With the beginning of the winter season, Chou Chou and I were craving a hearty dish, one that we had while in France – tartiflette.
Tartiflette is a dish originating in the Savoy region of France. It is a hearty, creamy dish featuring potatoes, Rebluchon cheese (which is nearly impossible to find in the US and when you do, is ridiculously expensive), onions, ham, and cream. We have made the dish before substituting the Rebluchon with Gruyère cheese.
For us, tartiflette is a comfort food, it is a reminder of the friends in France who hosted us when we took our family trip to heal our hearts and renew ourselves. Friends who took us to the Saturday market, where we sipped on mulled wine as we walked and explored. Where we bought local honey, fig preserves, and Rebluchon cheese. It is a meal shared among friends and made in a warm home, explained step by step in a cozy kitchen as I helped to prepare. A reminder of the lovely conversation with friends, leaning into the counter on either side of the oven, waiting for the potatoes to cook and the cheese to bubble.
I used this tartiflette recipe from Anthony Bourdain, using heavy cream instead of white wine, and using 32 oz of gnocchi instead of potatoes.
While the dense texture of gnocchi is something that Mon Amour is still unsure of, overall it was a successful swap.
“And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the east. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They went into the house, and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they knelt down and worshipped him. They brought out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and presented them to him.”
Matthew 2:9-11 GNB
Today marks the last day of the Christmas season – today is Epiphany, or King’s Day. In France it is La Fête des Rois, and they celebrate with a King’s Cake (which is different from the Mardi Gras King Cake) – la galette des rois.
Before packing away our ornaments and decorations, we take this one last day to celebrate the spirit of the Christmas season- the joy of being together and the hope for what will come.
This morning Mon Cœur moved the Magi to the manger of our crèche (nativity), and I went on a hunt for the galette des rois recipe in my French cookbooks. I knew we made a galette last year, and yet I couldn’t find the recipe I used. So off I went into our hodge podge of cookbooks to find one.
Years ago, Daddy purchased a book for me on French cooking…it’s huge, very comprehensive, and explains in detail how to prepare some of the most complicated pastries, desserts, and dishes of the French cuisine. It even came with a DVD!
The recipe book, French Cooking Classic Recipes and Techniques by Vincent Boué and Hubert Delorme provided the perfect, classic recipe for a galette des rois complete with an almond and pastry cream. Sorry to say, I did not try making the puff pastry from scratch – I was being a realist and leaned into Pepperidge Farms for their frozen version which worked just as well for me!
I loved though how each technique was demystified, ingredients were in our standard measurements, and how well (by this un-trained Américaine) the cake turned out.
After dinner, Mon Cœur served the traditional role of doling out slices. No one found the fève yet – so we aren’t sure who is king or queen, yet. This year with Mon Amour digging into the cake too, I made sure our fève was edible and not a choking hazard – we placed a half of a Medjool date in the cake.
Only after getting the kids to bed did I find evidence of making a galette last year- with a recipe from Florence, from My Parisian Kitchen. No wonder no one remembers the cake- last year I used what was in the pantry- apples and applesauce- instead of making the almond cream filling!
We will begin putting away our Christmas for next year, I am getting a little anxious to clean up and declutter. The one thing that doesn’t need to be packed up, and that I will endeavor to last throughout the year is the Spirit of the Season – where friends and family come together, where we spend time making, baking, laughing, and singing throughout the season.
Ok. I know it’s not summer yet, although we keep having these beautiful mid, upper 70s days and gosh…I am so ready for warmer weather! I can’t wait for the longer days and dinners outside.
I am loving this time of year, too, when Spring whispers calm and mild, encouraging the first bulbs to awake and flower. When the daffodils and tulips and hyacinths are in bloom, and the phlox seems to bloom overnight and profusely. Butterflies first reappear, flitting through the air, here and there. And the sun shines bright promising warmer days to come.
With summer in sight, I thought I’d make our favorite salmon dish. I’ve been making this dish for about four years now. It is a summer favorite, and one that is requested most often to be made- by Chou Chou, by friends, and by family.
I made it *a lot* the summer I was pregnant with Mon Cœur. It is THE dish that I made and only nibbled on the night I went into labor with her. This is a dish that MC loves, too.
It is my favorite dish to make and to eat because it’s easy, low prep, and has simple ingredients. It’s so low maintenance and plays well with so many different sides…rice, baked potatoes, salad, asparagus. Plus it’s light and healthy.
It’s a blogger fave, too
A while ago a blogger who I follow asked readers for salmon recipe suggestions, and I shared with her my recipe. I was so glad to see that she tried it and loved it! I am also digging the sides she made and will have to try the spinach and shallots next time.
Brittany has some amazing recipes at her blog, A Healthy Slice. If you are ever looking for recipe inspiration, she’s got amazing, healthy meals to try.
Salmon, tomatoes, and capers
The original recipe comes from Wegman’s, and we love to splurge on the family pack of salmon – it’s huge, so it actually makes two dinners for us.
Last night we had this dish paired with rice and our first harvest of asparagus.
1 pt grape tomatoes
½ onion, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic
1.5 oz capers (½ of a three ounce bottle)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 salmon filets
salt & pepper
Lemon (if desired)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, combine first six ingredients (tomatoes —>parsley) with 1 Tbs olive oil. Set aside.
Line a deep baking sheet/pan with foil (or use a cast iron) and drizzle some olive oil. Season salmon filets with salt & pepper and add to baking sheet. Surround the salmon with the tomato mixture. Place lemon slices (optional) on top of salmon.
