Strawberry Shortcake

strawberriesIn my world, strawberry shortcake means and says summer:  it brings to mind hot summer days with picnics, barbecues, 4th of July celebrations.  There is nothing like the taste of a strawberries freshly picked from the garden or the local farm stand:  they are small, plump, red and have the sweetest smell.  The beauty of strawberry shortcake is that from one party to the next it will taste different according to how the host flavors the strawberries, the whipped cream and what biscuit recipe is used.  I have yet to meet a person who does not like strawberry shortcake.  Here is my version … Happy 4th of July!shortcake making

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

  • 8 cups strawberries, washed and halved
  • 1/4 cup lemon verbena simple syrup
  • one recipe whipped cream
  • one recipe baking powder biscuits

Half hour to 45 minutes before you will serve dessert, mix the strawberries and the syrup. If you do not have the syrup, mix the berries with 3 tablespoons of sugar and one tablespoon of vanilla extract.  Let sit.

BAKING POWDER BISCUITS (makes about a dozen)  I get my recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.photo-106

  • 4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted  butter (3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • one egg wash (one lightly beaten egg)

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees.  in a large bowl. whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.biscuit making

Pour in the heavy cream; using a rubber spatula, fold the cream into the dough, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, until the dough just comes together.  The dough will be slightly sticky.

Turn the dough into a lightly floured surface.  With floured fingers, gently pat the dough into a round about 1 1/4 inch thick, pressing any loose bits.  Do not overwork the dough.  Use a floured 2 1/4 inch round biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits as close as possible, using one cut edge as the edge for the next biscuit.shortcakebaking shortcake

Place the biscuits on an unlined baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Before baking, brush rounds with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar if desired.  Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the biscuits are golden and flecked with brown spots, 20 to 25 minutes.  Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

FLAVORED WHIPPED CREAM

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon limoncello (optional)strawberries and cream

In a large bowl whipped the heavy cream until soft.  Slowly mix in the rest of the ingredients   and beat until a bit more soft but not stiff.

When ready to serve, split the biscuits in half horizontally with a serrated knife.  Place the bottom part of the biscuit on a plate, spoon a dollop of the cream, spoon some strawberries and accumulated juice and cover with the biscuit top.  Serve with remaining cream and strawberry mixture.strawberry shortcake

NOTE: If you do not have a biscuit cutter you can use a glass but make sure to do a clean cut without twisting the glass in the dough as it will stop the biscuit from rising when baking.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Lemon verbena simple syrup

simple syrupSimple syrups are a great addition to your pantry.  They can be used to flavor and sweeten  fruit salads, brushed on cakes to add some moisture or mixed with wine to poach fruits. When it comes to beverages, adding a splash in bubbly water or cocktails will add some depth to your drinks.  They easily keep up to a month in the fridge, that is… if they last that long.lemon verbena

LEMON VERBENA SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed lemon verbena leaves washed and dried

In a medium saucepan mix the water and sugar, bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer fro 8 minutes, mixing a bit to make sure the sugar dissolves.  Add the herbs, turn off the heat and cover.  Let sit for an hour.lemon verbena syrup

Put a fine mesh strainer on top of a bowl and strain the syrup, pushing the verbena with a spatula or wooden spoon to get as much of the flavors from the herbs.  Transfer into a clean bottle or mason jar, label and refrigerate until ready to use.

NOTE: If you want a regular simple syrup, omit the herbs.  You can also substitute the verbena for mint, lavender leaves or basil; zest of one lemon, orange or lime or 2 tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger.  For a syrup with a bit more depth, use sugar in the raw.  Instead of a clear syrup you will have a brownish looking syrup that will also change the look of your drink .cocktail

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Vichyssoise

leeks and potatoesHere is a cold soup to add to your menu for the hot summer days ahead.  The subtle onion taste from the leeks and the creaminess of the potatoes makes it a favorite either as a first course on a hot summer night or as a main meal for lunch in the garden with a tossed salad and a nice cheese platter.

I like to garnish it with chive flowers when they are available in the early summer days and the rest of the year with fresh chives.vichyssoise ingredients

VICHYSSOISE (serves 8 to 10)

  • one tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups sliced leeks, white and light green part only , washed clean of sand and dirt (about 3 medium leeks)
  • 1 medium spanish onion chopped
  • 1.5 pound yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into one inch chunks (about 5 medium potatoes)
  • 6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • chive flowers or chives for garnishchivescleaning leeks

In a heavy saucepan melt the butter with olive oil.  Add the leeks and onion and sauteed until wilted, about 3 minutes.  Do not let the mixture brown.  Add the potatoes and give a good stir to mix all the ingredients.

