Gurtlerhoft Strasbourg: Discovering the Alsatian Cuisine

We got to Strasbourg in the late afternoon, so we couldn’t enjoy the Christmas markets much – they close at 8!

We’ve read before that we needed to book a table in any restaurant we wanted to visit in Strasbourg, to be able to enjoy the Alsatian cuisine, so we picked what looked like a nice address: Gurtlerhoft. The reviews were mostly good, so we decided to trust them and go for it.

In this restaurant, we discovered a new cuisine, partly unknown, less marketed compared to the cuisines of the other French regions, but much better, I think. If you’re not a meat lover, don’t go to Strasbourg please.

Anyway, I’ll be telling you about my Alsatian discoveries in later posts, but let’s focus now on that restaurant where I had one of my best dining experiences ever.

I was with my sister. We had to wait for around 10 minutes for our table to be ready. The restaurant is big, a bit noisy, and looks more like a family restaurant. The waiters were friendly, and they can help you with your choice of wine.

We ordered two set menus, with a pitcher of wine, and shared everything.

Starters:

foie gras picture

The best foie gras ever!

Foie gras de canard maison:

This dish was the star of the night, and of our entire trip, if I may say. One generous piece of homemade warm foie gras, served on a bed of shredded red cabbage, some pain au lait, a delicious gelée and a sundried tomato. After I tried this dish, I understood why the foie gras is that famous, and most importantly, I understood what is orgasmic food! I will go back to Strasbourg one day for this dish!

Mushrooms feuillete picture

The best mushrooms feuilleté I ever had

Feuilleté aux champignons frais à la crème

A squarish piece of puff pastry, baked until golden and crispy, then stuffed with fresh mushrooms, cooked with cream. This was the best pie I ever had, the seasoning used for the creamy mushroom mixture is just amazing, and the puff pastry is baked to perfection: not too crispy, not chewy at all, with a strong butter flavor that will certainly make you want more!

Main Courses:

Choucroute picture

The Choucroute aux 5 garnitures

Choucroute Gurtlerhoft:

A very generous portion of choucroute – sauerkraut, garnished with 5 big pieces of pork! The two sausages have some very interesting seasonings, and the meat is really delicious. For those who don’t know what is choucroute, it is a typical Alsatian dish consisting of shredded cabbage that has been fermented to become sour and that is usually served with meat or fish.

Served with two and a half potatoes, I admit that I skipped these to be able to try the next dish!

baekoffe

Baeckoffe au Riesling:

This is the ultimate dish for meat lovers! Beackoffe means “baker’s oven”, and it is a traditional Alsatian dish consisting of lamb, beef and pork cubes, in addition to onions and potatoes, all marinated overnight in Riesling and slow cooked in ceramic dishes. This is one heavy meal! But, with the cold outside, you can try it, it tastes heavenly. We could not finish the whole thing, but their portions are really huge!

Desserts:

kouglof glacé picture

Revisiting the classical Kouglof

Kouglof glacé au coulis de fruits:

What is a Kouglof? It is an Alsatian traditional big cake, ring-shaped, containing raisins, almonds, and Kirschwasser cherry brandy. It can also contain candied fruits and nuts, depending on the region, and it is baked in a special circular pan with a central tube, originally made of enameled pottery.

The Gurtlerhoft has revisited this traditional dessert, and offers a glacé version that preserved its shape, the brandy in it, the nuts as well as the raisins. But, instead of the traditional cake, this dessert is prepared with ice cream. This dessert is interesting without being really exceptional or among my favorite desserts.

Chocolate mousse picture

Chocolate mousse

Mousse au chocolat:

Simply delicious! Not too sweet (like most of the chocolate mousses I had before) and not too bitter. You can’t smell the eggs –a lot of chocolate mousses suffer from this, and this is just great. (For those who don’t know, chocolate mousse is prepared with raw eggs.) I only had two bites because I was already full, but this dessert should be tried,

For 32,80 Euros, you get the starter, the main course and the dessert, and this is a very reasonable price. You can check the whole menu here.  As for the wine, the restaurant has an interesting variety, with a fair price range.

