How Jeanne become Joan (A Day Trip To Rouen)

Doing day trips out of Paris on the train is really the best! The trains here are so simple (actually purchasing the tickets, not so much, but once you get on the train it’s easy) and within an hour you are miles out of the bustle of Paris in the beautiful French countryside. My friends and I decided to venture to Rouen yesterday which is the historic capital city of the Normandy Region and the site where Jeanne d’Arc (I’m going to go with the French version here) was burned at the stake – gruesome, I know.

We started our morning by visiting one of many cathedrals we would see during our day. Rouen is known as “The city of a hundred spires” and I would say it certainly lives up to that title. Almost all the churches have weathered fires, the 100 Years War, religious wars, extensive bombings during WWII, etc…. As we walked around, many of them were in the midst of being refurbished once again, leaving the outsides covered in scaffolding, but the insides remained absolutely stunning and beautiful.

The abbey church of Saint Ouen: Almost all the churches we saw were being refurbished and modernized: Inside Saint Ouen with its huge organ: The church of Saint Maclou:The Cathedral of Notre Dame in the center of town is absolutely huge! From the outside it doesn’t seem it, but from the inside, if really seems bigger than Notre Dame in Paris. While is doesn’t have the most intricate stained glass or embellishments on the inside that many cathedrals do, it’s vaulted ceilings are still quite impressive.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame:The 28 meter high ribbed vault ceiling: A model of the cathedral:Surprisingly, the least impressive church we saw was the church of Saint Jeanne d’Arc, which was opened in 1979. It was built on the site where she was burned, yet honestly, was not that nice. I guess in terms of modern architectural design it was interesting – I seriously think it looks like a fish – but for a building that’s to pay homage to a great French heroine, it seemed a little out of place.

You can’t really tell, but I’m telling you, it looks like a fish:Inside still had some beautiful stained glass:We had lunch at this very cute little tea shop called Dame Cakes. They had a menu full of exotic teas and drinks along with a delicious looking display of cakes, brownies and pies. I had an array of different savory cakes with smoked salmon, cheese and duck. I also had a piece of rhubarb meringue pie for dessert. I will always love rhubarb, but I’m not quite sure how I felt about the meringue on top. Regardless, it was a wonderful place for a lunch break in our afternoon.

Dame Cakes: 

A trio of savory Dame cakes: 
Rhubarb meringue pie: 

After lunch, we headed to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which was an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures representing almost ever school of European painting. Given the proximity of Rouen to Giverny, they had a impressive collection of impressionist paintings, including Monet and Renoir.

Monet: Renoir: ModiglianiThis one was just really really big!

From little bits of history I pulled throughout the day, I think I now have a pretty good idea of the story of Jeanne d’Arc. In summary, she was a French peasant girl who led the French army to several victories in the 100 Years War. She was captured in 1430 by the English, who put here on trial in Rouen for heresy. She was held in a tower, that you can still see today, until she was burned at the stake in1431 at the ripe young age of 19. One interesting, albeit somewhat gory fact I learned – her ashes and unburnt heart were thrown into the Seine so that no relics could be preserved.

Tour Jeanne d’Arc, where she was held during her trial: 
Dedication of the church built in her honor: 
The spot where she was burnt: All and all, it was a wonderful day trip. The sky threatend rain all day, but luckily for us, we didn’t feel a drop, although it was pretty chilly. I am really looking forward to doing some more day trips around France. Even though it’s so easy to travel around all of Europe, I sometimes forget how much France itself has to offer and how easy it is to explore on the train.

Here are few more pictures, and yes, I had to eat an eclair 😉

Giant clock to never lose track of time: Beautiful timber framed architecture: Quaint pedestrians streets: 
The eclair: (It was really good 🙂 

The Bastille Eclair

I’m realizing that in my pursuit to eat all the eclairs in Paris, I’m going to have a hard time writing about the shops that they come from because most patisseries here don’t have their own name. They just say Patisserie or Boulangerie out front. I guess I’ll just refer to the area from what it comes unless the store has its own name.

Anyway, this was my first eclair since the best one at Stohrer (actually, it’s not my first since then, but the first one that’s been worth writing about. Even in Paris you can find a really bad eclair). Right around the corner from me on Rue de La Roquette, is a very cute little patisserie that actually has an extensive display of pastries and breads for just being the corner bakery. I call it the Bastille eclair as you are stones throw away from the Bastille roundabout when you walk up to this patisserie.

