croque-monsieur

Happiness is a Warm Baguette

by Anne Maxfield on November 3, 2014

Accidental Locavore BaguettesCan we all agree that there’s nothing better than bread fresh from the oven? And if that bread is one of New York’s finest baguettes, fresh out of a very 21st century oven on a dark, blustery November evening, the night the clocks got turned back, the Accidental Locavore thinks it might be possible to survive until spring.

Accidental Locavore Master BakerThe bread in question was eagerly observed from formation, through its placement on the linen-lined belt, with four strategically placed cuts in the surface, into the brand-new oven, until the transformation into a perfect bien cuit baguette, twenty minutes later. As with most warm bread, it proved irresistible and like most of the baguettes I’ve brought home from the various Maison Kayser shops around the city, it didn’t make it to its destination intact.

They say that new coffee makers make the best coffee, and I’m really not sure that the same could be said for ovens, but this was a pretty spectacular baguette! If I tell you it was a conveyor belt, you’ll think mass production, but it was cutting-edge technology in the hands of artisanal bakers, and fascinating to watch.

Accidental Locavore Inside Maison KaiserWe were at the opening party for most recent Maison Kayser shop, opening November 6th on Broadway and 76th Street. Eric Kayser was there, working the crowd, and not looking at all like a man who had just run the New York City Marathon in under four hours (3:42:23). He got a rousing cheer from the packed bakery when he strolled in.

Accidental Locavore Tiny Pastries Like all the other MK’s I’ve been in, the staff was happy to ply us with anything and everything from the store. We switched from savory (butternut squash soup, mushroom tartines, mini croque monsieurs) to sweet (éclairs made from yuzo or blackberry/raspberry) and back again, enjoying every bite.

Accidental Locavore EclairsThe hardest decision was what to take home. I was under strict orders from Frank to bring home a baguette and some croissants, which only left all the amazing pastries to choose from. I split the decision with the woman behind the counter, who chose a raspberry tart for me and I picked a dome of coconut with a passion fruit center in my quest to eat through most if not all of  their desserts. Oh, and a bag of tiny financiers somehow made in with the rest of the treats.

If that’s not enough, next week will launch the holiday menu and I’ve been promised a tasting of all the (mini) bûches de Noël. Stay tuned!

 

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French Grilled Cheese: Croque Monsieur Recipe

by Anne Maxfield on April 11, 2013

Accidental Locavore My Croque MonsieurNow, you know the Accidental Locavore has written a lot about croque Monsieurs and has certainly eaten her fair share of them (it’s my personal quest, you know), however, I’ve never actually made one until recently. There are a couple of reasons for that: one is that we almost never have white sandwich bread on hand and its always seemed like more work than necessary to make a mornay sauce for a sandwich or two. So what changed my mind? I was fooling around with another recipe from Rachel Khoo’s book for a croque Madame “muffin” (more about all that in a later post) and had the ingredients on hand. And there was leftover mornay sauce! This is how I made my croque:

  • 2 slices good white bread
  • 2-3 thin slices of ham
  • 1/3 cup grated gruyere (mixed use)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (softened)
  • 1/4 cup mornay sauce
  • Cornichons and a sharp Dijon Mustard for serving

Preheat the broiler. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat, add half the butter to the pan. While the pan is heating and the butter is melting, construct your sandwich with the ham and most of the cheese (2/3). Spread the remaining butter on the top of the sandwich. Cook the sandwich in the pan, turning when the bread is golden (about 5 minutes) and continue cooking until the cheese has melted (about another 3-4 minutes). Remove the sandwich from the pan, place on a sheet of aluminum  foil or an oven-proof tray. Spread the mornay sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining  cheese. Broil until the sauce is bubbly, the cheese has melted and is starting to brown. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: It was delicious and you might see more good white bread in my kitchen than is probably good for me! I did it like a regular grilled cheese and then topped it and broiled it-not sure if that’s the authentic way of doing it. Sometimes the mornay sauce is under the bread, but then it doesn’t brown.  I also like mine with the smallest amount of a really sharp Dijon mustard added to every bite. I say this because some recipes have you add it to the sandwich, but I prefer to be the master of my mustard. Because this is a simple sandwich, all the ingredients should be the best you can find. I used a Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse White loaf and it was pretty good for commercial bread. Now, off to Murray’s for some really good ham and gruyere!

