Tag Archives: French

Orange Tian – My First Daring Bakers Challenge!

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The challenge for March was hosted by Jennifer from Chocolate Shavings. This recipe is based on the one she prepared at the Alain Ducasse Cooking School in Paris, France. As Jennifer said, this is a “scrumptious” dessert and it truly is!

With this being my first Daring Baker’s Challenge, I must admit that when I checked in at the end of February to get my “orders” for the challenge, I rather felt like Jim Phelps (played by Peter Graves) from the original Mission Impossible! If you are much younger (and you just might be!), you probably can relate to Tom Cruise in the updated version of the movie. The Daring Bakers Challenge is supposed to be a secret until the “reveal” a month later. In other words, I did not utter a word to anyone about this dessert and kept it totally under wraps (at least to anyone that would know or care!) until now. Shhhhh……

I was excited about my first challenge, but not so sure about a dessert with oranges. I love citrus desserts made with lemons (especially Meyer lemons!), but this, well…oranges are just not my favorite fruit. I still remember way too many doses of orange penicillin when I was a kid, so I always relate anything that includes orange to that nasty stuff. Anyway, I was willing to give it a try! There’s always Mikey if I don’t eat it!

There were quite a few steps and this was done over a two-day period, but the results were phenomenal. The Tian was just divine (oranges and all!). I have thoroughly enjoyed having the leftover homemade orange marmalade as well. It was fabulous and nothing like the goop that you purchase in the store. Just forget about that junk and make this recipe for orange marmalade! That recipe alone was worth participating in this month’s challenge.

I offered to bring dessert to a neighbor’s dinner party the day these were prepared, so the guests were oh so fortunate to be able to enjoy this lovely treat. The only thing I wish I had done differently was to add a layer of dark chocolate to a few of the molds (on the pastry circles) to see how that might have tasted! I will have to try that next time!

Orange Tian

For the Pate Sablee:

Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature
granulated sugar 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon; 2.8 oz; 80 grams
vanilla extract ½ teaspoon
Unsalted butter ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams ice cold, cubed
Salt 1/3 teaspoon; 2 grams
All-purpose flour 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons; 7 oz; 200 grams
baking powder 1 teaspoon ; 4 grams

Directions:
Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.

Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogenous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.

Using your cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

For the Marmalade:

Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
Freshly pressed orange juice ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams
1 large orange used to make orange slices
cold water to cook the orange slices
pectin 5 grams
granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked

Finely slice the orange.

Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes.

Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.

Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor).

Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar . If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measurer and use the same amount of sugar.

In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes).

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

For the Orange Segments:

For this step you will need 8 oranges.

Cut the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl and make sure to keep the juice. Add the segments to the bowl with the juice.

For the Caramel:

Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
granulated sugar 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons; 14 oz; 400 grams

Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.

Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.

Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

[Tip: Be very careful when making the caramel — if you have never made caramel before, I would suggest making this step while you don’t have to worry about anything else. Bubbling sugar is extremely, extremely hot, so make sure you have a bowl of ice cold water in the kitchen in case anyone gets burnt!]

For the Whipped Cream:

Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
heavy whipping cream 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
3 tablespoons of hot water
1 tsp Gelatine
1 tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar
orange marmalade (see recipe above) 1 tablespoon

In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until the gelatine dissolves. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Add the confectioner sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly while beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.
[Tip: Use an ice cold bowl to make the whipped cream in. You can do this by putting your mixing bowl, cream and beater in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to whipping the cream.]

Assembling the Dessert:

Make sure you have some room in your freezer. Ideally, you should be able to fit a small baking sheet or tray of desserts to set in the freezer.

Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone.

Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.

Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.

Arrange the orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the segments all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty as they will end up being the top of the dessert. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.

Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter, add a couple spoonfuls of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.

Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.

Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.

Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.

Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of a dessert (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter. Add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.

Add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.

An elegant, impressive dessert!

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Filed under Caramel Sauce, Daring Bakers Challenge, Desserts, French, Orange Tian, Oranges, Recipes

Bunky had a little lamb…problem!

