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Tag: French

Balzac Brasserie

Since opening its door last February, I am unsure how many times I have been to Balzac Brasserie. Located at the newly renovated Rendezvous Grand Hotel, this quaint bistro has been serving out delicious comforting French classics at a very reasonable price.

Each meal at Balzac will start with a bread basket. At every visit, a different variety of bread is offered to me and most importantly, they are always piping warm. Each basket is usually accompanied by herbed butter and salmon rillettes (the latter was changed when I was there recently). I had to show some restraint and not fill my stomach with bread.

One of the must-have for me is their Dubois’ lobster bisque (S$16). This rich broth is served with a small bowl of mini black Qwehli prawns which are salty and provide crunch when eat together with the soup. I would usually share the soup with a friend – I know that if I have this alone, I won’t have any space for my main (yes, it is that rich).

Every time I am at Balzac, I would attempt to order a different main. I have tried Entrecot (steak frites), roasted French quail, seabream en papillote – among these, my favourite remains the beef cheeks a la cuillere (S$26). The waygu beef cheek is braised for 48 hours and served with a smooth buttery mashed potato. This dish is a delight – the braised cheek is tender and melt in your mouth. A friend who had a funny expression when she heard beef cheek was turned and love this dish.

The desserts at Balzac could be their weakest link. They are not terrible – they are actually pretty decent. However when you compare to their starters and mains, they don’t blow your socks off. To leave my meal with a sweet note, I will opt for the riz au lait (rice pudding) (S$9) and Valrohna chocolate moelleux (S$12).

When I first visited Balzac, the service was rather shaky. My friends and I had a hard time getting the attention of the waiter, the food is served before our drinks. Over time, the service has definitely improved tremendously. During my recent trip, there was a miscommunications and my friend’s order was not registered. Our server, Wenna, was bent on finding out what happened and even sent over a tarte au citron to apologise.

If you are looking for a delicious rustic French fare, give Balzac a try. Oh and remember to order the lobster bisque.

Balzac Brasserie
Rendezvous Grand Hotel, 9 Bras Basah Road
Opening hours: 11.30am to 10.30pm (Daily except Fri and Sat, it closes at midnight)

Potluck favourite – potato dauphinois

Over the holidays, I have attended a few potluck parties. When it comes to bringing the appropriate food, it is always a bit tricky. It must be a dish that can withstand time (not everyone will arrive at the party on time), ability to keep warm and hopefully not require any heating up (not every house has an oven or an available stove) and most importantly easy to transport from your home to the host’s house.

Potato dauphinois is one dish that fits all the three requirements. It is essentially potato and cream with a hint of garlic. Seriously what’s not to love about potato and cream? This French dish is not terribly difficult to prepare and the ingredients are very easy to obtain. In addition, this dish can feed around 10 people as starter. It is also a great complement to any meat or fish dishes.

Besides being a starter, you can also prepare potato dauphinois as a meal, serving it with salad. If you like, you can add in protein to give it a bit more substance. However I don’t think this dish needs any cheese as the cream provides sufficient richness.

Potato dauphinois
(Adapted from Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen)
I am not very particular about the choice of potatoes – waxy (the potatoes will hope their shape, giving the dish a bite) vs. floury (the potatoes break down easily so you get a creamier gratin). In Singapore, the potatoes are not labelled but most of them are floury. If you like your potatoes to hold their shapes, cut down the cooking time in the pot.

1)      1kg potatoes of your choice
2)      300ml milk (and a bit more)
3)      300ml thickened cream (I used Bulla’s)
4)      A pinch of nutmeg (I prefer to use freshly grated nutmeg)
5)      1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6)      1 teaspoon (kosher) salt (Table salt is fine)
7)      1 clove of garlic, halve
8)      A knob of soft, unsalted butter
9)      Chopped parsley or dill (optional)

-        Prep the potatoes – peel (with a vegetable peeler) and slice them into 3mm-thickness. I like to use the mandolin for this as you will get a consistent result. If you do not have a mandolin, I would strongly urge you to get one. If not, take your time to slice the potatoes. Similar thickness will ensure even cooking.
-        In a large pot, pour in the milk, thickened cream, salt, nutmeg and mustard and give it a quick stir. Add in the sliced potatoes in the liquid mixture and put the pot on a stove and let it simmer for 10 minutes. If you like your potatoes to hold their shapes, you can cut down the cooking time to 7 minutes. In addition, if I am bringing this dish to a party, I tend to add in a bit more milk to prevent the potatoes from drying out during transportation and while sitting on the dining table.
-        While the potatoes are cooking (you can leave them alone to cook, there is no need to stir them; just make sure the cream don’t boil over.), preheat the oven to 200oC.
-        Using the cut side of the halved garlic, rub it around the inside of the baking dish. With the knob of unsalted butter, grease the inside of the baking dish. You can use any baking dish that will fit 1kg of potatoes and 600ml of liquid.
-        After the potatoes are cooked, place the potatoes and cream mixture in the baking tray. At this stage, I will pick the slices that are not broken and set aside. These pieces will be used to decorate the top of the dish.
-        Once the potatoes are placed evenly in the dish, you can put the picked slices of potatoes on top of the dish. It is not necessary for you to do this – I just like to present a pretty dish.
-        Bake the gratin for 35-40 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Be careful not to overcook as the cream will curdle. Once again, if you plan to bring this dish to a party, under-bake it (around 25 minutes) – the residual heat will cook the dish.
-        Serve hot with a sprinkle of chopped parsley or dill.

