Monthly Archives: September 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Honey-Spiced Madeleines

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. In two straight lines they broke their bread and brushed their teeth and went to bed. They smiled at the good and frowned at the bad and sometimes they were very sad. They left the house at half past nine in two straight lines in rain or shine — the smallest one was Madeline”

 – Opening lines from Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline

I know the madeleine connection is really through Proust, but this is what kept running through my mind as I baked…

I suppose I’m a bit of a hoarder in the kitchen. I have a pantry full of obscure ingredients, in addition to the usual staples. I’m ready to make lots of not yet discovered recipes on the spur of the moment. I also have a variety of cooking tools to be prepared for who knows what.

This is a long winded of way of saying that I have had a madeleine pan for over 20 years, and this week is the first time I’ve ever used it. In fact, I’d only even had a madeleine once before. That was last year when someone told me the madeleines at Starbuck’s were good. Why I’ve had this pan for so long and never actually used it is a mystery.

So, this week, for French Fridays with Dorie, the on-line cooking group I participate in, the recipe was Honey-Spiced Madeleines. What a perfect opportunity! I had all the ingredients, and the proper bakeware, too. Actually, I didn’t have an orange, but I did have a lemon, so I substituted lemon zest for orange.

The batter for the madeleines needs to rest before baking, at least 3 hours. As a convenience, Dorie suggests that you can fill the pan with batter and chill the pan. That’s what I did, chilling it overnight. In the morning, I preheated the oven and baked the madeleines while I ate breakfast. I brought them to work as a treat for my co-workers, who seemed to appreciate them.

When preparing the pan, I decided to brush melted butter onto the pan because I thought I’d get better coverage. I liked the way it worked out. As for getting the thick eggy batter into the pan, I took a tip from Sarah at Frankly Entertaining and piped the batter instead of spooning it. I wasn’t sure whether to smooth the tops or not, so I did some of each. It didn’t seem to make a difference either way.

Dorie calls the madeleines cookies, but I think they are more like little cakes. Having only had madeleines once before, I don’t have a good point of comparison, but I liked Dorie’s version. I liked their simple elegance, and they are lovely with a cup of tea. The flavors of the honey and spices weren’t very strong. (Maybe I should have added more.) I enjoyed these enough to experiment with other flavors, and I definitely won’t wait another 20 years to use that madeleine pan again – unless I end up buying a mini-madeleine to make tinier cakes. I’m tempted.

Usually, if you want the recipe for these French Friday posts, you have to buy the book, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. However, Dorie posted the recipe for the madeleines on her site, so you can find it here. Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ thoughts on this recipe at French Fridays with Dorie.

Happy First Day of Autumn!!!!

My Sweet Autumn Clematis welcoming the season

Musings on Marriage (and Meals)

Last week, Howard and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. It seems that in the Hallmark world, 25 years is the more significant milestone, but we think two decades is worthy of a big celebration. We’ve been married longer than my own parents were married to each other before they divorced. On the other hand, we have some catching up to do to match my in-laws who have been married for 55 years.

So far, it’s been a wonderful journey, as long as you don’t count that first rocky year. An initially rough road is probably not unexpected when you take two people, relatively independent by nature, both of whom have each been living own their own for a while. Have them combine households into a 687 square foot apartment with a baby grand piano in the living room. Does that sound like a recipe for happiness and bliss? I don’t think so. If we could make it through that, we can probably make it through anything.

The Happy Couple

Two decades, we had two dinners to celebrate. The first was on the actual day. We went to a local favorite, Daikanyama, a Japanese sushi and noodle restaurant in our town. We usually have a taste of sushi as an appetizer and then have big bowls of noodle soup for dinner, and that’s what we did. It hit the spot.

We also like having special dinners for special occasions. For our “real” celebratory dinner, we picked Hugo’s in Portland, Maine. We went there about five years ago, and that meal has held a place in our Hall of Fame for incredible meals (there are currently only 5 spots, you can see the list here). Our anniversary seemed like a worthy reason to splurge again.

The chef at Hugo’s is Rob Evans. His food is creative, challenging, and interesting, all at the same time. Though I’ve never eaten at the French Laundry, based on what I’ve read about it, his past training under Thomas Keller shows in the menu at his own restaurant, Hugo’s.

We opted for a six-course blind tasting menu with accompanying wine matched to each course. That means we didn’t know what we were going to be served. As each course was served, the delivered dish was described in detail. The ingredients are sourced 98% locally, with all the seafood coming from the Gulf of Maine, so the meal, which changes daily, was about as seasonal as you could get. Many of the courses were things I wouldn’t necessarily have selected from an à la carte menu.

Amazingly, there wasn’t anything served that I wouldn’t or couldn’t eat. (I don’t willingly eat organs, other than the occasional chicken liver, but none were served.) I enjoyed it all. Howard can almost say that too. The only hiccup for him was the final dessert course which was chocolate (good) served with banana cake (not good). I ate his banana cake, so together we finished every morsel. (Teamwork = good foundation for happy marriage)

Certainly, a restaurant like this isn’t for everyone, but we weren’t disappointed by our choice. We were thrilled. It was a worthy spot to celebrate the milestone of two decades of marriage.

Here’s the menu we enjoyed:

Amuse
Korean BBQ Winter Point Oyster, lightly poached with basil oil, fried garlic and daikon
Wine: Brut Cava (Spain)

1st
Blue Fin Tuna Tartare with tomato water and tomatoes, black trumpet mushrooms, and fennel

2nd
Key Lime Cured Sardines with nasturtium, cucumber, radish, and olive oil ice cream
Wine: Albariño (Spain)

3rd
Cod Head Stew (cheek, throat, and tongue) with udon noodle, cipollini onion, and maitake mushroom
Wine: Versi Bianco (Italy)

4th
Second Change Farm’s Veal with wild mushrooms, potatoes, consummé, and kohlrabi
Wine: Pinot Noir (New Zealand)

5th
Late Harvest Strawberry Salad with spicy bell pepper granite, mint, and tarragon
Wine: Moscato (California)

6th
Banana Chicory Cake with warm chocolate panna cotta, mascarpone, and curried hazelnuts
Wine: 10 Year Old Malmsey (Portugal)