Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thrill of the grill 2

Like I said, sometimes you just want the more immediate pleasures of barbecue, the thrill of the grill. And, frankly, sometimes only Asian skewers will do.

thai street 1 fig. a: Thai Street Food

It's safe to say that this latest spate of activity was inspired by David Thompson's rather impressive Thai Street Food. Like the major works of Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Thai Street Food is richly photographed and over-sized, and much more than just a coffee table book: it's passionately written and comprehensive, it strives for the very heights of authenticity,* and its topic is much bigger than just "food." This is a book that's about the entire culture that surrounds the preparation and consumption of "single-plate food" on Thai streets and in Thai markets. It's also incredibly artful. Sure, there are dozens upon dozens of carefully composed studio shots of mouth-watering dishes like Crab Noodles From Chanthaburi and Stir-Fried Squid with Flowering Garlic Chives, but at least half of the photographs fall under the category of street photography and they can be remarkably gritty and purposely un-pretty.

thai street 2 fig. b: Thai market culture

Anyway, it might have had to do with that cover photo, with those tantalizing satay skewers, but when it came time to give Thai Street Food a whirl, I found myself fixating on the grilled recipes, and especially the skewers. Photographs like this one,

thai street 3 fig. c: grilled pork skewers

for Grilled Pork Skewers, and the fact that Thompson begins his write-up for this recipe with the words "I am addicted to these," didn't hurt either.

He then continues as follows:

Along the street there are small grills, often just a large metal bowl with a rack perched on top. I'll stop and look and long for the fruits of their labour--smoky grilled skewers of pork. I'll smuggle some home as if carrying a guilty secret to relish in private. Sometimes, most of the time, I'll break into the cache on the way home.

It all sounded so illicit, so louche. By the time he got to describing the importance of charcoal to the process ("Using a charcoal grill imparts a depth of flavour that makes meat such as this grilled pork irresistible" [my emphasis]) I was 150% sold on those skewers.

Now the actual grilling time on Thai skewers like these is fairly short. After all, the pork is cut into small cubes and it's marinated. But you definitely don't want to grill them over a blazing-hot fire. The idea here is to use a fairly cool fire--Thompson recommends lighting the fire 30-60 minutes ahead of time, and waiting until the coals "glow gently." This isn't a smoked pork dish in the American tradition (ribs, pork shoulders, whole pigs), but smoke is integral to the process, so you want a fire in the neighborhood of 200º-250º F.

The marinade is positively heady. The meat is then basted with coconut cream on the grill. And the whole combination--the pork, the smoke, the marinade, the coconut cream--is pure thrills.

Grilled Pork Skewers

9 oz pork loin, neck, or shoulder
2 oz pork back fat (optional)

for the marinade:
1 tsp cleaned and chopped coriander roots
pinch of salt
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 tbsp shaved palm sugar
dash of dark soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil

12-15 bamboo skewers
1/4 cup coconut cream**

Slice the pork into thinnish pieces about 1" square. Cut the pork fat, if using, into small rectangles (1" x 1/4").

Next make the marinade. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the coriander root, salt, garlic and pepper into a fine paste. Combine with the sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce and oil. Marinate the pork and fat in this mixture for about 3 hours. The more cautious can refrigerate this but, if doing so, then it is best marinated overnight.

Soak the bamboo skewers for at least 30 minutes before use.

Prepare the grill. Meanwhile, thread a piece of pork fat, if using, onto the skewer first followed by two or three pieces of the marinated pork. Repeat with each skewer. When the embers are glowing, gently grill the skewers, turning quite often to prevent charring and promote even caramelisation and cooking. Dab them with the coconut cream as they grill. This should make the coals smoulder and impart a smoky taste. Grill all the skewers.

On the streets, they are simply reheated over the grill to warm them through before serving, although this is not entirely necessary as they are delicious warm or cool.