 

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Maison Kayser: Is There Anything Better Than Butter?

by Anne Maxfield on October 1, 2012

Accidental Locavore Delivery Bike

Butter…does anything smell better than butter cooking? The Accidental Locavore is standing outside Maison Kayser, the new NYC outpost of a famed Parisian bakery. Getting in the mood for lunch there, I was so engrossed in my French tapes that I totally missed my bus stop by two long avenues! Now, I’m standing outside, waiting for my friend to join me for lunch, breathing that wonderful smell of butter — specifically, French butter. Hunger. I’m hoping the crowd will have subsided by the time we get seated, otherwise I may have to duck in and nab a financier or some other goodie to tide me over.

Accidental Locavore Maison Kayser BreadAnd inside they are, of course, French and charming. Eager to seat me even without my friend being here yet (take note of that other NY restaurants!!), but I’ve decided to stay outside on this lovely day and breath in more deliciousness.

Accidental Locavore CroqueSo, what was for lunch? And how does the newest contender for croissant excellence in Manhattan measure up? One of the (many) great things about my friend Holly is that she’s always up for sharing food, so we decided to split the croque-monsieur and the fois gras with fig bread — pretty close to a perfect lunch, n’est pas? A croque-monsieur is one of the Locavore’s favorite sandwiches when it’s properly prepared. In concept, it’s not difficult, a grilled cheese with ham and béchamel sauce, but like a lot of simple things, every element plays a major part. This one, while delicious with a good balance of ham, cheese and béchamel, was not technically a sandwich, as you can see from the photo, lacking a second piece of bread. And since Maison Kayser is a bakery first and all the bread we ate was terrific, a second slice of bread would have been welcomed.

Accidental Locavore Fois GrasThe fois gras with fig bread was exactly that: two healthy slabs of fois gras with two matching slices of toasted fig bread. Fig jam was there to add a sweet note if you wanted. In small doses it was a nice complement. If there is a way to mess up fois gras (other than banning it), I haven’t had it. Truth of the matter, it’s one of those wonderful foods that just makes everything it’s paired with taste better!

Of course you’re going to want to know what we had for dessert and you’re going to be disappointed.  We had no room left for anything sweet. I guess we’ll just have to go back and see what that side of the menu offers!

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Accidental Locavore Grilled Cheese

The Accidental Locavore often wonders why people get obsessive about certain grilled cheese sandwiches. Is it just a competitive New York thing? Not that I have anything against grilled cheese – it’s a great sandwich! It’s just that it’s not a big deal to make–two slices of bread, cheese, butter and a pan. Probably the second sandwich you learned how to make as a kid. So when I see restaurants, competitions and secret delivery services devoted to grilled cheese, it puzzles me, as it should be something that anyone can cook. When the Locavore makes a grilled cheese, these days it usually just comes down to whatever cheese is on hand, inside any bread that can be toasted and the results are pretty good as long as I don’t burn the bread.
Having said that, there are grilled cheese sandwiches that stand out above the rest. One of the best was one I had years ago at Macy’s DeGustibus. It was a class of holiday luxury foods and believe it or not, the grilled cheese was certainly that! Sweet French butter on great seven grain bread with Gruyere and shaved black truffles. Bliss!

Accidental Locavore Croque MonsieurThe one version of a grilled cheese that the Locavore does obsess over is that French classic, a croque-monsieur. Sadly, it’s something that is becoming harder and harder to find and most people, even in France don’t do it right. To me, the perfect croque, is made on the French version of a Pullman loaf, with Gruyere, a nice slice or two of ham and a slathering of béchamel on top, run through a salamander (broiler) until the cheese is melted, the béchamel is brown and bubbly and the crusts are almost burnt. Unexpectedly, an almost perfect version resides in a cafe in a Palm Desert (CA) shopping mall.

Accidental Locavore Organic QuesadillasMy brother used to say that almost every culture has their own version of a grilled cheese. The Mexican version, a quesadilla, while not obsession worthy (too easy to do right), is fun to mess around with. Like a classic grilled cheese, all you need are flour tortillas, cheese, some salsa and anything else after that is up to you. Plop the tortilla in a frying pan over medium-low heat, add grated cheese to half the tortilla and fold over the other half. You can add your salsa inside if you like it warmed, or just use it for dunking when it’s done. I usually start with the tortillas, some grated queso quesadilla (sort of like mozzarella) and my salsa verde. If there is some chorizo around, that will get fired up and added.

What’s your favorite version? French, Mexican, good ol’ American, or something entirely different?

 

 

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