Tag Archives: French Recipe

Vols-au-vent: Spiced Poached Pears with Hazelnut Sabayon

Vol-au-vent with Hazelnut Sabayon and  Spiced Poached Pears
It was only a matter of time that I’d have to revisit the task of making pate feuilletee again.  My first run-in with the multi-layered French pastry dough was also my first Daring Baker challenge over two years ago.  The result was truly something that might qualify as an organic building material considering the sheer weight of it and lack of any discernible layers.  It was awful.  But when I saw this month’s  challenge, I knew I’d be ready to tackle it again.  After all, it’s been over two years, so my trauma has subsided and I’ve been more preoccupied by what kind of dessert I’d create with the puff pastry we were asked to make.

It’s officially Fall, so pears are plentiful here.  Nuts always make me think of Fall as well, but what kind, and what to fill the pastry with?  Leafing through  The French Laundry Cookbook, I found the perfect recipe and decided that it would be the perfect way to welcome in my favorite season.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent, which we are pretty sure in French means, “After one bite we could die and go to heaven!”

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Chocolate Mousse

It figures that after a rather extended break from blogging for the holidays, I’d surface to confess that for the first time since joining the Daring Bakers 18 challenges ago, I decided not to participate in the bake fest this month.

I’m feeling quite sheepish about it, too, so I’m not going to bore you with my whining  and excuses.  Instead, I’ll send you to this month’s hosts, Hilda of Saffron and Blueberry and Marion of Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux to take a gander at the French Yule Log I was to have made — but didn’t.  It is quite the beautiful creation!

Instead, I have a simple, but decadent chocolate mousse that we enjoyed after our Christmas dinner with some sweetened cream and raspberries.  This is my favorite chocolate mousse recipe because it’s very straight forward, so quick to make, and very, very chocolatey.

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The Day Julia Child Kicked my Butt

Welcome to the latest adventures of one Daring Baker.  This month I took on a challenge posed by bread guru Mary at The Sour Dough and the lovely Sara of I Like to Cook who really put me to task on this one.  Yessirree.  If you’d like to see the recipe, please visit their sites for the study in wonder.  I could think of a much worse way to spend and entire weekend than with the incomparable Julia Child, whom I love with all my foodie heart and sweet soul.  But this day will forever be referred to as The Day Julia Child Kicked my Butt.

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Roasted Chicken with Bacon and Mushroom Sauce

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I am more inclined to think of a special dinner to make instead of which restaurant I’d like to visit.  I know.  Huge surprise.  It isn’t that I don’t enjoy eating out — we love to and have done so for years, choosing different restaurants each time just to see how many we can sample.

But it’s such a luxury to prepare a special meal for only two — something I rarely get to do.  The last time I went all out for Valentine’s Day, we still lived in our old house.  It was a beautiful California Ranch built in 1948 that only one other family had lived in before we arrived, constructed with gorgeous pegged oak flooring that had aged to a deep caramel color and was soft to the touch.  I used to hand wax it, believe it or not!  In the living room, there were enormous hand hewn beams that supported the roof and ceiling constructed of tongue and groove hand milled cedar.  The bricks that lined the large hearth were from antique foundries and varied in color and shape.  When there was a fire crackling in it, the room warmed to a golden color, and I could think of no place I’d rather be.

So I set up a table for two in front of the fireplace and made lobster and fennel napoleons to start, and individual beef wellingtons.  We enjoyed our dinner with a very dry bottle of Cabernet and candle light.  It was completely lovely.

But that was then.  As I said, it isn’t often that I get to take the time to pull something like that off.  Usually, I’m feeding more like ten or fifteen which isn’t exactly romantic.  It is fun though, and I’d truly enjoy it.

So where am I going with this?  Sharing.  That’s all.  Just passing on a suggestion for a great main course for Valentine’s Day.  I’ve tried this recipe twice just this past January– amazing in and of itself — and both times, it has turned out excellently to the ummmmms and whoooooaaaaaas of those lucky enough to sample it.
The recipe is one that comes from a source I’ve mentioned a few times in the last month — Saveur.  It’s not a challenging recipe at all, which is what makes it that much more amazing.  The first time I made it, a crowd was coming.  We were going to celebrate as an extended family after we returned from VA this past Christmas, so I wanted to prepare something delicious, but without all the fanfare of a traditional holiday meal.  “Poussins en Cocotte ‘Bonne Femme'” or “Poussins with Bacon and Mushroom Sauce” seemed perfect for the occasion.

Since I absolutely knew I wouldn’t be able to get poussins at any of my regular markets on that day and didn’t feel like searching elsewhere, I decided to use organic roasting chickens that I purchased at Trader Joe’s instead– three four to five pounders.  Using the basic directions for roasting chicken (convection roast at 325 degrees F 18-20 min. per pound — internal temp. 180 degrees F in thigh), I kept to the directions for the original recipe as closely as possible — even the searing.  And you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried to sear three fat chickens in a roasting pan over four stove burners.  Suffice it to say that a sturdy wooden spoon shoved into each orifice of each bird gets the job done fairly well even if it was still a bit awkward!