I recently hosted a lovely dinner party for several of our good friends. I had promised one of them that I would make my somewhat famous braised lamb shanks (they will be way more famous after this blog!) ;). As I generally do with dinner parties, I had planned out the menu and had my list of to-dos. One of course, was to order the lamb shanks, which I did days in advance. Little did I know the disaster that would ensue!

I had the choice of placing my order at Whole Foods, Harry’s or a store I will not name. I chose the no name place because I was rather favoring them lately. I found their produce was beautiful and fresh and the prices were good. So when I called around and I could get Australian or New Zealand lamb shanks at any or all of the above stores at the same price, I thought, heh, I’ll give the littler guy my biz!

Their meat department assured me that they carried Australian lamb, so that is what I would be getting at $5.99/pound. I would pick them up Wednesday so that I could cook them Thursday, let them sit overnight and then reheat and finish the dish Friday before our guests would arrive.

Well, what to my wondering eyes should appear when I went to open that package on Wednesday (instead of Thursday), than USDA stamped all over the shrink-wrap?? Now I don’t know about you, but if I see USDA on my meat, I think it probably means it is from the United States! It might not have been a big deal, but it really bothered me that I was hoodwinked by the meat man! If you can’t trust your butcher, who can you trust?! I had prepared a big fat pot full of pricey wine, aromatics and my last frozen container of homemade chicken stock. You are truly messing with the wrong woman when you use my homemade chicken stock! Everything was ready and all I needed was some Australian lamb shanks! These American guys were not going in that pot!

Mr. Butcher Man had stood right there in front of me and my hubby as he wrapped those big hunks of shanks in that brown paper packaging and assured me that they were Australian, because of course, I was asking just to be sure. I bet he was smiling too (thinking “sucker”!), although I did not notice! I do not like the US lamb that I have tasted. I prefer lamb from New Zealand and Australia, so if I am going to the trouble to fix and eat this stuff, I wanna like it! And at $72.00 for the shanks and a near heart attack at that price, I should get what I ordered.

I could spend an entire blog post (and I just might) telling you all about that day. The only good news is that after getting the shanks home, I decided to go ahead and give myself one extra day and cook them on Wednesday instead of Thursday. Well, it was a REALLY good thing! Of course, I called the no name store and was informed that yes indeedy, the lamb was of US origin (NO!!! You are kidding me!!!). Then my patience was driven to the breaking point as I called and drove all over Atlanta to find out that almost everyone was sold out of lamb shanks until Friday.

I finally ended up at the DeKalb Farmer’s Market (which is very cool place, by the way!). They had just 6 shanks left and told me they were Australian. I assume they were honest about it, but who knows…I’m not buying what the butchers tell me anymore! I had to get lamb in some form in the pot full of $30 worth of wine, etc.! And I was so upset at the other store, they got their ole lamb back! Thank goodness, I had one extra day to correct the mess.

I know one thing, I will never again promise any particular food to anyone for a dinner party. I will always ask if there are allergies or dislikes, but folks coming to my house are going to eat what I fix or go home hungry! The hunt for the lamb was a disaster of major proportions.

I don't like them, so they get their own picture!

On the bright side, the dish was amazing once I finally got to the end result! I use Tom Valenti’s recipe that has been around for a long time. I have tried several other recipes, but enjoy the flavors in this one the best. I like to make the dish at least a day ahead so that the flavors come together (it’s a darn good thing, especially with this crisis!).

This is a fabulous make ahead dish for entertaining. I have made several adjustments to the original recipe. I have noted them with a **. I prepare the shanks a day or two ahead and then puree the sauce and finish them in a Dutch oven before serving them to your guests.

Braised Lamb Shanks
Adapted from Tom Valenti’s Lamb Shanks
Originally appeared in Parade, March 2002

My changes are noted with **

6 lamb foreshanks
Coarse salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil
2 ribs of celery, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
8 whole black peppercorns
3 anchovy fillets
1 whole head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 cups red wine
1 cup white wine
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups beef broth and 2 cups chicken (I use Pacific Organic Beef Broth and Homemade Chicken Stock)

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Season the lamb with salt and pepper.

They were nice looking lamb shanks, wherever they came from!

2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion; cook until very soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, anchovies, and garlic; cook 3 minutes.

