Citrus Bars with Zesty Hazelnut Crust

Citrus is our reminder of the importance of gratitude. At the end of the winter, when our immunity against seasonal colds and our patience for eating rough root vegetables has hit its breaking point, these bright orange and yellow gems come to our rescue. 

The intoxicating odor of citrus fruits has unfailingly seduced me throughout the month of February, and my citrus binges became pretty serious in March. On a recent trip to Paris, I stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies at the fabulous Terroirs d'Avenir, paying no heed to the extra baggage I would be dragging along with me to the train station. 

I couldn't bear leaving the beautiful bergamot and hefty grapefruits behind, imagining the lovely breakfasts that would help me start off the coming days. It wasn't until I saw a photo posted by my friend Stacey of The Modern Domestique of a lemon bar she made with Meyer Lemons from her parent's garden that I thought of an alternate use for my citrus haul. 

Full disclosure: these are mostly lemon bars, but I encourage adding that extra quarter cup of juice from something else: whether it be bergamot, grapefruit, clementines or even limes- just to experience the full scope of these lovely tart and bitter, sweet and sour fruits, plus the extra zest really perks up the hazelnut crust

Be sure to save all the shells and peels of the fruit to put in a large jar of water and make a refreshing, vitamin c packed beverage to enjoy throughout the day. 

Citrus Bars with Zesty Hazelnut Crust

For the crust: 

1 cup (100 grams) shelled hazelnuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan over high heat

2 cups (230 grams) all purpose flour

2 tbsps granulated sugar

1 tsp coarse sea salt

1 cup (225 grams) salted butter, cold and cubed

1-2 tbsps ice water

Zest from one of each citrus fruit used in the bars (lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, etc.) 

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9" X 13" oven safe pan with butter or cooking oil. In a food processor or blender, pulse together flour, hazelnuts, salt, and sugar. If using a food processor, add cubes of butter directly to the mixture and pulse until it becomes a course meal. If using a blender, transfer the mix to a bowl and do this part by hand. Add the ice cold water as needed if the dough gets too dry. Press the dough into the bottom of the oven safe pan, creating an even layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes (or until golden) then remove from oven and let cool. 

For the bars: 

5 large eggs

1 1/2 cup (275 grams) granulated sugar

3/4 cup (180 mL) lemon juice (4-5 large lemons)

1/4 cup (60mL) juice from 1 bergamot, grapefruit, lime,  or other citrus fruit of your choice

1/4 cup (30 grams) all purpose flour

Zest from all the fruits used

Powdered sugar (optional)

Whisk together eggs and sugar until combined (color should become a pale yellow). Stir in juices and zests. Sift in the flour, stirring it in as it's added. Pour the mixture over the warm crust and bake 15-25 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting into squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if using. 

In Season: Homebrew Beef Cheek Pie

I'm not going to lie to you, this is a start-in-the-afternoon dish that you can count on dedicating some time to. If you're short on time, save this recipe for another day, but If you're on winter holiday, sick of running around shopping or engaging in other seasonal stresses, or just want to have an excuse to turn the oven on for a few hours and benefit from an additional source of heat- this Beef Cheek Pie has you covered. 

This recipe is partially inspired by Sam Sifton's Guinness Pie recipe with added inspiration from Holybelly's Beef Cheek Stew with Fried Polenta and Salad recipe (page 100, My Paris Market Cookbook). I switched out Sifton's brisket for a hearty cut of beef cheek and substituted Guinness for one of my very own homebrews in order to make this hearty one dish meal that is perfect for a winter dinner

You can use any dark or amber beer in this recipe, which will bring a nice bitterness to balance with the sweetness of stewed winter vegetables. Slow cooking renders the beef cheek melt-in-your-mouth delicious, making the hours of waiting worth it! 

Ingredients

800 grams (about 1 1/2 pounds) beef cheek

2 tbsps butter

1 large red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 carrots, thickly sliced

2 celery stalks, thickly sliced

250 grams (about a dozen) button mushrooms, thickly sliced

2 tbsps canola oil

3 tbsps all purpose flour

1 75 cl bottle of dark or amber beer 

125 grams (1 cup) grated hard cheese like cheddar, comté, cantal, or tome

Pâte Brisé (page 48, My Paris Market Cookbook)

1 egg yolk 

For the marinade :

1-2 cups red wine

1 sprig rosemary

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

Salt & Pepper

Preparation

Marinade the beef cheek in red wine, the beef cheek should be at least halfway submerged in the wine (and flipped once or twice to be evenly covered throughout the marinade period). Add rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper and let sit, covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator overnight- or at least a few hours before making the tart. Cut the beef cheek into uniform 1 inch x 1 inch pieces once taken out of the marinade. 

