Passerini: Superb Cucina Povera

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I admit that it has taken me a while to come around to the talents of Chef Giovanni Passerini, but a recent meal at his namesake restaurant Passerini has me a bonafide convert.

The native Roman opened his first restaurant Rino back in 2010 after passing through the kitchens of Alain Passard (Arpege), Peter Nilsson (La Gazzetta) and Iñaki Aizpatarte (Le Chateaubriand). To an adoring Parisian crowd he was able to showcase his own modern style of cucina povera, but for me, in those early days, something didn’t click and my initial experience of Passerini’s vision left me uninspired. In 2014 he sold Rino, to go on to open a new restaurant and adjacent pasta shop (Passerini Pastificio) two years later in 2016 with his partner Justine. The new space, much bigger and brighter than the shoebox Rino, embraces a more sophisticated sense of modern Italian conviviality, offering shared dishes as well as an à la carte menu.

The memory of a recent lunch there lingered in my mind for days afterwards, his dishes a beautiful mixture of hearty servings, delicate flavors, crunch, acid and, above all, that promised sense of conviviality that is at the heart of any good Italian meal. The Panais-Pané proved much more interesting on the plate than on the menu and we delighted in the small nuggets of creamy parsnip deep-fried in bread crumbs and served with a spicy mayonnaise, sautéed Roman chicory, and united with a small dab of gel de citron (almost like a lemon purée). The black radish with oyster sauce, smoked sardines, sorrel and endive was refreshing and harmonious, and a very original take on a light, modern appetizer.

 
 

His pasta is the best example of modern cucina povera that I can think off, with all the hallmarks of comforting rustic Italian cooking, elevated to the extraordinary with thoughtful garnishes and exquisite quality produce. The ravioli, made next door in the pastificio, were filled with a dreamy concoction of potimarron (a dense, full-flavored squash), citrusy notes of orange and an earthy hit of tonka bean. The tonnarelli, a robust dried pasta of square spaghetti strands, was tossed in a hearty lamb ragout, with strips of fresh mint and a generous showering of grated fior sardo, a hard sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia.

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My heart sang when the waiter brought the dessert of the last-of season fresh figs, teamed up with crunchy, caramelized pecans and a ginger and milk sorbet, the perfect end to a faultless meal.

Doggy bags were requested due to the large portion sizes of the pasta, so go hungry. But make sure you go, as this is surely the best Italian meal you will find in Paris.

PASSERINI   |   65 rue Traversière   |   Paris 12   |   +33 1 43 42 27 56   |   Métro: Ledru Rollin   |   Open Tuesday–Saturday dinner. Closed Sunday, Monday & Tuesday lunch   |   restaurant@passerini.paris   |   24-48€ weekday menus (2-4 courses), 40-65€ à la carte at dinner   |   Reservations essential.


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Sauvage: An Unexpected Delight

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Unexpected. This is the word that springs to mind when I think of the small unassuming restaurant-cum-wine bar that has shot to the top of my list of favorite neighborhood dining spots in recent months. Unexpected because of its unlikely location, its curious chef and the spectacular dishes that defy the impossibly small kitchen hidden at the back of the simple yet welcoming dining room. Such a restaurant might be more at home in the 9th or 10th arrondissements of Paris, yet has found itself nestled among the upmarket fashion boutiques and classic bistros of the well-heeled Sevres-Babylone neighborhood – luckily for me just steps from my 7th arrondissement apartment.

Like many of the most interesting new wave of chefs in Paris, chef Sebastien Leroy does not have classic French culinary training. He spent his early career as a graphic designer and then as a set designer in films, before turning his long time passion for food into a fulltime occupation. However, his earthy roots as the son of farmers goes a long way in explaining his deep affinity for all things seasonal and wild. True to the restaurant’s name (meaning wild), Leroy’s personal cooking style is punctuated with fresh herbs and edible flowers, sourced carefully from the likes of herbalist and professional forager Stéphane Meyer (also known as the Druid of Paris!).

 My first meal there made quite an impression – an entrée of raw mackerel, green asparagus, toasted buckwheat and white nasturtium flowers was united by a vinegar dressing whose acidity was perfectly balanced. And herein lies what I love most about Leroy’s food, his understanding of acidity and how to make it bring a dish harmoniously together.

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This perfect introduction was followed by a slow cooked pork dish served with a bright refreshing salad of raw thinly sliced cauliflower, radish, coriander, mint and punctuated with a vibrant miso dressing, a dish I immediately wanted to figure out how to recreate.

 Most dishes seem to follow this formula, meat or fish, simply prepared and accompanied by one or two star vegetables, a scattering of fresh herbs, leaves and/or flowers, and a sauce with near perfect acidity every time to bring the dish coherently together – a rather ingenious blueprint that enables this humble wine bar with big ambitions to produce such sophisticated dishes from a kitchen barely big enough to fit the chef himself.

Two thirds of the wall space is dedicated to natural, organic and biodynamic wines from small, lesser known producers. The right balance of acidity, for Leroy, is just as important in the wines he sources as it is in each dish that he constructs. Since his early days of solo operation, Leroy now works with a front of house who can knowledgeably talk you through the extensive wine selection and will happily make food pairing recommendations.

The 15 seater dining room and the small sidewalk terrace fills up quickly, and although you may get lucky with a walk-in, it’s best to reserve ahead to guarantee a table.

Sauvage   |   60 rue du Cherche-Midi |   Paris 7 |   Tel: +33 6 88 88 48 23 |   Métro: Sèvres-Babylone, Rennes or Vaneau |   Open Monday through Saturday


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Kitchen Ter(re): Three times a charm

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If I had to assign a middle name to chef William Ledeuil, it would be “Inventive.” Few Parisian chefs working today can claim his depth and breadth of creativity, not to mention originality. With his unique passion for all things Asian – be they ingredients, cooking techniques such as steaming or his major respect for dense, full-flavored bouillons – he has set himself apart from those who seem to do no more than follow a trend.