4. Add the wines, vinegar, and sugar; raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and add the broths. Leave over medium heat while you brown the lamb shanks.
5. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil into a sauté pan. Over medium-high heat, brown the lamb shanks well on all sides, using tongs to flip them over.

6. Transfer lamb shanks to a roasting pan and pour the braising liquid on top. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil and cook 2 1/2 to 3 hours more, turning the shanks over every half hour until the meat is very soft. ** Instead of these directions, I only cook them in the roasting pan for a total of 2 1/2 hours because I cook them later prior to serving dinner (one hour covered and then 1 1/2 hours uncovered). I do turn and baste them while uncovered.

7. Remove the shanks from the braising liquid and strain the liquid. Skim any fat that rises to the surface, then use the liquid as a sauce. ** Instead of those directions, I refrigerate the dish overnight in the roasting pan after about 2 1/2 hours of cooking time. I then remove the pan from the fridge the next day, remove the hardened fat, garlic and remaining pieces of herbs. I heat up the dish so the sauce is liquid, remove the shanks and then puree the sauce with all the veggies included. I put the shanks into a large Dutch oven with the sauce, cover the pot and baste them peridocially for about 45 min. to 1 hr. prior to serving.

I served this awesome dish with the best tasting and most incredibly fattening potato gratin (I will give up the recipe soon!), haricots verts, a simple green salad and french bread. Brownie Tart with Creme Anglaise was dessert that evening (my last post). It was a great bistro style dinner with great friends, fabulous wines and wonderful conversation.

Everyone had a great evening and all went extremely well in spite of the lamb disaster!

Braised Lamb Shanks on Foodista

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Filed under Braising, Chicken broth, Entrees, French, Lamb, Recipes, Wine

Life Is Too Short – Eat Dessert Before Dinner!

I recently had a dinner party for some good friends, so I was going to write about what I served for dinner. However, I was not feeling the love to talk about lamb this morning, so I decided to write about the dessert course before the main dish! After all, everyone loves dessert! 😉 (And the pictures are way better to look at, especially early in the morning!)

This is one of the best and easiest desserts that I make. It is Ina Garten’s Brownie Tart (click for the link to the recipe). I thought about baking a flourless chocolate cake, but I was not interested in buying 28 ounces of top-notch chocolate. I had already gone big time over the budget on this dinner party and was receiving many lectures from my hubby on how much I was spending on dinner (again!) This is a great alternative and a little less intrusive to your wallet.

The presentation is beautiful served on top of a small puddle of Creme Anglaise (click for the recipe, also by Ina Garten). Don’t drown it in the stuff, just a few tablespoons will do! The brownie tart is best served warm, but you can make it ahead. Pop the slices in the microwave for a few seconds to slightly warm up the yummy and gooey chocolate center before your serve it to guests!

I serve the creme anglaise chilled as a custard in the traditional manner (and not frozen, as the recipe suggests). Of course, making the ice cream version is delightful as well, but this is still my personal favorite. You can always find a brownie topped with vanilla ice cream (can you say fern bar dessert??). I know that a half of vanilla bean is optional in Ina’s recipe, but it really makes a difference. The vanilla flavor is much more pronounced and it certainly looks more attractive knowing that real vanilla is in the sauce!

There has been some discussion between several bloggers and chefs about the proper way to make creme anglaise. Should it be made with cream or milk? You can read this blog by Michael Ruhlman on the subject. I really did not know that it was such a hot topic!

I have made creme anglaise for many years and have always made it with whole milk. I find that when the custard is properly thickened there is no need for cream (at least not for the desserts I serve it with). The consistency is perfect. Besides that, who needs the extra calories? We eat enough fattening stuff around here! I would think that there might be times when making it with cream would be preferable, but I think this particular version is wonderful with the chocolate in the Brownie Tart.

This is a beautiful and easy dessert to make. It is perfect for a larger dinner party because it can serve between 10 and 12 guests (I think it is best served in smaller slices). You can bake it and make the creme anglaise in advance and assemble the plates when you are ready to serve your dessert. It is always a huge hit and looks fussier than the time it takes to make it. Most of my friends are not big cooks, so it is easy to fool them into thinking you spent many long hours preparing this dessert when you didn’t! 😉

I feel better already now that I have had my dessert first!

