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Archive for October 28, 2014

HOLIDAY: National Chocolate Day

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Harvest Truffles. Photo courtesy Recchiuti Confections.

 

It’s National Chocolate Day, an excuse for anyone to run to the newsstand to pick up a Hershey Bar or some M&Ms.

But the chocolate connoisseur deserves something better, and we’ve found it in these delicious Harvest Truffles from Recchiuti Confections of San Francisco, which we received as a gift.

Each bite of these beautifully flavored bonbons is a bite of heaven. The medley of three new flavors inspired by autumn includes:

  • Cinnamon Malt Truffle, made with cassia cinnamon and barley malt
  • Mandarin Truffle, infused with mandarin orange oil
  • Cranberry Pomegranate Strata, with layered pomegranate and cranberry gelée atop chocolate ganache (strata means layer)

A nine-piece gift box, three of each flavor, is $26.00. It was all we could do to save some pieces for Day 2.

Get yours at Recchiuti.com. They are a lovely gift for any lover of fine chocolate.

 

BONBONS VS. TRUFFLES: THE DIFFERENCE

It’s easy to get confused when terms like bonbon, praline and truffle are used interchangeably to describe filled chocolates—and all three terms have alternative meanings as well.

The differences, describing filled or enrobed individual chocolate pieces, are country-based:

  • Assorted Filled Chocolates, the English term.
  • Bonbons, a French word describing a variety of confections including hard candy, chocolates, chocolate-covered confections, taffy and more.
  • Pralines, a word that was originated in Belgium by Jean Neuhaus to describe his molded filled chocolates (but also refers to caramelized nuts in France).
  • Truffle, a word that originated in France to describe balls of chocolate ganache, because they resembled the mushroom cousin, truffles.

Thus, when chocolatiers immigrated to the U.S., they might be selling pralines, truffles, bonbons or assorted chocolates, depending on their nationality. And, although the name of what they sold differed, the product might be the same.

In the interest of clarity, it would be ideal to stick with “bonbons” or “filled chocolates” for the filled chocolates, use “pralines” for caramelized nuts and nut patties, and reserve the term “truffles” for the balls of ganache.

But given all the imported candy, we can’t escape our chocolate Tower of Babel. If you receive a box of candy from Germany or Switzerland labeled “pralines,” for example, will it be filled chocolates or caramelized nuts? You may be surprised!

Here’s a detailed explanation.

 
  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Choucroute Garnie

Now that there’s as chill in the air, the people of Alsace have been cooking up their famous recipe, Choucroute Garnie—pronounced shoo-CROOT gar-NEE and translating to dressed sauerkraut.

The “dressing” consists of sausages and other salted meats and, typically, potatoes. It’s stick-to-your-ribs goodness on a chilly day. You know it’s autumn when the dish appears on restaurant menus (call your local French restaurant to check). If you don’t have time or inclination to make your own, it’s available throughout France microwavable packages and canned form.

Sauerkraut originated in German and Eastern Europe, the but the French annexation of Alsace and Lorraine added it to the repertoire of French chefs. It has since become popular throughout France.

Like cassoulet and pot au feu, it’s an inexpensive, everyday dish. Any combination of hot sauerkraut, meat and potatoes works, but traditional recipes utilize:

  • Three types of sausage, such as Frankfurt sausages, Strasbourg sausages and Montbéliard sausages (use whatever sausages you like—we used boudin blanc, knockwurst and smoked sausage).
   

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Pork chop, back bacon, potatoes plus a bonus of baby carrots on a bed of sauerkraut. Photo courtesy TourDeFranceNYC.com.

  • Fatty, inexpensive or salted cuts of pork: back bacon, ham hocks or shank, pork knuckles and shoulders, salt pork.
  • Boiled potatoes (toss them with fresh parsley).
  • Seasonings: bay leaf, black peppercorns, cloves, garlic.
  • Sauerkraut, simmered in Riesling and juniper berries (we added some caraway seed, a personal favorite with sauerkraut).
  • Optional: chopped onion, sliced apples.
  • Mustard: we served three options, Dijon, grainy and horseradish mustards.

 
Plain shredded cabbage can be added along with the sauerkraut to produce a less tangy, less acidic version. Hungarian recipes include stuffed cabbage leaves in addition to the other ingredients.

 

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Individually plated, with sliced potatoes. Photo © Quentin Bacon | Food & Wine. Here’s the recipe.

 

For a high-end variation, Choucroute Royale is made by augmenting the basics with some more expensive ingredients:

  • Champagne instead of Riesling
  • Foie gras, goose, wild game
  • Fish
  • Duck choucroute garni, replacing the pork products with duck confit leg, duck sausage and duck breast.
  • A newer riff, seafood sausage choucroute is a meat-free option that includes seafood sausage, scallops, shrimp and flaky white fish on a bed of braised cabbage (not sauerkraut) with lobster sauce.

While it takes a bit of time to prepare, the steps to a delicious choucroute garnie are easy:

1. SIMMER sauerkraut with Riesling and juniper berries. Riesling has a very distinctive flavor, but if you don’t want to buy a bottle and drink the rest with dinner, use another dry white wine. We like to snip fresh parsley, sage or thyme into the cooked sauerkraut before plating.

2. COOK your favorite cuts of pork: pork belly, pork chops, sausages, whatever. Boil the potatoes.

3. PLACE the sauerkraut on a serving plate and top with the meat and potatoes. Uncork a bottle of Rieling. Voilà.

 

Choucroute garnie can be served individually plated or family style, on a large platter.

Here’s a complete recipe from Jacques Pépin for Food & WIne magazine.

  

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