The new Kitchen Ter(re), his third Left Bank restaurant, follows on the success of Ze Kitchen Galerie and Ze Kitchen Galerie Bis. Ter(re) continues his Asian flavor preoccupation– from green curries and coriander, to citron caviar, ginger and varied seaweed – but now artisanal pastas have been added to Ledeuil’s list of preferred specialty ingredients. After discovering a range of rare pastas made from ancient, stone-ground grains by miller and baker Roland Feuillas in France’s southwest, Ledeuil figured out a way to weave them into his already international approach.

Kitchen Ter(re) is not a pasta restaurant, nor an Asian restaurant but another convincing William Ledeuil endeavor. The restaurant is casual, with a brief menu that may include just four starters, four or five main pasta courses, and a trio of desserts. Go as a group of four and you can pretty much sample every delicious, inventive bite on the menu.

As an eternal lover of raw, marinated fish, I jumped on the marinated white fish – dorade – a burst of springtime flavor on a grey Paris day, colorful pinks and a sprinkling of green herbs, the explosive crunch of the little grains of citron caviar, punctuated by a welcome hit of fresh ginger.

Ledeuil moves more towards an Asian approach with his Thai beef bouillon, a dense, full-flavored broth teamed up with cubes of foie gras, quince, mushrooms, and of course sprigs of coriander. The pastas here – all tiny dense shapes – are first quickly blanched, cooled, then cooked off not in water but in various bouillons, giving each pasta a unique depth of flavor

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I would not have thought I’d fall in love with a chocolate dessert that includes the powerful soybean paste, miso, but in Ledeuil’s hands and with the addition of coffee, the dessert achieved a dense, fully chocolate flavor. Try, too, the honey ice cream paired with squash, passion fruit, and coconut.

There’s a lovely Burgundy Aligoté wine of the list: The grape’s depth and personality make it a fine match of Ledeuil’s full-flavored fare.

KITCHEN TER(RE)   |   25 Boulevard Saint Germain   |   Paris 5   |   +33 1 42 39 47 48   |   Métro: Maubert-Mutualité   |   Open Tuesday–Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday   |    http://www.zekitchengalerie.fr/kitchenterre/   |26 and 30€ (2–3 course) lunch menus, à la carte 45€ at dinner   |   Reservations recommended.


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2019 Class dates announced

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With pleasure and anticipation I announce our cooking class dates for 2019. The season will begin in January at our home in Provence with our spectacular Black Truffle Extravaganza, which includes a special truffle hunt, hands-on cooking classes with fresh black truffles at every meal, paired with an extraordinary selection of rare, white Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. In April, our popular five-day Cooking in Paris class will include plenty of seasonal full-participation cooking in our new Left Bank garden atelier, a market visit, cheese, wine, and oil tastings, as well as an extraordinary Michelin three-star meal. In June and September, we continue our week-long, hands-on classes of Cooking in Provence at our home, Chanteduc, gathering herbs, fruits, and vegetables from the garden, sipping wine from the vineyard, cooking with honey from our hives, visiting the renowned weekly market in Vaison-la-Romaine, meeting with sommeliers and cheese merchants, and enjoying the local cuisine. 

PROVENCE COOKING CLASS: FRESH BLACK WINTER TRUFFLES

 January  21 to 25, 2019

MONDAY EVENING: Welcome truffle dinner – Patricia cooks for you!
TUESDAY MORNING:  A Vaison-la-Romaine market visit, followed by hands-on cooking class and truffle lunch
TUESDAY EVENING: Hands-on cooking class followed by truffle dinner
WEDNESDAY MORNING: An authentic truffle hunt with dogs, followed by a sumptuous lunch in a regional restaurant famous both for its truffle dishes and its extraordinary cellar of Rhône Valley wines
THURSDAY MORNING: A visit to the truffle supplier to the stars, a wine tasting, and another unforgettable restaurant lunch, truffles of course
FRIDAY MORNING: New-season olive oil tasting; the final cooking class, and our farewell truffle lunch
 
The fee for each student is $6,000. We can accommodate two companions (a spouse, a significant other, a friend, or a relative who is traveling with the student), who are invited to attend the Wednesday program: the truffle hunt and the restaurant lunch (see above.)  This is a first-come, first-served option and the fee for each companion is $500.

COOKING IN PARIS

April 1 to 5,  2019
April 15 to 19, 2019
April 29 to May 3, 2019

As well as the hands-on cooking classes and lunch, students participate in an olive oil tasting, a bakery visit, a private wine tasting, a market tour, and a Michelin three-star lunch.The sessions include:

MONDAY MORNING: Hands-on cooking class, followed by lunch
TUESDAY MORNING: Hands-on cooking class, followed by lunch
WEDNESDAY MORNING: Tour of the famed President Wilson market, followed by a sumptuous lunch at a Michelin three-star restaurant
THURSDAY MORNING: Visit to the extraordinary Poilâne bakery and its ancient wood-fired oven; an extensive tasting with wine expert Juan Sanchez of La Dernière Goutte wine shop, followed by lunch in our garden (weather permitting!)
FRIDAY MORNING: An olive oil tasting, followed by hands-on cooking class and lunch

The fee for each student is $6,000. We can accommodate two companions (a spouse, a significant other, a friend, or a relative who is traveling with the student), who are invited to attend the Wednesday market tour followed by a Michelin three-star lunch. This is a first-come, first-served option and the fee for each companion is $500.

COOKING IN PROVENCE

June 9 to 14, 2019
June 23 to 28,  2019
Sept 8 to 13, 2019
Sept 22 to 27, 2019

Sessions begin with Sunday dinner and end after lunch on Friday. The sessions include:

SUNDAY EVENING:  Welcome dinner – Patricia cooks for you!
MONDAY MORNING: Hands-on cooking class, followed by lunch
TUESDAY MORNING:  Tour of Vaison’s famous weekly market, followed by hands-on cooking class and lunch WEDNESDAY MORNING: A private tasting of a selection of Rhône Valley wines followed by lunch at the best restaurant in the neighborhood
THURSDAY MORNING: Hands-on cooking class, followed by lunch
FRIDAY MORNING: An olive oil tasting, followed by hands-on cooking class and lunch

The fee for each student is $6,000. We can accommodate two companions (a spouse, a significant other, a friend, or a relative who is traveling with the student), who are invited to attend the Sunday dinner at Chanteduc, Wednesday wine tasting and restaurant lunch, and the Friday lunch at Chanteduc. This is a first-come, first-served option and the fee for each companion is $750.

