Poached Pears with Caramelized Chestnuts with Roquefort Cheese (Mauviel Series)

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One of my earliest food memories was the discovery of a pear tree in the schoolyard way back in kindergarten. It was a sunny late fall day and as I ran through the leaves, the strangely shaped brown apples caught my eye. The sweet aroma of wet leaves and fallen fruit was too much to resist so I grabbed one, and as soon as I was out of view of the teacher, I took my first bite. The soft, sweet, juicy flesh was so delicious that I instantly fell in love as I quickly ate as much as I could and got rid of the evidence among the leaves.

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I felt excitement mixed with guilt, and though I knew I could get in trouble, I repeated my crime several times over the following weeks. I would wait patiently for just the right moment when the teacher was distracted to sneak off for my secret treat until one day when I was surprised to find almost all of the fruit was gone. I could see a few hanging higher up, and decided I could climb high enough to reach one. As I wriggled my way up between the branches, I found a place to wedge my foot and as I leaned out to reach my prize, I spotted the teacher walking quickly in my direction. In my panic to climb down my foot slipped, and for a few seconds I felt like I was floating.

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It took a moment to realize I was hanging upside down from the tree, my other foot still wedged in the perfect spot. The teachers worked quickly to get me loose, and though I was uninjured, I knew my secret was out. I did not get in trouble for my mischief, but the teachers watched me a little more closely from that day on. Though I still love pears today, I almost never climb trees, preferring to buy them.

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One of my favorite ways to enjoy pears is with cheese and bread as a light snack, but poaching in simple syrup can deepen and enhance their delicate flavor, as well as turn them into a stunning formal dessert. To complement the concentrated flavors of cooked fruit, stronger, veined cheese and tender, caramelized chestnuts add richness and balance the sweetness. Citrus zest and Grand Marnier add a pop of freshness and acidity.

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Poaching fruit is a delicate process; as caramelization progresses it is important to avoid scorching or overcooking, and choosing the right pan can make a big difference. I chose a heavy Mauviel copper sauté for its instant reaction to flame adjustments, and because there will be no hot spots to watch over for burning. I can also use a lower flame, which prevents the fruit turning to mush. With the lid on, it essentially becomes a tiny steam oven, creating the perfect environment for gently cooking delicate foods.

Poached Pears with Caramelized Chestnuts and Roquefort Cheese
4 servings

Ingredients
4 pears, halved (any pears will do but bosc or red d’anjou have the best flavor)
12 chestnuts in shells
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
1 tablespoon lemon zest (finely grated)
1 tablespoon orange zest (finely grated)
1/2 lb Roquefort or other soft, ripe cheese, sliced in chunks (two or three per serving)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400’F.

Cut a 1/2″ X through the shell of each chestnut to prevent them bursting. Take care not to miss one or you’ll have a mess to clean out of the oven! I’ve never had one explode on me but I’ve seen the aftermath in a friend’s oven. Place the nuts in a shallow baking pan and bake for 20-30 minutes. You will know the nuts are done when the X’s open up and curl back. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before peeling. Be sure to prepare a few more than you need, the aroma is irresistible!

In a large, lidded sauté pan, melt butter then stir in honey, water and orange liqueur. Add the sliced pears flesh side down along with the shelled chestnuts and bring to a boil. Add the lemon and orange zest to the pan then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the pears are tender. Arrange pear slices and chestnuts on a serving plate, dress with additional syrup and roquefort or another pungent, soft cheese for an elegant dessert.

Products featured
Mauviel M’héritage Copper & Stainless Steel Saute Pan, cast iron handle
Revol Arborescence Coupe Bowl – Ivory
Revol Arborescence Rectangle Imitation Wood Serving Platter – Ivory
Revol Belle Cuisine Black Rectangle Baking Dish
John Boos Block Walnut Fusion Cutting Board
Wüsthof 4″ Pairing Knife Classic IKON
Piper-Heidsieck Rose Champagne
Leifheit Zester

Roasted Pork Loin with Shallots, Thyme and Sage with a Fennel and Orange Salad

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I’ve been testing out a beautiful new baking dish from Revol that looks like a cute little pig and so far my favorite dish to make in it is a tender glazed pork loin with shallots, fresh sage and thyme. The open shape and high sides deliver moist, gentle roasting and the generous size leaves plenty of space for adding vegetables.