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Traditional Chocolate Buche de Noel Recipe – Christmas log

Buche de Noel picture

Simple yet elegant

It’s interesting how some of our favorite desserts are very easy to prepare, and yet we only do them on specific occasions.  The buche de Noel – Christmas log in English is one of the best examples.

How do you like your buche? I love the traditional chocolate buche, filled and frosted with chocolate buttercream. Even though it’s really easy to prepare, and it can be ready in less than 30 minutes, it needs some accuracy and precision, because otherwise it can easily be ruined. That’s what happened with us.  My sister prepared the first one, but baked it a little more than she should have. When we removed the Genoise, it was all dry, and it broke when I tried to roll it.

We started with a German high recommended cocoa brand, but I did not really like the taste of the first broken buche, so I replaced it with the local “Gardenia”, which is by the way my favorite for desserts, and the second result was amazing! For the chocolate, I usually use Poulain or Lindt, 70% cocoa. And, here’s one advice: use some good vanilla extract. Even if it’s a bit expensive, you can taste the difference. For a Christmas log, this is crucial, if you don’t want to end up with a cake that tastes like an omelet!

Traditional Chocolate Buche de Noel Recipe – Christmas log

Serves: 7-8

Ingredients:

To prepare the Buche:

  • 35 g melted butter, left to cool
  • 60 g all-purpose flour
  • 25 g cocoa powder
  • 75 g sugar
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp whiskey
  • A pinch of salt

To prepare the chocolate buttercream:

  • 340 g butter at room temperature
  • 2 ¼ cups icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp powder milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250 g melted dark chocolate

To decorate:

  • Icing sugar

Preparation:

  1. To prepare the buche: Preheat oven to 240 degrees C and line a rectangular oven pan with parchment paper.
  2. Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks. Beat the yolks with the sugar, whiskey and vanilla extract on medium speed for a couple of minutes. Add in the flour and mix, then add the cocoa and beat again until ingredients are well combined. Add the cold melted butter and mix until batter is homogeneous. Leave aside.
  3. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Add 1/3 of this mixture to the batter and mix well using a spatula, then add the remaining egg whites and mix again until your batter is uniform.
  4. Spread the mixture on the parchment paper and bake for 7 minutes. The bottom should be cooked, while the top will still look shiny. Remove from the oven and flip on a wet kitchen towel. Remove the parchment paper and roll it firmly. Keep aside to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare your buttercream: cream butter on medium speed for 3 minutes, then add the powder milk and beat for an additional minute. Add the melted chocolate and mix for 2 minutes then add the vanilla extract and mix for 3 minutes. Add the sugar gradually, mixing well after each addition, until your buttercream has the right consistency.
  6. Carefully unroll your log and spread the cream inside. Cut a thick diagonal slice off one end of the cake. Transfer the larger piece of cake to a flat serving plate. Spread a little frosting over cut side of the small piece of cake and seal it to the large roll to make a branch. Frost your cake from the outside. You can create the “buche” effect using a fork. Dust with icing sugar. It is ready now!

American Style Roast Turkey Recipe

American style roast turkey picture

The American style roast turkey

Merry Christmas people, it’s been a while!

I was very busy, cooking & baking of course, and even if I did not share these recipes with you on time for this Christmas, you can still use them for next year, or for any other occasion.

I’ve wanted to do a turkey for Christmas for 3 years now, and every time I mentioned it, my dad would object, saying that turkey is hard to chew.

But this year, during the Beirut Cooking Festival, Georges Kik, executive chef at Sofil catering, prepared his American-style turkey, and it was really delicious and tender, so I felt the urge to try it.

I decided to do it at my uncle’s, for dinner, two days after Christmas, to avoid the stress of trying a new main course for the first time Christmas Eve.

Preparing the turkey was not really hard, even though the recipe looks huge. Using a kitchen needle and string was fun, and stuffing the turkey was even funnier. Preparing the garnish was very easy. The only hard part was the cooking… the turkey is really heavy, and removing it from the oven every time to inject it with its own sauce was a hassle, this without mentioning the smell that sticks on you… And, well, it takes time…. four hours in the oven!

