Any foodie who lives in Quebec knows about Josée di Stasio. We often turn to her book Pasta Et Cetera when we’re short on ideas to make pasta interesting. Her Italian-inspired recipes are always simple and full of flavour, with lots of useful tips and variation ideas.
This is even truer of her previous book, À la di Stasio, which we purchased a couple of weeks ago. Two whole pages on how to roast specific vegetables may not be of much use to seasoned chefs, but I’m certainly grateful for all that information. The recipes in this book are more diverse and less exclusively Italian, with a few Asian-inspired dishes and a couple of decidedly Northern recipes (duck and turkey tourte, anyone?).
I haven’t had much time to actually do many of the recipes in here, but there was one which I was particularly eager to make: her eggs in ramekin, where the ramekin is a flattened slice of bread lined with ham, buttered and baked in a muffin tin. Ever since I first saw this recipe (and the lovely pictures) over at Coco Bean, I’ve been curious to try it. Admittedly, since Christie and Ian were kind enough to post their adapted recipe, I suppose I could have just tried it then and there, without waiting to buy the actual book – I guess it sort of slipped my mind.
But, after I got the book, I procrastinated no more and made the eggs for Saturday brunch.
They were exquisite! So pretty to look at, and very tasty! It takes a bit longer than scrambled or fried eggs, but it’s still very easy to make, relatively healthy, and the presentation definitely makes an impression on people!
Not to be outdone, Laurent insisted on executing one the book’s recipes himself, the very same day. He opted for this:
You’re probably thinking he chose to make us cappuccinos, to go with that brunch. But no: this is actually mushroom soup, which we had for dinner that night.
“Mushroom cappuccino” had been on our radar for quite some time. We were first introduced to the concept at a potluck party, where a gourmet guest treated us to this lovely surprise. His version was quite different from the one in Josée di Stasio’ s book, consisting of a consommé, rather than a soup. The version we used is generally similar to the one found here, on Josée’s website (translation follows), except that the book recipe called for steamed milk, rather than whipped cream. We also added a sprinkling of Espelette chili pepper.
Laurent insisted on taking charge of supper, so I let him. Everything seemed to be going fine: the ingredients had simmered, and all that was left was to run them through the blender, and make the steamed milk with the espresso machine.
I was reading in the living room, when I heard the blender turn off, and Laurent gasp. It wasn’t a normal gasp. We often express ourselves vocally in the kitchen, whenever things go wrong, spill, or burn. But this sounded particularly drastic. When I asked what was wrong and got no answer, I dropped my book and ran into the kitchen.
The blender was covered in mushroom soup, which was slowly spreading across the counter, while Laurent was staring at it, in shock. It was as if the bottom of the pitcher had detached – which, as it turned out, was exactly what had happened. It had unscrewed at the worst possible time, just as Laurent was about to lift the pitcher from the base.
We stared in silence for a few seconds, then proceeded to doing something which I really shouldn’t be admitting to in public: we scraped the soup from the counter back into the pan and reheated it. Yes, it sounds gross, but… Laurent had spent over an hour working on that soup, in addition to shopping for all the ingredients, it would have broken his heart to throw it away! And honestly, haven’t we all done something similar when we thought no one was watching? Like scarf down the cookie that fell on the floor? Or taste the pastry cream with a finger? Besides, our countertop was clean… sort of.
At any rate, the soup didn’t seem too affected by this ordeal. It tasted delicious, and we will definitely be making it again – hopefully with less trauma. The steamed milk is definitely what makes this soup special. Next time, however, I might try to go with a consommé-type base, rather than a puréed soup, for a smoother, more cappuccino-like texture.
And in case you were worried about our blender… it made it out just fine. Laurent rinsed it and picked soup out of it for 20 minutes, and it’s as good as new.
From À la di Stasio
1 onion, minced
1 leek, white part only, minced
2 tbsp butter
450g (16 oz) mushrooms, sliced
1 small potato, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream
1 tbsp fresh thyme (or substitute with 1 tsp dried thyme)
30g (1 oz) dried porcini, ground (optional)
750 ml (3 cups) chicken broth
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat and cook the onion and leek until soft. Add the mushrooms, raise the heat to medium-high and sautée until the vegetables release their liquid and it evaporates. Add the potato, salt, pepper and thyme.
Reserve 1 tbsp of ground porcini, and add the rest to the pan. Add the broth, bring to a boil and simmer half-covered for 15 minutes.
A few minutes before serving, stir in half the cream. Purée the soup with a hand-mixer or a blender, and keep warm.
Whip the remaining cream. Serve the soup in coffee cups, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkled with ground porcini.
Variation: Substitute half the cream, or all of it, with steamed milk, made with an espresso machine. Substitute the sprinkling of ground porcini with Espelette chili.