Dorie Greenspan’s gougeres

I have been wanting to make gougeres for the longest time. I have this phobia of making choux pastry, fearing my roux would burn, the mixture becoming lumpy and so on. Since I was in the “French” mood, I brave up and attempted to make some gougeres.

Oh man, gougeres were so easy to make. My roux didn’t burn and everything was taken care by the mixer. The only tedious work that need to be done was grating of cheese. And silly me who got so scared about gougeres.

The wonderful thing about making gougeres is that you can prepare extra and freeze them, and bake them when needed. Dorie Greenspan’s version uses Gruyere cheese which is salty and delicious. You can also use other cheeses like Cheddar, Parmesan, Comte and so on.

I like gougeres when they are fresh out of the oven – they are crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. I brought them to my friends’ office and served as breakfast – they actually don’t mind them at room temperature. Still, I think they are best consumed while warm.

Dorie Greenspan’s Gougeres

(Adapted from Around my French Table)

Makes about 36 gougeres

1)      120ml (½ cup) whole milk
2)      120ml (½ cup) water
3)      120g unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
4)      ½ teaspoon salt
5)      120g all purpose flour
6)      5 large eggs (280g without shell), at room temperature*
7)      170g coarsely grated cheese (Gruyere or cheddar)**
8)      Pinch of black pepper (optional)***

-        Preheat the oven to 220oC. Line two baking sheets with silicon baking sheets or parchment paper.
-        Add the milk, water, butter and salt in a saucepan and place it on the stove (At this stage, you should also standby your wooden spoon). Over high heat, bring the mixture to a rapid boil.
-        Add the flour all at once and reduce the heat to medium low. With your wooden spoon, quickly stir the mixture. A dough will be formed and a light crust might develop. Just keep stirring vigorously for 1-2 minutes to dry out the dough. You should end up with a smooth dough.
-        Remove the pot from the heat and place the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (you can also use a hand mixer. If you are using a wooden spoon, you need to work fast).
-        Let the dough sit for a minute – I would usually turn the mixer on a low speed and spin the dough a couple of rounds to release the heat.
-        On medium speed, slowly add the eggs one by one until everything is incorporated and the dough is thick and shiny. If the dough separates while you are adding the egg, do not panic. Everything will come together when the last egg is added.
-        Once all the eggs are added, you can beat in the grated cheese and season with a pinch of black pepper (if you are doing so).
-        The dough needs to be spooned out immediately.
-        I like to use an ice cream scoop (about 1 tablespoon size) to spoon the dough – this way I will get even-sized gougeres and I don’t have to worry about the dough sticking onto the spoon. If you do not have an ice cream scoop, you can use 2 spoons – one to scoop the dough and the other to push and drop the dough. Drop the dough onto the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches of space in between.
-        If you do not wish to bake all the gougeres, once you have spooned the dough onto the baking sheet, put the sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, you should be able to lift the gougeres off the sheet easily and pack them in ziplock****.
-        Place the baking sheets in the oven and immediately drop the temperature to 190oC. Bake for 12 minutes, rotate the baking sheets, from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougeres turned golden brown and formed a crust. They should also puff up at this stage. This will take about 12-15 minutes.
-        Once the gougeres are done, you can serve them immediately. If not, transfer them to rack to cool. They are best eaten on the day you made them.

The inside

*The size of the egg is quite important for this recipe. Do not use those extra large eggs – too much egg will cause the gougeres to collapse. If you want, you can actually measure the amount of egg as stated above (A large egg is around 56g without shell).
**In Singapore, not every supermarket stocks Gruyere cheese. If you spotted Gruyere cheese, make sure it is AOC certified – you would be able to see the Le Gruyere Switzerland branding on the cheese rind.
***Beside black pepper, you can even try out freshly grated nutmeg, chilli flakes and so on.
****You can bake the frozen gougeres straight from the freezer (no need to defrost). You might just need to bake about 1-2 minutes longer.