Bon Appetit!

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Filed under Baking, Brownie, Chocolate, Creme anglaise, Desserts, French, Recipes, Vanilla

Chicken Chasseur (Hunter-style Chicken)

My Chicken Chasseur was supposed to be served for our Valentine’s dinner, however, that did not happen. I did, however, prepare this amazing dish the next evening along with my favorite smashed potato recipe, steamed asparagus and the cute little heart-shaped creme brulees for dessert!

I had been cooking SO much prior to Valentine’s Day because it had been so cold and snowy that I just could not drag myself back into the kitchen. (What else does someone like me do when the weather outside is frightful??) And besides that, we had been eating and drinking and drinking and eating, so it was rather difficult to get motivated once again to get in the kitchen. Some days this girl needs a break! 😉

Instead of terrorizing my kitchen yet again and wearing myself out to the point of total exhaustion, I heated up some Boeuf Bourguignon that was in the freezer and we had creme brulee for dessert on Valentine’s evening. Not too bad, for a last minute Valentine’s Day dinner!

With Boeuf Bourguignon one evening and creme brulee for dessert, followed by Chicken Chasseur, I am beginning feel like I am on a gluttonous French gastronomical tour! Where did my so-called diet go??? I am waiting for temperatures above 40 degrees on a consistent basis and then I will get back to more reasonable cooking. But of course, that reasonable cooking will have to wait until after my dinner party this week. Wait until you see what dishes I am preparing for that! I need to be running laps just thinking about it! 😉

So back to the chicken, Chicken Chasseur is one of my hubby’s favorites that I make. That is why it was intended for Valentine’s Day! I saw Bobby Flay preparing this dish on a Saturday morning several years back. He did a show on French classics (just my kind of stuff!). I, of course, made this dish that evening. It has since become a favorite in our home.

The ingredients are easy enough to find. There are a few steps in preparing the dish, so it is best to have everything chopped and ready to go! You will need a couple of tablespoons of clarified butter to saute the chicken. The recipe also calls for enriched chicken stock. If you do not have your own stock, you can reduce the packaged stuff by half to make enriched stock (I like Swanson’s organic chicken broth when I do not use homemade).

The recipe says to cut the chicken in quarters, however, when I watched this show, the chicken was cut into more pieces (I do not remember how many precisely). We usually cut a chicken into 8 or 10 pieces (10 pieces if the breast is very large). I do serve the chicken on the bone (this recipe says to remove the breast meat from the bone).

The sauce is incredible with the chicken, so be sure to take the time to reduce it properly. Just keep your chicken warm until your sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. It does take some time. You then finish it with a knob of butter and some fresh herbs! Voila!

Here is the recipe from Bobby Flay Chicken Chasseur

We served the chicken with a lovely bottle of 1999 Crognolo. Crognolo is a Super Tuscan wine made with the Sangiovese grape. With ten years of aging it struck just the right note. It was phenomenal! This was definitely a bottle that was ready to drink! The cork was fine, but the wine had the potential to not be so good in an other year or two. My hubby took a picture of the cork. Note how far up the cork the wine had penetrated. Had the wine reached the top of the cork, the wine in the bottle would be exposed to air and begin to oxidize. This is just one way a bottle of wine can go bad. On that note, I say, drink up and Bon Appetit!

Chicken Chasseur on Foodista

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Filed under Chicken, Entrees, French, Recipes, Wine

Creme Brulee for Valentine’s Day!

I do believe that it is true that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! That would work for my hubby anyway! Creme brulee is certainly one of those foods that has him wanting more, so what better dessert would there possibly be to serve for Valentine’s Day dinner than creme brulee?! 😉

I have even had men, whose hearts I am not at all interested in, asking me to make my creme brulee when we invite friends over for dinner. Maybe French origins have to do with the seductiveness of the dessert. There obviously is something about creme brulee…and I will not go down that road in this post!

If you are not interested in getting the guy and you are trying to get the girl…CHOCOLATE! Just forget all the other sweet stuff and buy the darkest and finest chocolate you can. Truffles with some yummy fillings are especially desirable, but chocolate works for sure!

