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The Cook's Basics

Classic Vinaigrette

We use this classic French vinaigrette all the time at The Cook's Atelier.  It's simple because it's all about the quality of the ingredients.  Variations are endless; swap out the vinegars or substitute lemon juice, add a handful of fresh herbs, or drizzle in honey for a touch of sweetness.  Our honey is from our beekeeper neighbor, Fred, whose bees feed on the pollen of the Acacia tree.  You can find our favorite olive oilsaltvinegarFred's Acacia honey, and our adored copper cook's whisk in our online shop, The French Larder at The Cook's Atelier.

French Shallot Vinaigrette

2 small shallots

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

a pinch of sea salt

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

Peel and dice the shallots.  In the bottom of a salad bowl add the shallots, white wine vinegar and sea salt.  Let the ingredients rest for 10 minutes.  This allows for the shallots to soften.  Whisk in the olive oil and add freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Add salad greens to the bowl and gently toss to coat.

    The Cook's Basics

    Pâte sucrée

    Pâte sucrée is our go-to tart dough for making tarts at The Cook’s Atelier. We use this tart dough for many of our tarts including our lemon tart, almond pear tart, and, of course, the classic French apple tart. We find this dough easy to work with and it makes for the perfect shell for many classic French tarts. We prefer to make this dough by hand in a big vintage white bowl, but it turns out just as nice if you choose to make it in your Kitchen Aid mixer. We also love to make Luc and Manon very special heart cookies with the remaining dough.

    Pâte Sucrée
    Makes enough for two 9-inch tarts or 16 tartelettes

    1/4 cup heavy cream
    2 large egg yolks
    2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1/4 cups granulated sugar
    a pinch of flour de sel
    1/2 pound unsalted butter

    1 lemon, zested

    Whisk the cream and egg yolks together in a small bowl. Set aside.

    In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces, about a half an inch. Add the butter to the flour mixture and toss to coat the butter with the flour. Using your hands, combine the butter with the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Be careful not to overwork the dough as it will make the dough tough. Continue this process until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the lemon zest, heavy cream and egg yolk mixture and toss gently with a fork, just until it is incorporated. Feel free to use your hands to continue to combine the ingredients. But again, be sure to not overwork the dough. You can tell when the dough is ready by taking a small handful, squeezing it together. It if holds together, the dough is ready. If not, feel free to add a little more cream, a drizzle at a time, to reach the right consistency. When the dough is ready, divide the dough in two and place it on a sheet of plastic wrap. Gather the plastic wrap around the dough, forming a pouch, twist and push down to form a flat disk. Chill the dough for at least an hour or, ideally, overnight.

    To make the tart shell, place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll until a 1/4 inch thick, flouring as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking to the surface. Be sure to maintain a circular shape while rolling out the dough. Beginning at one end, gather the dough at one end onto a rolling pin and gently lift it onto the tart pan. Unroll the dough over a 9-inch tart pan. Gently fit the dough loosely into the tart pan, being mindful not to stretch the dough as you fit it into the pan. To remove the excess dough, you use your thumb to gently scrape along the sides of the tart pan creating a nice, clean edge to the dough. Freeze until ready to use, at least 15 minutes.

      The Cook's Basics

      White veal stock

      We make our own stock at The Cook's Atelier.  We often have vegetable and chicken stock simmering on the back of the stove.  Homemade stock is wonderful to have on hand when making soup, sauces, or an accompanying jus.  Here's is a basic white veal stock that is lovely to have on hand.

      White Veal Stock

      Makes about 2 quarts

      5 pounds veal bones
      1 calf's foot , split
      5 quarts cold water
      2 cups leeks, white and light green part only, cut into 1-inch pieces
      2 cups onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
      small punch of Italian parsley sprigs
      2 bay leaves
      5 sprigs of thyme

      Rinse the veal bones in cold water and place the bones and the calf's foot in a large stockpot. Add enough cold water to come three quarters of the way up the sides of the stockpot. There should be at least twice as much water as there are bones. Slowly bring the water to a simmer. As the liquid is being brought to a simmer, skim off the scum that rises to the surface. As soon as the liquid comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat.

