Chez L’Amis Jean

Oh that cote de boeuf !

Wow, that previous post was a ramble – which needs to be quickly replaced with FOOD.

The photo of the food in this incredibly busy and cramped restaurant came out pretty horribly – the light was so dim and the place literally had barely any elbow room at all. But that’s not at all a reflection of the foodfoodfood of this wonderful bistrot.

Chez L’Amis Jean is in Paris, and it’s very firmly in the anti-Michelin realm of Parisien eats. Rather than three waiters per table, it’s three waiters for the entire restaurant, and I kid you not, when I say it’s cramped, believe me. Essentially the restaurant is one long banquette, with lots of little tables that are joined to make one long table. Each party is sat opposite each other, and as you are seated, the table is pulled out so that one of you can sit before being wedged in. Don’t drink too much water if you’re sitting inside :)

The good thing about this cozy atmosphere is that you almost feel like you are at a wedding. You get to know the people sitting on either side of you, and everyone’s friendly and just happy to be inside (and on the night we were there, out of the lashing rain outside) with the warm hospitality of the staff.

And despite it being insanely full, the waitstaff were all blazingly efficient and always, always (and I truly adore this part) able to pause and wish you “bon appetite” with a smile – they truly want you to enjoy your food here. From the start, as you are waiting for your table, they serve up sharing boards of charcuterie. While you sneak looks at other tables to see what looks good (don’t tell me I’m the only one who does this), a large shared terrine with a big knife is presented to you to “have some”. It’s little touches of warmth and generosity like this that for me makes this such a memorable restaurant.

Ruiz au lait with praline and salted caramel

Not only is the food phenomenal – classic French bistro at its best, but the portions are enormous.

Knowing the portions were big, didn’t deter us from ordering what we wanted though – luckily we were happy to wander around the close-by Eiffel Tower after to walk some of our dinner off. Tres romantic !

We started our gargantuan meal with soup de Parmsan. A large bowl with crispy bacon bits and delicately sliced chives is filled in front of you with a creamy, rich, cheesy soup from a large(r) tea pot. Ridiculously delicious, and followed with the cote de boeuf – thick juicy slices of rib-eye, cooked on the bone, with generous shavings of black truffles. mmmmm…And because we truly have eyes bigger than our stomach, we ordered dessert ! Which was rice pudding served with praline and salted caramel. Rich, creamy and decadent, it was a perfectly balanced dish to balance out our dinner. Again, LARGE, again, superb.

They almost had to roll us out of there ! If you do want to go (and if you are in Paris, I really think you should), two things I would strongly recommend. First, make a booking, or don’t even bother to turn up. Secondly, go hungry.

Chez L’Amis Jean
27 Rue Malar, 75007 Paris, France

Phone:+33 1 47 05 86 89

Instragram is killing my blog…

Instagram is killing my blog.

The whole reason why I started my blog was so I could jot down all the amazing food I’ve eaten and the wonderful places I’ve experienced. I find myself going back to reference my blog to walk down memory lane, and also to look up my recipes that I haven’t made for a while, but keeping up to date is falling by the wayside. I even thought that my love of all of your gorgeous photography would inspire me to use my camera more, and, you know what ? The iPhone takes pretty decent photos (albeit not so great in dim lighting), without the hassle of having to pack another thing in my already-heavy handbag. Just snap and post. Easy.

The other reason I’ve been so slack is that our Mac, which is probably 6 years old, made navigating around the Mac s-u-p-e-r  s-l-o-w, and it finally died which gave me a good reason to rush out and buy a new one – so now I have no excuses !

I have recently felt, though, that there is something missing in my life, and I am going to admit it now – it’s that little thrill of accomplishment that I get when I hit the “publish” button. I know, some people climb mountains, conquer their fears, try new things. Cut me some slack here, whilst blogging certainly isn’t as mentally or physically challenging, it’s something that I find myself smiling every time I am writing – it honestly gives me joy, and that’s good enough reason for me.

