Croûte de Fromage for the Distinguished Individual

This recipe is from French Farmhouse and it’s basically fancy grilled cheese.

The author of this cookbook describes this dish like a dating app profile,

Hearty yet sophisticated, it fits with the craggy mountains where hikers crowd the slopes in summer and winter brings cross-country and downhill skiers.

Don’t you get the feeling this dish is an outdoor adventure loving seeker who also enjoys long walks on the beach? I mean, I’d go out with it.

What you’ll need.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup of light fruity wine or Riesling
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 3 long slices of Sourdough Bread cut in half crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of mild vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of grated Gruyere or Comte cheese
  • 1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley leaves

The first step is to whisk the eggs, wine, a fair amount of salt, and a touch of pepper together. Once whisked, transfer this mixture to a shallow bowl for dipping purposes.

Place the bread slices in this dish until it is thoroughly soaked. Flip sides if necessary for even soaking.

Next, heat butter and oil over medium heat until the butter is melted. Place the soaked bread into this pan and add a generous amount of the grated cheese on top.

Cook the slices for a little over three minutes or until the cheese is half way melted. Then make these slices into full on sandwiches and flip sides until cheese is fully melted.

Once this is complete, remove from the skillet, cut crosswise and sprinkle with parsley.

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The final result is quite good, not that I’m surprised. Grilled cheese has always been a simple, yet effective comfort food. When you combine that simplicity with the best of cheeses it can only get better.

Soaking the bread in the Riesling also gives it a tangy taste which is toned down nicely with the parsley.

If you feel like stepping up your grilled cheese game or starting your own food truck, than this is a sandwich you should try.

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Warm Oysters or How My Theory that I Prefer Hot Food was Validated

Warm Oysters with Balsamic Vinegar or as the French say, Les Huitres Tiedes au Vinaigre Balsamique is my final oyster recipe in French Farmhouse Cookbook.

Susan, the author, took a tour on the Breton shore and wined and dined with many an oyster farmer. One in particular suggested Susan try this method which has warmed me up to oysters and I think will be enjoyed by others as well.

There’s something about warm butter and seafood that is extremely comforting for me. The addition of balsamic adds to the warmth in taste without overshadowing the oysters.

I’m actually excited about eating oysters more and look forward to trying out different methods. I admittedly probably won’t make my own anymore. Making your own tends to require some forethought and a special shucking knife that I do not own.

This is a recipe that relies on your own good judgement as far as portions go. I have a feeling some of you might panic when you read that, but rest assured that even I didn’t screw it up.

The cookbook does have the following measurements for those who can’t handle that. I only got 6 oysters and eyed the rest myself.

  • 2 dozen small to medium oysters, scrubbed in the shell
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup best-quality balsamic vinegar

The first step is to pre-heat your oven. Yes you read that right. These oyster pups are gonna get baked.

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Don’t get excited, it’s not the kind of baked

Susan suggests that the best way to get the oysters baked is to arranged them on a baking sheet with the cup side down. Spreading salt on the sheet will help stabilize them if you have trouble keeping them balanced.

Once you place the oysters in the oven, you will bake for about 5 minutes. Remove them from the oven and then pry them open as carefully as possible. Once you’ve pried them open, you can remove the outer shell.

The proper consumption method is as follows, drizzle a touch of butter. (When I say touch, I truly mean a miniscule amount. It won’t take much.) The final step is to add 2 to 3 drops of vinegar. You are now prepared for slurping! Enjoy!

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The butter can’t compete with the oyster’s sexiness

 

 

 

Oyster Stew

This oyster stew comes from French Farmhouse Cookbook. If you’re a dumb American like me, you’re probably thinking it’s like a beef stew or like clam chowder only with oysters. It’s not. It’s simple in a bare minimum kind of way.

All it consists of is oysters in a crème fraîche and egg yolk mix.

This cookbook throws in some interesting history that is quite complicated unlike the stew.

For the history lesson, the author focuses on the region known as Brittany. The history of Brittany consists of a lot of unfortunate conquering starting with the Romans. The author notes that locals find roman artifacts from time to time. One artifact proved that the Romans enjoyed the oysters of Brittany just as much as modern people do.

When the Roman empire died out, the British moved in. In fact that’s why it’s called Brittany. Little Britain was used as a meeting grounds in the decades and decades of fighting between France and Britain. It’s funny that in present day we think of Britain and France as being weak compared to the US and Russia, but back in the day Britain and France were the equivalent of that comparison.