I changed the recipe a bit. Since I was told that the liver of a frozen turkey is removed, I decided to replace it with some paté. But then I discovered that it was inside a paper bag in the turkey, so I added both. I also added some more herbs and spices to the initial recipe.

Anyway, once the sauce was ready, we served the turkey with the veggies and a sauce we prepared, based on a roux (a mixture of equal amounts of butter and flour) and the vegetables stock.

It was amazing. The stuffing was delicious, the meat was very tender (even dad said that!), and the garnish was extraordinary. This turkey recipe is a keep… would you try it?

American turkey garnish picture

The Garnish!!!

American Style Roast Turkey Recipe

Serves: 8-12

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole turkey, 6 Kg
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Mixed spices

To prepare the stuffing:

  • 100 g diced onions
  • 100 g mushrooms, cut into cubes
  • 6 slices pain de mie, cut into small cubes
  • 500 ml cream
  • 50 g dried cranberries
  • 50 g chopped parsley
  • 100 g chorizo, chopped
  • 120 g paté, crumbled with a fork
  • 1 piece of turkey liver, chopped
  • 200 g granny smith apples cut into small cubes
  • 50 g butter
  • 100 ml whiskey
  • Bouquet garni
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Mixed spices

To prepare the garnish:

  • 2 Kg of roasted chestnuts, peeled
  • 1 Kg big Frankfurters, cut into 4
  • 600 g bacon
  • 2 liters of chicken stock
  • 500 g frozen baby onions, thawed
  • 2 kg medium carrots cut into 3
  • 500 g celery branches, cut into 3
  • 500 g mushrooms
  • 2 kg baby potatoes
  • 500 g broccoli, cut into florets and boiled for a minute
  • 250 g butter
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

To prepare the sauce:

  • 50 g flour
  • 50 g butter

To roast the turkey:

  • 50 – 100 g butter at room temperature
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Thyme

Preparation:
1- To prepare the stuffing: soak the pain de mie in the cream in a big bowl. Leave aside. In a skillet, heat the butter and fry the diced onions until tender. Do not let the onions brown. Add the chorizo and cook for 2 minutes, then add the mushroom cubes and cook for another 2 more minutes. Remove from heat. Cut the apples into cubes without peeling them. Add the cranberries to the soaked pain de mie with the chopped turkey liver, the apples, the crumbled paté, the chorizo mix, the bouquet garni and the parsley. Season with salt, black pepper and mixed spices. Add the whiskey to give your stuffing some additional flavor. Leave aside.

2- Prepare your turkey for stuffing: rub it with lemon wedges, salt, black pepper and mixed spices from the inside and the outside without washing it.
Tuck the stuffing inside the cavity of your turkey. Using a kitchen needle and string, sew up the cavity of your turkey with a few stitches and seal the cavity with a whole lemon. Make sure not to sew the skin of your turkey with the meat.

3- To cook the turkey: since the thighs need more time to cook than the breast, cook the turkey on each of its sides in a pot over medium heat for 5 minutes. Attach the thighs together with a kitchen string. Repeat with the wings.

Mix the butter with the herbs and put the mixture between the turkey skin and meat, for some extra flavor. Put the turkey on a roasting rack in an oven pan and put in a preheated oven – 180 C.
After 10 minutes, remove from the oven and cover the turkey with baking paper then foil.
After 1 hour, remove your pan from the oven again. Using a syringe, remove some of the roasting pan juice from the bottom of the pan. The fat will be floating on the surface, make sure not to use it. Inject the juice inside the turkey. Repeat for 4 times at least . The turkey took around 4 hours to cook. It will vary depending on your oven and its size.
10 minutes before removing your turkey from the oven, discard the baking paper and foil and let your turkey get a nice reddish color.

