Monday, December 17, 2012

Béchamel sauce

Some history

Béchamel or Béchamelle is a white sauce made from 3 ingredients: milk, butter and flour. It is used as a base in cooking. It was created by Louis de Béchameil who was a Marquis working for Louis XIV. He was in charge of his cooking and domestic personal.

The recipe

Prep. time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 2 minutes
Cost: $

Ingredients (for 4 people):

- 8.5 fl oz of 2% fat milk
- 0.7 oz of butter
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- pinch of salt and pepper
- Optional: a very, very small pinch of nutmeg


- In a big pot, melt the butter (on low heat).
- Remove butter from heat and add little by little the flour. Mix it well. Remove from heat.
- In a small pot, slowly boil the milk and let it boil for a couple of seconds.
- Pour the milk on the butter / flour while whipping it constantly.
- Put the big pot back on low heat and keep mixing / whipping for a minute or 2 or until you reach the desired consistency.
- Whip it well to avoid lumps.

C'est tout!

You can use this sauce in lasagnas, with poultry, pasta, anything you like :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Vin chaud (mulled wine)

Mulled wine is mostly served in France in winter time. While you ski in the Alps you can find a lot restaurants and cafes serving mulled wine.
It is also very popular in the Scandinavian countries and in Italy and Germany.

It is nice to serve some to your friends in a cold afternoon while playing games :)

Red wine is mainly used but variations with white wine exist too.

The recipe 

Prep. time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Cost: $$ 

Ingredients for about 12 servings:

- 2 bottles of red wine (1.5 Liters). I recommend a Bourgogne or Pinot noir
- 7 oz of brown sugar
- 1 medium size orange
- 1 lemon
- 2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cloves
- 1 piece of fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoon of honey 
- a small pinch of nutmeg
- 2 star anise
- a couple of red currants


- Get zest from the orange and lemon
- Then cut the orange and lemon into pieces
- Slice the ginger
- Mix all the ingredients in a big pot
- Bring it to a boil very gently
- Let it delicately boil for 5 minutes

Serving ideas:

You can serve the wine in a carafe (and use some clear glass mugs). If you serve it individually in mugs, you can add some decorations: the cinamon sticks, orange slices, star anises, etc.

Mulled wine goes very well with gingerbread, sugared doughnut (beignet au sucre) or an apple pie (without cinnamon please :))


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Strawberry jam in microwave: fast and delicious

This recipe can be a life saver in France since the vast majority of stores are closed on Sundays. It implies you have strawberries and sugar at home though :) Imagine it is Sunday and your kids don't have any jam for their breakfast on Monday! Plus they will love Mommy's homemade jam.
If you're in a rush, this recipe is perfect. Very fast and easy to do with the microwave!

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 15+ minutes

Needed tools: jars of glass, a large microwavable bowl and a plate to put in your freezer

Cost: $

Ingredients (for approx. 2 mid size jars):

- 18 oz of strawberries (fresh or unfrozen)
- 16 oz of sugar
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice

Preparation and cooking:

- Take a small plate and put it in your freezer (you will use it to test if your jam is ready).
- Hull the strawberries and cut them into 2 or 4.
- Put them in the bowl and add the lemon juice. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Microwave it for 5 minutes on high.
- Crush the strawberries (using a fork should be enough) if you don't like big chunks of fruits.
- Add the sugar, stir and microwave again for 5 minutes on high.
- Stir and microwave on high for 5 minutes again. Make sure your bowl is big enough (the jam will gain a little in volume).
- Remove your plate from your freezer. Take a spoon of your jam and put some on your plate. Leave it for 1 minute to cool.
- Run your finger through the jam in your plate. If it is too runny, microwave it on high for 2 more minutes.
- Replace the plate in the freezer and redo the plate test + 2 minute microwaving as needed.
- Pour jam while still hot in sterilized jars, seal them and put them upside down to create a vaccuum. Leave them in this position until cold. If you press the lid, there should not be any sound.

You can see in this video how to sterilize jars and how to make sure jars are properly sealed.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Stuffed Champignons (Honey Goat cheese, Pancetta)

A little history first

Champignon also called in the US white mushroom, Italian mushroom... is called in France "Champignon de Paris" (mushroom from Paris). Unfortunately this mushroom seems to come more specifically from Saumur (a beautiful town with a rich history, wine and culinary production...), in the Pays de la Loire region. Apparently one of King Louis XIV's gardeners cultivated this mushroom!

You will probably laugh but France is the fourth producer of Champignons in the world. The major part is "made in China" :-), followed by the United States and the Netherlands!

At maturity, this mushroom becomes what we call here: a Portobello.

A few facts

You can eat champignons raw in salads, or cooked.
They really don't have a lot calories: 3.5 oz has about 15 calories, no carbs, no fat, 0.1 oz of protein and is a nice source of Vitamin D.

The recipe

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: approx. 15 minutes

Cost: $$

Ingredients: For approx. 6 servings
- Some lemon juice or red / white vinegar (to wash the mushrooms)
- 24 oz of fresh white mushrooms
- 1 small shallot
- Olive oil
- 5 oz of Pancetta (or finely chopped bacon for a cheaper alternative)
- 3 oz of goat cheese (you can find some really good one at Costco!)
- 2 oz of sour cream
- Half tea spoon of honey
- 2 table spoons of grated Parmesan
- A pinch of pepper and an even smaller pinch of salt
- Optional seasoning: a pinch of basil, thyme, fennel, lavender (I add all of them).

Preparation and Cooking:

- Wash mushrooms in a water with some lemon juice or red or white vinegar (so they will not darken).
- Dice very finely the shallot.
- In a skillet, add some olive oil, over medium heat, add the shallots and diced Pancetta.
- Turn occasionally for approx. 8 minutes or until it has browned. Then put on low heat to keep it warm.
- In the meantime, preheat oven to 400° F and remove stems from mushrooms.
- Add salt, pepper and herbs to the shallots and Pancetta.
- Add the goat cheese, sour cream and honey and stir.
- Once the whole mixture has melted, you can stuff the mushrooms with a spoon.
- Add a drop of olive oil on each mushroom and put sparingly the Parmesan on top of them.
- Put it in the oven 10 to 15 minutes.
- Tip you can present the mushrooms on top of a think layer of Arugula.