Eating In – Paris

When planning our trip to Paris, my husband and I realized our favorite hotel, the family-owned Hotel de Blois, had been sold; Tripadvisor comments about the changes made us realize we didn’t want to stay in the new incarnation. I’d always thought staying in an apartment would be fun, and through the Alliance Française we found a small apartment in the 6th arrondisement, very close to Rue de Rennes and the Luxembourg Gardens.

Raspail organic market © Todd Mecklem

One of the best parts of our stay was having a kitchen to cook in. I love to eat out, but I also love to cook, and I had a wonderful time whipping up meals with lovely ingredients from the local food markets. The Raspail organic market was very close, and there were smaller ones other days of the week. It was a really enjoyable part of our trip. I definitely want to stay in places with a kitchen more often.

Tasty vegetables, eggs, and a baguette from the local market © Todd Mecklem

Wine from Nicolas; ripe tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella from Raspail market. © Todd Mecklem

Radishes with butter and salt; pasta with olives and tomatoes. © Todd Mecklem

The stove top and French press – nothing else really needed to make breakfast. © Todd Mecklem


Parmigiano-Reggiano stock

It’s officially autumn so I always start thinking about cooking. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of making a Parmigiano-Reggiano soup stock and have been saving the rinds for a few months. I’d made it once before but I didn’t let the stock simmer long enough, and I let the temperature get too high,  and then let it cool too much. The end result was a watery broth that left a nasty, gooey mess in the bottom of the pot that my poor husband had to clean. Just a few rinds tossed in water wasn’t very tasty at all.

This time I did my research and pored through my favorite Italian cookbooks and websites. They all said that the important part of having a tasty stock is to let the rinds cooks slowly for a few hours. Obviously this had to be a weekend project.

I’m happy to report that this second batch of Parmigiano stock was much tastier.I used it in a risotto – it was sublime.

To make the stock successfully, here’s my method. I don’t really measure my ingredients, except for baking – I cook by taste, or as the French say au pif (by smell or instinct.)

First, I sauteed a chopped onion until it was very soft but not caramelized. I put in the cheese rinds, and then poured in enough water to cover them plus an extra couple of inches. I let the whole thing barely simmer for three hours. The smell of the stock wafting through the house was wonderful – it’d be great to make on a chilly winter day.

Once the rinds are very soft and the bits of cheese have come off, taste the stock. I was surprised that it needed some salt – I added some and let it simmer for another five minutes. Next, while the stock is still hot, remove the rinds and large pieces of cheese – if you wait until the stock is cool, you will regret the mess in the bottom of your pot. The melted cheese bits are the cook’s reward…delish!

The last step is to pour the stock through a piece of cheesecloth. Your end result is a lovely, rich stock ready to be used in risotto or soup or a sauce.

I can imagine lots of variations. One thing I want to try is caramelizing the onions before adding the water – I bet it would be really rich and tasty. You could add herbs or saffron or a bit of ham -there are lots of possibilities. Just don’t let the rinds cool down in the pot…!

Boeuf Bourguignon in Paris and Portland

Photo 2010 Todd Mecklem

We had a wonderful dinner at Cafe Daguerre in “our” neighborhood in Paris, the 14th arrondisement. We’ve eaten there a few times, and really like the local feel to it.  I ordered the boeuf bourguignon and Todd had a croque monsieur and carrot salad. The beef was incredibly tender  and the bacon and wine melded together to give the meat a hearty, delicious flavor. We had a local red wine for dinner.

When we got home, I made a pot of it using the recipe in Paris in A Basket: Markets – the Food and People written by Nicolle Aimee Meyer & Amanda Pilar Smith. It turned out pretty well though I’d like to simmer it longer next time because the flavor wasn’t as good as the Cafe Daguerre’s. Maybe they used real burgundy or maybe everything just tastes better in Paris.