Add a pinch of salt and the stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce, cover and simmer until the potatoes are done; about 20 to 30 minutes.cooking leeks and potatoes

When the potatoes are done turn the heat off and let the soup cool to room temperature (about one hour).potato leek soup

When cool process to a fine purée with an immersion blender or a food processor.  Cool completely in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.  Add the heavy cream.  Season to taste and serve.  Garnish with the flowers or chives.

NOTE: for a lighter fare you can substitute half and half or milk for the heavy cream.  In colder days this soup is also delicious served hot.vichyssoise

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Clafoutis aux Apricots / Apricot Clafoutis

apricotsGoing to the market toward the end of June can be a great source of inspiration.  The sun is shining, the temperature is rising, and beautiful produce begin appearing on the shelves. Among the cherries and local strawberries, one will find apricots.  If you are lucky you might even find  black velvet apricots.  I cannot resist them: poached, grilled, simply cut in yogurt in the morning, and this time… a clafoutis.black velvet apricots

The best part about this dessert is that you make it in a blender… so easy and not a lot to clean up! My mother is a great baker and I grew up eating the classic clafoutis, one made with cherries.  I am a bit more of an adventurous baker thus the apricots.

CLAFOUTIS AUX APRICOTS

  • 10 to 12 ripe apricots, pitted and cut in half
  • 1/3 plus 2 tablespoon sugar separated
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter softened
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • confectioner sugar for dusting

clafoutis ingredientsPreheat the oven at 350 degrees.  Butter  a 10 inch quiche/tart pan 2 inches high (NOT a removable bottom tart pan).  Line the bottom of the pan with the apricots and dust with the 2 tablespoon of sugar.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a blender and blend on high for about 1 minute, until all the ingredients are blended into what will look like a homogeneous smoothie like substance.making clafoutis

Slowly pour over the apricots (it’s ok if some of the fruits are not totally covered). Bake for 45 minutes in the middle rack of the preheated oven.

When ready: the clafoutis should be golden, puffy and a knife inserted in the middle should comes out clean, let rest 10 minutes. Sprinkle with a dusting of confectioner sugar and serve. Clafoutis are best eaten warm or room temperature.dusting apricots with sugar

NOTE: Experiment with other stone fruits : cherries, regular or italian plums when in season.apricot clafoutis

from my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Mushroom Soup

mushrooms

Spring brings to mind the melting of the snow in the grass, daffodils, crocuses coming up and lots and lots of yard and garden cleaning.  Between raking, burning and repairing winter damage there is not much time spent in the kitchen on those weekends.  It’s still a bit too cold to sit in the yard with a sandwich so soup is in order.  We bring our team effort into the kitchen and while I make the soup Philippe prepares his famous grilled cheese sandwiches.chopped mushrooms

I like to use a mixture of mushrooms as they all have a subtle difference in their individual taste and an assortment brings a bit more depth to the dish.  It also allows me to mix in a bit of the more expensive mushrooms without going overboard on the expenses.  It is a great way to experiment with what is available and in season.  This time I used a mixture of shitake and baby bella mushrooms.

MUSHROOM SOUP

  • 1.5 pounds mushrooms sliced or chopped ( about 8 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup extra dry white vermouth
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone
  • 1 cup milk

Melt the olive oil and butter in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauteed until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and sauteed another 10 to 15 minutes. The mushrooms will release their juices and then start browning a bit after that.  That is the stage you want them at.cooked mushrooms

Pour the vermouth and deglaze the pan, mixing well (about 2 minutes).  Add the stock, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Strain the mushrooms and other solids, put the stock back in the stockpot but for one cup.  In a food processor or blender, puree the mushrooms with the one cup of stock until smooth.  Return to the stockpot and mix with the stock.  Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and milk and heat without boiling and serve.mushroom soup