Place in the oven and bake +/- for 45 minutes until tomatoes start to split, and salmon forks easily.
Had I posted this before Easter, I would have titled this post “Easter Bunny cake,” but alas, since Easter has passed and I still wanted to share, I changed the title…It still works, since Spring has just arrived and we’ve seen so many little bunnies hopping around here.
My favorite Easter tradition
My favorite Easter tradition dating back to 1980 something, was making the Easter Bunny cake. We have made this faithfully, every year, since the idea was published and circulated by Baker’s and Pillsbury in the newspaper and Mom clipped it.
We made it the year our cousins came to visit. We made it in college, inviting friends over to make “the bunny cake.” When we were in that awkward post-college, pre-kid phase, the neighbor kids came over for a few years to give us a reason to bake the cake. Now we have five kids in the kitchen, helping decorate.
One year…we did deviate from the bunny pattern. The advertisement and coupon that circulated sometime a few years later was for a chick cake with the same decorating principles…lots of frosting and dyed coconut. I am sure my mother has this pattern filed away with the bunny cake, although I didn’t think to ask last weekend. A quick google search shows you just how fancy bunny cakes have become.
That’s a lot of sugar…
And while I love making the bunny cake every year, Mon Cœur (MC) expressed her dislike for coconut, and I found collecting and using all the different decorating ingredients – frosting, dye, coconut, chocolate chips, licorice, jelly beans – a bit more work than I wanted to do.
This year, I knew in advance that we would be making a cake at our home as well as one with my Mom, my Sister and her family. Two bunny cakes in one weekend? Why not? But let’s make things interesting. For our bunny cake this year at home, I decided on a carrot cake recipe from Food Network. My reasoning? It’s “healthy,” (hello, it is chock full of carrots and I used some whole wheat flour) so…I am able to justify eating a very large portion (read: ALL) of it.
The recipe called for a cream cheese icing, and the original recipe is for a three tier cake, so naturally I made a bunny and a chick, and had lots of extra icing.
I’ve adjusted the recipe amounts for one bunny, below. If you want to make a chick, simply divide the recipe in half and use one round pan.
The “healthy” bunny cake
For the cake:
½ cup vegetable oil, plus more for the pans
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
⅔ cup whole wheat flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
⅔ teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup granulated sugar
⅔ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 cups shredded carrots (about ½ pound carrots)
For the frosting:
one 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Make the cake: Preheat to 350 degrees F. Brush two 9-inch-round cake pans with vegetable oil.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and granulated sugar in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the vegetable oil, lemon zest, and eggs. Stir in the carrots, then fold the carrot mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Divide among the prepared pans and spread evenly (it won’t look like a lot of batter, but the cakes will rise in the oven – seriously!). Bake approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool.
Make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter in a bowl with a mixer until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and salt until smooth.
Cut the cakes and position the pieces: One circle stays whole (bunny’s face) the other, you’ll cut like the design of a baseball – the outer pieces are the two ears, and the inner piece is the bow tie. Because YES, bunnies wear bowties. At least for auspicious occasions such as Easter. Dye frostings if you wish to have a color for the inner ear, the bow tie, nose, etc. Frost and use extra carrot shavings as decoration if you’d like. They make pretty fine whiskers for bunnies, and beak decoration for chicks.
Refrigerate until ready to enjoy! (Seriously. Unless you want green “FUNfetti” aka. mold, you should refrigerate.)
Toddler chef lessons
MC had many learning opportunities for this kitchen adventure:
What a peeler and grater is and how to peel and grate carrots. (And yes, she tried both!)
The highest speed on the stand mixer, and not to start at that speed with powdered sugar that had just been added and not yet mixed. (This was an independent experiment conducted – surprise!)
How to make and dye cream cheese icing and how to ice a cake. (But her favorite part was licking the icing off the mixing paddle)
Toddler Version 2021
Mom’s Bunny was a FUNfetti version, all fun and coconut shavings, with rainbow twizzlers and chocolate chips. We have always followed the directions exactly – delicately dying the coconut pink and green, precisely placing each chocolate chip one at a time, trimming the twizzlers to the perfect whisker length. Except this year I was distracted, and didn’t do my “teacher’s best” to introduce the cooking activity and explain what was going to happen.
A serendipitous oops happened – four girls pitching in, using their creativity and teamwork. They took artistic license, adding alphabet cookies and not giving a care in the world for the picture directions.
I checked in on them at one point and told myself the following:
That’s not what the picture looks like (Mom will be surprised!)
They are decorating so nicely together though (Leave them be!)
Goodness gracious, that’s a whole lot of sugar…(oh my, oh my…)
An afterthought occurred for next year’s bunny cake – the girls all had their own decorations for the cake, we could make cupcakes and cut and assemble two to make personal sized bunny cakes that each could decorate, make, and take home.
Guinness chocolate stout cake [as taken from bon appétit, with a few tweaks]
I first made this cake years ago for Chouchou’s birthday. I make it sometimes when I am craving it (like now, while I am writing about this), and it was one of our wedding cakes (YES! We had multiple wedding cakes at our backyard barbecue party!) This is a crowd pleaser and one of my most baked cakes!
I love to cook and bake, although I like to stick to simple recipes. This one may sound complicated, although it is simple and looks beautiful as a three tiered cake.
2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
4 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups self rising flour
4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream
2 cups whipping cream
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.
Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.
Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.