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My favorite feature however is the cute little snout that makes a very convenient spout to pour drippings for making gravy. The textured black glaze gives it a cast iron look but luckily this little pig is made of lightweight porcelain which makes it an easy to handle serving dish as well!

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Roast pork loin & shallots with honey, sage, and thyme glaze
Serves 6

Roasted pork
3 Lbs whole pork loin, fat trimmed
6 large shallots, peeled and trimmed
5 fresh sage leaves
5 sprigs of thyme

Honey white wine vinegar glaze
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons Sauternes white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Season pork loin all over with sea salt and black pepper. In a hot skillet, add 2 Tbsp butter and brown loin on all sides, remove from pan. Saute whole shallots for five minutes then transfer to bottom of baking dish. Carefully set pork loin atop shallots and using a brush, pour glaze liberally all over pork, coating shallots with any remaining. Place thyme sprigs and sage leaves on top of roast, lightly cover baking dish with foil and roast in a 375 oven for 45 minutes, remove foil and continue to roast 15 minutes longer until a meat thermometer inserted in center of roast registers 145f. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes before slicing.

Roasted mushroom cream sauce
250g/8oz mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon beef beef stock paste
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 large shallots from roasting dish, diced

Add butter to medium hot skillet; when foam appears add mushrooms and toss to coat, then saute until soft (5 minutes). Add beef stock paste, stirring to dissolve. Stir corn starch into milk, add to skillet and bring to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fennel and orange salad
1 large Fennel bulb
2 medium oranges (I chose cara cara oranges for incredible flavor)
1 medium regular orange
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Remove stems from top of fennel bulb, reserving leaves for garnish. Slice fennel bulb in half vertically, make two v-shaped slices to remove core from each half, then slice thinly. Slice oranges into thick slices, trim rind from each slice and cut into sections. Add olive oil, juice of lime, and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with fennel leaves.

Products featured
Black Porcelain Pork Dish
White slate stone feel pizza pan –  Basalt (Serving pork)
Equinoxe Ceramic Large Coupe Plate
ARBORESCENCE Porcelain Breakfast Bowl in Ivory
ARBORESCENCE Coupe Plate in Ivory

Oysters and Tartare recipe by Boathouse Executive Chef James Morse in Traverse City, Michigan

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People either love or hate oysters, I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who was indifferent about them; there is just something so delightful about enjoying these briny little morsels of sweet tender flesh right out of their shells in their own natural broth. I never pass up a chance to have them, and although there are oyster bars in Chicago, my favorite place to enjoy them is up on Old Mission Peninsula north of Traverse City, Michigan where Executive Chef James Morse of The Boathouse serves up some of the tastiest oysters in the Midwest.

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On my last visit which was admittedly several months back, Chef Morse offered a tasting of some of his specialties; one which really stood out was the deep bay oysters on the half shell, which are topped with a finely diced ahi tartare, wasabi-avocado mousse, yuzu oyster glaze, jalapeno, and toasted sesame seeds, served on a bed of sea salt.

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After admiring the stellar presentation, I tasted one and was instantly in heaven. Combining the delicate briny oyster with tender ahi, rich avocado, and the sharp sweet/salty tang of yuzu oyster sauce followed by a hint of heat and fresh green flavor of jalapeno is a brilliant way to enhance their flavor with an array of textures and bright flavors. I loved the dish so much I wanted to share it with my readers, and I’m happy to say that Chef Morse has shared his recipe with me so that I could pass it along to all of you!

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When I recreated this dish in my kitchen, I followed Chef Morse’s notes carefully, including serving it with a chilled glass of Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine from L. Mawby. The crispness of chardonnay grapes shine through in this, their most delicate and traditional methode champenois wine.

Oysters & Tartare
recipe by Boathouse Executive Chef James Morse in Traverse City, Michigan
6 oysters serving

Ingredients
3 of each oysters (I used Olde Salt and Sandaka oysters (Atlantic) from Whole Foods (reasonably priced too!))
1 fresh yellow-fin tuna steak (Choose whichever size you’d like. Considering this is one of our favorite dishes from the Boathouse we bought twelve oysters and used our medium steak up)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon mirin (found in your Asian food section of your local grocery store) SEE NOTES BELOW
1 sheet of nori (found in your Asian food section of your local grocery store)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 jalapeno, de-seeded and minced
1 teaspoon of wasabi avocado mousse (you can always add more to your liking)
1 teaspoon of oyster glaze

Wasabi Avocado Mousse
2 avocados
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons wasabi
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth, scraping bowl well. Store in plastic pastry bag until ready for use. Use rubber band to seal pastry bag and prevent oxidation.