Rachel Khoo’s oeuf en cocotte

I rarely like female host for cooking shows. However recently I made an exception for Rachel Khoo. I started watching The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo a couple of weeks ago and got addicted to the show. Now, I want to cook all things French.

The concept of The Little Paris Kitchen is to demystify and simplify French cooking. What I really like about the show is Rachel used a few quality ingredients and managed to whip up all these delicious looking dishes in her tiny (and almost non-existence) kitchen. That is a pretty amazing feat.

Breakfast fit for champion!

There are a few recipes that I wanted to try. So baby steps – I chose to make oeuf en cocotte (egg in a pot). Yes, yes I am not a fan of eggs. But when mixed with other ingredients which helped to mask the “yolky” taste, that is when I will eat eggs.

Oeuf en cocotte is a really simple dish to make. And it is also a recipe that is (almost) impossible to mess up. The best part about this dish is that you can even use any leftover in your fridge – that little knob of sausage, the half cut bell peppers – and put them in that little pot with crème fraiche and egg.

In my case, I kept my oeuf en cocotte simple – in my ramekin (sidetrack: I bought these awesome vintage T.G. Green ramekins long ago, so I was super duper happy that I can use them in this recipe), I only put in crème fraiche, egg and some seasoning. To serve, I had it with tuna mixed with this wonderful jar of Waitrose Puttanesca Mix(which has olives, capers and anchovies) and homemade buns. You can have it as afternoon tea or like me, had it for breakfast.

Oeuf en cocotte

Oeuf en Cocotte
(Adapted from Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen)

Serve 1

1)      1 egg
2)      2 tablespoon of crème fraiche
3)      Seasoning – salt and black pepper. In my case, I also used my favourite Korean chilli powder.
4)      Herbs – Rachel’s original recipe calls for dills. As I don’t have that readily available, I used parsley and spring onion.

-        Preheat the oven at 180oC
-        Put 1 tablespoon of crème fraiche at the bottom of a ramekin. Season it accordingly. The original recipe calls for salt, black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. In my case, instead of the nutmeg, I used Korean chilli powder.
-        If you want to add in any vegetables or sausages, you will need to cook them first and add in after the dollop of crème fraiche is placed at the bottom of ramekin. You might not need to season the crème fraiche if you have seasoned your vegetables/ sausages.
-        Crack an egg on top. If you are not a confident “egg cracker”, you can crack the egg in a separate bowl and put it on top of the seasoned crème fraiche.
-        Put the last tablespoon of crème fraiche on top and season accordingly.
-        Place the ramekin in a baking dish and pour enough lukewarm water into the dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekin. This will ensure the content in the pot cooks evenly.
-        Bake for around 15 – 18 minutes depending on how you like your egg.
-        To finish, sprinkle some herbs on top. You can use parsley, dills, or even thyme.
-        This dish is best eaten warm with crusty baguette or good bread rolls.

Sometimes all you need in life is a good soufflé

As some of you might know how much I love the food at Daniel Boulud, it was only recently that I discovered they make a mean awesome soufflé. During dinner with my friend, Evie, I managed to cajole her to share the soufflé with me. The one we got for the night was dark chocolate soufflé (rumour has it that the vanilla one is the best) – it was light, fluffy, and not too sweet. A wonderful ending to our meal.

Daniel Boulud
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Basement 1 (opposite the Theatre)
Opening hours: 12.00pm–2.30pm, 5.30pm–10.30pm (Mon-Fri), 11.00am–2.30pm, 5.30pm–10.30pm (Sat, Sun)

oink’s guide to … Washington DC! Bistro la bonne

On the last day in DC, Kat and I decided to keep things simple and have dinner near our place (and we need not rush back to pack).

After walking around U Street, we settled on this small French bistro – Bistro La Bonne.

lobster bisque and crab meat (US$7.50)

As it was rather chilly (yah, the weather decided to turn nice and cooling on our last day in DC!), we started our meal with a bowl of lobster bisque and crab meat. The soup turned out to be more tomato-ish rather than a rich seafood flavour broth that a good lobster bisque should be.

steak frites (US$15.95)

My main for the night was steak frites. The steak was cooked to my preference – medium rare. The accompanying béarnaise sauce was flat, and didn’t help to enhance the flavour of the steak. As for the frites, they were over-fried and dried.

poulet roti (US$14.95)

Kat got the poulet roti – roasted chicken with mashed potatoes. I didn’t taste the chicken but she did tell me the dish was rather salty.

bistro la bonne

Bistro La Bonne was not exactly the best place to end our DC journey – still I really like bistro’s cosy ambience.

