Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day Event

Wonton Soup holds a special place in my heart. It's unique, pure, healthy and satisfying. Last week I took out to finally make it myself after contemplating it for weeks. I may have made it once in school but that was with every ingredient on hand, the support of my fellow culinary classmates and a huge kitchen with a dishwasher turning out bowls, utensils and pots quicker than I could say "please."

Making this soup at home is a day event. Something you plan for. What are you doing this Saturday?-Making Wonton Soup. You can take short cuts by using store-bought broth but to do it right you need to take the time. If you're a real planner it would be perfect to shop the night before, get up early and whip it out in the morning. Then it would only be a half-day event.

This soup is truly delicious. I think the extra ingredients that make it a form of War Wonton Soup puts it over the top. Who doesn't love shrimp, right?

I know the ingredients look overwhelming. I promise it's not as bad as it seems once you write out a grocery list and begin shopping. If you feel super overwhelmed and like things more simple, forgo the extra ingredients in the soup and just make the wontons and broth. The wontons are quite delicious on their own.

Loaded Wonton Soup

serves 4-6

1.5 lb. pork ribs
1 lb. chicken wings (most of skin/fat removed)
4 scallions, chopped
1 (2-3 in.) piece of ginger, chopped into big chunks
16 c. water
8 oz. crimini mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 pound ground pork (preferably not lean)
1 lg. egg yolk
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 (2 in.) piece ginger, minced
1 T. garlic, minced
1 T. soy sauce (I use low sodium)
1 t. rice vinegar
1/2 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
30-40 wonton wrappers

finishing soup:
1/2 pound shrimp
1 1/2 lb. bok choy, chopped to your liking
2 heaping handfuls sweet peas
4-8 oz. crimini mushrooms, quartered
cilantro for garnish
chopped scallions for garnish

1. Bring the first five ingredients to a simmer and let cook, uncovered 4 hours or until the meat is falling off the bones. At the halfway mark, throw in the crimini mushrooms and make sure it's not boiling. (if it boils, the ingredients start falling apart, making the broth cloudy)

2. Once finished, strain (discard solids) and cool the broth down as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is by filling a large bowl full of ice water and putting a smaller bowl with broth inside of it, stirring until it comes to room temp. Once room temp, place in the fridge and chill for an hour or two. This will help solidify any fat particles, making them easier to skim before finishing the soup.

3. To make the wontons, mix all ingredients (except wrappers) in a bowl until just incorporated. Spoon teaspoon sized amount into wonton wrapper and wrap it up as shown in the picture provided, using water as the glue. You'll need plastic wrap to make sure the unused wonton wrappers are covered when not being worked with (they dry out easy).

4. Once they're all made you can put them in the fridge, covered, until ready to use.
(if you accidentaly put them in your car to bring to a friends house and they clump up and stick together to make one huge wonton like I accidentally did, put them into the freezer for about 5 minutes. They'll break apart like a charm)

5. To finish the soup, bring the broth to a simmer and put the bok choy in for about 2 minutes before placing the wontons, shrimp, mushrooms, sweet peas, salt and pepper in. Let simmer until wontons are cooked through and shrimp is finished.

6. Top with whole cilantro leaves and chopped scallions.

*Recipe adapted from 'Wonton Soup with Bok Choy',, Gourmet-2004

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cakes Galore

I'm back from France, done with my externship (woohoo!) and beginning my career. (sort of)
I'll probably touch more on that later.

But for now, I got an itch to bake some cakes yesterday. One for my brothers belated birthday celebration and the second because my mom found her angel food cake pan in the garage recently and I couldn't not make an angel food cake knowing this information.

I LOVE angel food cake.

I made one in my Baking and Pastry class back in culinary school and it turned out absolutely perfect. I even received praise from my picky Chef for its delightful texture and crispy crust. I dream about that cake. My second attempt was a failure that I quickly blamed on my Dad's faulty oven, but something tells me I wasn't fully present during the production. Yesterday was my third attempt and though not completely disappointing, I didn't beam with joy when I saw the results. Too flat, the edges weren't crunchy enough and the flavor wasn't up to par. I need help. Maybe it's the lack of measuring (I didn't use a scale, forgive me) or the non-convection oven I used. Whatever it is I want it fixed because I don't think I can handle seeing another imperfect angel food cake. If you have advice I could use it. (Lisa, I'm talking to you...) Could it have been the recipe I used?

sad right?

On to less depressing things. My chocolate cake I made turned out fabulously and Jared, my brother, complimented me on it, which rarely happens. He described it as a truffle chocolate cake because of its rich taste and fudge-like frosting (literally the cake wouldn't come to "room-temp" since it's so cold here and the frosting stayed a piece of fudge).