Anyway, back to creme brulee. I have tried other recipes and have not cared for them at all. I even ended up with a kitchen disaster on one particular occasion. I won’t name names of chefs, but I wondered when the recipe called for a total of 9 eggs with 3 cups of cream…Hmmm….Scrambled eggs is what I got! What a total nightmare!

Any other recipes that I have tried have left me with creme brulees that have either been less creamy, too eggy in taste or breakfast, so here is my highly recommended recipe for this sexy French dessert. Go with Ina! Her recipe is foolproof, as long as you follow directions! Click here to view the recipe.

I cannot claim that I have changed or adapted a thing on this recipe. We like our creme brulee just straight up plain like it was meant to be! No pumpkin, no fruit cooked in the middle…just pure cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla (maybe spiked with a touch of cognac!). Ina adds the cognac and I have to say we do really enjoy the flavor. The only fancy thing I did was cook it in heart-shaped ramekins! Ahhhh….very romantic.

So, if you are feeling amorous (and certainly that extends beyond Valentine’s Day!), I suggest you whip up a batch of this creme brulee and you just might find your way into that someone special’s heart! If, however, you are pressed for time, pop a cork on some champagne, it might just do the trick! 😉

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Filed under Cream, Creme Brulee, Desserts, French, Valentine's Day

Bistro Niko – Atlanta

I was excited to finally make it to Bistro Niko today. I would have preferred to have dinner there, but I was invited for a ladies that do lunch gig, so that is what I did! Bistro Niko is the latest addition to the Buckhead Life Restaurant group and is located in the new Sovereign Building on Peachtree Rd. (which also is home to the revamped Buckhead Club). The “Niko” part of the name is a bit confusing for a French bistro, but the restaurant is named after Niko Karatassos, who runs the Buckhead Life group (so I suppose that makes sense).

I tried to get a reservation for dinner at Bistro Niko twice before Christmas with no success. They were incredibly busy on the weekends shortly after their opening in early November. Since the main dining area was fully booked, I asked about having dinner at the bar instead. I thankfully was advised by the maitre d’ not to do that. He said the bar was far too busy and loud to enjoy dinner. I certainly appreciated their honesty.

I have to say that the restaurant has a very classy, Parisian feel about it. In fact, it reminds me of a fussier and much larger version of Brasserie Le Coze (which I miss terribly). Brasserie Le Coze was the little restaurant that used to be right next to Neiman Marcus before the renovation at Lenox Mall. It reopened as FAB (French American Brasserie) in downtown Atlanta a few years ago.

Bistro Niko was not terribly busy today (a Wednesday) at 12:30, which was surprising. It is a large space, so I imagine keeping it busy at all times may be difficult these days. I also have read some mixed reviews, so I do not know if that has had an impact. However, I would say that most of the reviews have been pretty complimentary. My friend had been to lunch once before and had a nice experience. In fact, she enjoyed the Tarte Aux Champignon ($11) so much on her last visit, she ordered it again today.

We each had a glass of Pouilly Fuisse ($13 a glass). It was a lovely wine, however, I thought for that price the pour could have been a bit more generous. I ordered Chicken Paillards that were served with bits of asparagus, fresh cherry tomatoes and arugula ($16). The chicken was lightly sauteed in what tasted like a mixture of butter and olive oil and the serving was so large that it actually filled the plate. It was a light dish (other than the portion size) and was good, but I thought it lacked something. I actually had to add a bit of salt to perk up the flavors. I know this is the latest trend in restaurant kitchens. Chefs are letting the patrons add their own salt rather than loading it up in the kitchen. However, the chicken was still a little flat to me. I think a bit of lemon or fresh thyme might have brightened up the dish.

My friend had the endive salad which was served with blue cheese and walnuts ($9). The presentation was quite nice and she said it was very tasty. As mentioned earlier, she had the mushroom tart as well and said it was as good as she had remembered from the last visit. We did not have dessert, although Baba au Rhum sure sounded tempting! I do have to mention that the service was quite attentive. We were there for 2 hours chatting and our waiter knew when to come and check on us and when to just let us be.

