Pain de campagne

March 29, 2006 at 3:54 pm (Food)


There’s a cafeteria at l’Institut de cardiologie (Heart Institute) here in Montreal called La mie de coeur. Whoever came up with the name should be applauded, as the name can be translated as either “sweetheart” or “heart of the matter.” But, also, “mie” is the French term for that oh-so-lovely white part of bread. So, when I first saw the name, back in 1995, I thought to myself, “wait, there’s no word in English for that white part of bread,” and it became the basis of one of my oft-repeated jokes: “Wow, English has a word for everything! Except for the white innards of bread.” (Why yes, I do lead a sad, sorry life. Why do you ask?) In fact, a certain someone repeated the same line the other night, and I sat there, feeling sweet satisfaction knowing that I had passed some wisdom along.
So imagine my surprise, the other day, when I found out that there is, in fact, an English equivalent to “mie,” boring as it is: crumb. How boring is that? My reality has been shattered. Damn you, English-French dictionaries! Damn you all to hell!
Regardless, here’s the recipe. I love these types of recipes, as you can make them over a long period of time, without having to rush the process, similar to making confit, roast chicken or cassoulet. Mix some ingredients together, go off, have a glass of wine, read a chapter or two, return to the recipe.
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1.5 cups flour (I use unbleached white)
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 c. warm water
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3 + 1.5 c. flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • egg whites, if you have ‘em

A day before you intend to make the bread, mix together the first three ingredients. Cover and leave overnight. I ended up ignoring it for about a day, occasionally lifting the plastic and breathing in the soury goodness. I’m thinking that, the next time I make this recipe I’ll substitute some of the water for a small portion of sour-mash beer, i.e. either some Guinness or Mort Subite. Heck, there’s already some yeast there, plus some bacteria.
When you can’t wait any longer, add the 2 tsp of yeast to 2 c. water. Add the soured starter, and the remainder of the ingredients, leaving the 1.5 c flour (and egg whites) aside. (This is why we shelled out for our mixer; it makes this part much easier.) When everything is blended, but still fairly wet, add in the remaining flour, about 1/4 c. at a time. Turn on to a floured surface, and knead for about 8-10 minutes. Think of the workout your shoulders are getting: it helps. Summer is nearly here, and ripped shoulders make the girls/guys go crazy. So I’ve been told. Place this dough in an oiled (please, olive oil) bowl, cover for an hour or so, and return to your glass of wine.
Stumble back to your bowl, freak out a bit at how much the dough has risen, and punch it down. Cut in half, roll out on a floured surface into any shape you want, place on a floured sheet, cover and let rise for another 45 minutes. Return, again, to your glass of wine. Isn’t this fun?
Brush with the egg whites, and bake for 45 minutes at 425 F. The result is these two massive loaves, very meaty and crusty. The crumb is thick, yet light at the same time. It absolutely soaks up the butter when toasted. Several days later, and it’s still fresh. A very slight taste of sourbread, but not overwhelming.
To serve? Well, um, grilled cheese sandwich, of course. The milliner uses gruyère, but I stick to American processed cheese food product slices.

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Dear SUV driver,

March 27, 2006 at 3:13 pm (General)

Imagine my surprise, coming out of the resto the other night, to see that you had decided to park your tin-bucket right up on our rear bumper. Gosh, you’re rather touchy-feely, aren’t you? Normally, that part is exit-only, but I could make an exception for you.
Do you know what I found super-cool about this little manoeuver on your part? Why, not only did you make it nearly impossible for us to get out of the spot but, in your grandiose self-importance, you had the cojones to also block the wheelchair access onto the sidewalk. Hey, when it comes to making life slightly easier for gimps and crips, fuck that, right? You’re much too important. So important that you can’t be bothered to find another parking spot anywhere further up the road. Heck, that extra 30 seconds you may have been forced to walk is 30 seconds too much. Let the handicap struggle down the road; no skin off your ass. It’s strange, I was sure we had parked on the corner, but I guess we were wrong.
I applaud you, fine gentleman/madam, in your choice of vehicles. An SUV just shouts to the world, “Hey, I’m a jackass and I don’t care what anyone says.” Bravo. Oh, and choosing a crap-ass KIA SUV? Yeah, no comment. I have a question, though: Have you found any polyps yet, what with your head so far up your ass?
No, no, don’t worry. My key still works perfectly. Why do you ask?
Update: Hmm, seems I’m not the only one.

