A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
2 Great News to announce!
You can now install The Cooking Ninja free application on your Android phone (if you have one obviously) and access my blog & recipes easily from your phone. Just search for "cooking ninja" on the Android application market.
And we have finally decided on our love nest. It's only about 5 minutes walk to Little One's school. That means Little One gets to sleep for another hour before getting ready to go to school. The only down side of the deal is that we'll need to take a bus to the nearest train station (10 minutes away) to go down town. But hey, it's what is best for our kid that counts the most right? Boy, we are so ready to move in right away as Little One (not just her, us too) is exhausted from waking up like 6.30 am to take the train and bus (about an hour of commuting) to school every morning and back. Yesterday night, she was so tired that she hardly ate her dinner and went to bed at 7.30 pm. Anyway, the apartment isn't ready until next month and we don't have any furniture at all. So there are lots of things to sort out before we can settle down and feel home. And I hope to satisfy my baker & cook itch in me soon. Pierre (so do Little One), needlessly to say, is dying for a nice western (French) home cook meal.
Now today's recipe has very much to do with this month's book choice The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaeffer and Annie Barrows' for our « This Book Makes Me Cook » club. Read on and you will soon know why.
This book came highly recommended by my mother-in-law at the beginning of this year, who went on to buy a copy for her own library. Before I sat down and read it, she warned me that it is not written in the ordinary book way but in a form of series of letters and that if I can get it beyond that oddity, I would fall in love with book like she did. What can I say, this book is indeed a gem and how right she was!
Set in London and Guernsey Island, the story is about an author, Juliet, in search for a new inspiration and angle to write a new book, who became friends with the inhabitants of the island shortly after the end of World War II through correspondence. She was rather intrigued by the name of a book club 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society'. Least to say, not just her but us, the readers are rather curious about its name sake too. I love the way the author create each characters, giving them each an unique voice that endear themselves to the readers, making them so real and the depths of friendship and relationship that binds the characters in the story. This book evokes both happiness and sadness in the readers as if we were right there living with the inhabitants of Guernsey and making the reader sad that it has come to an end.
For this book, I would like to introduce a super simple French classic side dish called 'Pommes Rissolée' that is often present on the table in every French household with either steak, fish or pork. It's a big favourite among the young and old. Thank you Michèle (mom-in-law) for showing me how to make this.
It's unbelievable how such a simple dish like this can taste so good and full of aroma - crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. With or without the parsley, this dish still smell so good but of course the parsley bring it to another height in flavour.
Most of the time I only panfried it with olive oil but on the occasion when I have some duck fats (leftover oil from duck confit), I can't resist pan fry the potatoes with it. It's heavenly awesome. Try it and you'll know what I mean by it.
Some slice the potatoes instead and pan fry them the same way.
It seems like the Flu just can't stop from visiting us this winter : our poor daughter is running around blowing bubbles with her runny nose - she finds it very interesting (sigh!) and a nasty cough. Though it doesn't like it is bothering her too much. Now she likes to share her dirty hanky ... first she will wipe her nose and then she insists on wiping my nose and then Pierre's. Ugh!
Back to something more appetizing : one of the most classic French gratin is gratin dauphinois (originated from Dauphiné), made up of mainly potatoes and heavy cream (crème fraîche). There are many different ways of cooking it, some cook the potatoes with milk first before baking it, some just bake it with milk or just plain cream. Some (to the food snobs horror) even add grated cheese to it, making it something called gratin savoyard.
Well cooked, the potatoes litteraly melt in your mouth and the cream makes it even more smooth! It's a nice side dish to go with some red meat.
You can either spread the milk-cream mixture on top of the potatoes or you can spread a bit of the mixture on each layer of potatoes.
You can do different variations with this dish like sprinkling grated cheese and bread crumbs on top of it, however it will not be called gratin dauphinois anymore.
This is another French recipe from my mother-in-law, Michèle. This big potato pie is rather delicious, and as often in this case, not the best thing for your diet ! It goes well as a side with some meat, but we also like to eat it as a main course (with salad) since you are unlikely to end up hungry after downing a portion
Well my first attempt at it turned out to be a masterpiece, although a bit by accident: I added a bit more bacon then normal (the "official" recipe use only 150 g) to finish a box, and the potatoes were well cooked to the point of melting in your mouth. With the cream, the result is a very delicious (and rich) texture, smooth in the mouth and with that tasty smoky bacon flavour. Yummy ! The crunchy crust around makes the whole experience even better. This is definitely one of Pierre's favorite recipe as well
Some variants skip the bacon but use a lot of parsley to enhance the flavor. We are not a big fan of parsley but if that's your thing, you might like to have a go at it.
Gnocchi (pronounced 'ɲɔkki ) means dumplings in Italian (gnocchi is the plural of gnocco, which literally means 'lump') - made of potato and flour (there are different variations) that Pierre and some of my friends love so much. It's amazing how many food in common my friends have with my better half. It's just so weird at times. Now, here's how our gnocchi adventure started:
A few days ago, while I was chatting with my friends on-line, I got a message from Pierre with a link to an article from Le Monde newspaper. I did a quick read through without really noting anything special about it. After a long silence from my part, Pierre asked me from his desk excitedly : Did you read the article I sent you ? to which I answered Yeah, so ? and he was going Well ? ... me : hmm... not bad. At this point, he was getting a bit exasperated at my air nonchalant. Him: Isn't it cool that she made gnocchi herself ? with that hopeful look in his eyes. I was about to say hmm, yeah. So ? again when it finally hit me. Oh you mean you want me to make these gnocchis ? ... now tell me, how can I say "no" to that "excited wishful puppy" look.
Makes : 4 - 6
Wow! It's a million times better than the prepackaged ones. Everybody loves it, even my picky 1 year old baby. It's soft and taste like thick pasta with a slight potato flavour. It is not chewy like those industrial ones from the supermarket. I personally love it - I wasn't a fan before but now I'm converted (and I'm not saying this because it's me who made it !) Pierre and our guests had theirs with the gorgonzola cheese sauce while I had mine with crème fraîche mixed with a bit of butter (not a fan of blue cheese).
Regarding the preparation itself, I made them using fresh potatoes because I didn't understand what it means by "Vieilles pommes de terre". I thought it was some special type of potatoes. I just didn't make the connection between "vieille" and "old" in English. (I know, I know ... silly me, go ahead and have a good laugh - I don't know where was my brain that day). Next I over mashed the potato in my enthusiasm that it became a puree. And I should have worked the dough on a work surface instead of a big bowl. In the end, I had to use almost 500 g of flour to get a nice dough - over twice what the recipe said.
By the way, rolling the gnocchi on the fork to get the shell-like shape takes some practice but you will get the hook of it pretty fast. Or you can just simply imprint your gnocchi with your fork or thumb.
I'm so glad that with all the silly mistakes that I made, they still turned out great. That made my day!
Don't drain gnocchi in a colander as you would do with pasta. Gnocchi are very soft and may be damaged.
It is preferably that you use old potatoes which have higher starch content than fresh potatoes and avoid my mistake.
The classic accompaniments of gnocchi are tomato sauce, brown butter or sage sauce, or melted butter and cheese.