Sign up here to secure a place in your class of choice. . Please note that classes fill up fast and places are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Food Lover's Guide to Paris 2.0 - Just Released!

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Great news for any of you Food Lovers traveling, already in, or dreaming of Paris – we have just released a stunning new version of the Food Lover's Guide to Paris for iOS 11. After several months of hard work and creative design, the ultra-talented team at Cactuslab has put together several new features and a beautiful redesign to make finding the best places to eat and dine in Paris even easier.

New features include:

~ a fantastic new function to refine your search with multiple filters such as cuisine type, neighborhood, details such as Michelin stars or gluten-free, atmosphere, price, and culinary specialties. Want to search for classic and modern bistros on the left bank that are open on a Monday night or a restaurant with a well-priced lunch menu and a sidewalk terrace to watch the world go by? We got you. 

~ A redesigned map section that displays multiple listings in any one area. You can use the filter function here too, to limit the addresses to the categories you are interested in. And just like the old version, the offline geolocator means you can use the map even when you are no longer connected to the internet, so you can find the best bites nearest to you at any given time.

~ A search function in the A-Z glossary so no more endless scrolling!

~ A beautiful slick new design with a new photo format to really showcase the food photos and whet your appetite.

For those of you who already have the app, simply update your existing app free of charge via the App Store app, to get the latest version. If you don't have the app, you can download it from iTunes or directly on your device via the App Store app for just $4.99.

As the French say, bon app!

 

 

A Moveable Feast: the Paris episode

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This May I was invited to participate along with my very good friend chef Guy Savoy in an episode of A Moveable Feast, a fantastic PBS cooking series now in its 5th season. Hosted by the charming Pete Evans, the three of us cooked together in my Parisian apartment, preparing a formidable French feast : Seasonal Asparagus, Steak Frites, a salad that has to be tossed 32 times, an exquisite cheese platter from my favorite cheesemonger Marie Quatrehomme, landmark sourdough bread from Apollonia Poilâne and an expert selection of wines chosen by my friend Juan Sanchez of La Dernière Goutte wine shop.

The expertly orchestrated day included an astonishing crew of 20, and we were eight at table for the culminating feast, including my incredible assistant Emily Buchanan, Juan of course, and great new friends – Betsy and Alon Kasha – who are currently renovating the apartment that will be my new cooking school.

The episode will feed out to PBS stations tomorrow, Saturday September 23. Local stations across the US will air the show at different times, so check local listings to see when you may watch it.

A Cool Summer Gazpacho

Summer arrived right on time this year in Paris and Provence and temperatures have recently been soaring into the high 90s. When temperatures are this high, I always reach for a recipe where I don't have to turn on an oven, and this one is a favorite as it's so cooling and so very simple to prepare. This is a slight variation on the emulsified soups master recipe, Red Tomato Gazpacho from My Master Recipes. An essential element of the book is to encourage you to first understand the fundamental techniques behind each recipe so that you are then free to switch out ingredients to create endless variations on the original. Recently, I couldn't resist using one of the gorgeous yellow ananas tomatoes from the market, and with all this hot weather the coriander in the garden has shot into flower, so I grabbed a handful to make use of my abundant stock. The result was a soup the color of a cantaloupe (not unlike the cover color of My Master Recipes!), flecked with green. What else do you need on a warm, summer's evening?!

Red Tomato Gazpacho

8 servings   |   Equipment: A blender, food processor or immersion blender 8 chilled, shallow soup bowls or glasses.

2 pounds (1 kg) ripe red tomatoes, rinsed, cored, cut into chunks  
1 small cucumber (about 6 ounces; 180 g) peeled, cut into chunks
1 small mildly hot pepper such as Anaheim, stemmed, cut into chunks
1 small red onion, peeled, cut into chunks
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled, halved, green germ removed if present
2 teaspoons best-quality red wine or sherry wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) mild extra-virgin olive oil

1.    In the blender, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, and garlic. Blend at highest speed until well emulsified and very smooth, a full 2 minutes. With the motor running, add the vinegar and salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, until the mixture is smooth, thick and emulsified.

2.    Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Pour into chilled bowls or glasses to serve.
 
MAKE AHEAD NOTE: The soup can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Re-blend at serving time.

 


This recipe was first published in My Master Recipes. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

 

 

 

 

Petit Problème Technique

Apologies for any inconvenience you might have experienced trying to get in touch with us in recent days. Fortunately our technical  problems have now been resolved but any emails sent between May 16-22 will not have reached us, so if you have been trying to contact us, please send again and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.

Noglu: Fresh and Vibrant Gluten-free Fare

NoGlu appeared on the Paris food scene back in 2012, when restaurants and bakeries catering to those on a gluten-free diet were hard to come by. Since opening their first restaurant in the 2nd arrondissement, the brand has proliferated rapidly to include locations in the 3rd and 7th, as well as an outpost in New York. My local Noglu in the 7th arrondissement is a light and airy café offering a fresh, varied menu with an emphasis on healthy café food. Everything, of course is gluten free, and many dishes also offer vegan substitutes for dairy products.

The Avocado Toast with Gomasio arrived exactly as described, a generous slice of toasted chickpea and rice flour bread (Noglu’s standard loaf), topped with slices of perfectly ripe avocado, and showered in microgreens and Gomasio, a Japanese toasted sesame seed seasoning. The pastry crust of the quiche was very convincing, crisp, flavorful and well cooked, with a filling of sweet potato and feta.

Desserts were a little disappointing. The lemon tart was ‘correct’ as the French like to say, meaning “as it should be” but far from outstanding, let down by a slightly undercooked crust. The vegan raspberry layer cake was sadly inedible, with a very dry crumb and a vegan cream that, although made in house, tasted like an industrial cream from a can.

The madeleines, however, are a convincing gluten free version of this classic shell-shaped tea cake.

