Week 6: France

French Baguettes
French Baguettes

Go big or Go home. That was our attitude towards taking on our next country- France. We had been putting off France for a while because we really wanted to dedicate all our efforts towards it. So when we found a whole weekend free, the challenge was on. Sergio began studying Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking and Ashley asked for our menu in advance. She printed out individual menus and perused her local wine store for the perfect pairings. My preparation began on Friday when I took on the challenge of making my first soufflé.

Soufflés are fickle creatures and one of the important steps is knowing your oven. All ovens have their own temperament which is why I practiced my soufflé at Ashley and Sergio’s house where we would be cooking on Sunday. Sergio had made chocolate soufflé before- while living in NYC he took a series of cooking courses to expand his cooking knowledge and impress the ladies. Sergio whipped out his soufflé recipe and I carefully went over each step before beginning. I had my ramekins thoroughly buttered, my chocolate chopped, and my eggs at room temperature. Mise en place! Julia Child would have been proud. The most important step in making a soufflé is properly folding in the egg whites. Soufflés should be light and fluffy, so you don’t want to over fold, but you also want to make sure everything is mixed in. As I placed my soufflé in the oven I let out a deep breath and crossed my fingers. Here we go…

Success! Below is a time lapse video of my first chocolate soufflé. Apologies in advance for the quality, but it was a last minute decision and we weren’t able to clean the oven door.

On Sunday I arrived to the most gorgeous place setting yet. Ashley really turned the table into a grand affair with the flowers and the place settings and the menu.

Place Setting
Place Setting

We started the night off with Champagne and it was all uphill from there! Of course we had a wonderful assortment of French cheeses, housemade chicken liver mouse, and a French baguette from my neighborhood cafe, B. Patisserie.

Aperitif
Aperitif

For our first course, we had a beautifully light arugula salad that was then topped with bacon and a perfectly poached egg. I don’t normally love poached eggs, but this was the absolute perfect combination. The arugula is so bitter that adding just a touch of vinegar, and then letting the yolks ooze all over hits the spot. And the bacon, just look at that fatty perfection.

Salade avec un oeuf
Salade avec un oeuf

The second course was soup. It sounds so simple; potato and leeks topped with chives, but it was so creamy and well rounded. I hardly believed Sergio when he said there was no cream, no milk. He attributes the texture to his Vitamix- next on my list of kitchen gadgets for sure!

Soupe de pomme de terre et poireaux
Soupe de pomme de terre et poireaux

For the main attraction. Dun-dun-dun-ahhh. Coq au Vin! Not to get all cheesy, but Sergio poured his heart and soul into this dish and it truly paid off. Everything on the plate was beyond delicious. The sauce had all the flavor you could want and the chicken was perfectly moist. I’m pretty certain everyone’s plates were entirely cleaned off. My mouth is watering just looking back at this picture.

Coq Au Vin
Coq Au Vin

Finally back to dessert! I gave everyone’s stomachs a bit of a rest (and wine glasses a refill) as I prepped the soufflé. My second time around these bad boys didn’t fluff up quite as much as my initial stab, but I added a rasberry and walnut liquor reduction. I don’t think anyone was complaining.

Chocolat Soufflé
Chocolat Soufflé

Our attire also got a little fancy for France…

Sante!

The girls in their stripes...
The girls in their stripes…
Bill in his French Goatee
Bill in his French Goatee
Thor in his best kerchief
Thor in his best kerchief
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