      Drain the bones in a large colander. Rinse the bones well, until there is no film left on them. It is very important the bones be rinsed thoroughly to remove any impurities, which would cloud the stock.

      Clean the pot and return the bones to it. Add the cold water and slowly bring the water to a simmer, skimming frequently. Once it is at a simmer, add the leeks, onions and herbs and continue to simmer for 4 hours, skimming frequently to remove the impurities.

      Turn off the heat and allow the stock to rest for 10 minutes. Use a ladle to remove the stock from the pot and strain it into a container. Discard any stock toward the bottom of the pot that is cloudy.

      Fill the sink with ice water and place the container in it to cool down the stock rapidly. Stir occasionally until there are no traces of steam. Refrigerate the stock for 1 or 2 days, or freeze in several containers for longer storage.

      The Cook's Basics

      Chicken stock

      This is the stock that we always keep on hand for most of our soups, risotto, beans, sauces and our braising dishes. We happen to fall in the category of cooks who prefer using whole chickens rather than using backs, necks and wing tips for stock. We think it is worth the investment, as stock made using whole chickens just simply tastes better.

      As with all stocks, the goal is to remove impurities while extracting as much flavor and gelatin as possible from the bones, vegetables, and herbs. Always start your stock with cold water and pay attention to the coverage, more so than the actual measurement of the water. Bring the stock slowly up to heat and maintain a gentle heat for over a long period time and skim, skim, skim!

      Chicken Stock
      Makes 8 to 10 cups

      One 5 1/2-pound chicken, preferably pasture raised
      About 4 quarts cold water (to cover)
      2 large carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
      2 large leeks cut into 2-inch chunks, white and light green parts only, carefully washed
      1 large yellow onion, root end trimmed flat, peeled, and quartered
      1 stalk celery, leaves trimmed off and cut into 2-inch chunks
      1 bay leaf
      3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme

      Remove the giblets from the chicken. Rinse the chicken to remove any blood. This is very important for the clarification of the stock. If you don't, your stock will be cloudy. Remove the breasts using your boning knife and save for another use. Slash the thigh and leg muscles to enable more flavor to be released during cooking. 

      Place the chicken in a deep 8- to 10-quart stockpot that holds the chicken snugly. Add the water. Bring to a simmer over high heat and skim the foam. Stir the chicken under once to allow the last of the foam to rise. Reduce the heat and continue to skim. 

      Add the vegetables and herbs and slowly bring the liquid back to a simmer, skimming frequently. Once the stock has a bright, chickeny flavor, usually about 4 hours, turn off the heat and allow the stock to rest for 10 minutes to allow any particles left in the stock to settle to the bottom of the stockpot.

      Prepare an ice bath. Set a chinois or fine-mesh stainer over a container large enough to hold the stock. Use a ladle to transfer the stock from the pot to the stainer and strain into the container. Do not press on the solids in the strainer or force through any liquid that does not pass on its own; otherwise the stock will be cloudy. Discard any stock that is cloudy with impurities that settle near the bottom of the stockpot.

      Place the container in the ice bath to cool the stock rapidly. Stir occasionally until there is no longer any steam rising from container. The stock can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze for longer storage.

      The Cook's Basics

      Gratin Dauphinois

      This is our take on the French classic. It's perfect for a cook's lunch with a simple salad and a glass of Bourgogne chardonnay. Enjoy!

      Gratin Dauphinois

      1 clove garlic, peeled
      1 tablespoon unsalted butter
      2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
      1 cup Comté cheese, grated
      about 1 cup heavy cream
      1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
      fresh nutmeg, for grating
      sea salt and pepper

      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

      Rub the gratin dish with the cut garlic. Smear the inside of the dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.