For the gluten-free home chef, the Noglu team has put out a cookbook that includes a very good gluten free flour mix, as well as recipes for madeleines, chouquettes (a childhood afternoon treat made from choux pastry and topped with pearl sugar) and their satisfying savory chickpea loaf.

NOGLU : 69 rue de Grenelle   |   Paris 7   |   +33 1 58 90 18 12   |   Métro: Rue du Bac   |   Open daily, Monday–Saturday 8.30am–7pm, Sunday brunch 10am–4pm   |   Reservations: not necessary


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Strong Alert Flavors From The New Chef At Fulgurances L'Adresse

The concept of Fulgurances l’Adresse is unique. Open since October, 2015, this 11th arrondissement restaurant changes chefs every six months, spotlighting sous-chefs who have worked in well-known establishments, and who are eager to strike out on their own. The six-month stint gives them a chance to spread their wings, show what they can do, create a personal culinary style, and become known to the dining public.

The latest hire is Vietnamese Chef Céline Pham, who at age 29 already has an impressive resumé:  A graduate of Ferrandi, Paris’s foremost culinary school, she has worked side-by-side prominent chefs such as William Ledeuil of Ze Kitchen Galerie, Sven Chartier of Saturne, and Bertrand Grébaut of Septime.

Pham’s cuisine offers very strong, alert flavors, and a well-conceived updated interpretation of French food, with an Asian accent. Nothing here seems superfluous or the offering of a self-absorbed chef. Take her version of the ultimate French ingredient, foie gras, which she cures herself, then deftly tops with a delicate miso sauce and a vibrant citrus confit. Surprising as well as satisfying. Ubiquitous Italian burrata cheese is transformed into something new with the addition of toasted grains of buckwheat and a colorful, pungent blend of tiny Asian greens. Monkfish is successfully paired with asparagus and pomelos; (a grapefruit variety); rare-cooked duck breast teams up with miniature cobs of corn, spiced with a ginger mayonnaise. Her version of the signature Vietnamese beef and noodle soup – pho – is indeed unique. Not a soup at all, she combines tender slices of beef with noodles she has soaked in a blend of Asian spices, infusing them with traditional flavors yet making it a dish all her own.

The only flaw I found was her first-course dish of squid served with tétragone (summer spinach) and salicorne (edible seaweed). The squid was just too tough to enjoy, a problem all of us cooks face and fight from time to time.

Dessert was a dream: Basil sorbet, a bergamot orange curd, and a feather-light citrus cake of fabulous, crunchy meringues.

Although on previous visits I have had disappointments with their selection of “natural” wines, we hit it big twice with two excellent biodynamic choices this time: the Loire Valley white, 2015 Muscadet (100% melon de Bourgogne grapes) from Domaine de l’Ecu, with its nose of citrus and white flowers, an easy, instantly drinkable wine; and a Languedoc red, the 2015 Corbières Campagnès (100% carignan grapes from 100-year-old vines) from winemaker Maxime Mignon. The winemaker is following the current European trend of aging wines in clay amphoras, as opposed to wood or stainless steel, a practice that dates from antiquity. The modern practice began about 20 years ago in Italy and has spread as an experiment  throughout Europe, with the argument that the clay allows for flavors that favor a greater purity of the fruit, an expression of the soil, as well as reducing the need to add sulphur to the wines.

My only regret is that when I left the restaurant late at night, there was not time to run into my kitchen to try out some of Pham’s creations. To be continued, for sure!

Fulgurances l’Adresse   |   10 rue Alexandre Dumas   |   Paris 11   |   Tel: +33 1 09 81 09 33 32    |   Métro: Rue des Boulets   |   Open Wednesday to Saturday lunch and dinner   |   www.fulgurances.com   |   19€ and 24€ lunch menus, 46€ and 58€ dinner menus   |   Reservations essential.


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Fairweather dining at Divellec

Poached oysters in watercress sauce and caviar

Poached oysters in watercress sauce and caviar

There are friends we love despite their faults, so we stick by them anyway. The 7th arrondissement fish restaurant, Divellec, is a bit like that for me. The brasserie-sized restaurant, overlooking Les Invalides, was recently re-incarnated from the 1980s Le Divellec, a rather haughty but quality businessman’s lunch place.

Today, chef Mathieu Pacaud – son of Bernard Pacaud of L’Ambroisie and owner of Hexagone – is in charge, and though the restaurant only opened in December of 2016, it has surprisingly received a Michelin stars right out of the starting gate.

Let me start with what I love about Divellec: With each visit I am charmed by the makeover of the décor with its ocean-like shades of blue, comfy wicker arm chairs, the mix and match of selected pottery, and ultra-slim stems of the wine glasses – all of which have the right touch of class and elegance. The staff, too, is spruced up, smiling, sometimes a bit distant and corporate perhaps, but they make you feel taken care of.

Some of the food can be spectacular as well as beautiful, like the gently poached oysters bathed in a brilliant green watercress sauce and topped with a spoonful of caviar. It’s full-flavored and satisfying, set in a white porcelain, shell-shaped bowl. Technicolor food at its best.

Their sole paired with fresh, seasonal morel mushrooms is a delight, the fish plump and flavorful, perfectly moist, with a touch of sweet vin jaune from the Jura in the sauce.

Sommelier Claude Esambert – an upright Frenchman back from a decades-long stint in California – is outgoing and knowledgeable, giving us the details of one of my favorite white wines, the Burgundian Saint-Aubin from Hubert Lamy.

The kitchen clearly understands deep-frying, and their current appetizer – which arrives almost the moment you sit down – is a dream: ultra-crispy, tiny, deep-fried eperlans (smelt or whitebait), the ideal starter to pair with a glass of Champagne rosé, such as the popular Billecart Salmon.

On this particular visit, everything from the simple raw ecrevisse (crayfish) topped with a colorful vegetable mix, fresh herbs, and bathed in a bright vinaigrette; to the moist, perfectly cooked sea bass paired with pasta shells stuffed with ricotta and herbs, made for a truly pleasant, lunchtime meal.

