Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fireworks by Fontainebleau Palace

We walked through the palace grounds one sunny afternoon and saw people setting up fireworks for a private convention. We found out that there was to be fireworks around 9:30 pm that night. The palace grounds are closed to the public by late afternoon and we were told that we could watch the fireworks at the park across the palace moat. It was a really cold evening and when we got to the park, we had to walk in pitch blackness. We could hear voices around and that made the trek seem less spooky. The fireworks was spectacular... with the palace in the background and music playing, it was quite the show. The beginning was like it was from a war scene with all the red that covered the palace. The poor swan that was on the water in front of us didn't know what was happening from the booming noise and sparkling fires falling from the sky. It was paddling really quickly and I felt sorry for the bird and a little ashamed at the disturbance the fireworks was causing to the wildlife around. The park wasn't crowded and by the end of the show everyone was clapping with joy.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Braised Veal Cheeks

Miam Miam (yum yum in French). I had bought some lovely veal cheeks at the market and looked around the internet for a recipe and found one for Braised beef cheeks at epicurious.com. That should work, I thought. Indeed it did! I didn't have cocoa powder so I just left it out and I substituted the recommended wine for lovely Bourgogne Pinot Noir. This dish is incredibly tasty! I made a mashed potato side dish with black truffle paste and butter served with stir fried spinach with garlic. I used the leftover sauce as pasta sauce for another meal.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 (12-oz) beef cheeks, trimmed of excess fat
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1/2 celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups red wine (preferably a dry Lambrusco or Chianti)
1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes including juice, chopped (3 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in an ovenproof 6-quart wide heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. While oil is heating, pat beef cheeks dry and season with salt and pepper. Brown beef, without crowding, on all sides, about 20 minutes total, and transfer with tongs to a bowl. Pour off fat from pot, then add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and cook onion, carrot, and celery over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Stir cocoa powder into vegetable mixture, then add wine and scrape up any brown bits. Increase heat to high and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

Return cheeks (with any juices) to pot and add tomatoes with juice, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then braise, covered, in middle of oven until very tender, about 3 hours.

Cooks' note: • Beef cheeks improve in flavor if made up to 2 days ahead. Cool, uncovered, then chill, surface covered with parchment paper or wax paper and pot covered with lid. Remove any solidified fat before reheating.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ooh.. I've very excited about this site I came across looking to find out how to cook duck breast. channel4.com has videos on the Gordon Ramsay cookalong live series. I've never watched his Hell's Kitchen or other shows but I've seen briefly how very rude and insulting he can be, so I've never really paid much attention to his shows or to him. But having seen 2 of his cookalong series, I really love it. The videos are fastpaced, edgy and to the point. It shows a different side of Gordon Ramsay, one that I respect and watch with pure pleasure!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Possibly the Best Canned Sardines Ever

I was shoppping for groceries at the Monoprix and happened to come across these beautiful expensive boxes of packaged tinned fish (a little over 5€). First impression based on the delicate and pastel ornate design without having seen the price was "high quality and expensive". I wondered how these would taste compared to the ones I usually buy back in Toronto which was usually the Brunswick brand. Not that I would have any other to compare to that I could say of these Albert Ménès sardines being absolutly the best. In the moments of my first bite, I was wowed by the flavor and texture of these fabulous sardines. It has a bit of a nuttier flavor, most likely because of the extra virgin olive oil it was submerged in. They were good and chunky and very delicious. I hope I can find these back home.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I love the sculptured trees in the gardens of the palace of Fontainebleau. Here's a simple sketch that was done quite meditatively. It was the only day I went outside to draw since I've been here for almost 2 weeks, when the weather was warm enough and my hands wouldn't freeze.

I have to admit, the first time I cooked these scallops, it was missing something. After Foodhogger commented, I realized the missing ingredient. Garlic! Thanks Foodhogger! So this time, I cooked the scallops with a little bit of butter, garlic. Sprinkled some salt and black pepper, drizzled a bit of extra virgin olive oil and topped it up with sage. After tasting it... much improvement. Something else was needed to give it that extra wow factor. Lemon! It was perfect... a squeeze of fresh lemon made the dish so much more complete! It's funny, but sometimes if I haven't cooked a dish in a long time, I forget to add specific ingredients. The extra thin haricots verts were a perfect complement to this dish.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I promised myself that I would paint and sketch more while I'm here in Fontainbleau. So far it's been a week and I've only done one sketch. I'm a little rusty at it. I haven't sketched for a very very long time... I hope to improve my drawing skills and painting while I'm here. Today I've started painting. The good thing is that I've started and I hope to keep it up. I'll post some of my artwork here as I go.