[recipe based very, very closely on a recipe from David Thompson's Thai Street Food]

Not sure if Thompson would have approved--this being "single-plate food," after all--but we served ours with rice, cilantro, limes, and a selection of simple Asian pickles, and the spread looked something like this:

thai pork skewer fig. d: grilled pork skewers à la AEB

That smoky, caramelized pork was just layered with flavor. Thompson claims that the recipe "makes enough for 4-5," but we had a hard time putting a few skewers aside for the next day's lunch. He was right. They are irresistible.


* For instance, in the introduction to Deep-Fried Salted Beef with Chilli and Tamarind Sauce, one finds this moment of authenticity: "The chilli and tamarind sauce is delectable. It can be served with any deep-fried meat or fish. I like to use maengdtaa fish sauce (made from rice roaches, bugs that scurry through the paddy fields), for its haunting aroma, but any good-quality fish sauce will do."

** More authenticity: Thompson highly recommends making your own coconut cream from scratch, a process that requires one to place the grated (or blended) coconut in cheesecloth and then "squeeze murderously, therapeutically, to obtain as much of the creamy goodness as possible." He does recognize that using canned coconut milk is "a more realistic option," however, and that's exactly what we've been doing up till now (although we're dying to make the real deal). The coconut cream is the clotted substance one finds in the top half of a can of coconut milk.

Even the canned variety imparts a wonderful flavor. One can only imagine what the artisanal stuff that one finds in Thai markets, some of which is perfumed with jasmine flowers or pandanus leaves (!), is like.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just in time for Canada Day...

...the good people at have seen fit to name " endless banquet" one of their Top Ten Canadian Food Blogs.

We're honoured to have been selected and pleased to hear that we've been able to provide "desk-bound dreamers" with food for thought.

SweetHome's list includes food blogs "from coast to coast (and from Google to Bing)," so be sure to check out the fine company we keep--you'll be treated to a culinary tour of Canada in the process. Write-ups on all ten featured blogs (plus links) can be found in this attractive gallery.


Monday, June 27, 2011

AEB @ CBC, Summer Strawberries Edition

quebec strawberries fig. a: Quebec strawberries

Michelle was back on the CBC with Jeanette Kelly again today, this time on Homerun, and this time the topic was strawberries. She had all kinds of things in mind to talk about (like where to go strawberry picking, helpful hints for preparing your strawberries simply, strawberry socials, strawberry gazpacho, and strawberry smackdowns), but these radio interviews go rather quickly sometimes, so, really, mostly what she talked about was pairing strawberries with herbs (plus a really sweet childhood memory of strawberry picking with her Mom and her sister).

Michelle & Jeanette fig. b: Michelle @ CBC

That was because she'd shown up with a sour cream panna cotta that she'd topped with strawberries and a herb granité, and Jeanette and the rest of the Homerun crew were understandably transfixed. It's a pretty delicious combo, and it's pretty too. But, best of all, it's pretty easy--especially the strawberries and the herb & lime granité.

Want to try it for yourself? Here's Michelle's recipe:

Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Strawberries and a Herb and Lime Granité

For the sour cream panna cotta:

150 ml cream
40 g sugar (2 ½ Tbsp)
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and added to sugar
1 1/2 sheets gelatin, soaked in cold water
250 g sour cream

Heat cream, sugar, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Turn off heat, wring out extra water from gelatin and add it to the cream. Stir to dissolve and pour over the sour cream. Whisk together to combine. Pour into glasses or small bowl and place in fridge to set at least 3 hours.

For the herb and lime granité:

2 sprigs basil
1 sprig mint
1 sprig lemon balm
1 sprig parsley
lime juice to taste
light simple syrup (one part sugar, two parts water) to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until quite green. Adjust sweetness by adding more syrup or water. Add more lime juice if needed. Strain into a container and freeze until hard. Scrape with a fork until fluffy and soft.

For the vinaigrette:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp lime juice
black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.

To serve:

1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered

Toss strawberries in the vinaigrette and divide between the panna cottas, arranging the berries on top. Add granité and serve immediately.