There is great attention to detail with top suppliers here: chocolates from Jacques Genin, cheese from Marie Quatrehomme, breads from Fréderic Lalo of Le Quartier du Pain, and olive oil from the famed cooperative in Mausanne-les-Alpilles in Provence.

But there are problems with Divellec, ones that I am surprised got past the Michelin inspectors. Fish is very hard to get right, and Divellec fails more often than it should, with dishes that are underseasoned or not totally thought out.

At times the kitchen favors presentation over flavor. On my first visit, I ordered their langoustines wrapped in pastry and deep fried. But sadly these lovely crustaceans were smothered in a white napkin, and covered by an ostentatious glass cloche, which turned what should have been crispy gastronomic treasures into a soggy, sad mess.

One order our ormeaux (abalone) was so tough it was inedible, and I did what I rarely do, returned the dish. In its place arrived a perfect platter of well-seasoned bar (sea bass) ceviche, but one doesn’t expect to send anything back to the kitchen in a 2-starred restaurant.

I have been to Divellec several times since it opened yet strangely I have never, ever, seen a chef in the dining room. What the restaurant lacks is someone in charge, someone who personifies the place and rules with a sense of style and perfection.

But the worst sin of all came on our last visit when the host of our party of eight decided he wanted a glass of red wine. We requested the wine list but the sommelier simply went ahead and poured an unordered glass of red. When I asked my friend how the wine was, his response was an unenthusiastic “okay.” I sniffed it, and could tell instantly it was seriously corked, with a strong scent of spoilage. The wine was quickly replaced, with an apology for the flaw, but the damage was done. This just should not happen in place of this caliber.

Prices here can be overwhelming, especially if you order their turbot, whole sea bass, lobster or whole sole, priced by the gram.

Despite all of this I will surely go back, for the creative fish combinations and presentations, great ideas for what I might recreate at home, as well as the magical chocolate soufflé made with Jacques Genin’s grand cru chocolate. But I do hope that someone takes charge of Divellec. The restaurant has been mostly deserted on my visits, and just does not have the sort of joie de vivre a restaurant like this should exhibit. Someone there needs to wake up!

DIVELLEC   |   18 rue Fabert   |   Paris 7   |   Tel: +33 1 45 51 91 96   |   Métro: Invalides   |   Open daily   |  Lunch: 49€, 90€, 210€ weekday menu; 49€ weekend brunch menu, Dinner: 210€ 8-course menu. Lunch and Dinner à la carte, 130€.  |   Reservations: suggested   |   www.divellec-paris.fr   |  contact@divellec-paris.fr

 


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Big Love for Gluten Free Pizza

Mammargherita Pizza: San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, basil

Mammargherita Pizza: San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, basil

It seems that the Big Mamma Group is, once again, onto a winning formula with their pizza, pasta, brunch restaurant Biglove Caffé, in the upper Marais. The Group has given the former Rose Bakery space a magnificent makeover, transforming it into a charming Neopolitan style bar/café. The glass-plated entrance way is adorned with hanging cured meats, and the marble bar and the imposing Italian Belle Epoque style copper coffee machine set the scene for an authentic Neopolitan experience. 

The menu offers a handful of fresh pasta dishes (including a gluten-free vegetable lasagne which sadly should be avoided at all costs) as well as a few appealing salad options, and an international-style brunch menu. But the pizza is why you should go to Biglove, and those who follow a gluten-free diet can rejoice, as all the pizzas here are completely gluten free. Paris is home to some very respectable pizzaiole (pizza chefs) but few who specialize in the unique style of Neopolitan pizza, that boasts a slightly thicker crust, and is more lightly baked than the well-done thin crusted versions from other parts of Italy. The result is a sort of pillowy experience, where the elements of the pizza seamlessly blend into one. The dough here is made from a mixture of buckwheat, corn and rice flours and fermented for at least 36-hours before cooking to give it a good rise and a faint acidity to the crust. For those not interested in a gluten-free diet, do not be put off for these bases are a cunning likeness to the wheat flour version and perhaps only in the thick outer crust can you tell that it’s made from alternative flours. As a point of pride for the Mamma restaurants, ingredients are of an exceptionally high standard – mostly sourced directly from favored artisanal producers in Italy – including the essential San Marzano tomatoes grown at the foot of Mt Vesuvius. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired brick Acunta oven, hand-made in Naples, that can get to temperatures so high a pizza can be cooked in 60 seconds (just shy of 930°F/500°C). The resulting Mammargherita pizza – for me the simple concoction of tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella and fresh basil is the best litmus test for pizza – was remarkably close to a true Napolitano pizza, that is to say, very, very good.

The desserts were disappointing – the unnecessarily large portion of lemon meringue pie was cloyingly sweet and lacked any balance of acidity from the lemon cream that you might expect. The chocolate cake was devoid of any personality. Best to stick to an after-meal coffee, roasted dark and moody, true to Neopolitan style – of course.

Big Love doesn't take reservations and the lunch service fills up fast, so go early or be prepared to queue.

BIGLOVE CAFFÉ   |   30 rue Debelleyme   |   Paris 3   |   Métro: Filles de Calvaire   |   Open daily 8am-11pm   |   Pizza and main dishes €12-18   |   Reservations not taken.


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Yam'Tcha: Precision, Elegance and Creativity

Langoustine, onions, pomegranate, goji berry and tarragon

Langoustine, onions, pomegranate, goji berry and tarragon

There is plenty to love about Adeline Grattard’s Yam‘Tcha. Her French-Asian themed food is unique, well-thought-out, beautiful, and welcomingly assertive. The restaurant, relocated from rue Sauval in mid 2015, draws you in immediately with the appealing cooking aromas that waft from the semi-open kitchen, the coziness of the well-crafted wooden birch tables and elegant yet comfortable arm chairs, the frivolity of the tiny garden brightened by a white stone floor, the openness of the well-lit, well-stocked wine cellar.