One of my favorite things about Bistro Niko is the open kitchen area that you see upon entering the restaurant. I thought that was a really nice touch (especially if you like kitchens and kitchen toys and enjoy cooking). I also love the atmosphere. It is a little bit of Paris when you cannot be there. However, it was noisy (even when the restaurant was not very busy), so if you like a quiet lunch or dinner, this might not be the place for you. I can imagine that it would be very loud on a crowded evening. Obviously, the bar area gets quite busy and noisy. There is so much glass, brass and tile and nothing to absorb the noise.

The menu is traditional Parisian brasserie complete with Coq au Vin and Steak Frites. There is also a nice selection of appetizers, tarts and sandwiches, if you are interested in a lighter meal. The wine selection is comprised of primarily French offerings. There was a broad selection of both white and red wines. Within the whites, which I selected from, prices ranged from approximately $7 to $13 a glass.

I enjoyed the food enough to want to go back and have dinner. We are not fond of loud dining spots, but I am willing to give it a try. The restaurant is beautiful and I certainly am happy to have another French brasserie in Atlanta. Was I “wowed”? I do not know if I would say that. I think the food presentation was nice, I like the feel of the restaurant, but I would like to have dinner and see how the food and service is in the evenings.

Regardless, it is a wonderful addition to the dining scene in Atlanta. It is attractive, fun, parking is easy (they have valet parking) and it is very French (except for the Niko part)!

Bistro Niko on Urbanspoon

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Provencal Chicken

We had a very special dinner this past Saturday night. First of all, it was the one night of the week where we could splurge a little from our new healthy eating lifestyle. We have decided to set aside one evening a week to have a few special things to eat that would not normally be “allowed” every day while trying to eat healthy. It gives us something to look forward to and does not make us feel so deprived from having some of the foods we still enjoy. We also shared a wonderful bottle of Chardonnay that is definitely reserved for special occasions. A romantic dinner for two at home is reason enough to celebrate!

We shared a bottle of 1999 Leeuwin Estate Margaret River Chardonnay. Yes, this wine is 10 years old and has been in the wine cellar for 8 years. We often hear how white wine is meant to be consumed within the first few years of bottling. Except, great white wine will continue to age well for 10 or more years. This was a wonderful white wine. It had aromas of pears, the scent of dried figs and hints of spice and nutmeg. The wine was fragrant and sweet. A product of Australia, this wine possessed a full mouth feel with layers of fruit but does not overpower with butter or French oak which has been a characteristic of California Chardonnays. (Of course, my hubby gave me the wine info!).

The best part about the dinner was that everything was so delicious and so fresh, yet it still was really “lighter food”. The flavors popped, the colors were bright. It truly was a wonderful meal.

The highlight of the dinner was a dish that I have made for many years. It is so simple and easy to improvise with whatever fresh herbs you may have on hand in the fridge. You will, however, be amazed at the fabulous flavors that come from so few ingredients! It is easy, yet elegant and simple enough to make for a weeknight dinner. I assure you that the aroma of the herbs, chicken, garlic and lemon sautéing together will make this a go to recipe in your repertoire.

Provençal Chicken

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 4 lb. chicken, cut into 10 pieces (Use the best free range or organic chicken you can find. I cut the breasts in half since they are so large these days. This allows the breast meat to cook more evenly with the others cuts as it makes them more similar in size.)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 large garlic cloves, cut into quarters
A few sprigs each of fresh thyme, oregano and rosemary
1 cup dry white wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Wash and dry the chicken. Pat dry. Sprinkle with kosher salt and ground black pepper on both sides. Heat the oil in a large skillet at medium high heat (you want to cook all the chicken pieces at once). Add the chicken and sauté a few minutes to begin to brown. Then add the garlic and herbs and sauté everything together.

Turn the chicken to brown on the other side and watch the garlic so it does not burn.

Add the white wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through (25 – 30 minutes). Turn the chicken over once during cooking.

Squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken. If the sauce is not thick enough, remove the chicken and keep warm. Reduce the sauce until it is of desired consistency.

I served this delightful Provençal Chicken with roasted cauliflower with garlic and Parmesan cheese, a fabulous salad (recipe coming soon!) and the Meyer lemon Budino for dessert. Yum! It was truly a memorable meal.

French Roast Chicken on Foodista

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Filed under Chardonnay, Chicken, Entrees, French, Recipes, Wine