I’ve had some bread from here before, but never anything else. After buying some produce at the market the other morning, I went inside to grab a croissant for breakfast. Needless to say, I walked out with 2 croissants and an eclair, since it looked so delicious.Since I had yet to have breakfast, I restrained myself and waited until I got home and had my croissant and coffee before I decided to take a bite out of the eclair. To start, it was definitely on the bigger side of eclairs that I have seen, making it all that much more alluring. I have to figure that getting anything this early in the morning means it has to be somewhat fresh, don’t you think? 

Right after my first bite, I knew that this was a decent eclair, but no where near the level of the Sthorer eclair, which all eclairs will now be compared to. While the pastry cream inside was good, although not quite as rich as I would have liked, the choux dough could not hold it’s own. Yes, I agree that the choux dough should be light, but this was just too light and flaky. As I’ve said, I had some bad eclairs here in Paris, so this definitely was not in the bad category, just not in the perfect category. Since this patisserie is just around the corner, I would certainly go back to grab another one, or maybe even try some of the other yummy things they had on display, but for now, I shall continue to sample more eclairs!!!

Blé Sucré

Living in Paris, one has the luxury of having a a boulangerie or patisserie on just about every block or street corner. In my few weeks here, I can honestly say that I think I have already eaten enough baguettes to last me a lifetime. For 1 euro, it’s such an easy snack or accompaniment to a meal at a very cheap price.

While I have eaten myself through enough baguettes, the same cannot be said for croissants and pastries. I have such a sweet tooth and a basic croissant au beurre is the perfect morning breakfast treat. Luckily for me, there is a wonderful little patisserie right down the block from called blé sucré (translated to wheat sugar). In the 3 block walk to blé sucré, there are about 10 other places to stop and grab an coffee and pain au chocolat, but believe me, the extra few blocks to this little gem of a shop are well worth it.

Their croissants are perfect. Just the right amount of flakiness and it peels apart into perfect strips. As I’ve sampled more and more croissants during my time here, you really do start to notice what separates the mediocre croissants from the epic ones. Mediocre ones tend to have a spongy texture and lacks the perfect flakey crust. The ones from blé sucré on the other hand earn top marks in all aspects of the perfect croissant.

The other day, I decided to venture off the beaten path of my usual regular croissant and happened to grab this piece of amazingness. I really need to start doing that more often because you usually end up with something even better than what you went in for in the first place. 

I’m not even quite sure what it is, as I didn’t hear the woman when she mentioned the name, but let me just say, it’s wonderful. If you like almond croissants, cinnamon buns, or danish pastry, this one if for you. Similar to a cinnamon bun, but without quite the gooiness factor of one, this peeled apart in rounds and had a maple/sugary type glaze on top with some slivered almonds. It was so delicious and as usual, I couldn’t control myself from eating it far too quickly. Along with a cup of coffee and a glass of juice, this would definitely be the perfect breakfast treat.

Chantilly

If you’re at all the food connoisseur like I am, I imagine the first think you think of when you think of Chantilly is whipped cream, right? Well, I did anyway 😉 After seeing that Chantilly was only a half hour away from Paris by train, my friends and I thought this would be the perfect place to go for a day trip over the weekend. My original idea had been to go and sample whipped cream all day long, but I soon realized that while whipped cream might have been a reason to go all the way there, the true attraction was the Château de Chantilly.

After quite the adventure of figuring out which tickets we needed for the train (somehow we made it much more complicated than it needed to be) and a 30 minute walk through the mist from the train station, we arrived at our destination. Château de Chantilly has been built and rebuilt many times throughout history. Originally built in 1484, the château as it stands right now after being torn down torn down a few times and even destroyed in the French Revolution dates from the 1800’s. Like any historical site in France, this beautiful château has huge amount of history within its walls. The Montmarcy Family were the primary residents during the Renaissance, and the Condé family proceeded them from the mid-1600’s to 1830, after which it was passed down to a handful of people until the Institute de France took hold of it in 1871. 

Not only is it a beautiful castle over looking thousands of acres of gardens, but it houses one of the best and largest fine art galleries in all of France after the Louvre, something I did not even know about until we arrived. They have paintings by Raphael and portraits of hundreds of nobles and monarchs of France. Supposedly there were some sketches by Michael Angelo, but I didn’t happen to see those. Although the weather outside was rainy, it was a wonderful day to go as there were only about 30 other people in the entire gallery, so you could spend as much or as little time in front of a piece as you wanted.

There are countless sculptures and paintings dedicated to dogs and animals – I think the residents of the château were big animal people – along with a beautiful library that contains manuscripts that date from the 11th century. It was amazing to be in a room surrounded by so many old things. Ya, I guess that happens a lot when you go to museums, but there was something about all these books and the knowledge that they contained that had an awe-inspiring factor to them. 