Grattard’s pedigree includes time spent with three-Michelin star chefs Yannick Alléno (Pavillon Ledoyen) and Pascal Barbot (Astrance), and their influence on her food is evident: precision, elegance and a confidence to be creatively adventurous. She makes a rare team with her Chinese tea-sommelier husband, Chi Wah Chan, offering a careful selection of refined, soothing teas to accompany Grattard’s carefully constructed dishes (Yam’tcha, afterall, is the Mandarin word for ‘drink tea’.) Wine pairings are also available.

She employs and embraces a multitude of seasonal ingredients, and as you sample her fare, you feel as though everything from that vibrant red pomegranate seed to the brilliant green wild garlic emulsion are there for a reason and not simply as window dressing.

Any chef can win me over in a millisecond when they offer some of my truly favorite ingredients: asparagus, langoustines, and a shower of fresh black truffles. And she did. Her love for citrus as well as sweet and sour combinations come through loud and clear, as in her duo of white and green asparagus dressed with a frothy sauce of mandarin orange tinged with touches of kumquat, a dish with a lovely citrus bounce.

I am not sure where she secured the gigantic, soothingly rich langoustines, but they were cooked to a delicate perfection, paired with a bright sweet and sour sauce laced with crunchy pomegranate seeds and tangy goji berries. Each dish is complex without being overbearing, and by the end of the meal we were satisfied but not digestively assaulted, a rare feat after a seven course meal.

As a collector of modern as well as antique china and pottery, I wanted to walk away with a few of her colorful dinner plates, some from popular French designer Sarah Lavoine. Each is thoughtfully paired with a specific dish, from the golden ocher plates for the asparagus to the bright red pottery for the slow-cooked and tender Iberian pork that was showered with slices of exquisite fresh black truffles.

To add additional excellence to a wonderful dining experience, sommelière Marine Delaporte offers a brilliant and well-considered glass of wine with each course, accompanied by thoughtful and enthusiastic commentary with each pour. Of the six selections sampled, I truly loved the 2015 Riesling Cuvée Albert from Albert Mann, a distinctive Alsatian white that is well-balanced, ripe, juicy, and aromatic. Equally satisfying was the Loire Valley white Jasnières Rosiers 2015 Eric Nicolas, dry with the tiniest touch of sweetness.  The choice of mostly white wines with the meal was refreshing.

I was less enthused about the understated first course of rice-based congee with cubes of foie gras and the equally disappointing soup laced with scallops and mushrooms which lacked the personality and forward flavors of her other dishes.

 But at the end, Grattard totally surprised me with a dessert that included a bright green sorrel soup with a bitter almond (orgeat) sorbet, paired with a well-constructed mini-tart of a single prune wrapped in a coat of lemon jelly, topped with a Champagne granité.

Although I am generally not a fan of set menus where the diner has no choices, and each dish is a complete surprise, it works here, since the chef has so many layers and volumes, it is a treat to experience it all. And the wine and tea pairings only help amplify the experience.

Reserving at Yam’tcha can be tricky and staff don’t always answer the phone. Persistence is the key. By phone you’ll most likely be successful on a Tuesday when the restaurant is closed but staff are there. Otherwise I recommend stopping in at the restaurant to make a reservation in person, if time permits.

YAM ‘TCHA   |   121 rue Saint Honoré   |   Paris 1   |   Tel: +33 1 40 26 08 07   |   Métro: Louvre-Rivoli   |   Open Wednesday – Saturday. Closed Sunday & Monday   | Lunch and dinner: 60€ and 135€ menus, with options for 40€ tea tasting and 70€ wine tasting   |   Reservations essential.


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Do et Riz: The Holy Grail of Vietnamese Spring Rolls

If you are on a quest to find the crunchiest, freshest Vietnamese fried spring rolls in Paris, you can end your search at the doors of Do et Riz. Make a reservation, or be prepared to queue out into the street, as you will not be the only one clammering for a table or a stool at this charming canteen in the 12th arrondissement, run and owned by Vietnamese chef Do Thi Thanh Huyen. (The word Do, dually meaning ‘bean’ in Vietnamese and the chef’s maiden name, and riz meaning rice in French, are both ingredients important to Vietnamese cooking.)

Having been anointed with the passion for cuisine while helping run her grandmother’s road-side restaurant in Hai Phong in northern Vietnam as a child, chef Do now finds herself the third generation in a line of female chefs. After a brief flirtation with French cooking at Alain Ducasse’s Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower and Restaurant Beauvilliers in the 18th, Do has returned to her native cuisine, with her husband at her side in the kitchen. The small eatery makes clever use of the space, reminiscent of an outdoor street market in Vietnam: The steamy, fragrant, open kitchen bustles with activity, and shelves are stacked with beautiful Vietnamese-sourced ceramics and bunches of fresh mint and coriander. The countertop bar in the restaurant’s window overlooking the kitchen is particularly appealing for dining solo or as a couple, beneath the light of the suspended sea urchin lampshades.

Do et Riz offers a roster of Vietnamese classics on the small but ultra-fresh menu (ingredients are sourced daily from the nearby marché d’Aligre), including the aforementioned golden crunchy chicken and prawn spring rolls (nems); Bahn Cuon steamed rice crepe rolls filled with chicken and mushrooms: fresh spring rolls with duck breast and green papaya:, and there’s always some version of a green papaya or lotus salad, refreshing and pleasingly spicy. The Pho soup and Bo Bun noodle salad are a staple of the menu (an explosion in the popularity of the Bo Bun in Paris in the last five or so years means that it’s almost impossible to find a Vietnamese restaurant that doesn’t serve it), but the main course menu changes more frequently. On our last visit we sampled chicken meatballs perfumed with kaffir lime, and served with a spicy tamarind sauce; and a prawn coconut and noodle salad, fresh and invigorating, filled with Asian greens, mange-tout green beans, carefully butterflied tender pink prawns, all showered generously with fresh coriander.

 

Their seductive version of a classic tapioca coconut pudding is alone worth returning for: creamy, not too sweet, and punctuated with the refreshing tang of perfectly ripe mango.

And now here’s another reason to return to sample Do and her husband’s cooking, with the announcement of plans to soon open a second restaurant across the street. It will be named Em (meaning younger sibling in Vietnamese), focusing on grilled dishes.

