Sunday, February 24, 2013

Paris Cookbook Fair 2013. Paryski Festiwal Książek Kulinarnych 2013.

I am in Paris and yesterday I visited Paris Cookbook Fair which is the prestigious annual international cookbook and wine book trade meeting, to which I was invited. This year, it took place in the heart of Paris, right under the Pyramid of the Louvre Museum, in the spacious Carrousel du Louvre, famous for the Paris fashion shows. The weather was not appealing - a mixture of snow, rain and wind.

This is an event for professionals, editors, publishing companies rather than for amateurs. Of course everybody may enter if they pay.  The tickets, in my opinion, were far too expensive for the general public – 35 Euros for one day or 65 Euros for 3 days. Additionally, the event is not aimed at selling cookbooks or to promote them to the public. That explains why the event was not very crowded.

The official website presents the event as follows: “the event focuses on the sales of translations and foreign rights, with Asia the leading buyer today, and Europe the major seller”. I am not surprised at all. Asians indeed buy everything, including vineyards in France, chateaux in the Bordeaux region and whole inventories of the best French wines. Did you know that cookbooks and wine books are probably the healthiest segment of publishing today, with a two digit growth in Asia and Latin America? “Dozens of countries are now buying, and make significant contributions to the profitsof the sector. Non European accents were strong in the crowd (35% guests to the event come from outside Europe).
The Paris Cookbook Fair lasted for 3 days (this year between 22-24 February). The supporting events included panel discussions, presentations, interviews with publishers and national TV stars (cooks, food stylists, writers and food photographers), live cooking shows with professionals and cooks from Le Cordon Bleu.

On Saturday, the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards (which took place yesterday in the 1,400 seats theater of the Carrousel du Louvre) for the best cook books, wine books and publishers have been awarded in quite a lot of categories. This year 171 countries were participating (after 162 in 2011). The full list of the finalists and winners is published in a large booklet which is available on line here, at the official website of the Paris Cookbook Fair.
At the Paris Cookbook Fair, hundreds (if not thousands) of cookbooks from all over the World in every possible language, edited by both renowned publishers but also by small ones, are presented but you can also meet the authors and publishers and you can have a chat with them. In general, they were very helpful, open and talkative. However it was very difficult to buy any books there. On most of the stands, in particular those with books from abroad, it was impossible to buy anything (either because they did not have card terminals, or they did not have enough copies for sale). But that was not the goal of the event.

So, despite I did not buy any book, I was happy because I could have some chats with interesting and open people, like for example the co-authors of the Swedish culinary anti-cancer cookbook, which sells in Sweden like hot cakes. The book includes gourmet anti-cancer recipes (written in co-operation with doctors).  Swedish were well organized - not only they were open to questions, but also they offered a wide range of Swedish specialties and beverages (including specific, bitter – sour lingonberry drink).

My eyes were also caught by a beautifully edited cookbooks about….Greenland cuisine. The luxurious and elegant stand of the Modernist Cuisine was impressive (like the brochure that they edited for the Paris Cookbook Fair), but I was more impressed to have a chat with guys who support (namely, by publishing cook books about Cambodian cuisine), and raise money to help homeless kids on the streets of Phnom Penh or with two guys from Argentina, wine importers, who came not only to promote their wines, about also to promote the cookbook about….Patagonian cuisine. Azerbaijanis not only proposed their cookbooks, but also prepared a food show and savory and sweet snacks.

Polish accents were visible, but not as strong as they should be. There was a stand of the Palace Wilanow Museum, presenting a series of cookbooks about Old Polish cuisine – Monumenta PoloniaeCulinaria. I met professor Jarosław Dumanowski and Elżbieta Grygiel from the Wilanów Palace Museum. We had a long chat about the Old Polish Cuisine and its possible promotion abroad. I’ve got a few heavy gifts (they were cookbooks, as you can guess). I met Grzegorz Trubilowicz from Cooklet - who is the co-founder of Cooklet - Inspiring Culinary Organizer. One should watch Cooklet – they already attacked the U.S. market and are finalists of some important competitions in media applications.