The resultant panna cotta has a pleasant tang and a silky texture; the herb and lime granité brings out all the depth and natural sweetness of your farm-fresh strawberries; and the vinaigrette makes the whole ensemble sing.

Want to see a "Hallway Interview" with Michelle on the topic of strawberries? Check out Homerun's post on Michelle's visit here.

Want to see photo documentation of Michelle's visit? Check out Homerun's Facebook page here.

Want to make the most of Quebec strawberry season? Head on down to your nearest outdoor market, or, better yet, pick a nice day after we've had 2-3 straight days of sun, and make your way to a local u-pick.

Never had the pleasure of attending a strawberry social? Most of the Quebec strawberry socials have already passed, but you can catch a combination strawberry social/horse & buggy parade (!) in Vankleek Hill, ON, this Sunday, July 3, beginning at 1 p.m. You can find more information here.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

K.I.S.S. #1

In the spirit of Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers' "Easy" series and John Thorne's "Simple Cooking," sometimes it pays to just keep it simple...

There are countless ways to prepare spinach, and quite a number of them involve garlic. But there aren't many ways of preparing that dynamic duo that are easier than this one, and I'm not sure that there's any other way of preparing them that honors the freshest, crispest spinach and the the juiciest garlic quite like this one.

still life with garlic & spinach fig. a: dynamic duo

The recipe comes from our good friend Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, it involves just four ingredients, and her introduction, which captures the entire K.I.S.S. philosophy in a nutshell, reads like this:

If a single Italian vegetable dish deserves to be called classic, it is this version of spinach, which epitomizes the simplicity, directness, and heartiness that know no regional barrier and characterize good home cooking throughout the nation.

In other words, this is a classic among classics and the ne plus ultra of Italian vegetable dishes.

Hazan provides directions for preparing this recipe with frozen spinach, but she does stress the following: "You should not easily settle for anything but fresh spinach, because that is what your really ought to have to achieve the flavor of which this dish is capable." Read between the lines and you can hear Marcella insisting on the very freshest local spinach. Farm- or garden-fresh spinach. Organic, even, if at all possible. After all, what self-respecting Italian cook would use spinach that had been trucked in from 3,000 miles away? The idea here is to start with the tenderest, most delicious spinach and to prepare it in the simplest, but most effective manner possible, so as to release its full potential. We might have just been imagining things, but we also felt as though we heard Marcella calling for the freshest, juiciest garlic, so that was exactly what we used. All I know is that the results were sublime.

Spinach Sautéed with Olive Oil and Garlic

2 pounds, fresh crisp spinach (preferably local farm- or garden-fresh)
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, peeled (again, preferably local farm- or garden-fresh)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

If it is very young, snap off and discard just the hard end of the stems. If it is mature, or if you are in doubt, pull away and discard the entire stem. Soak and rinse the spinach leaves in several changes of cold water, so as to thoroughly clean the spinach of any remaining bits of dirt and further crisp the leaves.

Cook the leaves in a covered pan with salt to keep their color bright and no more water than what clings to them from their soak. Cook over medium-low to medium heat until tender, about 5-10 minutes, depending on the spinach. Drain well, but do not squeeze the leaves. Set aside.

Put the garlic and olive oil in a skillet, and turn on the heat to medium high. Cook and stir the garlic until it becomes colored a nut brown, then take it out. Add the spinach, tasting and correcting it for salt. Cook for 2 minutes, turning it over completely several times to coat it well. Transfer the spinach with all its flavored oil to a warm platter, and serve at once.

Enjoy the simplest, yet fullest-flavored spinach you've ever tasted.

[based very, very closely on a recipe from Marcella Hazan's utterly essential Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992)]

As Michelle has been known to put it: "What?!!"