The gardens were designed by the same guy who designed the ones at the little palace called Versailles. We didn’t get to explore the gardens too much because of the rain, but there are huge stables which are almost bigger than the château themselves. In the summer, they have big horse expos and shows. As we walked away, I said this would be the type of place where I’d want to have my wedding on a sunny summer day 😉 

After a few hours in the château, we walked back into town where we had some delicious crepes in a Cuban inspired restaurant. 

While I didn’t find the bowls of whipped cream that I had been anticipating, I didn’t end the afternoon with this little piece of deliciousness.

Some more pictures from the afternoon in Chantilly: 

Pumpkin Pudding

Yes, I know it’s January, but as I’ve said before, I think pumpkin really should be enjoyed all year round. It’s just so good! And yes, I did bring two cans of pumpkin with me to France (I know, I’m crazy). One I used back in Marseille for my pumpkin cake that I made for Christmas and I was saving my second can for something super special. I saw this recipe and realized this indeed was a special recipe. 

I had actually seen this pudding back around Thanksgiving, but over Thanksgiving I was so dead set on only have pies for desserts that I looked past anything that wasn’t in a pie shell. In retrospect, this would have been a wonderful addition to the dessert feast and I am certainly already thinking about making it next year. 

Ya, it’s a pretty basic recipe, but the results are delicious. It’s like eating straight from the inside of a pumpkin pie, skipping the crust completely. Heating of the ingredients gives it a silky smooth texture and although you’re supposed to let them cool to room temperature before you serve, I snagged one right off the pan and it was pretty tasty warm as well. I bet if you added some stiff egg whites to this, it would be even more mousse like and equally as delicious. As usual, I doubled the spices, and actually used more nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice instead of the ginger and cloves as I didn’t have any of those my limited spice collection. The pudding sinks a little bit in the ramekins after a few minutes out of the oven, but topping them with some whipped cream makes up for the lost space in the ramekin. Speaking of whipped cream, beating whipped cream by hand is a PAIN IN MY BUTT! I think I spent 15 minutes whipping before my arm basically gave out and I still didn’t have anything resembling whipped cream (I was too depressed to take a picture, but you’ll have to believe me).

PUMPKIN PUDDING

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups (from a 15-ounce can) pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Whisk together pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices in a saucepan.
  3. Heat over medium-high. Once glurping and simmering in the pot, cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. The mixture will thicken and get a bit darker. Reduce heat slightly and whisk in milk and cream. Off the heat, slowly whisk in eggs.
  5. Divide between 7 to 8 ovenproof 6-ounce pudding cups or ramekins on a baking sheet (I used 4 ramekins and 3 mini espresso cups)
  6.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until puddings barely jiggle when shimmied and/or a knife tip inserted into the center of puddings comes out clean. Try not to overbake.
  7. Top with whipped cream!

The Best Eclair in Paris? Perhaps…

I’ve realized that I have not had enough eclairs in my life. I’m somehow never quite as drawn to the eclairs as I am to the cookies and cake, which I often gravitate towards whenever I’m at a bakery. Now that I’m in Paris though and every patisserie has a healthy supply of eclairs, often in many different flavors, I’m finally realizing how much I’ve been missing out.

This realization stems from a recent visit I took to La Maison Stohrer, perhaps the oldest patisserie in all of Pars. Not only are they the oldest, but they also claim to have the best eclair in all of France too. I was a little hesitant at first, given, as I said before, I don’t eat eclairs all that often, but after having one for myself, I think they deserve the title. 

Bitting into these sweet creations was heavenly. The chocolate pastry cream inside was perfectly chilled and light as mouse. This is seriously a delicious piece of pastry. It took all the effort I had not to eat it up in just a few bites. I was about to buy a second, but remembered that I really didn’t need to eat two in a row and I was out of money! 

In addition to the eclairs, they have beautiful display of other pastries, chocolate and breads. Out front they had a special table selling extra galletes des roi, which are being sold at every bakery these days. 