You can find the recipe here ('Fudgy Chocolate Layer Cake' from Epicurious). I halved it and made a half moon cake. At first I thought it would look silly but I quickly fell in love with the funky shaped cake and think I'll do it again real soon. Who needs twelve servings of cake anyway?

Beware, this cake is grab a tall glass of milk and sit down rich. It has espresso in it too so take heed. I subbed espresso from an espresso machine for the instant stuff called for in the recipe since I hate buying instant espresso. It bothers me to see it in my cupboard being unused in between 'Fudgy Chocolate Layer Cake' endeavors.
If you have a chocolate lover in your life you should make this cake and watch them swoon when they take the first bite. Oh and believe me, they will swoon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Last days are always strange.
It seems no matter what disappointment sets in at some point after all the emotional build up because no one-shift or one day experience can sum up the time you've spent somewhere.

My last day was a busy one at the restaurant with a stressed Chef and frantic cooks. It doesn't matter though since when I look back at my experience at La Fontain Aux Perles I won't just remember my last day. Instead I'll remember everyday, all the shifts and metro rides, the jokes, the French chatter I couldn't understand, the knife cuts, the tremendous amounts of different seafood, the foraged mushrooms, Carol's cafe, and of course taking breaks from the kitchen washing trash cans.

I'll miss the restaurant a little but what I'll really miss are my co-workers. They were the ones who really made the tough days bearable. Even the hectic last day, as you can see from this picture. (and yes, I know this post is a little late ;-)

On my way out the door Baptiste (pictured below) said, "Vanessa, before you leave, say 'Oh La Vache' for us one last time." So I did, and since they think me saying the French phrase meaning "oh my gosh" is hilarious, they all laughed one last time at it.

Baptiste pretending to carry the little stereo like a jukebox

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Can't Get Enough Of...

...the Eiffel Tower

They paint the beast every 7 years and we got to see the painters.
How cool to say your day job was to paint this Eiffel Tower! And scary, of course.

Because it was being painted, we were only able to go to the 2nd level, but it was still magnificent

Eating a nutella-banana crepe across the street---yum!

Good Job Mr. Eiffel, you've made quite a structure.
I'll miss your beautifully lit up gem while I'm gone.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Paris: Best Fallafel Sandwich

There is a fallafel place in Paris that rivals any fallafel I've ever eaten. In fact, in 2006, it was written up in the New York Times!
Located in the Jewish neighborhood, Marais, it was a 30 minute walk to our rented flat, the perfect distance to build up an appetite- and an appetite you definitely need!

Here are the reasons I believe L'As du Fallafel makes the BEST fallafel sandwich (in the world?):

1. The pita is fresh, not dry or too doughy
2. There is the perfect proportion of fritters to sauce to greens (I'm a big proportion person)
3. It comes with big chunks of fried eggplant (eggplant is my favorite)
4. The fried chickpea fritters are light and crispy, not dry and dense
5. There is an adequate amount of white garlic sauce to last
6. Just when you think the sandwich is over and all you have is a dry bite of bread at the end there is a hefty layer of delicious hummus awaiting you!

Bon Appetite!

Tea Please

(love this perfect tea timer)

This little tea parlor in Rennes is one of my favorite spots despite the measly two times I was able to dine there. (It's closed Sundays and Mondays)

It's charming and full of warmth with sheep skin covering the chairs outside so people can come in the cold and drink Vin Chaud, like Gina and I did, on their walk through town.

My mom and I went and had the most delicious tea over a piece of orange carrot cake while listening to the chit chat of distinguished looking women sip tea and gossip. I picked the Pear Vanilla Roiboos and it was fantastic!

If you're ever in Rennes, France, you don't want to miss it!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Le Mont-Saint-Michel

she got a kick out of the lamb fur we saw on the side of the road

Anyone told I was going to live in the Brittany region of France informed me I MUST visit Mont-Saint-Michel. It's located on the border of Normandy and Brittany and during tourist season is one of the countries main attractions.

What a site! The locals aren't lying when they say it's spectacular and a must see. It dates back over a million years when the rock island was formed and what became later an abbey was built starting in the year 708 in honor of the Archangel, Saint Michael.

The lamb around the area is said to be delicious from feeding on the salty grass and restaurants in the area are known for their huge souffle-like omelets. Yum!

I would definitely stay nearby again to see the night view of this beautiful place if I ever went back- though next time I will wear more layers and ear muffs for the 2K walk back to the hotel from the was FREEZING!

how cool are the people on the bridge at the bottom??

A Welcomed Visitor

My mom enjoying the hail/snow

My Mom is here visiting and I couldn't be more excited.

She is such a champ- came in, no jet lag, slept through the first night and got up with me to take on the Farmers Market the next morning...unbelievable.
We went out to weather the storm of rain, hail, snow and sun! The weather can never make up its mind here.
More adventures to come!