Birthday Cheesecake!

This is going to be a short post, because I’ve taken a nyquil and have about 10 minutes before I fall into a wonderful drug-induced slumber.

Yesterday was my birthday!  And a few days before was my partenaire de langue’s birthday, which is where this post actually starts.  Sophie, aka the most cute and wonderful french person in the world, spent six months in Minnesota teaching English to high school students.  While there she decided she loved cheesecake!  Like any good American right?

So obviously I was going to make her a cheesecake for her birthday.  But graham crackers dont exist here, so I made everything better with the addition of speculoos cookies.

Which had to be crushed with the back of an espresso cup (sooo francais).  It was a labor of love.

I mixed in some melted butter and baked the whole thing for 15 minutes. Then let it cool in the fridge while I mixed up this heavenly batter.  I want to take a bath in it.  But that would be gross.

I found real creamcheese at monoprix, then added creme fraiche instead of sour cream, some sugar, three eggs, lemon zest and vanilla.  Tip: make sure everything is room temperature before you mix it!  It really helps.  Especially if you don’t have a stand mixer.  Psh technology.

Here it is all done and pretty!  If I were a real overachiever I would make a creme fraiche/sugar topping and pour it over the top, but I’m not.

P.S. this whole time I was eating toast with REAL BUTTER!  I’ve missed milkfat oh so much.

Sophie liked her cheesecake!  I forgot to get a photo of it all cut up pretty because, well, I was too busy eating it.  And it was good.

Quick update on my birthday (or more specifically, what I ate on my birthday):

Pistachio creme cake from brunch (tiny mushroom so cute! ah! and delicious)

And a hot toasted sandwich from Fanny’s.  We wanted this same sandwich cold, not hot, which is two euros less, but inexplicably they were out of bread for cold sandwiches and only had bread for hot sandwiches.  Even though it was the same bread.  WTF (If you don’t read David Lebovitz’s blog like I do, Welcome to France).

My dear friends Alex and Maddy also made me this interesting flan.  It was not bad!  It’s the thought that counts anyway right?  We dipped bread in the caramel sauce and ate it.

But these salted brown butter (once again) shortbread, Alex’s specialty, were gone in five seconds flat.  Mostly in my stomach. Here is a nice close-up of Maddy eating one.

So that’s it!

 

 

Clafoutis (Claw-foo-tea)

Clafoutis sounds fancy, and it kinda is.  But it’s also easy and awesome. Score!

It’s basically a kind of custard baked over fruit, traditionally berries, ESPECIALLY traditionally cherries.  But here in the south of France it’s not cherry season, so that’s not gonna fly.  And since strawberries are red like cherries, so they’ll work right? Right.

Aren’t they just dahling?

I ran into a few obstacles making this recipe (but that’s what makes this blog fun, right?)  Those included: running out of flour, discovering no eggs were left and therefore asking a neighbor to help me out, having only 42% fat content fake-butter to work with, a lack of cornstarch, and of course my old arch-nemesis, though now in powder form…

Some day I will vanquish you.

But Patrick’s favorite dessert is clafoutis, so I had to give it the old college try.  In your version of this, please PLEASE use real sugar.  Or cane sugar!  Or even brown sugar could be interesting. Mmmm…brown sugar…

Here are all the ingredients measured out!  Flour, almond powder, almonds (cause I like them), and a bit of salt.  Always a bit of salt!

It’s pretty!  Food art.

You mix the dries, then add the wets!  Eggs one at a time, milk to thin it out, butter to add richness.  Please use full fat butter, and if you brown it that’s ok with me.

Then chop the strawberries and arrange them all pretty-like in a dish.  Like this!

Pour the batter over the strawberries.  They were meant to be together!

Bake til golden and if you stick a fork in it’s not wet.  We had a debate in my host family over whether to eat it hot or cold, but in the end we couldn’t wait and had it hot.  With fromage blanc, aka fluffy delicious yogurt. But Patrick put the leftovers in the fridge and I have a sneaking suspicion they won’t be there tomorrow morning…

Make this with vanilla!  Orange zest!  Almond extract!  Ground hazelnuts!  Pears!  Rhubarb!  Rum! Whatever tickles your fancy.

Here’s a pic of Asky, it’s been a while and I bet you’re wondering how he’s doing.  He’s so sleepy and cute!  Scroll down for more dog pictures!!

This recipe was feature on NPR, so you know it’s good.

Strawberry Clafoutis

Serves 6. (Or, in our case, 4)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter

1 1/2 pint (3 cups or 20 ounces) fresh strawberries

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup whole blanched almonds

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

A pinch of salt

3 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon light rum (optional)

Confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8-inch-square glass or ceramic baking dish (or 6 1-cup ramekins for a more elegant presentation) with one tablespoon of the butter. Melt the remaining butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat (or in a small bowl set in the microwave for a few seconds) and set aside.