I would definitely recommend La Maison Stohrer to anyone in Paris. It’s on the wonderful Rue Montogrueil, which is worth a walk down anytime. Now that I have discovered the pleasures of eating eclairs, I think I shall now try to sample eclairs for all different patisseries, to see if the one from Stohrer, is indeed the best eclair ever.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (And my quest for chocolate chips in Paris)

Once again, in my pursuit to find chocolate chips, I’m reminded how different the French baking style is from the American one. I know, crazy to think about given how much the French like their pastries, or so it would seem from the amount of patisseries on every street, yet somehow, simple chocolate chips are incredibly hard to come by. Every store I walk into, I check to see if they have any. Some have none, and the markets that do have them only have teeny bags! I think I’m going to seriously need to invest in some industrial size bags. I am also recruiting anyone who plans on coming to Paris soon to bring me some 😉

So I did finally manage to snag a pack of these chocolatey pieces the other day and decided, what better thing to make with them than chocolate chip cookies! Instead of the basic cookie, I decided to brown my butter. Something you should know about me is that I LOVE brown butter. Honestly, I think brown butter makes everything better. By heating up butter in a sauce pan, the liquids and the fats separate. As the fats start to toast at the bottom of the pan, it gives off the most amazing nutty smell, which corresponds to the nutty flavor it adds to baked goods. 

I also realized that since I don’t have a a mixer or my beloved KitchenAid with me, brown butter is much easier to blend with the sugars in the recipe if you don’t let it solidify again. Most recipes say the butter should be cooled completely before using, but I just let it cool to room temperature before I put it in with my other ingredients. I also was too impatient to let these cool for an hour in the fridge and was worried they might spread too much. I think the extra egg yolk acts as a glue though, so they stayed perfectly round, even when the dough was at a room temp. 

I popped these into the oven for just a few minutes and barely let them cool for a second before I grabbed for one. Quite honestly, I don’t think the brown butter made a huge difference, but they were still some very yummy chocolate chip cookies. They were puffy and cakey, just how I like them. I would definitely like to play around with the brown butter some more – maybe letting it solidify would have actually been a good idea – but either way, these certainly satiated my cookie craving. BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

(Just your pretty basic chocolate chip cookie recipe with some brown butter)

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

  1. To brown butter, heat in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter begins to simmer. Continue cooking, stirring, just until butter begins to turn golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. Pour off into a measuring cup or bowl, leaving darkest sediment behind. Let the butter cool to room temperature.
  3. In a large mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat the browned butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Add egg and egg yolk, milk, and vanilla. Beat on low speed until well blended.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg and butter mixture, mixing on low speed, until a soft dough forms. Scrape the bowl a few times. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover and chill for about an hour.
  6. Heat the oven to 375°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat; spray paper with cooking spray.
  7. Using a cookie scoop, drop balls of dough onto the silicone mat or greased parchment, allowing about 2 to 3 inches in between the cookies.
  8. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes, until browned around the edges. Cool completely and transfer to an airtight container for storage.

Rue Montorgueil

All good things must come to an end and after three solid weeks of wonderful French vacation, I actually have to start thinking about school related matters again. I guess this isn’t really a bad thing given that I’m actually somewhat looking forward to starting school again here in France, but I think the end of any vacation is always a little bitter sweet, especially after this amazing one that I’ve been having.

Before I jumped back into the world of French classes, meeting new people and trying to write my resume in French in order to apply to some internships while I’m here, I took a walk down Rue Montorgueil, towards the center of town near Les Halles. (More on Les Halles later, but honestly, it’s just a big mall now – nothing of its former glory). Now Rue Montorgueil, in my opinion, is certainly one of the more exciting streets in Paris. While cars are allowed to drive down, I don’t know why they ever would want to, as pedestrians take over this small cobblestone street in pursuit of delicious pastries or some famous escargot!

This is the ideal place to go if you wanted to try a baguette, eat an eclair, buy some fish and cheese and grab a café while doing some serious people watching all at the same time. If you only had a quick layover in Paris, I think walking down this street would be a great way to get a little bit of all things French in one go-around. It gives a picture of how Paris manages to be resolutely modern while preserving a rich heritage. Some of the shops on this street have been around for over 200 years and there are countless signs outlining the significance of some of the historical sites. But of course, as I have come to find on many streets in Paris, a Starbucks sit right on the corner, for anyone who was thought they might be too far from home.

An escargot feast: 

Some old fashioned street art: One of many boulangeries on the street: MORA – a pastry chefs heaven: In addition to the great patisseries and food shops, there are some of the most amazing kitchen supply shops around the corner from Rue Montorgueil. I am already planning my kitchen for when I have my own house someday, decked out with all professional grade stuff 😉 If you’ve ever been to the Zabars kitchen store in New York, it pails in comparison to these stores. There are chocolate molds for everything occasion, industrial size ladles and spatulas and more knick knacks and gadgets then I could ever dream what to do with.