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thrill of the grill 1

Sure, there's something undeniably magical about barbecue that's been cooked slow and low with patience and care, the kind of barbecue that's the focus of Saveur's June/July 2011 "BBQ Nation" double issue. We love the entire culture that surrounds this heritage form of barbecue. We love all the fussing, the beer-drinking, and the jawing that goes into an all-day barbecue session. And we never cease to be amazed by the transformative power of that holy smoke coupled with the mild heat from those ashy coals.

thrill of the grill fig. a: thrill of the grill

But sometimes you just want the pure thrill of the grill. You want the slight blackening, the light smokiness, the caramelized flavors, and the primal pleasures of cooking directly over flames. You want the payoff to come sooner rather than later. You want to take full advantage of the fact that cooking over a hot grill can be quick and easy.

Among our favorite sources for this kind of grilling are Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, the chefs behind London's legendary River Cafe and the authors of the utterly brilliant "Easy" series: River Cafe Cookbook Easy (2003) and Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes From the London River Cafe (2006). Both cookbooks fall under the "simple recipes for busy people" genre, but their concision, their clarity, and their clever minimalist design put them in the top of their class.

Years ago, we featured a recipe of theirs from River Cafe Cookbook Easy that we'd adapted for the grill. The recipe was for pork chops with lemon, and Gray and Rogers called for it to be executed it in an ovenproof griddle pan, but it was a lovely late-spring afternoon and we were very much in a grilling state of mind, and our simple adaptation of their simple recipe (two ingredients!) turned out beautifully. We could have just as easily chosen from the dozens of grilling recipes contained in Gray and Rogers' two books, but, in that particular case, we started with a very specific ingredient: the pork chops.

One recipe that we haven't had to adapt, and that's been a favorite around here recently, is a recipe that appears in the "grilled fish & meat" chapter of Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes From the London River Cafe and that bears a typically matter-of-fact title: Flattened Sardine, Chile, Lemon.

sardines! fig. b: sardines by River Cafe

Four ingredients--that's it, that's all. And once you've figured out how to butterfly your sardines, you're almost to the finish line, because flattened sardines cook even faster than whole ones.

The lemon and the olive oil are no-brainers. They're both staples of Mediterranean grilling. It's the butterfly technique, the use of the lemon zest, and the added kick of the chiles that are the stroke of genius here.

Flattened Sardine, Chile, Lemon

16 sardines
4 dried hot chiles
5 lemons
extra-virgin olive oil

To flatten the sardines, cut off the head and then prize open the fish. Press down to loosen the bone, then remove it from the flesh, pulling gently with your fingers.

Crumble the chiles. Finely grate the zest from the three lemons; halve the remaining lemons.

Prepare the grill.

Rub the flesh of the sardines with chile, salt, pepper, and lemon zest.

sardines!! fig. c: sardines by AEB

Place skin-side down on the grill and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Turn over and grill flesh-side down for 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Drizzle with olive oil, and serve with lemons.

[recipe from Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes From the London River Cafe, by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers]

A couple of additional notes:

1) Because the sardines we've been using have been rather delicate, we've found that they cook best on the outer edges of a medium-hot grill (the cooking times remain the same--about two minutes per side). We've been saving the center of our grill for the assortment of vegetables we've been grilling simultaneously: mushrooms, scallions, fennel, ramps, asparagus, etc.

2) Gray and Rogers don't specify, but you're going to need a spatula to handle those delicate sardines once you've placed them on the grill. Other implements tend to tear the poor dears.

This recipe is, well... easy. It's also incredibly delicious--addictive, even. The only trick is finding a good source for your fresh sardines. This is reasonably easy in some parts of North America (like Northern California), but not so easy in others.

Montreal has such a large number of citizens of Portuguese and Italian descent that the demand for sardines is high, but our experience has been that some days of the week are much better than others. We've been having very good luck on Mondays recently, so our sardine fiestas have tended to be on Mondays.

This recipe makes for a great starter for a group, but it also makes for a great light meal for two, with a salad, some bread, and a crisp white. We can attest to that. These sardines--delicate, crispy, piquant, and easy--have been the taste of late spring around here. And, like I said, they're addictive. They might very well become the taste of the summer of 2011 too.


p.s. Rose Gray passed away in early 2010. May she rest in peace.