Oyster Glaze
3 cups Oyster Sauce
1 cup Hoisin Sauce
1 cup May Ploy Chili Sauce
1/2 cup Yuzu Juice
1/2 cup Tamari Soy Sauce

Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl.

Preparation
First, if you’re making the homemade mirin and yuzu do this first and set aside. Next make the homemade wasabi mousse by adding all ingredients to the processor and blend until smooth. Prepare the oyster glaze, set aside. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Shave the radishes into thin rounds and slice them in vertical strips. You can either do this by using a mandolin or if you have good knife skills you can do this way as well. Take a sheet of the nori and break off small pieces and set aside.

Dice the tuna and before seasoning it you must shuck the oysters. Shucking oysters can be a bit challenging but rewarding. Please see my previous post here on how to shuck oysters. Season the tuna tartar with a dash of salt, yuzu juice, and mirin. After shucking the oysters top with a dollop of wasabi mousse, pile on the tuna tartar, then a dab of oyster glaze. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, minced jalapeno, shaved radishes and nori. Serve immediately.

*Note*
If yuzu is added too soon to the tuna it will begin to cure and have an unappetizing color.

*Notes*

Mirin – Mirin is a sweet rice wine vinegar. If you are unable to find this ingredient in your grocery store you can substitute by taking 1/2 teaspoon sugar per tablespoon rice wine vinegar (which you can find at your supermarket).

Wanna get creative? You can easily make your own

Homemade Mirin
1/2 cup serving

Ingredients
4 tablespoons sugar, I tend to use organic cane sugar (which you can find at a great price at your local grocery stores)
1 cup sake (any sake will do but I used Gekkeikan Sake)
1 teaspoons pure cane syrup

Preparation
Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir ingredients to make sure they are dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cook. Taste and add can syrup if you’d like it sweeter.

Yuzu Juice – Yuzu is a Japanesse citrus fruit. It’s often referred to as a sour mandarin and looks like a small grapefruit. If you have a hard time finding yuzu juice you can simply substitute it with 3 tablespoons of lime juice with 3 tablespoons of mandarin orange juice. See, not so intimidating!

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

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I can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit this year; no matter how hard I try I can’t get into Christmas movies or even find the motivation to set up the tree, which usually goes up the day after Thanksgiving. Something’s just different this year and I can’t seem to put my finger on it, and several people I know seem to be experiencing the same thing. Maybe it’s the snow piling up, maybe its the long cold winter ahead, or maybe its just a lack of optimism.

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Today I decided to cheer us both up by filling our home with the aromas of holiday spices. Even as the furnace struggles against frosty winds and rattling window panes, my kitchen is made cozy by swirling cinnamon, sweet vanilla, and glorious nutmeg. Have you ever noticed that if you squint just right, the glow of an oven lamp looks a little bit like a fireplace? Or is it just me?

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As I pull the warm, buttery, cinnamon rolls out of the oven, I instantly feel a twinge of holiday cheer which only grows as I generously drizzle gooey spoonfuls of frosting over them, carefully covering every inch. Feeling a bit better now, I pull one apart and savor the chewy steamy center and sip a mug of hot dark roast coffee.

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This recipe is quick and simple, but it will satisfy anyone’s cravings, whether for breakfast, dessert, or in my case for both!  The usual cinnamon is wonderfully enhanced by nutmeg giving them a distinctive holiday flavor, though you will likely end up craving them all year round. They are best straight out of the oven, but keep well if tightly wrapped, and are perfect for heating up in the microwave or toaster oven.

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Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
yields 24 small or 12 large rolls

Ingredients
Dough

1 cup warm water (97’F)
3/4 cup room temperature milk, I used 1%
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
3 pkgs of active-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, whisked
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Filling
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg, I highly recommend freshly grating it yourself
3 tablespoons cinnamon

Frosting
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
4 tablespoons milk (you may need a bit more, add in 1/2 tsp increments until it reaches the perfect consistency)

Preparation
For the dough, you can either mix ingredients by hand for a little workout or use a stand mixer with a dough hook. Pour the yeast into a large mixing bowl along with the sugar, milk and water. Let it sit for roughly 20 minutes to proof. You will know it’s ready when you see a dense layer of froth. Add the melted butter, eggs, flour and salt and combine. When the dough starts to form, transfer to a floured surface and fold gently as if making bread. Pull the far side of the dough up towards you, fold down and press with your palms. Repeat this until dough is smooth and elastic. Place back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm room. In the winter I use the laundry room, making sure to turn up the thermostat a degree or two so the furnace kicks on. Allow to rise until doubled in size, 20-30 minutes depending on temperature.