I was searching for the cookbook recently published by BOSZ, “The Fine Polish Cuisine”, the book about Polish cuisine published under the patronage of the wife of the President of Poland (the book was also the finalist of the Gourmet Awards). To no avail. I did not find the book, and I did not check it out, despite my thorough attempts. No other Polish culinary accents were present there, which is a big pity. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crunchy-Branchy or Angel Wings ? Chrust.

Here is Magda’s dad, special guest star of today’s blog post. I would like to suggest something very Polish and very tasty – sweet specialty prepared mainly for Carnival season which starts with Christmas and ends on Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday. This year it falls quite early – February 13 (I am not superstitious but does that mean bad luck or what ?)

Our today’s hero is CHRUST (pron. “khroost”). In Polish it literally means “brushwood”, a bunch of twigs, small and tiny wooden brunches usually collected in the woods to serve as an easy starter of a bonfire. Similarity is obvious: these sweet twisted ribbon-shaped deep fried cookies resemble their natural wooden cousins. As it is in our rich Polish language, there is a plethora of names for these dessert items – “Chrust, chruściki, faworki, jaworki, kreple”. All as easy tongue-twisting as almost everything in my mother’s tongue. But it is much easier to cook. Particular name depends on the region of Poland they are prepared in. My choice comes from my mom who taught me to make CHRUST. My family for generations has been proud citizens of royal city of Krakow, the capital of Małopolska (Lesser Poland) region where CHRUST label dominate overwhelmingly.

How these cookies should be called in English ? Wikipedia and numerous culinary websites and recipes name CHRUST as “angel wings”. Sorry, but it sounds pretentious, a bit kitchy. We (me and Magda) wondered whether a new useful and corresponding name can be invented. Our conclusion (watch out ! Copyright) is Crunchy-Branchy. The cookies, when properly prepared, are quite al dente in a sense of crunchiness and crispiness. And since they are like small pieces of wood, twigs, broken branches, crunchy-branchy should be approved and accepted by all cookies lovers.
And, last but not least for this lengthy introduction to the recipe, I wish to say that dishes, specialties and culinary products strictly tied to a certain time of the year, special season, religious holidays etc. fill the drawer of my dearest recipes and flavors. Can you imagine Thanksgiving Day without a turkey (sorry American friends but you always demonstrate bizarre ability to overcook this bird unless it becomes tasteless…) ? Advent-lent period without gingerbread houses ? Mardi Gras without a fish or shellfish ? Christmas dinner without beloved traditional family dishes ? No way. So CHRUST dominates Poland during Carnival time.

Making CHRUST (CRUNCHY-BRANCHY) is not too complicated. The secret is making proper dough and keeping the rules of ingredients that form it.
We will need (for a big plate to be filled with mound of the cookies):

-   2 cups flour
5 egg yolks (some recipes suggest to add whole eggs but the whites make the cookies tougher)
4 spoons dense sour cream
teaspoon of white vinegar
spoon of white clear vodka (both liquids make the cookies more fluffy)
2 spoons of well-softened butter
salt (sprinkled to the taste, con amore)
oil/fat for deep frying (olive oil excluded – its flavor is too invasive), at least 1 lb or ½ litre but have more to add if necessary

Dough preparation wooden board would not hurt. Btw, it’s one of my favorite kitchen tools and utensils.
Making a dough: make a crater in the mound of dough, add all ingredients and start to mix it. Delicately but with no mercy. The dough may seem too dry but it’s only initial impression. If you make the dough patiently and thoroughly (hard labor, nothing comes for free !) it will reach the end as homogenous, smooth, slightly flexible. It it’s really too dry, add 1 – 2 spoonful of water but frankly speaking the dough need not to drink it. When you judge the dough to be well-worked out, beat it with a roll for several minutes – until it starts to reveal small air bubbles. I usually throw the dough against the wooden board (all sides) but this roars as a thunder and finally I hear neighbors knocking from the above or from the down under. Then I finish torturing the dough with a roll.