Do et Riz   |  31 rue de Cotte   |   Paris 12   |   +33 1 43 45 57 13   |   Métro: Ledru-Rollin   |   Open Monday dinner – Sunday lunch. Closed Sunday dinner and Monday lunch   |   Lunch and dinner 30-35€ (for 3 course)   | Rservations essential.


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Elegant Understated Cuisine at Quinsou

Knowing of Chef Antonin Bonnet’s past experience in the kitchen’s of top-rated restaurants (L’Oustau de Baumanière), Michelin star chefs (Michel Bras) and exclusive London member clubs (Morton’s Club), you might think that his own personal venture might be a swanky affair. So it’s a refreshing surprise that his newly opened own restaurant, Quinsou (meaning Chaffinch – a small songbird – in Occitan) should be so down-to-earth and humble. The simple exposed stone, glass and wood interior of his modern bistro in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, is quietly reflective of his purist, produce-driven cuisine.
    
Last seen at Paris’s stylish Michelin starred Sergent Recruteur, and briefly as a consulting chef on the ambitious but now defunct La Jeune Rue project, Bonnet returns on form to stun us with his precision, bright clean flavors, and elegant pairings. Here, produce is king, and he sources his ingredients with diligence. The vegetables from the Bec Hellouin organic farm in Normandy are of exceptional quality, as was demonstrated in a superb entrée of green cabbage, tossed in an umami rich hazelnut vinaigrette and served with oeuf mollet, a soft boiled egg, here, delicately cooked to perfection.

This was followed by milk-fed lamb shoulder and liver served with a silken Jerusalem artichoke purée, yellow-stalked chard, a dusting of licorice powder to brighten the palate, and a comforting meaty jus poured over the dish at the moment of serving. We couldn’t resist the daily specials, large N°2 pleine de mer (open sea) oysters in the shell with a dashi (a Japanese fish and kelp-based stock) vinaigrette and a squeeze of sudachi, a Japanese citrus fruit. And a black truffle pasta dish that cleverly used dentelle (lace) pasta sheets with undulating edges – from Maîtres de Mon Moulin in Cucugnan – giving a texture that played beautifully with the mild crunch of the black truffle. For the 35€ price tag I would have hoped for a few shavings more, but I was won over by the addition of a ‘jus de volaille’ elegantly poured over the pasta as a supplementary sauce.

The only real disappointment in the meal was the dessert, a layered chocolate-tamarind assembly of almond biscuit and chocolate cream topped with a thin wafer, that to my palate, lacked the flavor – the tamarind was not at all present, the chocolate subdued and without interest – and refinement of the preceding dishes. The accompanying elderflower ice cream, although fragrant, lacked real personality and felt oddly out of season on a cold winter’s day.

The wine list is exceptional and our choice of the Domaine Vacheron white Sancerre, with its quiet and restrained mineral tones was a perfect match for Bonnet’s understated yet elegant cuisine.

QUINSOU   |   Modern French bistro   |   22 rue de l’Abbé Grégoire   |   Paris 6   |   +33 1 42 22 66 09   |   Métro: Rennes ou Saint-Placide   |   Open Tuesday to Saturday   | contact.quinsou@gmail.com   |   Lunch menus 35–48€ / Dinner menus 48–65€   |   Reservations recommended.


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A Conversation with Harper Collins

While on a recent trip to New York, I sat down with the publisher of Harper Audio Ana Maria Allessi to talk about writing, food, Paris, cooking tips and of course my upcoming cookbook My Master Recipes. You can listen to it here or follow the link http://www.harperaudiopresents.com/episodes/conversation-with-food-writer-patricia-wells/.
 

 
 

The book will be on sale from March 7 from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and Indiebound

A Table Worth The Wait

When French food critic and blogger Bruno Verjus opened his restaurant Table in April of 2013, even he knew that being a restaurant critic and being a restaurateur required distinctly different talents. Early visits to this 12th arrondissement establishment near the Bastille were, to my disappointment, underwhelming, and even the exuberant Verjus admits that it took him well over a year to figure out how to cook for more than a handful of friends and how to run a restaurant. What he did know – better than just about any Frenchman I am acquainted with – is how to source ingredients. Today, with Table thriving and the menu overflowing with impeccably researched products - he says that he has more than 300 suppliers - the dining experience is a veritable tour du monde. And a worthy one.

Do try the irresistible, densely flavored slices of Belgian entrecote, cut paper-thin and raised and aged like ham by the Flemish butcher Hendrick Dierendonck. Or go for the plump and rare 12-year old (!) oysters from Maldon in England, the gigantic bivalves delicately infused with rice vinegar and the rare, crunchy pearls of citron caviar, or finger limes. The chef’s delightfully small and delicate Brittany scallops are opened just seconds before serving, meaning they are still alive when they are set before you, very lightly bathed in Spanish Teruel olive oil and the additional burst of citron caviar pearls. Pigeon lovers (count me in!) will rejoice here, with a perfectly roasted, herb-infused bird, served with a touch of carefully grilled foie gras, brilliant red beets and radicchio, as well as varied citrus. The dish arrives with a Technicolor bowl of assorted vegetables, from Brussels sprouts to golden carrots, something that is missing on so many French restaurant menus these day. And don’t miss the exceptional chocolate mousse, a mix of whipped cream and a blend of Cuban and Venezuelan Chuao chocolate, a dream dessert if there ever was one. The wine list follows suit, and is extensive and varied, with something for every taste. Verjus plans to open a second venue on Place des Vosges this coming May.

Table   |   3 rue de Prague   |   Paris 12   |   + 33 1 43 43 12 26   |   Métro: Ledru-Rollin   |   Open lunch & dinner Monday-Friday. Dinner only Saturday. Closed Sunday   |  Lunchtime menu at 29€, à la carte at lunch and dinner, 75 to 125€   |   http://www.tablerestaurant.fr/


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A review of My Master Recipes

The wonderful team over at Harper Collins has just sent me this Publishers Weekly review of My Master Recipes, my soon-to-be-released cookbook. After so much hard work it is thrilling to receive such a positive (and starred!) review, that I just had to share it with you.