Rinse the strawberries under cool water — do not soak or they will loose some of their flavor. Drain in a colander for a few minutes, and gently pat dry with a clean dishtowel.

In a food processor or blender, mix together the flour and almonds until finely ground. Add the sugar, cornstarch and salt, and mix again. Crack in the eggs one by one, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Pour in the melted butter, milk and rum if using, and mix again until well blended. The mixture will be thin, like crepe batter.

Hull the strawberries, cut in halves or quarters depending on their size, and arrange in a single layer in the prepared dish or ramekins. Drizzle the batter over the strawberries, and put the dish in the oven to bake for 40 minutes (30 minutes if you use ramekins), until puffy and set.

Transfer dish to a rack, and let cool to room temperature. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, and serve directly from the baking dish or ramekins. Clafoutis is traditionally served on its own, but if you like you can add a few fresh strawberries on the side, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a little whipped cream.

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THIS FLUFFER?

This was in Atlanta when it snowed last year!  I found it on the camera.  This next one is a personal favorite of mine

I love the fear in his eyes.

No Good Very Bad Day

This morning started off great.  I got ready early enough to walk to town, and I remembered my ipod so I got to listen to my 80’s playlist while walking by olive groves.  So yeah, pretty good start.

Then I got in town.  And realized that while wearing a skirt with no tights is normal in 70 degree weather in Atlanta, in France it is not.  Not sure how they can get away with putting boobs on billboards but bare legs are somehow offensive.  So I got all these weird stares.

Then I got a text from my host mom chastizing me for eating the rest of a quiche for breakfast.

Then at my work with adorable yet evil 5 year old children the teacher left early putting me in charge, which of course was a terrible idea, because french children need a lot of discipline.  I’ve seen the teachers hitting kids, publicly mocking them, and sending them to the corner of the classroom for hours without breaking a sweat.  They smelled my weakness immediately, and in five seconds they were running all over the playground disregarding my attempts to corral them like the crazy little animals they are.  So I got chastized again by one of the french teachers, who in two words had them standing silently in neat lines.  I don’t know how they do it

Oh yeah and we don’t have hot water at my house.

So I decided to make a dinner as a peace offering for my host mom.  Which is where this probably becomes actually interesting to you.

I started with leeks, aka poireaux, because I’ve been obsessed with them ever since I had steamed leeks in vinaigrette in Paris.  I remembered there was old rice leftover in the frigo, and a brilliant idea popped into my brain.  If there was a lightbulb up above my head it would have lit right up.

FRIED RICE.  Cause my normal comfort food to take the edge off a bad day would, of course, be mac and cheese (real or kraft variety).  But seeing as my host family had a deathly fear of anything containing more than 2 grams of fat, that was not a real option.  So fried rice is was.

Basically I chopped up carrots, leeks, ginger (which I splurged on at the market, but you could use powdered. not as good though), and a garlic clove.

IMPORTANT: you need to let your leeks soak a bit, because they are quite sandy.  Put them in a colander in a big bowl of water like this.  Let them sit 5 minutes.  Drain.

Otherwise your food will be gritty. Ew.

So you heat up some oil in a saucepan (not olive oil, this is asian food dummy!) and drop everybody in the pan!  Make sure its big enough to accomodate the rice later on.  Stir everything around, add some soy sauce and some red pepper flakes, some sesame oil if you have it, and wait until the leeks are wilty and the carrots soft.  Oh yeah, you can totally put anything in this.  Red peppers? Yep.  Mushrooms?  Most def.  Salted caramel butter sauce?  Why not, that stuff is the nectar of the gods.

Then add your rice!  Stir everything around for a few minutes til the rice is hot and crispy.  Then make a little hole in the mixture and drop in an egg.  Or more if you feel like it.  Wait a second and then stir it all around

Miam miam!  That sounds kind of asian but is actually french.

My host family loved it!  And so will you I hope.  Cause I know youre going to go make this immediately for all your friends and family and coworkers.

Also, its been faaaar too long since I posted dog pictures. So here ya go!

This dog barks at me everyday when I come home.  Look at his tongue!

NEWFYYY!!! Pretty much the ultimate dog.  My host family refers to him as “the dog that is really a horse”  Here is in in action of jumping up on the fence and licking my face

Also here is a cat that was sitting right outside his reach on the other side of the fence.  I said it once and I”ll say it again, cats are evil.

So all in all, I guess even the worst days in Provence really aren’t so bad.  Especially when a newfy lives next door to you.