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Pots de crème

March 24, 2006 at 4:31 pm (Food)


After receiving ramekins this past Xmas, along with a blowtorch (yesssss!), my intention was to go to town making crème brulée. However, I came across several recipes for pots de crème, which I’m pretty sure was one of the desserts served at Bouchon. How could I resist such a non-apologetic dessert that translates, literally, to pots of cream?
The first couple of times I made these, I would pour the custard into the ramekins. However, at 8 ounces, this is really heavy. In fact, the milliner would normally take a few spoonfuls and then put it back in the fridge. We tried using those rice-ceramic tea cups that you get in the dollar stores in Chinatown, but they were cracking from the heat of the oven. So, one day, the milliner and I were at Ikea, where we found these tiny cups in the kitchen impulse-buy section. Initially, I really didn’t want to get them; our cupboards are over-flowing as it is. However, I’m glad I relented.
Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups cream
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 6 egg yolks (I save the whites for omelettes, and for sealing bread dough)
  • 9 cinnamon sticks

Bring the cream, milk and 5 tbsp of sugar to a simmer. Split the vanilla pod, scoop out the seeds, and add to the cream mixture. (I swear, fresh vanilla smells amazing. They should bottle that stuff.) Add the cinnamon sticks and 1 tsp of ground to the cream as well. Of course, you can use mint leaves instead of cinnamon. In fact, I’m thinking that next time I’ll try with cardamon seeds. Cover and lest seep for an hour.
In another bowl, add the remaining sugar to the 6 egg yolks, and whisk together. I love this part, seeing the yolks blanch with the whisking. I never knew it could happen until I tried. Pour the cream mixture, slowly!, onto the yolks using a strainer, and blend together. Pour into the ramekins, and cook at 400 for 40 minutes. I normally place a baking pan on top of a baking sheet, put the ramekins into the pan, and fill the pan with warm water about two-thirds.
Refridgerate, if you can wait that long, overnight. Afterward, you have this custardy, creamy goodness that melts lovingly on your tongue. As you work your way through the pot, you find a layer of vanilla seeds on the bottom, like an extra gift.
Initially, I substituted bittersweet chocolate for the vanilla. Well, okay, it’s not really bittersweet chocolate; instead, I grate half semi-sweet and half unsweetened Baker’s chocolate, melt that in a double broiler, and add it to the eggs.
Next time, I think I’ll break down the cream mixture into three different pots and make three different types, i.e. vanilla, cinnamon, and chocolate.

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Yay, my wife is back in town!

March 24, 2006 at 3:03 pm (General)

Yes, it’s true, April 7, Beth Orton will be playing at Club Soda. I don’t care what the restraining order says, I’ll be there, front and centre.
I don’t understand why she doesn’t reply to my letters, or why my phone calls are always redirected to some fellow who says he works at Scotland Yard, but I guess it’s just one of those things we’ll have to discuss when we meet again.

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What is close but no cigar, Alex?

March 22, 2006 at 3:06 pm (General, TV)