      Use a mandoline to slice the potatoes to 1/8-inch thick rounds. Place one layer of potatoes side by side, slightly overlapping, on the bottom of the dish. Season with salt, pepper, thyme and a grate or two of fresh nutmeg. Top with 1/3 of the cheese and drizzle 1/4 cup of cream. Arrange a second layer of potatoes, repeat with the seasonings, 1/3 of the cheese and 1/4 cup of cream. Press the potatoes down with your fingers as you go, letting the cream soak up through the layers.

      Arrange another layer of potatoes on top, season with salt, pepper, thyme, nutmeg and finish with a layer of cheese. Drizzle 1/4 cup of cream. The cream should cover the potatoes, but not be too "liquidy". If it seems dry, add a little more cream.

      Bake for 45 minutes until the potatoes are tender, the cream has been absorbed and the top is nice and golden brown.

      The Cook's Basics

      Simple butter cake

      This cake is a favorite at The Cook's Atelier.  It is simple to prepare and you can use any seasonal fruit.  We've made this cake with strawberries, peaches, blueberries, raspberries  and blackberries in the summer as well as with pears and apples in the fall. It's hard to say which one we like the best.  If by chance you have any left over, it makes a lovely breakfast treat.  On second thought, you'd better make two.  It's a favorite of petit Luc et petite Manon too!

      Simple Butter Cake with Seasonal Fruit

      115 grams butter, at room temperature

      180 grams flour

      1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

      1/2 teaspoons salt

      150 grams sugar

      1 egg

      1 teaspoon vanilla extract

      120 ml milk

      450 grams of seasonal fruit, cleaned and cut

      1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

      Butter a 9" cake or tart pan.  Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  In another large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar.  Add the egg, and vanilla extract and beat until light and creamy.  Gradually add the dry ingredients and milk, a third of each at a time, alternating as you go, and mix until incorporated.  Pour the batter into the pan and arrange the strawberries over the top.  Sprinkle with vanilla sugar.  Bake the tart in the oven for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and continue baking for 40 to 45 minutes.  Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream.

      Cook's note:  If you'd like a little denser cake, use 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder instead of 1 1/2 tablespoons.   It's great both ways, but we prefer the 1 1/2 tablespoons as it makes  a very light and airy cake.

      The Cook's Basics

      Roasted Chicken

      Roasted chicken is the ultimate comfort food and makes a regular appearance on our Sunday table. It's an all season favorite too. In the cooler months, nothing tastes better on a cool and dreary day than a classic roasted chicken served alongside a creamy vegetable gratin and a crisp winter salad. As the weather warms up this Spring, it's perfect for an alfresco meal served with lemons and market greens. The most important thing to keep in mind, as in all cooking, is the quality of your ingredients. Seek out a purveyor at your local farmers' market and ask for a free-range chicken that has been pasture-raised.

      Roasted Chicken with White Wine Jus

      One small Bresse chicken, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds

      4 sprigs fresh thyme

      Fleur de sel

      Freshly cracked black pepper

      For the White Wine Jus

      1 shallot, finely diced

      2 sprigs fresh thyme

      1 bay leaf

      1/2 cup white wine

      1 tablespoon unsalted butter

      Rinse the chicken and dry inside an out.

      Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

      Season the chicken inside and out with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle the top of the breast with the fresh thyme leaves. Choose a shallow roasting pan just a little larger than the chicken. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Place the chicken breast side up in the pan. 

      Place in the center of the oven and roast for approximately 30 minutes. Turn the bird over and continue roasting for 15 minutes, then turn it over again to recaps the breast skin for another 10 or 15 minutes, depending on the size of the bird. 

       Remove the chicken from the roasting pan onto a warm cutting board to rest. Carefully pour off the fat from the roasting pan, leaving the pan drippings. Place over medium-low heat, add the shallots, thyme and bay leaf and simmer until the shallots begin to soften. Add the wine. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape the bottom of the pan to release the crusty bits. Simmer until the jus is reduced by half. Strain into a clean saucepan and bring it back to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add a knob of butter. Swirl the saucepan until the butter is melted and incorporated into the jus. Check for seasoning. Serve immediately.

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