OK. Now the dough (cylinder-shaped) must take a rest in the refrigerator. Store it there for about an hour but covered with a linen cloth or kitchen towel.

Get the dough out of the cool place. Cut into three even pieces. Take one, the other two put back In  the fridge. Roll. Roll and roll. Don’t rock, just roll until the dough nears paper-thin. Cut it with a knife into 2,5 cm (1 inch) wide and 12 cm (5 inch) stripes. Make 4 cm (1,5 inch) cut in the middle of each strip. Take one end of each strip and draw it out through the slit in of the stripe. This way you shape it like a ribbon. You will truly see this once it is deep fried !

Now it’s time to warm up the fat/oil. I always use my old wok (bought in 1988 for one dollar(!)  at a garage sale in Boulder, Colorado) but any pan or pot for deep frying will do. The fat temperature is OK when small piece of the dough thrown upon immediately comes out to the surface “boiling”. Now you can softly put the dough ribbons into the hot oil. Not too many at a time, otherwise they will fry unevenly. For the same reason, turn them quickly when frying. Final color should be deep golden towards light brown. Gently (it’s CHRUST, pretty fragile “brushwood”) take the cookies out of the pan. Bring down the heat under the pan otherwise the fat will start burning. Dry the cookies on the paper towel, then move onto the large plate. When the first layer covers the plate, sprinkle it snow-white with the confectioner’s sugar.  It sounds a bit complicated, but believe me, it is not. Especially when you have a helper in the kitchen (no kids ! Boiling oil is a mortal danger and scars from oil burns can be lifelong) who moves the cookies from here to there.

What else ? You repeat the sequence of the activities unless all dough has been rolled out, cut into stripes, ribbon-shaped and fried. What’s crucial for successful frying operation is maintaining proper oil/fat temperature. And adding some fat (cookies absorb it when fried) every now and then. Don’t be frightened: you will get necessary experience after just one session.

The satisfaction of admiring the mountain of fantastic CHRUST cookies on the plate dusted with sugar snow rewards all efforts. And they are so delicious, so unique in texture, taste and flavor ! Writing this I already have my mouth watered all over even if swallowed final pieces of my CRUNCHY-BRANCHY only last Sunday. And don’t leave them for the following day. This is kind of food to be consumed the very same evening.

Cuisines of several nations include making “angel wings” cookies like Polish CHRUST. But believe me, none taste like ours.
The real sweet bonanza in Poland comes on “Tłusty Czwartek”, last “Fat” Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Everybody eats “pączki” (Polish style doughnuts) on this day. But that’s another story, for another post.

Vive le Carnaval à la Polonaise !


Dzisiaj wpis goscinny mojego Taty - specjalisty od chrustu. Ja chrustu nie umiem robić i pobrałam w ubiegłym tygodniu lekcję. Tata pisze:

Chrust, chruściki, faworki, jaworki, kreple. Różnie w różnych częściach Polski nazywane, jak to bywa z wpływem regionalności na kulinarne nazewnictwo. Etymologii tu nie będziemy objaśniać bo od tego mamy guglowanie/guglanie i inne wikipedie. Wyznam tylko, że najbardziej lubię nazwę „chrust” właśnie, nie tylko dlatego, że przejąłem to po krakowsku od Mamy. Chrust to przecież drobne, kruche i łamliwe gałązki. Cóż za piękna analogia z naturą tych podłużnych słodkich ciasteczek-chrupanek-kruchanek.
W ogóle uwielbiam potrawy i kuchenne wykwity związane z jakimś szczególnym okresem roku, ze świętami jednymi czy drugimi, z dorocznymi okazjami, mniej lub bardziej podniosłymi. Uwielbiam za ich wyjątkowość i nieprzystawalność do innego czasu. Boże Narodzenie bez wigilijnego postnego barszczu z uszkami ? Nie sposób. Ostatki przed Popielcem bez śledzika ? Jakże to. Cudowne amerykańskie Święto Dziękczynienia bez indyka (zawsze niedobry) ? No way. Adwent bez domków z piernika ? Unmoeglich. Raz z żoną zrobiliśmy sobie wigilijną kolację w lipcu. Nagotowałem się, a jakże, było wszystko jak trzeba. Pyszne. Tylko kulturowo obce jakieś, czułem przy tym posiłku element bluźnierstwa (Śledzika z tego wyłączam, śledzik jest uniwersalny i ponadczasowy).
No więc chrust (Kongresówko, wybacz, że nie będzie o faworkach). Może być karnawał bez niego ? Nie może. Dlatego zawsze jedną z weekendowych sobót końca stycznia, gdy przyjeżdżam z roboty w Warszawie do krakowskiego domu, poświęcam na wypełnienie sporego półmiska tym niezbieranym w lesie chrustem.
Roboty przy tym trochę, ale nie za dużo, choć ciasto wymaga nieco krzepy. Ważne by trzymac się i proporcji, jak zawsze przy wypiekach czy wysmażkach (to ostatnie pod copyrightem – wynalazłem przed chwilą). Trud będzie wynagrodzony.
Ja to robię tak. Zacznijmy od przepisu (żadna tam oryginalna filozofia, sami znajdziecie mnóstwo w necie):

2 szklanki mąki (uniwersalna czy tortowa, ganz egal)
5 żółtek (niektórzy dają całe jajka, ale białka powodują twardnienie ciasta)
4 łyżki śmietany (daję 22 %, ale 18 % też dobra)
Łyżeczka octu spirytusowego plus łyżka wódki (spirytus lepszy, ale nie zawsze jest w domu, co zresztą nie znaczy, że wódka też; niektórzy daja jeden z tych płynów, ja oba, smak chrustu jest wyrazistszy) – oba płyny spulchniają ciasto, ale z octem nie przesadźcie bo kwaśny chrust to chyba przegięcie
2 łyżki roztopionego masła (ma być letnie)
Trochę soli (niedużo, parę szczypt con amore)
Tłuszcz do głębokiego smażenia (zawsze mam do chrustu kostkę smalcu i kostkę Planty).