While your dough is rising prepare the filling by combining the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and melted butter then set aside. When the dough has risen, punch down and turn out onto a floured work surface. Roll out into a rectangle, about 18″x15″. Brush the the dough all over with melted butter then sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar mixture evenly, pressing down lightly. Gently roll the dough into a tight log then with a sharp knife cut into 3/4″ thick slices for 24 small rolls and 1-1/2″ thick for 12 larger rolls. Carefully arrange the slices in a lightly buttered ceramic baking dish, or a baking sheet if you don’t have one large enough. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for another 15 minutes while the oven preheats to 375’F

While the rolls are rising, prepare the frosting. Place the softened butter into a medium bowl and add the powdered sugar. Gently stir to incorporate and once the frosting is thick, add vanilla and stir again. Start adding milk 1 teaspoon at a time until you have a semi thick, smooth frosting.

Bake cinnamon rolls for 15-20 minutes keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn. Gently press down on one to test for doneness; if it springs back they are done. Allow to cool for 10 minutes then drizzle with the frosting, spooning it all over to cover the tops, then step back to admire your handiwork while licking the bowl. Okay stop licking the bowl now and serve them immediately! You can store any leftovers (no judgements!) tightly covered, for up to three days.

Roasted Winter Vegetables (Emile Henry Series)

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It is winter once again in Chicago. The harsh winds and short grey days call for comfort food and quiet reflection as we prepare ourselves for the chaos of the coming holiday season. This time of year will always make me think of the time we spent living in southern Germany; the winters there were not nearly as violent as they are in Chicago, but they were very long and soggy. The weekly markets that were our primary source of produce offered strictly local vegetables and it forced us to adapt to the seasonality of food.

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While we still keep this habit today, it is infinitely easier to push a shopping cart around a heated supermarket where hot house tomatoes and pineapples from central America compete for attention with the root vegetables I am craving. I load my basket with a rainbow of heirloom carrots, gold and ruby beets, lavender-hued turnips, ghostly parsnips, and thick bulbs of crisp fennel. Now armed with a bountiful supply of winter vegetables I head to my kitchen and get to work. Scrubbed and scraped clean, I prep them in rustic thick slices and then toss with olive oil and a generous splash of lovely fig vinegar from Maille, and finish with wet sea salt and crushed black peppercorns.

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As they roast in the oven my mind drifts back to our tiny German kitchen, the window facing the steps up to the house where my neighbors so often passed, waving politely, and probably wondering why I spent so much time cooking for just us two. Having only each other for comfort, it was a quiet existence and a big change from the busy life we had in Chicago. We’re still adjusting to being back, and though we have resumed parts of our busy lives, we cling to the quiet comfort of our home and each other.

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Roasted Winter Vegetables
6 servings

Ingredients
2 medium parsnips (sliced)
2 medium turnips (sliced)
2 bunches of rainbow carrots (or any carrots you prefer; thinner ones work better for roasting)
3 small/medium red beets (sliced)
3 small/medium gold beets (sliced)
1 bulb of fennel (sliced)
3 tablespoons of Maille Vinegar Infused with Fig Puree
2 tablespoons of olive oil
sea salt and cracked pepper

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350’F

Gently scrub and dry all your vegetables. Gently peel the turnips, slice off the top and bottom and cut them long ways and slice in half. When handling red beets, if you don’t want to walk around with pinkish hands the next day you should wear gloves. Cut off the top and bottoms of the beets and reserve the leaves. Did you know that beet leaves are edible and can be cooked in the same manner as chard? With a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the both golden and scarlet beets and slice them.

Toss the vegetables in the olive oil and vinegar, and season generously with sea salt and cracked pepper. Roast the vegetables for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Most recipes will tell you to place the roasted root vegetable on baking sheets in one layer and toss halfway through, however, I like to layer mine in a dish ratatouille style, so the flavors can mingle. You won’t have charred or crunchy bits of roasted vegetables but they will be dark and caramelized on top, crisp in the middle, and tender underneath. This succulent dish pairs nicely with a roast chicken and a dry riesling. When plating, dress vegetables with an extra drizzle of fig dressing and enjoy.

