Souffles, Saucisson Brioche and Risotto l’Encre de Seiche
I’ve noticed a few odd things about Parisienne etiquette while trying to immerse myself into the culture:
1. People get on the metro before they let you off. I was pretty certain that there was an unsaid rule of vice versa (as it is logical to let people off first, hence making space for others to get on the carriage) but Paris metro users are above logic, of course.
2. Parisienne yobs think it’s totally cool to listen to their iPods individually while hanging out together, and nod their heads to the beat (not audible to anyone else but themselves) like a senile codger. Personally, I keep pretty decent company so that I don’t have to resort to my hackneyed playlist of Backstreet Boys and Ace of Base.
3. Always, always, always say s’il vous plait. Regardless of the context. “May I have some butter, s’il vous plait?” “I would like nutella and banana, s’il vous plait” “Your head nodding to the inaudible beat is making me feel nauseous. May I slap it about to make it stop, s’il vous plait?”
4. Parisienne dogs take their freedom of poop as seriously as their owners take their freedom of speech. For a city so rich with history, culture and social protocols, these dogs really are out of control. Owners don’t seem to care much for having their dogs on a leash. I can only assume this is because when the dog poops in public the owners don’t run the risk of being incriminated as an accomplice for not cleaning up after. I mean, it wouldn’t actually be because they would like to freak the cr@p out of people who may have a furry four-legged creatures phobia, right? Or would they?
5. Parisienne drivers drive through the lit green man signal. And it’s the pedestrian’s fault completely for not seeing that happening. And if you are the poor pedestrian daring to cross while the driver intends to drive through green man be prepared to have your mother, great-grandmother, third cousin, and yourself cussed at.
To be fair, there are many similar issues with London (bar the dog poo). Perhaps it’s city living. People on the tube aren’t too friendly. I certainly wasn’t when I was sweating buckets during the summer at peak time in a packed-out carriage with my head shoved under someone’s armpit, or when I was dripping wet from the rain throughout the year sitting on soggy seats opposite the intimidating yob chewing gum with his gob open and listening to his music really loudly through cheap headphones. But I will let people off before I get on. I assume the yob does too.
All these niggly little irritating things get amplified after a hard day’s work of beating and whisking. That’s all I’ve been doing this week, and I feel helpless because I cannot wash my hair without wincing at the pain in my deltoids and pectorals, let alone swing my arm at irritating wobbly headed yob. Brioche, souffle, blinis, crepes. All require some mean beating and whisking. Picturing a particular ex-boss’ face gave me a second wind, if only fleeting.
Our souffle looked like a dog’s dinner. We’d done the whisking with so much enthusiasm and the folding with tender love and care and received atrocious results. Upsetting. It also tasted pretty foul and eggy. When I saw that OBOC’s came out looking picture perfect it just added more salt to the wound.
I really was not expecting much from my brioche since it kept getting warm and greasy but I must say my Saucisson Brioche looks very pretty. Not sure how it tastes yet as it’s too pretty to cut into. I’ll just stare at it for now. It was way too much hard work beating it constantly for an hour to just let it diminish into crumbs.
Throwing in a risotto in the week was a good idea as it was when I felt a bit more relaxed. I love sweating onions, tostatura-ing the rice, and stirring and stirring and stirring mindlessly. I find it the most therapeutic dish to make. And therapeutic it was, until the irritating squid ink got onto my apron and refused to come off.
Risotto l’Encre de Seiche
200g Risotto rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
1 big white onion, ciseler
1 whole squid, cleaned, tube cut into eight 1cm rings and the rest as brunoise cubes
2 mushrooms, brunoise
0.5 courgette, green skin cut in brunoise
0.5 red pepper, roasted lightly, de-seeded, peeled, cut in brunoise
1.5L chicken and/or fish stock, boiled and left to simmer
1 shallot, ciseler
Dash of vinegar
0.5L dry white wine
200g butter, cold and cubed in small pieces
1. Let the shallots sweat and reduce slowly in a saucepan with the dash of vinegar and a dash of white wine. Reserve.
2. In a separate pot, heat some olive oil to cook the squid brunoise for a minute or so and reserve aside. Cook the rings in the same pot for a couple of minutes and reserve aside. Cook the red pepper brunoise for a couple of minutes in some olive oil and then add in the courgette brunoise and cook for another minute. Drain on paper and reserve aside.
3. Sweat onions in some olive oil for a few minutes without colouring. Add the squid brunoise and mushrooms and cook till no more water is released. Deglaze with white wine. Add the rice into the pot stir to give it a good coat of the oil and onions till the edges are transparent (this step is known as Tostatura).
4. Ladle in some of the stock. Keep stirring till all the liquid is absorbed. Ladle in some more again and keep stirring and repeat this process till the rice is tender, with a creamy consistency and a little bit of a bite in the centre. This should take about 18 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Bring the shallots in the vinegar and white wine mixture to a boil. Add in the small cubes of butter and whisk till it reaches a creamy consistency. Don’t overboil as the butter could split. The addition of cold butter to shallots in vinegar and white wine is known as Monter au Beurre and this sauce is called Beurre Blanc.
6. Stir in a few squidges of squid ink into the risotto. Don’t add in too much at once as then the dish could become black as soot (unless you like the look of soot). Check the seasoning and consistency (if seems to dry, add in a bit of stock and stir).
7. Plate the risotto hot, sprinkle with the pepper and lay some squid rings over. Drizzle some beurre blanc over. Munch.