Imagine these all filled with chocolate: 

While walking through the kitchen supply stores, wishing I could own everything, I was reminded of the scene in Julie & Julia when Julia Childs walks through a kitchen store in Paris throwing everything she lays her hand onto into her basket. I cannot wait for the day when I can do the same!

Classic copper dish-wear: 

The label said that somehow this is used for deboning fish, but it looks like it would be the perfect tool for taking out someone’s heart: Because one always needs a cake mold of France: 

Les Puces de Paris

The Paris flea market, called Le Marché aux Puces, is definitely an experience like no other. I’ve been to my fair share of flea markets, but this place is HUGE! There is so much stuff – from historic antiques, funky vintage trinkets, to new cheap clothing. According to their website, it’s the biggest flea market in the entire world, which I would believe! This is truly a place where I don’t think you are simply searching for a bargain, but for some really extraordinary and one of kind objects.

When Audrey and I walked out of the metro, I was a little hesitant about what we would find, as this is definitely not the nicest part of Paris and the first place we saw were stalls dealing quite glamourous antique tables and chandeliers, ancient statues and grand armoires. I was worried that this was what the entire flea market would be like, but little did I realize the larger flea market is made of smaller little markets each specializing in just about anything you could ever imagine. 

The Marché de Vernaison is the original flea market, established in 1920, and where I think the true treasures are to be found. I spent ages sorting through a box of 80 year old postcards, reading love letter and poems. I tried in vain to pick out a tea cup, but realized buying a tea cup in Paris did not seem all that practical. I even found an Oregon memorabilia plate, but unfortunately the owner of that stall wouldn’t let me take a picture. 

One could easily furnish their entire house from the marche. It was clear that anything you wanted to buy required some serious haggling skills. For anyone who is a watcher of Pawn Stars on the history channel (seriously, check it out) this is the place to be! Rick would be in heaven. While we didn’t spend hours sorting through piles of junk, I’m sure if you did, there are treasures to be found.

The flea market was really quite amazing. It made me think about how old Paris is and how steeped in history you are. Whenever I walk down a street, I imagine what it must have been like to be in that same place 100, 200 or even 300 years ago. Unlike New York, where I feel so many buildings have been rebuilt in near recent history, walking down the cobblestone streets of Paris still feels very old, almost as if nothing has changed. Obviously, walking down my block, where you have Starbucks, Gap, Sephora and a movie theater all within 100 yards of each other, you know that Paris is still a 21st century city, but walking in the Marché au Puces certainly took me back in time again!
A newspaper celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps: 
Johnnie Walker: Stereotypical American couple? The French did give us Ms. Lady Liberty: Hilarious name plates:
We all know those hippies smell bad 😉 

Boursin Stuffed Chicken

After a whimsical day of traversing Paris today with my friend Audrey, which included more than a few wrong turns, more to come on that later, we returned to my apartment to make this delicious dish for dinner and watch Julie & Julia. It was pretty much a perfect Paris day. I’d been wanting to make this chicken for ages – doesn’t anything stuffed with cheese just have to be good – and it was a wonderful way to inaugurate my new kitchen with a full dinner.

I was super excited to use my oven for the first time, which turned out to be a great success. I did realize though that I have no cookie sheet. Oh dear! It’s a good thing I didn’t end up making cookies last night, otherwise I probably would have ended up eating the cookie dough all by myself after discovering I had nothing to cook them on 🙂

Now this recipe calls for a meat mallet, but in my sparsely supplied kitchen, a book seemed to do the trick just fine. 

A good helping of cheese never hurt anyone!

This is such a simple dish, but so yummy!! The original recipe called for copious amounts of bacon and pancetta, but given that I eat neither of those, I just left them out and added some cut up vegetables and dill instead. It turned out just as good, although I’m sure the flavors of the bacon would have been delicious too.

We had a little baked cauliflower and a some Israeli salad that I had made the other day, and voila, the perfect little meal. Of course, we had our fair share of wine and bread too 😉

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 pckg. Boursin cheese (I used the generic type they had in the super market)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cut up carrot
  • 1 cut up medium onion
  • dill for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Lightly oil the bottom of a deep oven pan, in my case a pizza pan.

3. Place one piece of the chicken breast on top of a piece of Saran wrap. Cover with another piece and gently beat it with the rounded end of a metal ladle or  a meat tenderizer – I used a book. Repeat with second piece until both are fairly thin.

4. Generously spread cheese over both chicken pieces – you could add additional spices here too if you wanted.

5. Roll both pieces up like a burrotio, keeping the seam down. Place onto pan and season with lemon, salt and pepper.

6. Add chopped up carrot and onion to pan.

7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until chicken is tender.

Enjoy 🙂