NOTE:  This recipe can serve 4 to 6 as a main course.  You can also use it as a first course and it will serve 8 to 10.  As with many soups and stews, this soup can be made a day or two in advance and benefits from sitting and allowing the flavors to develop.  You can also substitute the chicken stock for vegetable stock for a vegetarian version.morrels

from my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Flan au sirop d’erable / Maple flan

maple syrupA couple of weeks ago we caravanned to Montreal with a group of friends.  We were on our way to Martin Picard’s  La Cabane a sucre du Pied de Cochon.  Cabane a sucre / maple shack is a big Quebecois tradition.  We are proud of our maple syrup and no other one will do! Chef Picard has Le Pied de Cochon restaurant in Montreal and la Cabane outside of the city.  I had made the reservations back in December crossing my fingers we would get in and found out in February that yes! we did get a table.  The whole experience was worth the wait!cabane a sucre pdc

Growing up in Montreal, the Cabane a sucre was a yearly tradition; one of family times as well as school field trips.  My husband has seen his share of cabanes when we were first married and lived in Montreal, but with my children born and raised in the U.S. it was a real treat to have them experience this food extravaganza for the first time in their lives.

Needless to say when we came back we were on a vegetable-only diet for a while but maple syrup kept being on my mind.  We even ended up smoking our ham for Easter and basting it with a maple glaze, but that is another post.  In the meantime enjoy simple, easy-to-make Maple Flan.flan maple

FLAN AU SIROP D’ERABLE / MAPLE FLAN

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoon maple syrup divided
  • 1 cup half and half cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.

In a medium size saucepan combine the sugar with 3 tablespoon maple syrup and cook on medium heat until the mixture is thick , bubbly and amber color.  The mixture will be very hot and you will have to work quickly.  Pour into a flan pan : I use a 10 inch round about 1 3/4 inch high pan.  With oven mitts (remember the mixture is very hot!) quickly swirl the mixture to cover the entire surface of the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

It is very important while making the caramel to NOT stir the mixture constantly as it will burn and get hard.  Stir to start and then just let it be.  You want to pour it in the pan when it is all melted and amber.  Be quick as it can go from amber to burnt!

In the same saucepan you used for the caramel, quickly pour the cream and milk and return to the stove and heat up but do not bring to a boil.flan

In the meantime, in a large bowl whisk the eggs, yolks, vanilla and remaining 3 tablespoon of maple syrup.  Slowly pour the hot milk/cream mixture and keep whisking until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the caramel coated pan and set the pan in a large sheet pan or roasting pan.  Pour enough hot water into the pan to come up half way up the sides of the flan pan.  Cover loosely with foil and bake for an hour or until the custard is firm to the touch.

Take the pan out of the water bath and let it cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chill, about 3 hours.

When ready to serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the pan, cover with a large shallow plater ( as you will have a fair amount of syrup coming out of the dish) and quickly invert the flan onto the platter.  Slice onto plates and make sure you spoon lots of of the syrup with each serving!flan

NOTE:  Please! do NOT use fake maple syrup !!! it will ruin the taste , if you do not have maple syrup, use honey: for the caramel part, add 2 tablespoon of sugar to the one cup and for the custard substitute honey for maple syrup.  One more note, I could not go to the Cabane and not have my picture taken with Martin Picard.  Merci  Chef for your generosity and for being such a source of inspiration!!martin picard

Braised lamb shank

braisingHere is a recipe for you lamb lovers.  While waiting for summer to arrive so you can set your grill for burgers and kabobs, you can braise in the oven.  This is a very simple recipe, it can be made ahead of time, in fact it is best to make it in the morning or the day before as the flavors intensify as the dish sits.  The cinnamon stick might sound weird but is a must.  Served on a bed or rice or roasted potatoes, green beans and chunks of crusty bread it makes the perfect meal for those cool spring nights.raw lamb shanks

BRAISED LAMB SHANKS (serves 4)

  • 3 lamb shanks (3 to 3.5 lbs)
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 28 oz San Marzano diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or in an oven proof pan.  Salt and pepper the shanks and sautée in the pan until nicely browned on all sides (about 3 minutes per sides).  Remove from the pan and set aside.ingredients

Melt the butter in the pan, add the onions and cook until soft (about 5 minutes).  Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute.  Add the tomato, beef stock and cinnamon.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  Add the meat, return to a simmer, cover and put in the oven.  Cook for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, take out of the oven.  The meat should be soft and coming off the bone.  Let the dish cool down a bit and remove all the meat from the bones. Discard the bones and return the meat to the pot, stirring into the sauce.  Remove the cinnamon stick and cook for another 45 minutes at 350 degrees.lamb shank

NOTE:  should you have leftovers, serve the meat on top of roasted eggplants and topped with mashed potatoes for a moussaka like dishstew

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher