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Archive for the ‘French’ Category

Sautéed shiitakes for the perfect ski weekend

I’m writing this blog post remotely, from my brother’s house in Vermont. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the amazing snow conditions we’ve had this weekend. The night before I arrived, the ski gods delivered a snow storm that covered the mountains with about 15″ of fresh powder. It was perfect timing! All the evergreens were covered in snow. The views from the chairlifts were stunning. I spent all day Friday and Saturday skiing. My body is sore, but it’s the good kind of sore. The satisfying kind. And when your body is aching and you don’t want to move a muscle, you should have simple and delicious recipes in your back pocket. Because no amount of aching is reason not to eat well.

15″ of fresh powder
fresh powder
Vermont evergreens
Vermont evergreens
this view <3
this view

I grew up not liking mushrooms. Something about the texture and flavor didn’t appeal to me. It probably didn’t help that in school we learned that mushrooms are a type of fungus. I was missing out. At one point, my taste buds had a revelation and now I can’t get enough! My favorite preparation for most kinds of mushrooms is sautéed in a bit of butter, with minced garlic, fresh thyme (or in this case leftover marjoram from Melissa Clark’s Tarragon Chicken), and finished with a splash of vermouth. If you don’t have vermouth, you can substitute a dry white wine.

mise en place
mise en place

The preparation is simple. If you start off with great quality fresh mushrooms, you don’t have to do much to them. I got these beautiful shiitakes from my local farmers market in Baltimore. Shiitakes are famous for their wonderful meaty texture and an earthy and slightly smokey flavor profile. They’re great for a hearty side.

mushroom prep
mushroom prep

You don’t want to rinse fresh mushrooms under water. They’ll inevitably absorb some of that water, which will make it more difficult to achieve a nice sear on the surface. Searing mushrooms triggers the Maillard reaction, which helps draw out the rich, smokey, and earthy flavors of the shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake stems can be tough. If the mushroom is big or the stem is particularly dry, I recommend cutting it off. If the stems are small and feel tender to the touch, I generally leave them on and only cut the tip, where the mushroom was attached to the soil.

garlic & marjoram
garlic and marjoram
light brown garlic
light brown garlic

This step is important. If you look away for one second, you run the risk of burning the garlic, which is no good. You can’t recover from burnt garlic. If that happens to you, toss out the garlic, wipe the pan, and start over. As the first specks of garlic barely begin to turn golden brown, you want to add the mushrooms and toss them in the garlic butter. The mushrooms will absorb all that garlic-infused butter, which is what you want. You also want to hold off on seasoning the mushrooms at this point. Adding salt will draw out the moisture of the mushrooms, which will make it more difficult to get a nice sear on the surface.

a splash of vermouth
a splash of vermouth
sautéed shiitake mushrooms
a splash of vermouth

Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms with Vermouth

yields ~4 appetizer servings


  • 1 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh marjoram, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp vermouth
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. With a sharp knife, remove any tough stems from the larger shiitake mushrooms. With a damp paper towel, wipe any specks of dirt from the surfaces.
  2. In a large skillet over medium low heat add butter, olive oil, and garlic.
  3. Cook the garlic until barely golden brown and add the shiitake mushrooms. Coat the mushrooms in the garlic-infused butter then allow them to sear by not stirring too frequently.
  4. Add the chopped marjoram, the vermouth, and season with salt. Stir to mix everything together and enjoy.


Melissa Clark’s Tarragon Chicken

If I make a dish three times in two weeks, it merits its own blog post. Melissa Clark’s Tarragon Chicken with Sherry Vinegar Onions is delicious.

If you skip today’s post and scroll through the pictures to the recipe, I would understand. For those who just ate or are browsing food blogs at work without access to a kitchen, I’ll try to use my words to do this recipe justice. Think French countryside. Think homey. Think simple, yet assertive. Think onions cooked in chicken fat. Think happiness. It’s not often a dish makes me feel this way.

One of the most common questions I get is whether I cook complicated meals all the time, every day. I don’t. Sometimes I’m just hungry and crave something simple and delicious. Melissa’s tarragon chicken is perfect for those days. While it’s simple, it does take a little bit of preparation the night before. You should marinate the chicken overnight for optimal tarragon flavor. Fresh herbs, unlike their dry counterparts, have a subtle flavor. You need to give the flavor time to permeate into the chicken. Once the chicken is marinated though, the dish comes together in no time.

The first time I made this dish, I prepared it just as Melissa described in her recipe: I thinly sliced the onions, I used plenty of tarragon, I finished it with a splash of sherry vinegar—it tasted amazing. The supporting role of the onions should not be understated. The onions cook down in the herb-infused chicken fat and developer a rich, caramelized flavor profile. That splash of sherry vinegar at the end cuts through the chicken fat so that your palate can discern the flavor of the herbs and chicken.

The second time I prepared this dish, I wanted to double down on the anise flavor of the tarragon. I added thinly sliced fennel to the bed of onions. The texture of the roasted fennel blends perfectly with the melt-in-your-mouth onions. Roasted fennel imparted a caramelized anise flavor that pairs perfectly with the tarragon.

The third time I prepared this dish, I didn’t need to change anything. For fun, I decided swap out the thyme for marjoram, which tends to have a grassier, sweeter flavor profile. It was perfect. That’s the variation I present to you today. It’s a keeper. Bookmark this page and make this for your friends and family. You can thank me later.

mise en place
mise en place
tarragon leaves
tarragon leaves

Tarragon leaves are long and slender. Remove any tough stems so that you’re left with the fragrant leaves and some tender stems.

chopped herbs: tarragon & marjoram
chopped herbs

When you’re chopping herbs, make sure you use your sharpest knife and the herbs are relatively dry. This will help prevent the herbs from bruising.

simple marinade: herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt & pepper
simple marinade: herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt & pepper
chicken marinating
chicken marinating

The marinating step for this dish is important. Fresh herbs have a subtle flavor and need time permeate the chicken.

best supporting role: sherried onions & fennel
best supporting role: sherried onions and fennel

The onions and fennel make this dish. Slice them thinly so that they can develop a rich, caramelized flavor profile.

chicken thighs nestled in onions
chicken thighs nestled in onions
tarragon chicken
tarragon chicken

Tarragon Chicken with Sherry Vinegar Onions

yields ~6 servions


  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped tarragon (leaves and tender stems), plus 4 whole sprigs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped marjoram (leaves and tender stems), plus 4 whole sprigs
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 2 medium onion, peeled and sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, more as needed

Putting them all together

  1. In a large bowl or a large ziplock bag, stir together the chopped tarragon, chopped marjoram, garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Add chicken thighs and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap (if using a bowl) or seal (if using a ziplock bag) and chill overnight (or last least for six hours).
  2. Heat oven to 425 degree. Spread thinly sliced onions and fennel out on a rimmed baking sheet. Make sure the onions form a thin layer so that they caramelize, not steam.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Nestle the chicken thighs on the baking pan so that the onions and fennel surround the chicken. Add the marjoram and tarragon sprigs on top.
  5. Roast, tossing the onions and fennel after 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are tender, 30-35 minutes.
  6. Turn on the broiler for 1-2 minutes at the end so that the chicken skins get crispy and the onions and fennel caramelize further.
  7. Place chicken on a platter. Drizzle onions with sherry vinegar and more salt and pepper if needed. Spoon onions around the chicken and serve.

Note: Recipe adapted from NYTimes: Tarragon Chicken With Sherry Vinegar Onions.


juicy tarragon chicken
juicy tarragon chicken

Chocolate Love

I hope everyone is enjoying their Valentine’s Day this year. If you already bought truffles or chocolates for your partner, bookmark this recipe. But don’t wait till next Valentine’s Day to prepare these. Pick a random day that’s not February 14. Buy some flowers. Prepare a special dinner that you both enjoy. Then pull these out for dessert. They’re amazing. These espresso-infused chocolate truffles melt in your mouth and pack a jolt of espresso. They’re also incredibly simple to make — as long as you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

mise en place
mise en place
coffee infusion
chocolate + cream
chocolate + cream
ooey, gooey chocolate
ooey gooey chocolate
chocolate mounds
chocolate mounds
form into balls
chocolate love
chocolate love

Espresso-Infused Chocolate Truffles

yields 20-24 chocolate truffles


  • 5.5 oz dark chocolate* (I use 60-70%)
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Putting them all together

  1. Chop chocolate into small chunks with a serrated knife.
  2. Heat up the cream to a boil, add the instant espresso powder, then remove from the heat.
  3. Add chopped chocolate and stir gently until completely dissolved.
  4. Pour chocolate ganache into a bowl and set aside until it reaches room temperature. Place mixture in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to cool down even further (this helps form the mounds).
  5. Using two spoons scoop small mounds of cooled chocolate ganache onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Wear food-safe gloves and smooth out the chocolate mounds into balls (if the chocolate starts to melt quickly, throw the mounds back in the fridge for a few minutes).
  7. Toss the chocolate balls in cocoa powder and enjoy.

Note: *Make sure to use the best quality chocolate you can find because the flavor will come through. Valrhona, Callebaut, and El Rey are some of my favorite brands.


a bite of heaven
a bite of heaven

World Peace, a step in the right direction

It is difficult to write about my experiences in Syria knowing that the country is on the brink of civil war and chaos. It breaks my heart. I also realize that not writing anything won’t necessarily make things better, either. And giving up on my blog — the thing that used to bring me so much happiness — is the last thing I want to do.

mise en placemise_en_place

I want to keep today’s post short with the promise that I’ll be back again soon. I won’t disappear like I did before, you have my word. Thank you to all those who nudged me (physically and electronically) and encouraged me to continue writing. It may have taken me a while, but I’m here.

creaming processmixing

Today’s recipe is not one that I learned on my Fulbright in Syria, although I still have plenty of those to share with you, too. This is a recipe that I’ve come across many times on some of my favorite food blogs: World Peace Cookies. It even made it to Saveur’s list, Recipes that Rocked the Internet. Given all that is going on, I thought this was the perfect time to try such an alluring cookie.

sift for clumpssifting

Pastry Chef Pierre Hermé originally developed these cookies for a restaurant in Paris, and Dorie Greenspan introduced them to the world in her book, Paris Sweets . The original name for the cookies was Sables Korova, or Korova Cookies, named after the restaurant off Champs Élysées that Pierre Hermé created the recipe for. It was not until Dorie’s neighbor tasted these these ultra decadent, chocolate-intense cookies that the name changed to what we know today. Dorie’s neighbor was convinced that a daily dose of these is all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness; thus the new name was born.

chocolate: the ‘peace’ in ‘world peace’adding_chocolate

I used Dorie’s recipe, except I took the liberty to add a pinch of orange zest to the dough; the combination of orange and chocolate makes my heart swoon. You could always leave that addition out if you’d like. The point is, these cookies are amazing any way you prepare them. They are crumbly and chocolatey and even if they don’t bring world peace immediately, I’m fully convinced, as was Dorie’s neighbor, that they are a step in the right direction.

refrigerate dough (in logs)logs
cookie doughcookie_dough
freshly bakedsheet_tray
World Peace Cookiesworld_peace_cookies1
cold milk: enabler of world peace world_peace_cookies2

World Peace Cookies

yields approx 36 cookies


  • 1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons or 150 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (120 grams) (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces (150 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips
  • zest of half an orange*(not in original recipe)

Putting them all together

  1. Mix together the butter and sugars in a stand mixer on medium speed until the mixture becomes pale and creamy. You can also use a hand mixer. Add the salt, vanilla extract, and orange zest and mix for a couple more minutes.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda and add to the butter and sugar mixture. Pulse a few times at a low speed to incorporate the flour and prevent it from spilling. Add the chocolate chunks and mix on low speed for 30 seconds, or until the flour is fully incorporated. Do not overwork the dough; the dough should still look and feel crumbly. Divide the dough in two and form into logs approximately 1.5 inches in diameter. Roll each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (you can refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days or freeze the dough for 2 months).
  3. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  4. With a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into disks that are 1/2 inch thick. Don’t worry if the disks crack as you cut them, just squeeze the bits back together. Arrange the sliced disks on your baking sheets, making sure to leave about an inch between each cookie.
  5. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes. Note that they will still be soft and won’t look done, but that’s how they should be. Cool the cookies on a cookie rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Make sure to store leftover cookies (if there are any) in an airtight container.

Notes: Recipe adapted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan.


if not world peace, then happiness, for sureempty_glass

Vegas Decadence Packed in a Brioche Panini

Vegas is all about one thing: over the top, elaborate, in-your-face, decadence. On my trip to Vegas last week I noticed that was a recurring theme. Gelato at 11 o’clock at night. Extravagant shows put on by Cirque du Soleil. The world’s largest chocolate fountain. Vegas is decadent. Sure, some people perceive its decadence in other more “lewd” ways, but I was there to experience the amazing food. I also learned how to play Craps along the way, but that’s a different blog post.

I uploaded more photos from my Vegas trip to Flickr.

Wynn Hotel
wynn hotel
Beignets Filled with Oozing Chocolate

Restaurant: The Country Club

SW Steak House

Restaurant: SW SteakHouse

Kobe Beef Carpaccio

Restaurant: The Country Club

Duck Coated in a Fig-BBQ Sauce Served on Brioche Bun

Restaurant: The Country Club

Lots of love at Jean Philippe Patisserie
jean philippe patisserie

Restaurant: Jean Philippe Pattisserie

Out of all the dishes I had that week, my absolute favorite, which was not an easy decision to arrive at (as you could see), featured house-made elk sausage. It was the only dish I ordered twice that week. I don’t usually order a dish twice, but I had to make an exception. It was that good. The sausage, you see, was served on a bed of a marble potato hash cooked with pancetta and a mix of sweet peppers and onions. And gracefully balanced atop of the elk sausage rested a perfectly poached egg. It was perfect — no undercooked egg white and a barely warm yolk, still very runny of course. In order to qualify for Las Vegas decadence status, however, you need that extra something. That extra something, in this case, was the beautifully prepared, buttery choron sauce. If you’ve never had choron sauce, just think béarnaise with a bit of tomato purée. Instead of the puree, however, the chef incorporated a fine dice of sun dried tomatoes to achieve a similar flavor with added texture.

Elk Sausage Served with Poached Eggs and Choron Sauce
elk sausage

Restaurant: Tableau

Me and Chef Timothy Henderson at Tableau
chef at Tableau

Photo Credit: M. Scott Smith

Today, I decided to pay tribute to Las Vegas with an equally decadent blog post. I didn’t have to look too far since I have plenty of decadent brioche left over from my previous post. You can’t tell from the photos, but I had made 2 batches of brioche, which left me with 4 total loaves, and 6 sticks of butter less in the fridge. But that’s not enough. In order to come close to Vegas-level decadence, I needed something more. I needed that charon sauce — something to take this already rich bread to new levels of decadence. Chocolate was the answer (as it almost always is).

mise en place
mise en place

With some spotty bananas sitting on my counter, I decided to turn some of my left over brioche into mini chocolate-banana panini.

wait, wait… some extra chocolate
extra chocolate
panini press
panini press
chocolate-banana brioche panini
chocolate-banana brioche panini

Chocolate-Banana Brioche Panini

yields 4 panini


  • 4 thick slices of brioche (1/2 inch)
  • High Quality Dark Chocolate (50-70% Cocoa)*, medium chop
  • thinly sliced bananas

Putting them all together

  1. Cut each slice of brioche in half.
  2. Layer chocolate chunks topped with a few slices of banana and an extra sprinkling of chocolate. The chocolate will act as a glue and keep the bananas in place.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a panini press or on a skillet over a burner*.

Notes: I used Callebaut Chocolate for these panini, although any high quality dark chocolate also works — El Rey (Venezuela) and Valrhona (France) are a couple of my favorite brands. You could also make your own panini press by placing your sandwich in a large skillet over medium heat and topping it with another heated skillet (cast iron works best because it’s heavy).


oozing chocolate, creamy banana, buttery brioche — decadence accomplished
chocolate, banana, brioche