I know some of you also have had challenges in keeping up with blogging – any other suggestions you have or experienced that can help to maintain this renewed vigour that I’ve found ?

ps – and if you are on instagram, let’s connect ! @carolynmfchan

 


Spiced roasted butternut pumpkin soup – two ways

I love soups. And it makes so much sense to make a giant pot of soup, have it as leftovers, or even freeze those that are suitable.

My problem is that I don’t always seem to want soup from the freezer, and often end up throwing it away. It’s very un-frugal of me and the waste upsets me.

Over the weekend I found a beautiful butternut squash – at $2 instead of the $10+ that I spend across the road for the same thing. Of course I just had to buy it.

I decided that I would do two types of soup with it, to try to give some variety, and hope to tickle my tastebuds enough to want to eat it again. And again.

The first way was to push a ladleful of it through a fine sieve, yielding the most silkily smooth soup that reminds me of the amouse-bouches that you sometimes get in fine restaurants. It’s such a treat and I don’t know why but the same soup seems to taste sweeter somehow ?

The second way was to keep it rustic (the sieving also takes time and any time saving is a good thing, right ?). This leftover I’ve frozen, but when I reheat it, I’ll add a dollop of cream and a glug of good olive oil to make it taste like the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had.

Roasting the pumpkin intensifies the sugars and flavour and the spices just add an extra dimension to the soup.

Ingredients makes four bowls of soup

  1. 1 large onion, diced
  2. 1 medium sized butternut pumpkin
  3. salt and pepper
  4. ground tumeric
  5. ground cumin
  6. chicken stock
  7. thick cream
  8. good olive oil to serve

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 220CC/430F
  2. Remove skin and seeds from pumpkin and cut into chunks
  3. Coat with olive oil (doesn’t need to be the good stuff) and season with salt and pepper
  4. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes
  5. Sautee onion in some olive oil on low heat until translucent – about 5 minutes
  6. Add the tumeric and cumin and fry off the “rawness” of the spices for another 5 minutes
  7. Add the roasted pumpkin and add enough chicken stock to cover the pumpkin
  8. Simmer for 30 minutes
  9. Blend with an immersion blender until desired consistency (I like to keep it relatively smooth but still with some bits of pumpkin)
  10. Option 1: Take a ladleful and push through a fine sieve and serve with just a few drops of good olive oil
  11. Option 2: Serve hot, with a big dollop of cream, and a good glug of the good olive oil

 

 


Quiche Lorraine

I cheat and use store-bought shortcrust pastry with my quiches. If you have the time to wait for the dough to rest, and don’t mind clearing up the mess (which I always seem to make tons of whenever making pastry) go right ahead.

Quiche Lorraine reminds me of growing up in the suburbs in Sydney and having a slice of quiche with a salad on the side. You can’t really not like it – salty bacon and sweet sauteed onions enveloped in a warm eggy pillow – with pastry. It’s pretty easy, too – just make sure you blind bake your base properly, or it will end up soggy instead of crispy and short, giving you good contrasting textures with each bite.

Ingredients

  1. 1 -2 sheets ready made shortcrust pastry
  2. 1 large onion, diced
  3. 6 rashers (or more if you want) bacon, diced
  4. 200ml heavy cream
  5. 3 eggs
  6. 1 cup grated gruyere or cheddar cheese
  7. salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/390F
  2. Line the base and sides of a loose-bottomed tart tin with the pastry
  3. Prick the base, line with baking paper and add pie weights/rice/beans before blind baking in the oven for 15 minutes
  4. Remove the baking paper and pie weights and put back in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned
  5. While the base is baking, make your filling
  6. Sautee the bacon on medium-high heat until brown and crispy and remove from frying pan to cool
  7. Reduce the heat to low and cook onions until soft and translucent
  8. Mix cream, eggs, cheese together in a jug.
  9. Season with salt and pepper – remember not to oversalt as the bacon and cheese will provide additional seasoning
  10. Once the base is ready, sprinkle your bacon and onion on the base, and pour in the eggy/cheese mix over
  11. Reduce the oven temperature to 160C/320F and bake quiche for 30 minutes or the middle is just wobbly (it will continue to cook a little more once out of the oven)
  12. Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes before removing quiche from the tin
  13. Enjoy hot or cold as leftovers the next day ;)

 

 


Septime, Paris, France

Octopus with oxalis, green beans, anchovies and pumpkin seed puree

In the 11th arr, near Bastille, Bertrand Grébaut brings together this food training (he was trained by Alain Passard and Joël Robuchon) and his passion for design (he was a former graphic designer) to Septime.