Friday, June 10, 2011

fringe festival 3: Momesso

Fringe festival: a continuing series covering deliciousness on the edge of town.

Momesso hardly qualifies as being "on the edge of town"--it's in NDG, for crying out loud*--but our last visit was the culmination of an excursion on the city's outskirts, so there you go...

lachine rapids 4 fig. a: deceptively calm

You see, we'd gone out to Lasalle to take a walk along the Lachine Rapids.

From a distance, they look pretty calm, and there's little sense that the Lachine Rapids were a major natural impediment that severely restricted the amount of shipping that could flow along the mighty Saint Lawrence, a major natural impediment that forced the city fathers to construct the Lachine Canal as a bypass.

P1010887 fig. b: Lachine Rapids 1

Up close, however, they look, sound, and feel quite a bit more treacherous, and it's clear just how much of a challenge they posed to river traffic. It's also clear just how exhilarating it must have been when the first steamships began taking thrillseekers through the rapids,

s.s. corsican, 1891 fig. c: S.S. Corsican, 1891

piloted by gentlemen like Jean Baptiste Rice, a local Mohawk captain.

Jean Baptiste Rice, ca. 1890 fig. d: J.B. Rice

These days, there are still boats that take daredevils through the Lachine Rapids, but, unfortunately, they're jet boats and not wooden steamboats, so you miss out on that wonderful Fitzcarraldo vibe that you got back in the 19th century. And, frankly, most of the thrillseekers we spotted on our walk were bird watchers armed with powerful binoculars and photographic contraptions of all types.

bird watchers, unite! fig. e: bird watchers, unite!

We saw lots and lots of beautiful birds, but, sadly, we never did spot a Hooded Merganser.

P1010890 fig. f: Lachine Rapids 2

Afterwards, we made some pretty interesting discoveries in parts of Lasalle that were new to us, like the poetic Avenue du Trésor Caché and the Whiskey Tower,

whiskey tower fig. g: Whiskey Tower, Outer Lasalle

but when it came time to eat (and after our long walk along the river, we were hungry), we found ourselves craving one thing, and one thing only: a hot sub from Momesso.

Partially, it was because of Momesso's classic "neighborhood joint" atmosphere.

Momesso 2 fig. h: diner

Partially, it was because the Canucks had just been humiliated for the second time in three days, and we figured that making a pilgrimage to Momesso--where numerous relics pay homage to that combination of soft hands and tough-guy attitude that made Sergio such a mercurial force and an important part of Vancouver's 1994 playoff run--might actually give the Canucks the spiritual boost they so desperately need.

Momesso 1 fig. i: Sergio!

And, partially, it was just because we were craving their hot sausage sub--hands-down one of the city's most satisfying sandwiches.

Momesso 3 fig. j: sausage sub

Michelle is partial to their Suprême, which comes with steak, sautéed peppers, sautéed mushrooms, melty cheese, and shredded lettuce, in addition to their killer sausage, but I'm still something of a purist: spicy Italian sausage with extra hot peppers.

Did our act of sacrifice work? I'm not sure (I guess we'll find out tonight), but it was oh-so tasty and it made us pretty happy (even if we had to suffer through the Game 4 "highlights" reel over and over again on the big-screen TV).

Momesso, 5562 Upper Lachine, 484-0005 (NDG)



* Although, it is in a portion of NDG that's cut off from the rest of the city by the Décarie Expressway, Autoroute Ville-Marie, and the train tracks, so it feels more remote than it actually is.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


P1010878 fig. a: petit fours platter

P1010877 fig. b: vanilla-hazelnut-almond crescents

P1010875 fig. c: rhubarb thumbprints

P1010876 fig. d: chocolate-drizzled sablés

rhubarb tart fig. e: rhubarb tart

Thanks to everyone who came out to Kaffeeklatsch #3, a.k.a. Rhubarb Social, ate to their hearts' content, got wired on coffee, gabbed, and generally helped make the atmosphere so vibrant.

Thanks to Team Myriade for once again working magic on the coffee front.