"In this superb tutorial, Wells (The Provence Cookbook) shares master recipes from her classes to inspire confidence in home cooks. She includes simple techniques such as blanching, steaming, simmering, and poaching that serve as the foundation of her recipes. She advocates for cooking seasonally, substituting honey for sugar whenever possible, replacing butter with olive oil when appropriate, and using organic ingredients (for which she makes a strong case). She also includes a helpful list of essential equipment. Each technique is followed by several recipes utilizing that approach with an occasional side bar on related topics such as parchment paper lids, what to do with leftovers, and trussing poultry. Recipes sometimes include wine pairings, cooking tips, or suggestions for variations. Those who already possess confidence in the kitchen can dive right into the wealth of appealing recipes, likely learning a thing or two along the way. Wells’s chapter on infusing is spectacular, including not only oils and butters but salts, cheeses, and sorbets. Asian chicken and cilantro meatballs, falafel, and mushroom brioche rolls are just a few of the immensely satisfying recipes she includes in this welcome addition to her cookbook repertoire."

The book will be on sale from March 7 from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and Indiebound

Dans les Landes: An Authentic Bite of Southwestern France

 
 

Anyone looking for an honest food experience from Southwestern France should head for Dans les Landes, a vibrant, always bustling café/bistro that resounds with authenticity. Everything at this spot is true and flavorful, from the tastefully breaded and fried rings of baby squid (chipirons) to the smoky pork sausages served with the tiny pickled peppers known as guindilla. Although not traditionally from the region, their Asian spring rolls with a Southwestern touch are worth a try too: here wrapped in traditional rice paper but filled with an avalanche of vegetables and bits of flavorful duck (the prized bird of the region), with leaves of lettuce and sprigs of mint for wrapping the rolls in, accompanied by a perfectly spicy sauce. Dishes are advertised as tapas portions, but each tapas serving can easily be shared by two hungry diners. Make sure to order the local Iroulegy wine, white or red, both of which are organic. Service is swift and friendly, décor right out of a sports bar, with lots of sports team banners and it wouldn’t be the Southwest without a few hanging cured sausages and dried Espelette peppers.

Dans les Landes   |    Southwestern French Bistro / Tapas   |  119 bis rue Monge   |  Paris 5   |   +33 1 45 87 06 00   |   Métro: Censier-Daubenton   |   Open daily for lunch and dinner, continuous service on the weekends and public holidays   |   Reservations essential   |   Tapas: 9-19€   |   Atmosphere casual   |   http://dansleslandes.fr  


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My New Cookbook + A holiday recipe

I am thrilled to announce the publication of my 15th book, My Master Recipes: 165 Recipes to Inspire Confidence in the Kitchen.

For the past two years – when I have not been teaching classes and updating The Food Lover's Guide to Paris app – I have been totally immersed in creating this cookbook, in close collaboration with my excellent and able assistant, Emily Buchanan. Over the years, as an intensive week’s cooking class wound up, I would often hear students exclaim that the experience had given them much more confidence in the kitchen. I was inspired to record my most treasured recipes, ones that teach fundamental techniques and encourage useful practices in the kitchen, the little things that can make us all better cooks. In many ways, this project has influenced my cooking more than any of my other works, helping me to think systematically about the secrets to confidence and success in the kitchen, how I cook and why, which techniques I use, and why they really achieve the best results.

The book covers 17 essential techniques, from blanching, searing, braising and roasting, to infusing, baking and folding. For each blueprint recipe, many variations are offered, and dozens are possible. Once the fundamentals are learned, the cook can become the master of the recipe, not the other way around, freeing us to experiment and become truly creative, offering endless pleasures in the kitchen and at the table.

We worked with the wonderfully creative French team, photographer David Japy and stylist Elodie Rambaud, to create gorgeous color photographs for the book. The result is stunning and I can’t wait for all of you to see it and cook from it! My publisher, William Morrow, will be releasing My Master Recipes on March 7, 2017 but you can pre-order it now from Amazon, Indiebound and Barnes and Noble.

Here's a quick sneak preview and a recipe from the book:

CHESTNUT HONEY MADELEINES

Makes 24 madeleines

I guarantee these madeleines  – which would make fabulous holiday gifts – are like none you have ever tasted before: dense, rich, and sumptuous, made with ground almonds, beurre noisette (brown butter), and an intensely flavored honey. For this recipe, stay away from light-colored, overly sweet honeys such as acacia and go for one that is dark in color with deep, nuanced flavors that will stand up to the nutty aroma of the brown butter.

EQUIPMENT: A fine-mesh sieve; a pastry brush; two 12-cavity 2 x 3-inch (5 x 7.5 cm) madeleine mold tins; a baking sheet.

3/4 cup (6 ounces/180 g) unsalted butter

3 tablespoons intensely flavored honey, such as chestnut, buckwheat, or mountain

1-1/2 cups (165 g) almond meal (also called almond flour or almond powder)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (140g) confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (90 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

6 large egg whites, free-range and organic

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2. In a small, heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring as it melts. Turn the heat to low and simmer the butter until the milk solids begin to brown and you have a warm, nutty aroma. Be careful, as the milk solids can burn quickly at this stage. The butter should have no specks of dark brown or black. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl to stop the cooking process. Whisk the honey into the brown butter. Set aside to cool.

3. With the pastry brush, use some of the butter to thoroughly butter the madeleine molds. Place the madeleine pan on the baking sheet.

4. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, sugar, flour, and salt. Mix to blend. Add the egg whites and mix until thoroughly blended. Add the slightly cooled brown butter mixture and mix until well incorporated. The mixture should be like a thin, pourable cake batter.

5. Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them almost to the rim. Bake until the madeleines are golden brown and spring back when pressed with a finger, 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Let the madeleines cool in the molds for 10 minutes. Unmold. (Note:
If using metal molds, wash immediately with a stiff brush in hot water without detergent, so they retain their seasoning.) The madeleines may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

Happy holiday season to everyone, and wishing you many enjoyable hours in the kitchen and around the table with loved ones.