No i stolnica oczywiście. Robienie ciasta na gołym blacie stołu, jak w wielu domach, lekko je desakralizuje.
Ciasto: w kopczyku mąki robimy krater i wypełniamy elegancko wszystkimi ingrediencjami (no, tłuszczem do smażenia nie). I teraz trzeba się trochę pomęczyć. Mieszamy delikatnie, ale stanowczo, skladniki mają się rozprowadzić równomiernie. Ciasto wyrobiamy cierpliwie, na początku będzie się wam wydawać, że jest za suche: nic z tych rzeczy, trzeba wyrabiać i wyrabiać. Jeśli istotnie za suche, można się posiłkować 1 – 2 łyżkami wody, ale to wobec ciasta nie jest zbyt fair. Gdy już będzie jednorodne, leciutko rozciągliwe, trzeba je jeszcze skatować tak, by zaczęło wydzielać pęcherzyki powietrza. Na ogół ludzie tłuką ciasto wałkiem, ja wolę rzucać nim ze wszystkich stron o stolnicę (huk straszny) tak długo aż z dołu czy z góry nie usłyszę pukania sąsiada. Jeśli zapuka za wcześnie, przechodzę na ciosy wałkiem. Gdy ciasto uznamy za gotowe, musi powędrować do lodówki, by dojrzeć (do godziny). Tylko przykryjcie (nieśmiertelna lniana ściereczka), bo obeschnie.
Po lodówce formuję  ciasto na kształt dość grubego wałka/cylindra. Przed rozwałkowaniem dziele go na 3 części – w ten sposób całość rozwałkowanego ciasta jak raz zmieści się w trzech partiach na stolnicy.
Rozwałkowuję pierwszy kawałek – jak najcieniej, od tego zależy delikatność chrupkiego „wysmażu”, no i kroję (radełko lub nóż) na paski szerokości 2 – 3 cm (wolę ciastka-patyczki wąskie od szerokich) i długości 12 – 15 cm. W środku przecinam pasek na 1/3 długości. Robi się szczelina, przez którą z łatwością przewleczecie jeden koniec ciastowego paska, formując jakby wstążkę-kokardkę. Wyznam, że tę czynność bardzo lubię bo znamionuje ostatnią, czyli smażenie. No to smażymy. Ja to robię w chińskim woku, który drogą kupna nabyłe w 1988 r. na wyprzedaży garażowej w Colorado za dolara (!). Do dziś go bardzo kocham i jestem mu bezgranicznie wierny.  Jest stalowy, obrośnięty nagarem, jak przystało, żaden tam teflonowy wycirus.
Rozgrzewamy tłuszcz. Pół kostki jednego, pół kostki drugiego. Niektórzy smażą na oleju, ale ja mam jakąś awersję. Tłuszczyk kostkowy ładnie się topi. Temperatura jest smażalna gdy wrzucony do tłuszczu płatek ciasta szybko wypływa na powierzchnię, „gotując się”, czyli szybko wysmażając. Średnica woka plus taka ilość tłuszczu pozwala naraz smażyć ok. 7 chrustowych wstążek. W woku czy rondlu nie może być za ciasno, paski/wstążki muszą wysmażyć się (po obu stronach, w pewnym momencie należy je szybko odwrócić) swobodnie i równomiernie. Kolor wysmażonych – złoto przechodzące w lekki brąz (takie lubię najbardziej). Wyjmujemy delikatnie cedzakiem i osuszamy na papierowym ręczniku. Potem pomagier, o ile takiego mamy pod ręką, ma to przełożyć na półmisek. Delikatnie ! Wszakże to chrust, złamie się pod bardziej grubiańskim palcem. Istotna uwaga: cały czas kontrolujemy temperaturę tłuszczu; nie można go za bardzo schłodzić, ani nie zostawiać na full bo zacznie dymić i przypalać kolejne partie wrzucanych wstążek ciasta. No i tak nam schodzi do końca smażenia pierwszej partii. Pamiętajcie o zgaszeniu gazu lub zdjęciu rondla z płyty. Tłuszcz się przed następną partią wystudzi, ale go przecież podgrzejemy, dodając go nieco z kostki bo przecież każde smażone ciasto coś niecoś go wchłania.
Na półmisku rozprowadzamy usmażony chrust w równomierną i w miarę szczelną warstwę. Pojedynczą. Czas na posypanie cukrem-pudrem. Kiedyś to się sypało mączkę cukrową przez geste sitko. Teraz kupuje się ten puder w ustrojstwie, którym się kręci a puder jak śnieżny pył sam leci ! Jak mawiają Rosjanie, kak w kino ! Obfitość obsypania pudrem zależy od Waszego smaku i dozwolonego pułapu cukru w organiźmie.  Potem nakładamy kolejną warstwę usmażonych faworków (robię tu jedyny raz wyjątek – dla przyjaciół w Saskiej Kępy), i znów cukier puder.
Potem wszystko identico z drugim kawałkiem cylindrycznego ciasta, potem z trzecim. Nim powiem smacznego, jedna przestroga. Przy smażeniu pod żadnym pozorem nie wolno wpuszczać do kuchni dzieci, ani nadmiernej liczby gapiów. Gotowanie z wrzącym tłuszczem to naprawdę niebezpieczna robótka a oparzenia bywają tylko III stopnia i straszliwe.
Po tej sympatycznej uwadze mowię: bon apetit ! Podanymi proporcjami składników się specjalnie nie najecie (ale obsypany na biało kopczyk na półmisku zawsze będzie), lecz po pierwsze – można ilość składników proporcjonalnie zwiększyć, po drugie – chrust nie jest do obżerania się tylko do chrupano-kruchej zabawy na jeden wieczór. Za to jaki pyszny !

Friday, February 1, 2013

Jerusalem Artichoke Velouté with Vegetable Chips. Revisiting Ancient Recipes (part 3)

I promised to my friends that I would publish, tonight, the recipe for the Jerusalem Artichoke soup inspired by the 17th century recipe from the first Polish cook book, within my series designated to Old Polish cuisine (more details in my previous post).