Their bitter rivalry is partly how the United States won the Revolutionary War.France and Britain were the most formidable armies at the time. Both wanted to conquer North America and Britain had just won some colonies in Canada. So when France caught wind that the U.S. was unhappy and wanted independence they were more than glad to help. They did so at first, by supplying the U.S. weapons underhand. Once the U.S. gained some ground, than France joined the fight openly.

This history was not mentioned in the cookbook, but I wanted to mention it because I’m an American and it fascinates me how power dynamics can change. It’s kind of comforting to me that every nation could have it’s due, so to speak. I wish that we could learn from other countries mistakes, though. The infinite pissing contest of who  gets the power is exhausting and futile in the end.

As far as the history of oysters go, Brittany has had some hard times in that area as well. The author spoke to an Oyster fisherman, who told her about how one year many of the oysters became diseased and the farmers of Brittany had to turn to Japan for help. It worked, but the supply of oysters changed. The main staple of Brittany oysters are now a French-Japanese variety.

Then she speaks of a farmer who grows his oysters on an estuary in Breton. These oysters are highly valued, due to the difficulty to raise them without becoming diseased. There is a lot of meticulous factors that I find difficult to explain in regards to cultivating the right food, temperature, and more when growing oysters.

I had no idea oyster farming was so difficult. Thankfully this recipe isn’t.

Here’s what you need

  • 3/4 of oyster liquor
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 cups of crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 24 medium oysters, shucked
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Before you begin, I should note that I ended up going to a Korean grocery store and was able to find bottled oysters. This makes the shucking and liquor process a million times easier.

Whichever way you get your oysters the first step in making this stew is to cook the liquor and water in a saucepan over medium heat. You’ll want to bring this into a simmer and then whisk in the eggs and the  crème fraîche. I used heavy whipping cream but I do recommend using crème fraîche if you can. It’s delicious.

As you whisk everything together, reduce the heat to medium-low. Whisk away some more until it thickens. This can take about 4 minutes.

The next step is to add the oysters. Stir them until their mantles furl a little. The mantles are the outer edges of the oyster. This process should take 2-3 minutes.

Once those oysters are cooked, you are ready to serve! Do so by placing them in a shallow bowl and sprinkling the chives on top.

I thought mine turned out well. I would have loved to have tried it with crème fraîche though. I’m still not into oysters either. I think they might be too juicy for me. I love mussels and I feel like mussels are similar. Mussels are also smaller so maybe that’s why? I’m not sure, but as I’ve said with other recipes, if you like this kind of thing then you’ll probably like the recipe.

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Despite the fact that I used whipping cream, this was still quite fresh.

Oysters on a Half Shell

Like the mighty Aphrodite, fully formed from Zeus’s brow, the oyster is a symbol of femininity. It is an aphrodisiac too, so I imagine Aphrodite was a big fan of oysters. I am not a fan of oysters. As a child I was even terrified of them. I have distinct memories of my entire family sitting at a round table at some restaurant in Florida staring at a plate full of oysters with amorous eyes. My family, a group of people I should be able to trust were waving the oysters in my face! Tempting me to try them! I just sat in disgust as they slurped and slopped up their oysters with delight. They weren’t going to make me do something I didn’t want to do! I was a stubborn rebel like that.

I’m honestly not sure why I was afraid though. Perhaps I was traumatized by that bit in Alice in Wonderland where the Walrus and the carpenter trick those poor oyster children into their bellies. I mean that was some messed up stuff.

So when I came to this recipe from French Farmhouse Cookbook, I almost skipped it. I tried to justify it to myself even, because it’s not really a recipe. It’s just an intro on how to eat oysters. After much deliberation, I  realized that I needed to be adventurous and try new things because that’s what I love about life. So I took the plunge and ended up buying 6 oysters from LA Fish Mart in downtown LA.

The actual “recipe” calls for 2 dozen oysters, fresh seaweed or Swiss chard, 1 lemon, pepper, and sea salt. I didn’t want to eat nor buy that many obviously.

Anyway, the cookbook mentions to be selective about your oysters and even has a bit about Mareenes-Oleron oysters and how the labeling isn’t always accurate. So, I checked out some reviews on Yelp and discovered LA Fish Market. When I got there, I was shown four types of oysters from all over the world. They had some from Washington, Japan, and New Zealand. The Japanese ones were expensive as were the Washington ones. I can’t remember what the other type was. I just remember it was bigger than the others, so I went with the New Zealand ones since they were a good size and reasonably priced.

My book also recommend shucking my oysters on my own so they would be extremely fresh and I thought I’d try this out as well.