They are meticulous about ensuring their diners have a great experience at Septime – the ambiance in the brasserie is one of friendly, super-efficiency. The decor is all concrete and bare wood, with the diners sat close together, and with a view of the open kitchen, where there is some serious cooking going on.

Pan-fried cod with a lardo and a red wine jus with cauliflower, dill and chervil 

It’s all about the freshest ingredients that Chef Grébaut can find on the day, meaning the menu changes daily, challenging them to create new dishes to delight diners. The flavours are pure, clean and fuss-free, ensuring the ingredients shine for themselves, yet work together in surprisingly harmonious combinations. Fish with lardo and a meat jus ? Totally worked.

The menu being in French, and us having no prior experience there, we left it to the restaurant and ordered the carte blanche. The meal started with a fresh veal tartare with pear and turnip, followed by octopus with oxalis (a wonderfully lemony herb) green beans, anchovies and pumpkin seed puree.

A perfectly cooked piece of cod with a slice of lardo and a red wine jus with cauliflower, dill and chervil was next, and the last savoury course – venison with toasted butternut quince puree with a meat onion jus.

Sicilian lemon cream with an almond crumble, lime and lemon verbena sorbet with marinated citron slices with thyme and lemon balm

The final dish was a refreshing Sicilian lemon cream with an almond crumble, lime and lemon verbena sorbet with marinated citron slices with thyme and lemon balm.

Adding to the wonderful food, the wines are non-sulfite made by small producers, available for sale across the street at their new Septime Cave - which is a popular neighborhood canteen for drinks & nibbles.

Septime
80 Rue de Charonne
75011 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 43 67 38 29

Open: Monday – Friday 12.15 – 2.00pm, 7.30-10.00pm


La Table D’Aki

Restaurant kitchens in Paris are small. And La Table D’Aki is no exception, with just one man behind the kitchen. Akihiro Horikoshi (Aki) shops, preps, cooks, bakes, cleans dishes – everything – in this tiny 16 seater restaurant in the Seventh Arrondisement.

Chef Aki, a L’Ambroisie veteran, works in an open kitchen, where he prepares a prix fixe seafood meal. Japanese precision with French training – could not be a better pairing.

First course was a single seared scallop on pureed pumpkin with a cauliflower foam that teased our palettes with it’s silky textures. Entree of poached langoustine on top of roasted rhubarb was a perfect harmony of delicate langoustine served with a glossy drizzle of veal jus. The final savoury course was delicate cod fish and braised endive with a wonderfully tangy citrus sauce.

Dessert – simply described as “chocolate tarte with vanilla bean ice-cream”, made me marvel that something that delicate with contrasting crisp and velvety textures could be made by the same man who brought us the earlier three dishes, and not a patisserie chef.

Elegant dining. Delicious, clean flavours. Perfection.

La Table D’Aki
49 Rue Vanueau
Paris, France

Tel: +33 1 45 44 43 48
Bookings highly recommended
Closed Sundays and Mondays


San Choy Bau

I love san choy bau – the crisp lettuce balances out the rich pork and vegetable mix in one handy (albeit a bit messy) “cup”. It’s one of those dishes where I am sure you can substitute chicken for pork, and also add in any vegetables you have on hand, but I found water chestnuts at my grocery store and that inspired me to cook this dish – it adds another dimension to the dish with a nice crunch.