Thanks especially to Stéphanie Labelle of Pâtisserie Rhubarbe for collaborating with Team Laloux and Team Myriade on an event one wordsmith labeled the "Klatsch of the Titans."

Thanks also to Mother Nature for defying the experts at Environment Canada and providing us with such a phenomenally beautiful afternoon. It just got nicer and nicer and nicer...

And stay tuned for another Team AEB social in the very near future...


p.s. 1 For more coverage of Kaffeeklatsch #3, including photographs of the menu, the sachertorte, the strudel, the tart, and a rhubarb religieuse that had some patrons seeing visions and experiencing fits of ecstasy, check out this write-up at Lake Jane, as well as this one at I'll Have What She's Having.

p.s. 2 If you missed Stéphanie's rhubarb tart on Sunday, you'll just have to visit her at Pâtisserie Rhubarbe, where it's part of her early summer 2011 collection. Check it out!

p.s. 3 For even more coverage of Kaffeeklatsch #3, including photographic evidence of the salon-like atmosphere that results from the combination of top-notch coffee, exquisite desserts, a lovely dining room, and a highly sophisticated clientele, check out this link, and scroll down to the bottom of the page, and you'll find three photographs of last Sunday's festivities.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

in dreams fig. a: sweet dreams

Michelle had a dream the other night. This wasn't particularly unusual--she has dreams almost every night, some of them rather vivid. But this one was a little different.

It was essentially a work dream, but Michelle loves what she does, so any and all stress and anxiety was balanced by feelings of pride and satisfaction. It was also quite a bit sweeter than your average work dream.

Michelle had been asked to make the desserts for a large fundraising gala. She wasn't 100% sure what the cause was, but the guest of honour was none other than René Redzepi, the acclaimed chef of Copenhagen's Noma. The dessert she'd chosen to serve in her dream was a raspberry dessert that she'd been working on in real life earlier in the week, but that she hadn't quite finalized. In her dream, though, the dessert was fully visualized and complete, and she took it to be some kind of sign. So when she went back to work, she made the necessary adjustments--the ones she'd seen in her dream--and promptly placed her new, improved raspberry dessert on the dégustation menu.

raspberry fig. b: are made of this

Then she did the only logical thing: she tweeted about it.

Michelle_Marek: Dreamt I was doing a fundraising dinner and @ReneRedzepiNoma* was the guest of honour. What I made in my dream is now on the Laloux menu.

A tad matter-of-fact, perhaps, but that's what you get for 140 characters or less.

Apparently not too matter-of-fact, though, because hours later, she received this response:

ReneRedzepiNoma@Michelle_Marek: what is the dish?

To which she replied:

Michelle_Marek@ReneRedzepiNoma: It's a dessert: raspberries stuffed with creme fraiche, honey glazed puff pastry with orange flower water...

Michelle_Marek@ReneRedzepiNoma: ...raspberry-rose gelee, burnt honey ice cream and a pimenton-rose-mint-pistachio powder sprinkled lightly over it.

If all that wasn't enough, about an hour after this exchange, Michelle got a phone call--not from Mr. Redzepi (darn!), but from someone who asked if she'd be interested in producing the desserts for a fundraiser. For the very first time. You might think Michelle had gotten such invitations before, but you'd be wrong--this was actually a first.

No word on who the guest of honour will be.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. What about the raspberry dessert itself? Well, I loved the whole thing, from the ripe raspberries, to the crispy puff pastry, to the unexpected zing of that pistachio powder, but if I had to single out my favorite element, it was those those raspberry-rose jewels, which had the most delicate flavour, and the most extraordinary texture.

Overall: pretty dreamy.


* If you're not a Twitterer, you should know that Michelle actually typed "René Redzepi"--again, very matter-of-factly. When she did, because she "follows" Redzepi on Twitter, it appeared as "@ReneRedzepiNoma" and linked to his Twitter account.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

On Rhubarb, Rhubarbe, and Rhubarb Socials, or l'Eighties Night meets Kaffeeklatsch

jean-talon rhubarb fig. a: this is now

Wow, the notion of a culinary Eighties Night seems to have really struck a nerve (including our first mention in The New York Times!).