The term shucking,by the way, makes me think of when you buy a Christmas tree from a tree farm and they put it in that machine that supposedly shakes all the spare needles off. So I imagined something similar, only with oysters.

Shucking isn’t anything like that. All shucking is, is prying the shells apart. This process isn’t easy but It’s not too difficult either. It is recommended that you use a special shucking knife, but if you are a tightwad and/or just too lazy to buy one, you can do what I did and use a small curved knife.

Be careful though! I was lucky and didn’t harm myself, but I had to use a lot of force at times and could have easily slipped and cut myself. So make sure you cut away from your hands when you do this. This process also gets messy, so I recommend having a towel handy.

Anyway, to shuck, you just look for any space you can in the oyster shell. Once you do, you stab the knife in and then kind of curve it around until you can pry it open.

After being pried you just open the oysters and break them in half. After that, there’s not much else to do but cut your lemon into wedges and present the oysters on a bed of ice with lettuce or seaweed.

I decided to put mine on Swiss chard, but if you’re not planning on presenting the oysters to impress others, it’s not necessary to get any kind of greens. It’s more for show.

I have to admit the presentation does look nice though.

As I mentioned, I was nervous about trying the oysters. I squeezed a healthy portion of lemon on mine and sprinkled some pepper and sea salt. I closed my eyes, prayed to Aphrodite and took a bite. It wasn’t bad! I didn’t love it, but I wasn’t repulsed either.

In the end, oysters aren’t my thing, but I wouldn’t mind trying a different type in the future. I’m just a pepper and asparagus kind of girl. Sorry Aphrodite!

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Oysters being all sexy and such.

Aubergines en Vinaigre AKA Pickled Eggplant

I haven’t posted in a good while. I was busy putting up scenes in my acting class like a mad Max Furiosa and once I was done with that I booked an extra gig for an independent film that lasted a couple of days. I don’t normally do extra work, but I’m still looking for a day job and needed the money. I did meet a fellow actress who was in a similar boat though. She was from England and could only do work related to the entertainment field because of her visa.

She was not happy to be doing extra work at all! I liked her though. We bonded over our mutual hatred for feeling the pressure to promote ourselves on social media, The Kardashians and how they are promoting that behavior, selfies, butt selfies, and actors who just want to be pretty and not artists. I found a fellow snob, basically.

Not that I disliked the other extras. I overheard some real funny stuff actually. That’s the best part of doing background work, meeting kooky characters. One woman, who had to have been at least my parent’s age, but seemed older to me, (my parents are in their mid 60s) claimed to have a 22 year old friend with benefits. I know it’s terrible of me and I kept my mouth shut, but if I had no filter I would have asked what this kid saw in her. She wasn’t an ugly woman, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. As I was pondering this a woman who was probably in her 40s, who did seem like someone who could attract 22 year olds said, “You gotta be careful with the young ones, they get attached!”

My mind was blown and at the same time it kind of made me feel better at getting older and being single. I mean these women are still dating and seem to have an active sex life. It makes me feel like there’s hope for me. My last three boyfriends were all younger than me, so I like to joke that I am a cougar-in-training. I swear I don’t do it on purpose though. It just keeps happening.

It seems I’ve digressed enough, so let’s move on to the recipe at hand. This recipe is from French Farmhouse and is another easy, simple recipe that is more about waiting than actual doing, which funny enough, is a lot like doing background work on a film. I swear I didn’t even intend to make that distinction, but there it is wrapped in a pink bow for you.

I still have some waiting to do in fact and will update this entry once the eggplant is ready. The reason I have to wait is because it’s a pickled recipe, which basically means putting a bunch of ingredients in a jar and waiting two weeks or so.

For this pickled eggplant, you will need 2 medium eggplants cut into 1/2 inch cubes, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1 1/2 cups of red wine vinegar, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 peeled, 10 black peppercorns, 15 sprigs of fresh thyme, 3 imported bay leaves, and olive oil.

The first step is to place the eggplant cubes in a colander. You will then sprinkle the eggplant with the salt and allow it to drain for about an hour to an hour and a half. Once drained, pat the eggplant dry and place in a large soup pan along with the vinegar, 2 unpeeled garlic cloves, 5 peppercorns, a handful of thyme, and 2 bay leaves. Bring this to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes.

Once that’s over with, you will drain the liquid, cool the eggplant and then place it in jars with the remaining ingredients. The final step is to fill your jar with olive oil until everything is covered.