Preheat the oven to 200°C (375°F)

In a large, oven safe pot, melt butter then add onions and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent.

Add carrots, celery, and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms give, and then reabsorb, their juices. 

In a medium sized pan, heat canola oil and brown beef cheek by letting cook about a minute on each side. 

Add beef cheek, flour, and any remaining rosemary and thyme, to the large pot and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. 

Add enough beer to cover the pot's contents. Cover pot and put in the oven to cook for 1 1/2 hour. 

After 1 1/2 hour in the oven, check to see if the stew has thickened. If not, cook on medium high heat on the stove top to reduce, otherwise, remove from oven and set aside. 

Roll out pâte brisé to about 1/4 inch thick and large enough to cover a 1 1/2 - 2 inch deep pyrex baking dish. 

Fill dish with stew, sprinkle with grated cheese, and cover with the pâte brisé, pinching along the sides to seal the pie top. Use a sharp knife to slice a few air holes into the crust, then brush with egg yolk. 

Bake tart for 45 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving. 

Enjoy! 

Fresh Eggs & Oeufs Mayonnaise

Some people will say making mayonnaise is incredibly easy. Others will say it's impossibly hard. Both will be lying a little bit. 

The challenge in making mayonnaise, which is easy enough that anyone can do it but hard enough that they'll fail a bunch along the way, lies in marrying together the water from the egg yolks with olive oil that is slowly added to the yolks. This is done through the process of emulsion or, in less technical terms, whisking until you feel like your arm will fall off

Whether you find it a challenge or a piece of cake, making mayonnaise is undeniably easier when you have good eggs. Mayonnaise eggs should be fresh and at room temperature (opinions on the importance of their temperature vary, I believe room temperature yolks improve your chances of winning at mayonnaise). 

Getting eggs to be room temperature is easy enough-  just plan on taking them out of the fridge an hour or so before you'll be making your mayonnaise- but getting truly fresh eggs may be a little harder. Thankfully, country life has simplified this step for me. 

I recently became a foster parent to a brood of chickens consisting of three laying hens and one rooster. They were put in our charge by our friend, Noëlla Morantin a few months ago.

Noëlla informed us that the hens hadn't been laying eggs for her- maybe it was the season, maybe they weren't in the mood-  but she told us we shouldn't expect eggs any time soon.

After factoring in their shock at being taken from Noëlla's chicken coop and being brought to their new home (which we had cleaned out and made cosy in advance), we figured we shouldn't hold our breath for fresh eggs

rooster coffee.jpg

We were happy for the chickens' presence eggs or no eggs. The rooster immediately started crowing in the morning, giving our country home serious farm cred. On sunny days we'd watch the feathered crew explore their new grounds as we sipped coffee in the sun. The cats found the new residents absolutely delightful- not intimidating enough to inspire fear and just mobile enough to provide hours of fun as they tracked and spied on them from hiding spots. 

And then one day, Ben found an egg and I knew our daily lives had just changed in a small and enormous way. For a little over a week now, we've had an egg a day, thanks to our lovely white hen, who we call L'Islandaise due to the black collar around her neck that makes her look like she's wearing an Icelandic sweater

We're hoping her efforts will inspire the other ladies to start laying, in the meantime she's inspired more than a few batches of homemade mayonnaise

Oeufs Mayonnaisse

I've managed to make a few successful batches of mayonnaise back in the day, but I never really felt like I could master mayo until I read Tamar Adler's wonderful book An Everlasting Meal. I use a little less oil and a little more salt than the original recipe, but that's as far as I'll stray from Adler's advice. 

Ingredients:

2 eggs yolks (room temperature)

2 pinches of salt

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 cups (350 mL) olive oil

Dash of water

Drop of red wine vinegar

One hard boiled egg per person

Optional:

Cayenne pepper

Mâche or other greens for a garnish/salad

Preparation

Whisk together egg yolks, salt, and mustard until the mixture becomes creamy and lightens slightly in color. SLOWLY begin to add olive oil- this can be as little as a few drops at a time in the beginning, whisking vigourously while adding the oil. It is crucial that the mixture doesn't turn to liquid, it should be becoming thicker and almost elastic as the oil is mixed in. Once you have a good base of oil integrated into the thickening yolk mixture you can be braver with adding the oil. Keep adding oil until finished- if at some point the mayonnaise seems too stiff, add a dash of water and get back to whisking. Finish with whisking in a drop of red wine vinegar. Add salt to taste. 

Cut hard boiled eggs in half and top each half with a spoonful of fresh mayonnaise. Cayenne pepper is a traditional topping for oeufs mayonnaise and bright fresh greens make a nice side salad to the dish.