Bistro La Bonne
1340 U Street, NW – Washington, DC 20009

Daniel Boulud

during my hell week (last month; and totally explained the hiatus), i managed to sneak in a bit of fun. after the first day of my tradeshow, i met up with my friend KK who also happened to be participating in the show, for dinner.

we decided to try our luck at daniel boulud (marina bay sands) without a reservation. and we scored! (the only drawback was we must finish by 830pm – 2 hours for dinner).

gougeres! free!

chop chop salad (S$15)

we started the meal with complimentary gougeres – they were yum! cheesy, salty and light. KK and i wanted more but we decided to show some restraint. ha. we also ordered a chop chop salad to share – this dish definitely lived up to its name. it arrived 5 minutes after we placed the order. the salad was refreshing – the sesame dressing kinda reminded me of yusheng. everything was wiped out pretty fast.

bread basket

before our mains arrived, we got a bread basket. the pretzel bread!!! was to die for!!! they were so good – the bread had the flavor of a pretzel – salty, alkaliney – the inside was chewy and sweet. i dont really need butter for this bread. it was that good.

db burger (S$38)

the innard

next were our mains – steak frites and original db burger. the burger was huge. like big ass huge – it was bigger than my head*. the burger meat was made of sirloin and was also filled with short rib and foie gras. all these meaty goodness were contained by a parmesan bun. the bun was alright – i can’t really tast the parmesan. i did find the sirloin filling a bit dry but the short rib was heaven. i always have this weakness for short rib – i just find them super meaty, flavorful and delicious. daniel boulud’s short rib was well cooked and simply melted in my mouth. as for the foie gras, it was totally drowned by the rest of the meat.

steak frites (S$49)

the winner of the night was the steak frites. it was full of deliciousness. the meat was well cooked, juicy and tender. we enjoyed every bite, screaming “this is good meat”. once again, i can have the steak without the bernaise sauce. the fries were great too – crispy and not too oily.

sundae grue de cacao (S$15)

as for dessert, we didnt have much time left for souffle and we were stuffed with meaty goodness – we ended up choosing a chocolate sundae to share. the sundae was made up of a layer of bavarian cream, milk chocolate ganache, macadamia nut cookie and milk ice cream. it was not what we expected – the sundae turned out to be much more classy looking – i still enjoy the ice cream and cookie very much.

the first look at daniel boulud facade – its pretty intimidating – it looked posh and polish. however the service staff were great. they were very professional and polite. they may not be the most attentive, but they sure know everything on the menu. i will definitely want to go back to daniel boulud again (steak frites!).

*silly me did this unglam thing at daniel boulud – i attempted to stuff the entire burger into my mouth. I KNOW. of course i failed. ha. i think except KK, no one saw what i did. i think

daniel boulud
the shoppes at marina bay sands
basement 1 (opposite the theatre)
opening hours: 12.00pm-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm (mon-fri),11.00am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm (sat, sun)

Lunch around town

i took a month off during january. this means i have time to go around town, run my errands, and have lunches at places that i hardly had a chance to visit.

spruce taqueria is one of those places that only open during weekdays for lunch. it has been almost half a year since i been there. the menu did not change much except they have removed my favorite short rib *panic*. in the end, i chose the beef tenderloin taco set with watermelon and lime aqua fresca.

beef taco set (S$9)

the beef is buried somewhere

the tortilla was still awesome – soft and corny. the cabbage slaw and salsa provided a refreshing bite to the meaty beef tenderloin. i kinda regretted not ordering the beef tongue. the beef tenderloin was not tender at all – it was tough and chewy – tell tale sign of overcooked beef.

to be honest, i am unsure how long spruce tacqueria will last. considering its opening hours and location (in local terms, up in the mountain), not exactly a spot where you will rush to for lunch. when i was there, from 12pm – 1pm, ehhh i was the only customer. that said, i do hope spruce taqueria will hang around for awhile – they have one of the best mexican food (and at a friggin good price) around town.

a couple of days later, i was at plaza singapura and looking for a place for lunch. i decided to plonk down at saybons where i always enjoyed their crepes and soups.

magherita crepe (S$4) and wild mushroom soup (S$3.80)

saybons had expanded over the years – from a small stall to now a little cafe and even offering escargot! i ordered a regular wild mushroom soup and a magherita crepe (with no onion which btw i think its strange to have it in a magherita crepe). though i find the soup to be a bit watery, it was still nice, and flavorful. as for the crepe, who can resist melted cheese and warm tomatoes in an eggy wrap?

but i do have to say, i paid $7.80 for the above and they only managed to fill up half of my stomach (after saybons, i grabbed a sesame pretzel from auntie anne), thus this made it  a pretty expensive lunch. thankfully, i hardly go to town for lunch.

spruce taqueria320 tanglin road phoenix park
opening hours: 12.00pm-3.00pm (mon-fri)

68 orchard road #b2-30/31/32
opening hours: 10.00am-10.00pm (daily)

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