Products featured
Emile Henry
Revol small bowl pictured with Maille Fig Vinegar
Maille Vinegar with Fig Puree
All produce from Whole Foods Wheaton

Pommes de terre à la crème (Potatoes with Cream) Mauviel Series

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Over the last several months I have been rigorously testing some cookware from legendary French maker Mauviel, and it has totally changed the way I cook. From searing meats to simmering velvety sauces or baking perfectly golden desserts, nothing cooks like copper. Even a thick steak won’t chill a hot copper skillet, and perfectly even heat plus instant response reduces scorching in a copper saucepan.

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Since 1830, Mauviel has been making some of the world’s finest copper cookware in a small village outside Normandy called Villedieu-les-Poêles, which is known as ‘The City of Copper’ for it’s 800-year tradition of copper making. Mauviel craftsmen still make each piece by hand, and each piece will last several lifetimes.

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I’ve noticed how much faster these pans heat up than stainless steel and even faster than aluminum pans, without any hot or cold spots; as a result I can cook at lower settings and so I rarely burn anything anymore, its like these pans have made me a better cook!  A heavy copper skillet is the best choice for cooking any protein, from delicately seared sea scallops to putting a crust on a thick juicy steak. Because of this, professional chefs around the world choose copper, and those who demand the best choose Mauviel, including Paul Bocuse himself, who selected Mauviel as an official sponsor of the culinary equivalent of the Olympics, the Bocuse D’or.

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This same legendary performance and durability is available to home cooks who appreciate professional quality. Mine have beautiful traditional cast iron handles which develop a lovely patina over time, as does the copper which darkens with use, like a diary of my cooking adventures! When I can’t wait any longer, I reach for the copper polish and it’s amazing how quickly the gleaming copper finish returns. These pans truly do get more beautiful with time unlike other pans which slowly degrade over time until they end up hidden in a cabinet; not so with these pans, you will be proud to display your Mauviel for decades to come.

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Today I’m writing about Mauviel’s tarte tatin, a round baking pan with little copper handles designed for the traditional French version of apple pie, though I’ve used it to make the French bistro classic potatoes à la crème. Decadent with crème fraiche and gruyère, it makes an excellent brunch dish when topped with a few twists of freshly ground nutmeg and served with a  salad.

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Potatoes with Cream (Pommes de terre à la crème)
adapted from LaRousse Gastronomique

2 pounds medium sized, starchy potatoes (yellow and red potatoes are the creamiest, but russets work as well)
1 cup crème fraiche, or substitute heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon sea salt (I prefer Sel de Geurande for its rich minerally character!)
1 whole egg
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2-3 small shallots
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoon butter, divided

Choose firm, starchy yellow or russet potatoes. Using a sharp chef’s knife slice them as thinly as you can, or use a mandoline if you have one to make the job easier and more professional. After all, you never know when a Michelin inspector will be stopping by!

Slice the shallots thinly as well and set aside. In a medium bowl combine the crème fraiche and milk, then whisk in the eggs, sea salt, and a few twists of nutmeg; set aside. Generously butter the inside of a shallow round baking dish, then arrange the potato slices in a spiral working from the outside toward the center, like a flower. Sprinkle with shallots, gruyère, fresh thyme, and a twist of nutmeg before beginning the next layer; repeat layering until pan is nearly full leaving room for cream.

Carefully pour the cream mixture into the center and spiral outwards, being careful wet the entire top layer. Tap tap tap the pan sharply on the table to help the cream make its way down to the bottom layers. Top with dabs of butter and bake in a 400’F (200’C) oven for one hour or longer, until the top is golden. Rest for 10 minutes or so before slicing and serve with a crisp white wine or better yet a lovely champagne. Garnish with chives and a dollop of dijon mustard. I’ve chosen a delightful dijon flavored with olives and herbs de provence from Maille to bring summer flavors to the dish; the bright acidity and garden fresh taste provide the perfect balance to rich, creamy potatoes.

