Saturday, October 27, 2012

Eugénie’s Chocolate Cakes (Made with Salted Butter)

Photo by Eugénie Martinez

I have had family from France visiting with us for the past few weeks, and I occasionally relinquish my kitchen to them—always with good results, but this time my niece, Eugénie  produced an outstanding new dessert that will henceforth be among my staples. The use of salted butter in making individual chocolate cakes and then the sprinkling of Fleur de Sel de Guerande over them just before tasting is a stroke of culinary genius. You may use an old cupcake pan or one of the new multiple individual portion cake pans. The batter does not rise to a full cupcake, but remains flat as shown in the picture.


7 ounces dark chocolate (or semisweet), cut into pieces
8 ounces salted butter, cut into small pieces
Extra butter with which to grease the pan
8 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon flour, sifted
Fleur de Sel de Guerande (sea salt)


Preheat oven to 350° F.

Coat the inside of a pan for multiple individual cakes (cup cake or muffin mold will do) with butter.

Melt chocolate over boiling water in a separate pot or a double boiler. As soon as it is melted, take it off the fire and mix in the butter, piece by piece, adding the sugar and vanilla until well mixed, thick and smooth.

Separate the eggs. Add the egg yolks to the chocolate mixture. Add the flour. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the chocolate mixture.

Fill the buttered molds halfway with the mixture. Bake for 10–20 minutes. (The actual time required depends on the size of your cakes.) Leave the oven light on and check frequently to see the cakes form. Take out of the oven once the cakes seem solid on the outside.

These can be served hot and molten inside or allowed to cool. Serve with the Fleur de Sel de Guerande or any other coarse sea salt, allowing each person to sprinkle a few grains on his or her own dessert. The cakes, of course,go well with any type of ice cream—but espresso or coffee would be my favorite. If you enjoy these as much as I do, don’t thank me. Thank Eugénie 

Mini Eggplant Pizzas

Use slices of roasted eggplant to replace the pizza crust and you have a delicious dish to please dieters, vegetarians and gourmands alike. I served it this weekend before a main course of pasta and got rave reviews.

(Serves 4–6)

1 eggplant, cut into thick slices (about ¼-inch thick)
4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 14.5 oz can Del Monte Stewed Tomatoes, Italian Recipe
1 14.5 oz can Del Monte Stewed Tomatoes, Original Recipe
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh Basil (rinsed, dried and cut up)



Preheat the oven to 425° F. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with the oil and season with the salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake until browned and almost tender, 6 to 8 minutes, turning once.

Place the contents of the cans of stewed tomatoes in a mixer so that the tomatoes are mashed into the liquid to create a thick sauce. 

Spread a tablespoon of tomato sauce on each eggplant slice. Top with the shredded cheese. Bake until the cheese melts, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle fresh basil on the top. Serve hot.

Sauteed Foie Gras on a Bed of Caramelized Onions

Many chefs cook fruit to accompany fresh foie gras, which we love, but Gerard and I have always preferred to serve it with sweet caramelized onions—a recipe we learned while vacationing in Béarn years ago. You can make the onions and slice the foie gras in advance. Keep the foie gras slices refrigerated and the onions in the pan, where they need to be warmed up before serving. Invite the guests to the table before finalizing the dish. As with a soufflé, the guests wait for the food, the food does not wait for the guests.

(Serves six.)

5 large onions, yellow, white, or red
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 Grade-A duck foie gras, in ½ inch slices
6 slices white bread


Caramelizing the onions

Slice off the root and top ends of the onions, and peel the onions. Cut them in half. Lay them cut side down and slice them lengthwise to about quarter inch thickness.
Use a wide, thick-bottomed sauté pan for maximum pan contact with the onions. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Heat the pan on medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium to prevent the onions from burning or drying out. After ten minutes, sprinkle the salt over the onions and add the sugar to help with the caramelization.
Let cook for 30 minutes to an hour more, stirring every few minutes. To keep the onions from drying out as they cook, add a little water to the pan (1/4 cup). As soon as the onions start sticking to the pan, let them stick a little and brown, but then stir them before they burn. The trick is to let them alone enough to brown (if you stir them too often, they won't), but not for so long that they burn. After the first 20 minutes, turn temperature to medium-low. As the onions caramelize, scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a spatula. As the onions cook down, you may you need to scrape the pan every minute instead of every few minutes. Continue to cook and scrape, cook and scrape, until the onions are a rich, browned color. At the end of the cooking process, take the pan away from the heat , remove the onions and add a spoonful of balsamic vinegar to help deglaze the pan, and then put the onions back in to absorb the added flavor.

When the guests are seated, excuse yourself and pop the bread in the toaster. (I have Gerard serve the wine; he usually talks about the wine long enough to divert everyone’s attention while I prepare the dish—that’s teamwork.) Warm up the onions for two minutes. Spread the onions over the toast and place a slice of toast onion-side-up on each dish.

Sauté the Foie Gras

Season the foie gras with salt and pepper, and then dredge it lightly in flour. Heat a heavy bottom pan on high heat. When the pan is very hot, add the foie gras slices and lower the heat to medium-high. Sear until the foie gras slices are dark brown ( a couple of minutes). Turn them over and cook on the other side until fully cooked but still soft to the touch. Top off each toast with the foie gras. Serve all of it; if it is too abundant, add pieces beside the toasts.