Sadly, I was too busy having a good time with my tablemates and getting regaled by the multi-course spectacle that unfolded that night to concern myself with being a shutterbug. So the photographic documentation is lacking, but the memories are vivid. And one of the clear highlights of the night was Michelle's Rhubarb and White Chocolate Éclair. I'm not enough of a historian of pâtisserie to weigh in on how '80s that combination of rhubarb and white chocolate was, but I can tell you that the very sight of the éclairs made perfect thematic sense, and that their "pretty in pink" color scheme didn't hurt either.

If you're curious as to how Michelle made her éclairs, well, I managed to coax the recipe out of her. (Membership has its privileges.) This way, if you didn't have the opportunity to actually attend l'Eighties Night, you might at least be able to recreate some of the magic at home (with your very own soundtrack!).

Rhubarb éclairs with white chocolate

for the pâte à choux:

160 g water
200 g milk
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
150 g butter
200 g flour
6 eggs

Mix water, milk, salt, sugar and butter together in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, add flour, take off the heat and stir like mad until there are no lumps. Put back on the heat to dry out the mixture a bit, stirring all the while.

Place mixture in a standing mixture with the paddle attachment, mix 1 min on low. Add eggs one at a time, making sure the mixture is homogenous before adding another.

Place the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a round or star tip. Pipe strips of dough about ½ inch wide and 3 inches long on a baking sheet lined with paper. Brush dough with a bit of egg wash (1 egg, dash of milk, pinch of salt). Bake at 400º F for 8 minutes, then 375º F for 12 min. Make a small hole with a knife in each and let cool.

for the rhubarb compote:

500 g rhubarb, cut into small dice
150 g sugar
125 ml syrup

3 g NH pectin
3 g sugar

Mix rhubarb with sugar and let macerate for 1 hour. Cook briefly until the rhubarb is tender, strain, reserving the syrup. For every 125ml of syrup add 3 NH pectin and 3 sugar, boil a few minutes. Pour over the rhubarb and let cool in the fridge.

for the white chocolate ganache:    

300 g cream
480 g white chocolate
430 g yogurt
2 gelatin sheets

Soften gelatin sheets in cold water. Bring the cream to a boil, add gelatin, pour over the chocolate, let stand 1 min. Whisk the chocolate mixture gently until emulsified. Add the yogurt and mix until homogenous. Let cool in fridge.

to finish:

Cut the éclairs in half lengthwise. Dip the tops in a white chocolate ganache. Pipe one layer of white chocolate cream inside the bottom half. Add a layer of rhubarb compote. Finish with the dipped top half and serve.

All of which brings me to Part 2...

You see, the other reason I chose to focus on this particular recipe is because it's the perfect lead-in to the next Kaffeeklatsch event: Kaffeeklatsch presents Rhubarb Social.

You got it, Kaffeeklatsch is back (version 3.0), and this time the theme is "Rhubarb." This means two things:

First of all, this time around, Michelle will be collaborating with her good friend Stéphanie Labelle, chef-pâtissière of the justly lauded Pâtisserie Rhubarbe.

And secondly, while the menu will feature some of your favorites from Kaffeeklatsch #1 and #2 (apple strudel! sachertorte!), it will also feature a selection of rhubarb desserts by Stéphanie (rhubarb tart! rhubarb religieuse!), featuring the loveliest pink Quebec rhubarb available.

And, yes, once again, coffees will be provided by our good, good friends at Myriade (yes!), who were all too happy to take up the challenge of a coffee that pairs well with rhubarb.

rhubarb fig. b: that was then

Kaffeeklatsch presents Rhubarb Social

Sunday, June 5, 2011
1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Restaurant Laloux
250 ave des pins est
$12 = pastry, petit four, & coffee

for more information: 287-9127

See you on Sunday!