Ingredients – 6 portions as a starter or enough for 2 hungry people for lunch

  1. Iceberg lettuce – whole
  2. 1 large onion – diced
  3. 200g pork mince
  4. 100g baby corn – sliced about 1/2cm thick
  5. 50g water chestnuts – peeled and diced into small pieces
  6. 50g mushrooms – any sort, I used swiss brown
  7. 3 tbls oyster sauce
  8. 1 tbl light soya sauce

Method

  1. With the core of the lettuce facing down, bang the head of lettuce, on the core – this will make it easier to remove the leaves whole
  2. Remove any wilted outer leaves and carefully remove the inside leaves, trying to keep them as whole as possible
  3. Place in a bowl of iced water to keep them crisp
  4. Over low heat, sweat the onions until soft
  5. Increase the heat to high and brown the mince
  6. Add in the vegetables and cook for 3 minutes until vegetables are cooked through
  7. Add in the oyster and light soya sauce and stir to combine
  8. You can trim the lettuce so it makes a nice neat “cup” to hold the stir fried mixture
  9. Spoon mix into lettuce cups and enjoy hot !

Beef Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine

A much better sauce made from a reduction of the braising liquid

***UPDATE***

Third attempt – same sauce as second attempt (straining, skimming the fat and then reducing), over quinoa. Full disclosure – I served it with the smallest onions I had just so that there was *some* semblance of vegetables. And they were excellent ! Really brings out the sweetness of the onion. If you want to do this, then add the peeled onions to the mixture during the last hour of braising.

First attempt – beef short ribs braised in red wine on soft polenta

The picture above is my first attempt at beef short ribs. The second attempt was far far better. So much better, in fact, that as soon as they were out of the oven, they were eaten (ie before I could remember to take a photo – oops). But I will update this post again with the new (!) and improved (!!) version, as I want to share what I did differently, and why.

Beef short ribs are uh-mazing. I bought two large packs of Australian beef short ribs from the Barbie Girls, each containing three gorgeously meaty, English-cut ribs. Ribs need time to cook to break down the connective tissue to make them t-e-n-d-e-r, and both times the ribs were cooked with the same ingredients.

The first time I was so eager to eat, that I forgot that ribs are a fatty cut of meat, and a lot of that renders out during the long cooking process. The end result was beautifully tender meat, but in an overly oily and thin sauce.

The second time I made this dish, I spent the time and effort to strain the sauce, skim as much fat as possible, and reduce the sauce, before adding the ribs and the sauce back in the same pot, and putting them back in the oven for another hour. It’s a little more effort for a far superior end result, with a rich, gravy-like sauce coating the entire rib. Full of flavour without the oiliness from my first attempt.

I also served the ribs the first time, over soft polenta. Weirdly, unlike pork ribs, which I like to serve with something contrastingly crunchy and refreshing, like a fresh coleslaw, I want to eat beef ribs with a similarly soft texture. But I think the polenta, while texture-wise was perfect, was carb-heavy, leaving a feeling of being really very full (OK, perhaps that was also down to pure portion size). The second time, I served it with cauliflower cheese. Yes, it’s rich from the cheese, but I think it’s the lack of carbs in that pairing … that left us with space for dessert (because let’s face it, this dish isn’t for the faint-hearted or diet-conscious – it’s pure indulgence).

Looong story over. I’ll have to make it again just so I can update the photo with the improved recipe.

Beef short ribs braised in red wine

Ingredients:

  1. Beef short ribs – bone in – about 2.5kg
  2. 3 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  3. 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  4. 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  5. Half a bottle of red wine – something heavier like a cabernet or even a shiraz I think works best
  6. 400ml beef stock
  7. *optional* Splash of brandy or port for a nice intense sweet undercurrent
  8. Sprig of rosemary
  9. Sprig of thyme
  10. 2 bay leaves

Method (the best way)