Confession: it’s my goal, nay my dream, to appear on Jeopardy. I watch it almost religiously–i.e. whenever the spirit hits me and I’m not doing anything else at that moment–I use it to gauge my workout rhythm (if I can answer the questions aloud while biking in front of the tele, then I’m good), I get annoyed when contestants screw up simple questions (I mean, honestly, who doesn’t know that Ulaan-baator is the coldest capital in the world?) and, to top it all off, was rather jealous to see ex-Montrealer John Moore appear a couple weeks back, followed by sweet schadenfreude to see him not even make it to the final round. Loser. Heck, I even remember The Golden Girls episode where Bea Arthur tried to get on. And who can forget Cliff’s famous “Who are three women who’ve never been in my kitchen?” final answer in that episode of Cheers.
Anyhow, I get the Jeopardy newsletter, occasionally register for auditions, but nothing ever comes of it. But then, on Monday, I get me an email telling me that they’ll be holding an online test next Tuesday, the 28th. “Gosh,” I’m thinking, “I don’t know. I have yoga on Tuesday nights, and I’ll be at trivia the following week, so that would make two weeks in a row that I’ll miss.” Okay, I admit it, the yoga instructor is hott, and really nice, and I always feel like I’m disappointing her if I don’t show up. Of course, greed and an over-blown sense of self corrected my path, and I figured that I could take a couple weeks off. What the hell, with the millions I’ll make à la Ken Jennings, I can pay for my own instructor. So, I go online, start filling out the form and…
Am not eligible. It’s for American residents only. Dreams dashed, for now. All the 30-second anecdotes that I’ve stored in my mind for the little meet-and-greet sessions with Alex Trebek will have to stay there for a while longer. I guess I’ll have to earn my money the old way; I’ll simply buy more lottery tickets.
But mark my words, Jeopardy: you will be mine. Oh yes, you will be mine.

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This is why I don’t try new things in restos

March 20, 2006 at 5:06 pm (Food)

Saturday, with the milliner back in town, we decided to fête her return, and my new employment, by dining out. So, we call and get some seats at Brunoise. Great little place, lovely atmosphere, my best gal by my side, etc.
Because the cook trained under Gordon Ramsay, he of Hell’s Kitchen fame, I was kinda expecting (and hoping for) expletives to come streaming out of the kitchen. No such luck, but I’m okay with that.
Being a meat-and-potatoes kinda guy, I usually stick to a select few items at restos. However, I decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered sweetbreads for both appetizers and the main course. Everything is served in the most beautiful manner, with none of that frou frou bullshit of “look, I shall build a log-cabin from carrots sticks and asparagus. Aren’t I the artiste?” But, um, main course: roasted sweetbreads. Yeah, I couldn’t do it. It looked like a brain, and tasted like congealed fat. I was thinking to myself, “Is this how it’s supposed to taste? And is it supposed to be this cloying?” I couldn’t eat it, so I expected the cook to come roaring out of the kitchen, berating me for my uncultured palate. It was worth the risk. I think I’ll stick to being a pagan. The evening was no where near a loss, however, because every thing else tasted great. And I made a great discovery: brown sugar ice cream. Mmmmm.

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All alone

March 13, 2006 at 2:22 pm (General)

The milliner is gone on vacation this week. To the Dominican Republic. During March break. With another man. From work. She told me they’re sharing the same hotel room, to cut down on costs. And? I’m okay with that. No, really, I am.

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My inner thighs hurt

March 6, 2006 at 7:45 pm (General)

For a while this morning, I was wondering whether someone had slipped me a roofie and I had been at a McGill football team initiation ritual. Then I remembered: oh yeah, went skiing yesterday for the first time this year.
Needless to say, being who we are, the milliner and I got completely lost trying to find the parking for the ski trails. This is worrisome, because how are we ever going to win the Amazing Race if we can’t even follow simple instructions?

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If this isn’t a big FU to my cardiologists, I don’t know what is

March 3, 2006 at 9:12 pm (Food)

On the menu this weekend: Cooking class tomorrow morning, the art of sauces (mmmm, butter). The milliner is making the meal tomorrow night. Don’t know what it’ll be, but I’m thinking several courses will be served, and they’ll be tasty.
Sunday, I’m making cassoulet, i.e. pork belly, pork rind, sausages, and duck confit. With beans. Hey, at least it’s better than last year, when I celebrated the big 4-0 at In & Out Burger.

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Falling into adulthood

March 2, 2006 at 3:57 pm (General)

It took a few decades, but I finally got a passport. Yesterday, to be exact.
Now, I might actually have to use it. I hear there are good restos, and climbing to boot, in Spain. Hmm.

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