Products featured
Mauviel Copper Pan
Peugeot Wet Salt Grinder
John Boos Block Walnut End Grain Cutting Board
Maille Dijon Mustard with Olives and Fresh Herbs
Le Guerandais Sel de Geurande 
Piper-Heidsieck Champagne
Revol ARBORESCENCE Dessert Plate (Ivory)
Revol BASALT Bowl
Wüsthof 4″ Pairing Knife Classic IKON

Interview with Executive Pastry Chef Anna Young of Café des Architectes – Chicago, IL

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Pastry Chef Anna Young is inspired by seasonality and nostalgia. “I try to think about not just what I like, but what our guests respond to,” she says. “Some dishes begin with a simple childhood memory – a piece of candy or chocolate.” Young discovered her love of pastry arts while studying at the Culinary Academy in Pittsburg.

A short time after earning a degree in Specialized Technology/Pastry Arts, she found herself on the opposite coast working as a pastry supervisor at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, a Waldorf Astoria Collection hotel. In 2007 Young landed at TRU restaurant in Chicago under James Beard award winning chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand. It was here that she developed a razor sharp eye for detail, learning and working among the very best. In 2014, Young joined Sofitel Chicago Water Tower where she put her knowledge of large scale banquet operations and fine dining prowess to work.

Young presents a wide range of show stopping desserts including traditional yet timeless Parisian mini desserts at Café des Architectes, an ever-present offering that allows guests to select from Opera Cake, Paris-Brest, Macarons and other marvels presented in a rolling cart. Young also creates the restaurant’s rotating Dessert Degustation, consisting of mini tastings of her top confections.

How did you get started making desserts, and when did you decide to make a career out of it?
I took culinary arts in high school. We went to a trade show and I saw a lot of pastry chefs doing demo’s there. That’s when I first saw that there was such a variety to pastry.

Who/what inspired you to become a pastry chef?
My friends and co-workers have inspired me to push myself to become a chef.

Describe your culinary philosophy and approach to pastry in three words.
Seasonal. Nostalgic. Technique.

Is there a process you go through to create a new dessert?
The internet is always a good tool. I find pictures/desserts that I like and build from there. Other than that I like to pull inspiration from traveling and dining out at different types of restaurants.

Talk about a current trend in pastry that interests you, and where would you like to see the industry go in the next couple of years?
Panning. I just took a class in it and loved it. I would like to see panning in different variety’s and maybe put a savory spin on it.

What are your most and least favorite ingredients to work with?
“New ingredients” has to be the answer for both. New ingredients are hard to work with. Sometimes you don’t know your boundaries when combining new flavors. New ingredients are also my favorite because you’ve opened up new opportunities and flavors.

What are your top three tips for success as a pastry chef?
Patience. Attention to detail. Respect.

What city would you most like to visit on a culinary adventure, and what tool, ingredient, or book would you take with you?
Anywhere in Spain, still haven’t made it yet. I might bring a spoon with me, but I would not bring an ingredient, I would be searching for more.

It seems like chefs often open their own restaurants but pastry chefs seldom do. Would you ever open your own place? I’ve been looking for a desserts first restaurant with a broad menu of sweets and only a limited selection of savory endings. Do you think Chicago is ready for that?
I have owned a company in the past and the only way I would do it again is if I worked with people I know I could trust and that shared the same passion as me. Yes, I think Chicago is ready for dessert first restaurant, something I often think of myself.

Where would one find you on your day off?
In the South Loop/Printers Row area. When it’s nice out of course a park or the lake.

The critics have their favorites, but I like to eat where the Chefs eat. Besides Café des
Architectes what restaurants do you like to eat at here in Chicago and/or elsewhere?
My two favorite spots in my neighborhood are Eleven City Diner and Flo and Santos. Nothing fancy, but I love it.

After a week of working long hours, what do you like to cook at home?
I don’t, the last thing I want to do is cook. You’ll find me on GrubHub.

Do you have a guilty pleasure; something that you prefer to eat when nobody is looking?
French Fries and Chicken Soup! Something I started when I was a little girl and I’m still addicted to it.

What advice would you offer young pastry chefs just starting?
Follow directions, have patience and keep clean/organized. Some great advice I was told once a long time ago, that may not sound appropriate is “Keep your head down, mouth shut and ears open”. I live to those 3 rules.

There are many aspiring cooks out there like myself who are not beginners but haven’t yet reached the professional level; what advice would you give us to take our pastry skills to the next level?
Stage, Stage and Stage. The best way to gain experience is to do it. Some classes would be good too, to understand the technical/scientific background to it.

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