14 July 2011

bastille my heart

Bonjour my lovelies!  Today is one of my favorite holidays of the year, La Fete Nationale!  Not only is it a  day to celebrate my favorite historical period, the French Revolution, but it's also the anniversary of my parents' first date.  Though I'm not in any way French, I always find a little francophile in me to celebrate with the best of them on this July day.  So throw on your beret and hop on your bike, and dance to Edith Piaf because you can-can pretend to be Parisian and enjoy all that the Frenchies have given us today!  And how convenient that this holiday happens to fall just a day after National French Fry Day?

I try to make something at least a little bit patriotic for this day each year, but since am not a pro at French cooking despite my love of Julia Child, I'm usually stuck making something relatively simple.  This year, I opted for the simplicity of a red, white and blue confection in honor of the flag that the revolutionaries hoisted after setting free all seven prisoners (epic, right?) and confiscating all of the gunpowder stored in the fortress-like jail that was the Bastille.  (Now, if you happen to be in Paris, don't bother to go looking for the Bastille as it isn't there anymore.  You could end up wasting an entirely good tourism day searching for it, right Elliot?)  Well, with these patriotic colors in mind and my mom's cherry challenge hovering over my head, I whipped up some vanilla almond panna cotta with cherry and blueberry compotes and crunchy candied almond sprinkles.  Challenge served!

all we're missing is the white!

Now, I know what your thinking - 'panna cotta?  But isn't that Italian?'  Well, yes it is, but since the first night I spent in Paris I dined at an Italian restaurant before watching the Eiffel Tower glitter with Parisian brilliance, I deem this completely appropriate.  And it was surprisingly simple to make.  As usual, I consulted a few different blogs and recipe sites before I began cooking and came up with my own perfectly delicious recipe for a vanilla almond panna cotta.

bastille day panna cotta with blueberry & cherry compotes
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c milk
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/8 tsp unflavored gelatin
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp bourbon vanilla (in honor of the French Bourbons!)
1. In a small saucepan, combine gelatin and about a third of the milk, whisking together allowing the gelatin to soak up.  Warm the combination on a very low heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved.
2. In a second small saucepan, warm the remainder of the milk, cream and sugar until it just begins to foam around the edges, stirring regularly to make sure the sugar dissolves.  When it begins to foam, turn off the heat and stir in the almond and vanilla extracts.  
3. In a bowl, combine the gelatin mixture with the warm cream.  Let stand for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.  
4. Pour into 1 or 2 dishes lined with plastic (optional*) and let cool in the fridge for at least four hours.  Flip the set custard out of the dish when you're ready and scoop on the toppings.

compote **
1 c fruit 
1/4 - 1/2 c water
1 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1. Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a light boil over a low heat, allowing the pulp of the fruit to turn into a kind of jam-like consistency.  Cool until ready to serve. 

* I say use a dish lined with plastic because I like to flip it out onto a plate and scoop the compotes on top as if it were a mold.  You could use glasses or any other pretty dish you have and separate into as many molds as possible, though you may want to consider doubling the recipe if you plan on serving more than two.
** I made my cherry and blueberry compotes separately because I wanted to use them as two totally different flavors and toppings.  You could mix  fruits or use any kind of fruit you'd like since a compote is one of the simplest things in the world to make.  The word 'compote' is actually French for mixture.
*** Since I used almond extract in the panna cotta, I considered putting a splash of almond extract in with the compote but, alas, I didn't have any in the house.  Try it out with different complimentary liquors.

blue, white & red

Ok, so these might not be the prettiest pictures and they certainly don't give this dish it's due.  I know I should probably have waited until at least 10:00 in the morning before even thinking about dessert, but I just had to try some before I skipped out for work.  And if you think about it, panna cotta is kind of like vanilla yogurt, right?  The tartness of the blueberries and cherries was the perfect accent to the rich and creamy subtle sweetness of the custard.  

breakfast of champions (it's the same in french & english,
so you need to say it with a goofy accent)

I wish it was a little more portable so I could have brought it with me to work, but at least it will be waiting for me when I get home.  And tonight I get to have another Dad Date!  I think I might take him to Flute for their champagne fueled fete.  Or Cercle Rouge for a rollicking game of Petanque.  Maybe we can rent bikes and pretend we're in the Tour de France?

tour de france - brooklyn style (last year)

In order to look festive for the holiday and my Dad Date, I spent this morning rummaging through my shrinking wardrobe (I really should do laundry) to find something festive to wear and had a very tough time.  All of my striped shirts need to be washed, my tour de France dress is too sporty for the office, and I gave my carnival dress to Aunt Carolyn.  I finally settled on a pretty little red dress with blue and red dots that kind of look like fireworks.  I think the lady I bought it from is French and I wore it on my way to Paris so it works.  Plus i broke out my firework bobby pins from VintageIce for the occasion!  But, how much do I wish I still had this little getup to wear in honor of the second red, white and blue holiday of the year?!

baby baby j

Don't know much about history?  Here's my very brief intro to the historic day that we celebrate on July 14th -  Back in 1789, Louis XVI was acting even weirder than usual and his gal, Marie Antoinette was getting a real bad rep for being a floozy and spending all of the country's money on tacky extensions and baked goods.  The downfall of the people of France was not entirely the fault of the government or the royal family, they shelled out a lot of money to help us out during our revolution and there were shortages of food because of the weather and stuff, but people were cranky and wanted someone to blame so... a bunch of these "regular folk" got together to play tennis and sign some papers swearing to split from the King and start some rough drafts of a constitution.  (I wonder if this is how the French Open started.  Hmm, tennis.)  So then a bunch of people without pants got nervous that their tennis superstars were in danger and decided to storm the big jail known as the Bastille and set free the prisoners (seriously, all seven of them) and raid all the weaponry and gunpowder storage.   There was a lot of fighting and storming and yelling and fire and blood.  And that's pretty much the big event that kicked off the French Revolution.  Vive la France!

Oh, and a quick sorry to the gals of the French women's soccer team.  We didn't mean to ruin your Bastille Day with our all-American awesomeness.  Maybe next time ladies.

1 comment:

  1. That dress was handed down to your cousin Kelsey and then to Nicole. I still have it!