures of chocolate cakes.  It's like a disease.  I HAVE to have the cookbook if it causes drool to spill down my chin.  And then I inevitably spend more time drooling over it than actually cooking from it.

I made an effort to break the cycle.  Well, at least break the cycle of not using my cookbooks to cook from.  This recipe came from a rather luscious chocolate cookbook from none other than Alice Medrich, and the resulting practically-flourless cake was absolutely divine.

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte
From Cocolat by Alice Medrich

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, separated
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup (2 ounces) ground toasted hazelnuts
¼ cup (1 ounce) all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
12 plain hazelnuts, chopped, for decoration

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Line the bottom of an 8x3-inch round cake pan or springform pan with a circle of parchment or waxed paper.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl placed in a barely simmering water bath on low heat, stirring occasionally until completely melted.  Remove from heat.  Or, microwave on MEDIUM (50%) for about 2 minutes.  Stir until smooth and completely melted.

Beat egg yolks with ½ cup of sugar until pale and thick.  Stir in warm chocolate mixture, ground nuts, and flour.  Set aside.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar at medium speed until soft peaks form.  Gradually sprinkle in remaining ¼ cup sugar, beating at high speed until stiff but not dry.  Fold one-fourth of whites into chocolate batter to lighten it.  Quickly fold in remaining whites.  Turn mixture into prepared pan and smooth top if necessary.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or wooden skewer plunged into center of torte shows moist crumbs.

Cool torte completely in pan on a rack.  It will have risen and then fallen in the center, leaving a higher rim of cake around the sides and possibly some cracking.  Level and unmold torte onto an 8-inch corrugated cake circle.  Torte may be completed to this point, wrapped and kept at room temperature up to 3 days in advance.  Or freeze for up to 3 months.  Let come to room temperature before glazing.

Glaze with Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze.  Decorate with chopped hazelnuts.  Do not refrigerate.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Place chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a small bowl.  Melt gently in a water bath over low heat, stirring frequently until almost completely melted.  Do not overheat the glaze; there is no need to warm it above 120°F.  Remove glaze from the water bath and set aside to finish melting, stirring once or twice until glaze is perfectly smooth.  Or, melt in a microwave on MEDIUM (50%) for about 2 minutes.  Stir mixture gently with a spatula or wooden spoon until completely smooth; do not whisk or beat.