The photographs are awful because I had left my Canon in VA and was waiting for my sister to ship it.  So much for my old HP digital!  The difference in picture quality between the two cameras is amazing.

The chickens turned out deliciously —  the meat was extremely tender and moist, and the sauce created in the pan was beyond amazing.  Truly excellent.  So good I knew I had to make the recipe in its original form — with the required poussins which I found at Whole Foods while cruising the meat counter one afternoon.

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Chicken in Lemon-Parsley Sauce

If you’ve been scouring this little corner of the web, you’ve probably figured out I have a problem with cooking magazines.  And I’ve been trying to kick that habit to help save a few trees, but I just can’t seem to actually cut the cord.  Sunset has finally had me submit a “No” sticker on yet another “You REALLY don’t want our magazine any more?” envelope.  Gourmet has thrown me in their inactive file, but they’re not serious because I can see through the window on the envelope that they have yet a new low, low offer to hook me up again.  I’m tempted because I actually read Gourmet and like it — unlike the waves of stodgy folk who have recently begun to bash the editor for ruining the magazine (read:  update it for people younger than those who are complaining).  Cook’s has been gone for almost a year now.  Food & Wine is ready to run out.  Living has dwindled to nothing.  And Bon Appetit?  Susan Fairchild, the editor, completely gave it a makeover so I’m afraid I’m not going to resist renewing my subscription.  But Saveur?  I have to keep it.   It’s truly one of the most unusual food magazines around, and I love it.  Yes I save all the issues.  Yes, I tag them, and reuse them, and keep them perfectly stacked by date close to my kitchen.

Now that I’ve confirmed your thinking, let’s move along.  I have a friend who isn’t as passionate about food as I am.  She’s intelligent, opinionated, and has the most dry sense of humor I’ve come across.  She recently left a comment on my Pastel de Cuatro Leches post about putting something together that doesn’t have so many steps.  As a result, I’ve chosen a recipe from the April 2006 issue of Saveur from the superb article, “Vive le Restaurant” by James Villas about Manhattan’s Le Veau D’Or, one of the last great hold outs of French cuisine.

Cooper, this one’s for you.  I promise it is very easy, and will garner sighs of satisfaction when eaten.  You will love it.  Invite a few close friends to dinner, put them to work, drink plenty of wine, and I guarantee you’ll remember the food and the night.

Of course, I have yet again taken liberties with a recipe.  The original recipe, Escalopines de Veau or Veal Scallops with Lemon-Parsley Sauce sounds perfectly wonderful.  In fact, when I actually plan to make this again (which my husband and son have threatened me to promise to do) I will purchase veal.  However, I had some beautiful chicken breasts in the freezer and knew they would be simply perfect for this recipe.  I know you’ll agree.

Chicken in Lemon-Parsley Sauce

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 c. vegetable stock (use pre-made or bouillion like I did…)
14 T cold butter, cut into cubes
1-1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T fresh parsley, chopped

Ahead of time, decide if you’re going to get fancy with this dish.  In other words, you may consider cutting the chicken breasts into smaller pieces — smaller round pieces that you cut with a sharp cookie cutter.  I didn’t do this, because I’m more of a chicken fried steak kind of person and just let the chicken decide which shape it wants to be. 

Make the Chicken:

  1. One at a time, place each chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Using a meat mallet or, if you’re me, a rolling pin, pound the meat until it is about 1/2″ thick.  If you can, 1/4″ is even better.  As each piece is finished, remove it to a plate and cover it with plastic.
  2. Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.  Pour the flour onto a plate and set aside.  Season each piece of chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour on both sides, shaking the excess back onto the plate.  Do not stack the chicken as you finish.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over med-high heat and saute chicken until golden brown on each side.  The time will differ depending on how thin your chicken is.  The chicken will finish in the oven, so it’s better not to over do it.
  4. Transfer each piece onto a baking pan, and if possible, fitted with a rack.  I used a cooling rack set on the pan.  Keep the chicken warm while you make the sauce.

Make the Sauce:

  1. Using the same skillet you sauteed the chicken in, pour the veggie stock in and stir, scraping up the brown bits left in the pan.  Cook over med-high heat and reduce until there is about 1 cup of liquid left.  This takes about 10 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the small cubes of butter (I know there are a lot…) a few at a time, stirring until each is melted before adding more.
  3. Add the lemon juice, taste the sauce, and add more salt and pepper to your liking.  Cook until slightly thickened.
  4. Add the parsley and stir.
  5. Remove the chicken from the oven and return it to the skillet with the sauce.  Cook gently for about 5 minutes


  1. Divide chicken and sauce between four plates and serve.
  2. Dig in and swoon.  Seriously.

Notes:  I served this with some steamed carrots seasoned with fleur de sel, pepper and tossed in a bit of olive oil.  They were lovely.  This recipe is so easy considering the amazing results.  It is truly wonderful.  I wish there was less butter in it, though, and will cut it in half the next time I make it, but I just had to try it this way once.