Nutty, earthy, sweetie Jerusalem artichokes (I prefer to call them “topinambours”) are one of those vegetables that were commonly known and used in cookery in Poland 300 and 200 years ago and they disappeared - not from the country - but from our tables. They were replaced by potatoes, as far as I know. Despite their name (“artichoke”) they rather have nothing to do with those artichokes than we know from French or Italian cuisine. I realize that culinary habits of every nation are different and had to evolve over time. However, to me the most surprising aspect of Old Polish cuisine is not the variety of poultry (capon!) and venison, not the variety of soft water fish, but the spices like ginger (we can call this cuisine as “gingery” cuisine), raisins and limes. I wonder: how was it possible that they were so popular at that time? How did people get them? Every recipe call for spices, sourness and sweetness and exotic ingredients which I did not know when I was a kid!

The season for topinambour lasts from late summer to February (this is not what I know from practice – I have just read it). Anyway, if you get (or buy) these vegetables, keep them in your fridge, otherwise they will quickly get soft. If you make a soup with them, you do not really have to peel the artichokes; it is sufficient to clean them thoroughly.

Today's recipe, taken from Stanisław Czerniecki's book, calls to only use vegetables and spices; the recipe was sent to me by professor Dumanowski who advised that the revisited version of this soup tastes better with cream and ginger. Ok, I decided to follow his instructions and I came to the evidence that he was right. Without any cream, the addition of ginger to the soup would be too bland; and the addition of cream added some nice and smooth taste. I added some sourness by squeezing in - just before serving - some fresh lime juice. The soup is tasty and interesting, but it needs some more changes, maybe more ginger?  The addition of crispy vegetable chips is a must, it changes the character of the soup, as freshly squeezed limes did.

Fortunately I go to France next week. I am dreaming about buying a capon (the most popular meat in Poland 300 years ago and unavailable today) and make some super extra dish for you.

Jerusalem Artichoke Velouté with Vegetable Chips
(Zupa – krem z topinambura z warzywnymi chipsami)

Serves 4 small / medium portions

For the velouté:
350 g Jerusalem artichoke, delicately peeled, washed and diced (if you do this in advance, keep the vegetable in water with some vinegar to prevent it from darkening)
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
2 cm ginger, peeled and chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 small handful of soaked raisins
1 parsley root, peeled and chopped
¼ small celery root, peeled and chopped
300 ml stock (vegetable or chicken)
200 ml milk
100 ml cream
2 pinches nutmeg
2 tablespoons goose grease / butter
1 lime, cut into quarters 

For the vegetable chips:
100 g (possibly large) Jerusalem artichokes, delicately peeled, washed and cut along into very thin slices (if you do this in advance, keep the vegetable in water with some vinegar to prevent it from darkening – remember to dry out slices before placing them in boiling oil);
1 parsley root, peeled and cut along into paper thin, long strips
500 ml vegetable oil for deep frying

Put saffron in 100 ml of warm water and put aside.

Heat some oil or grease in a saucepan, add onions, ginger, garlic and caramelize them a bit over medium heat stirring constantly. Add harder vegetables: carrot, parsley root and celeriac. Fry for around 10 minutes stirring constantly to prevent them from burning. Add Jerusalem artichokes, raisins, stock and cook under the cover, until the Jerusalem artichokes are soft. Do not overcook them, as they may become starchy.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and blend the soup using a blender. Then pass the soup through a fine sieve; discard the leftovers and pour the soup in a clean saucepan. Add milk, cream, saffron with water, and all the spices. Bring to a boil. Adjust the taste if necessary. You can add more ginger if you like a strong ginger flavor.

Make vegetable chips: bring oil to boil over low heat – once it is very hot, put delicately the vegetables into the oil and fry them until gold and crispy. Remove them from oil and put on a paper towel.

Serve hot with chips and quarters of limes.
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