Refrigerate this jar for about 3 to 4 weeks. I have a couple of weeks to go myself, but once it’s ready I plan to use my eggplant in an udon noodle stirfry of some sort. The author of French Farmhouse recommends using it on pizza or as an appetizer paired with Sourdough bread. I have to say those sound like good options as well.

For now, though, here is a lovely picture of my jarred eggplant.

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So here is the update on the pickled eggplant. I ended up making a pizza with jalapenos, onion, manchango cheese, and Parmesan. I also added them to some ramen noodles for a stir-fry. The stir-fry also had jalapenos and onions, but I added to chicken as well.

The stir-fry was ok. The vinegar in the eggplant didn’t really mesh well with the sauces I used for the noodles. The pizza, was delicious though! See the results below.

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Eggplant pizza

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Eggplant ramen

The French Way to Eat a Radish

This is less of a recipe and more of a suggestion. It comes from The French Farmhouse Cookbook. The author of this cookbook calls this the best little springtime snack. I was skeptical. I mean, come on, we are talking about radishes as snacks people.

Well, the French have opened my eyes. I found myself enjoying radishes in a way I never thought possible. Don’t get me wrong, if I was able to eat whatever I wanted and not get fat or sick, I would pick chili cheese fries over radishes. However, if you are a former fat kid that is trying to stay a former fat kid, this is the way to go.

If you are wondering, yes I was a former fat kid and I’m still not model thin or anything, but I’ve come a long way.

So how to eat radishes, French style, is as follows. Get a small bowl and put some sea salt in it. Grab a slice of sourdough or french bread baguette style. Butter the slice with butter, naturally. Dip your radish in salt, take a bite of that, and then a bite of your bread. I told my mother about this dish and her response was, “Oh it’s like a tequila shot!”

Way to be an alcoholic mom, but yes it’s like a tequila shot only without the ensuing embarrassment that comes after, like singing songs in the back of vehicles because you’ve had too much, dancing on bar tabletops, and/or making some poor life choices that you wish you could take back.

Radishes won’t do that to you. They are nice, well-mannered, little things. They make good boyfriends. I need to find a radish boyfriend. Sad face, sad face, everyone.

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Salt, radish, bread

Potpourri You Can Eat

My next recipe comes from The French Farmhouse Cookbook. I’ve started to really appreciate this cookbook because like my Moroccan one, it not only incorporates lesson of culture, but history as well.

This particular recipe is called Boiled Chestnuts with Star Anise. There is a whole two page section about the history of chestnuts in France before the recipe is even mentioned and to me it’s very interesting. Chestnut trees came from the Romans. After that, Chestnuts became a big deal to the French. In the past, chestnuts were the equivalant of potatoes to the Irish. Poor families could live off of chestnuts for months. They would even store some for later and grind up into flour for bread or as spices for soup.

The times have changed, however, and now it’s expensive for farmers to grow chestnuts in France. Although the author of my cookbook claims that it’s not a bad investment if you are patient. It can take four years for a decent crop though.

My favorite history lesson from this book was how it talked about farmers and their families.  Apparently chestnut season falls around the same time corn has dried on the stalks. I found this interesting on multiple levels because I had assumed corn was only grown in the Americas. It’s native to America, yes, but I don’t know why I had assumed it wouldn’t be imported to Europe. Anyway, in the evening after the corn was harvested, farmers and their families would snack on chestnuts, cheese, and wine as they husked.

This is such an easy recipe. It’s ridiculously easy. All you do is boil chestnuts with Star Anise. That’s it. You just patiently wait while they boil and let it soak up flavoring from the Star Anise.

After the boiling, you drain the water and take out the star anise. I actually left the star anise with the chestnuts, though, because I thought they looked pretty mixed in.

This recipe came to me right before I left Los Angeles to join my family in Indiana for the holidays. I thought this was perfect timing because chestnuts make me think of Christmas because of the Christmas carol song lyric, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”

It was also perfect timing because my acting class was having a Christmas party. My classmates admittedly didn’t know what to do with them at first. I started to feel a little embarrassed that I had brought them, admittedly. One of my teachers joked that he thought it was decoration, because it looked like potpourri.

I wasn’t offended at all. It did look like potpourri. Eventually some of my classmates tried it and they were all surprised by how soft the insides were. We also made a lot of jokes about the old christmas carol and how the chestnuts weren’t exactly cooked on an open fire. We’re entertainers, what can you expect?

I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of my tasty potpourri but I’m sure you can use your imagination by combining the two pictures below.

Star Anise

Chestnuts