  1. In a large skillet, brown the ribs well – this will add depth of flavour from the caramelised sugars in the meat.
  2. In a large, heavy-based dutch oven or casserole dish, saute the onions, celery and carrot in some olive oil until soft
  3. Drain the oil from the skillet and transfer the meat to the dutch oven
  4. Add the wine, stock, brandy, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves to the pot. Ideally the ribs should be submerged in the liquid. Add additional stock or water if there isn’t enough
  5. Cover, and pop into your oven at 160C (320F) for 3 hours
  6. After 3 hours, take out the pot, take out the meat (it will already be tender and starting to fall off the bone) and carefully strain the liquid
  7. Discard what you’ve strained out – all those vegetables and herbs have imparted all their flavour in the sauce
  8. Return the liquid to the pot on high heat, and reduce by at least 30% – this will take about 20-30 minutes
  9. Pop the meat back in to the pot, cover, and return pot to the oven for another hour. There will be less liquid so the meat won’t be entirely covered, but don’t worry, the steam will help to cook any uncovered meat
  10. Serve with cauliflower cheese

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

Easy peasy recipe. Massage the rub into your pork, pop in to your slow cooker, and ten hours later, amazingly tender pulled pork magically comes out ! OK there’s just one or two more steps, but honestly, it’s quick to prepare (obviously it takes a long time to actually cook, but the slow cooker does all the work for you), and delicious to eat.

Ingredients

  1. Pork butt (pork shoulder) – I had 1kg but I’d recommend as much pork as you can fit in your slow cooker, as this freezes really well. Obviously adjust the ingredients below accordingly.

For the rub:

  1. 1 tbls garlic powder
  2. 1 tbls onion powder
  3. 1 tbls sea salt
  4. black pepper (as much as you can be bothered to grind)
  5. pinch chilli flakes
  6. pinch cayenne pepper
  7. 2 tbls red wine vinegar
  8. glug of olive oil
  9. 2-3 tbls honey

Additional ingredients:

  1. 1/4 cup brown sauce (I used HP)
  2. squirt of tomato sauce

Method

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients for the rub together, add the wet ingredients, to make a paste
  2. Get your hands dirty and massage that paste all over your pork
  3. Pop into your slow cooker for an hour on high
  4. Reduce the setting to low and let the slow cooker do its magic for the next 8 hours
  5. Carefully take the pork out, removing any large pieces of fat, and shred
  6. Add back to the slow cooker with the brown sauce and tomato sauce for an hour
  7. Serve on something that can withstand and soak up the juicy pork – like a burger bun (I had a wrap), with something crunchy and fresh like a good coleslaw 

 

 

 


Truffle Gourmet, Monte Carlo, France

Fresh white truffles over fried eggs

What’s a trip to the French Riviera without a visit to Monte Carlo in Monaco ?

Living in Singapore where it costs US$60-70K to just have the right to own a car, we haven’t driven in the last seven years. So how better could I surprise D for our tenth anniversary than to book D in for a few hours of driving around the French Alps in a Ferrari ? (And yes, I scored massive brownie points as “best wife” for this one ;))

Full disclosure – I am such a non-sports person that I didn’t even know that the hotel where we would be picking up the car was the famous Fairmont Hotel, over the Monaco F1 track !

OK so I’m going off topic here.

More truffly goodness over a simple homemade pasta

The other thing that we wanted to do while in Monte Carlo was to visit a place called Truffle Gourmet. The name says it all, really, doesn’t it ?

At the tail end of the white truffle season, we figured, if we were going to get truffles, it would be there.

I had a slight case of initial confusion (happens more than I’d like to admit) when we started to chat to the chefs: why are they speaking in Italian ? Then my brain caught up and realised how close we were to the Italian border.

The best way to enjoy truffles is to let them shine. Simple food, with fresh truffles shaved over always makes me smile. So when the recommendation of “over some eggs, and maybe over some fresh pasta ?” came, we just nodded vigorously.

The eggs were a little overcooked – the yolks had almost cooked through, but the pasta was just perfect. The aroma of the generous shavings of white truffles filled the air. Bellissimo !

Truffle Gourmet has coincidentally recently opened up a branch in Singapore. It’s a restaurant more than a counter-cafe but at least we will be able to enjoy truffly goodness locally.

Truffle Gourmet
15 , place d’ Armes, 98000 Monaco
Tel: +377 97 77 19 19


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