4- Meanwhile, prepare the garnish: preheat a pan and fry in the bacon in its own fat. Add the frankfurters until they change in color. Remove from heat and set aside in a big pyrex or oven pan with the carrots and celery.
Heat some butter in a pan and sauté the mushrooms for one minute and a half. Remove and add to the previous ingredients. Heat some more butter and add in the chestnuts. Fry for a minute and a half and remove from heat. Put the chestnuts on top of the other ingredients and fry the onions in the same pan for 30 seconds, without adding any fat. Add the onions to the pyrex with the broccoli. Pour enough chicken stock over the garnish to cover the ingredients and add some butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with baking paper then foil and put the pyrex in another oven pan. Put on low heat, on your stove.

5- Boil your potatoes until they are almost tender, then sauté them with butter in a frying pan for 4-5 minutes. Put the potatoes in an oven pan and sprinkle with salt and white pepper. Cook until golden and tender.

6- When the turkey is ready, remove from pan. Discard the fat and keep the juice.
Prepare a roux using butter and flour (same quantities). Add the vegetables stock (from the garnish pan) and the turkey juice and mix well until you get a thick sauce.
Serve the turkey with the potatoes, the garnish and the sauce.

Crab and Mango Salad Recipe

Crab and mango salad picture

The perfect salad: a combination of flavors in one plate

My stepmom wanted a special salad that would be a hit for our Christmas dinner tomorrow, so I said “why not try my crab and mango salad?”

This salad is very similar to the Crab salad with sesame oil dressing recipe that I posted before, but is richer in taste, and fancier of course, since it uses mango instead of oranges. When I prepared it last time and posted the picture on Instagram, many asked for the recipe, so here it is! And sorry for the delay!

A friend told me that the number of servings for the old crab salad was a bit too much. She was right, but I was serving it as a starter. I don’t really believe there is one right number of servings. It always depends on how much you’re willing to eat, and if you’re serving it as starter or as a main. So please always adjust the quantities according to the number of your guests and their appetite – or yours!

Crab and mango salad recipe
Serves: 4- 5

Ingredients:

  • 16 crab sticks (Use some Siblou Regular or Premium sticks)
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 leafy lettuce (lollo rosso)
  • ½ mango
  • 2 carrots

To prepare the dressing:

  • Few drops of sesame oil
  • 130 ml lemon juice
  • 2.5 tsp light mayonnaise
  • 2.5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Tear the leafy lettuce leaves with your hands. You can cut them into smaller pieces. (I usually cut each leaf in half). Transfer to your serving bowl.
  2. Shred the crab sticks thinly and put them over the lettuce leaves.
  3. Slice the cucumbers thinly and shred the carrots. Decorate the sides (edges) of your serving bowl with them.
  4. Peel the mango and cut it into thin slices. Decorate the center of the salad with the mango slices.
  5. To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small jar and close it well. Be careful when adding the sesame oil, as it has a very strong flavor.
  6. Shake the jar for 20 seconds then open it. Taste your dressing and adjust the seasoning.
  7. Dress your salad just before serving!

Ronde des Pains: A Bakery You Should Visit in Paris

Breakfast picture

First Breakfast

I have to admit, Paris deceived the foodie in me a bit. Aside from my experience with “Les portes” restaurant that I already wrote about, and that I thought was going to be the start of an excellent culinary journey, I think that the small details made my stay pleasant while the big meals were very disappointing.

Surprised? Well, I was too. I’ve always heard that you can eat anywhere in Paris and it’ll be good. Before I went there, I had a list of all the restaurants I wanted to try. Well, it was not possible, because we always ended up eating in the streets where we were, at noon or in the evenings. So, aside from “L’atelier de l’eclair”, I didn’t make it to any of those restaurants.

I had some disappointing experiences. Yes, French can go wrong with food, even with steak frites! Who would have thought, huh? In this post, I will start telling you about those little details that made the difference, and some of the less satisfying ones!

We were staying at Rue Beaurepaire next to Place de la République, and we spotted a lot of interesting bakeries nearby on our first day, so we could not wait for the second day to start trying them. Staying in an apartment is much more interesting than staying in a hotel, since you can do your own shopping and prepare your own breakfast. Our first stop was Ronde des Pains.

Seeing dozens of people queuing in order to get a loaf of bread in a country filled with bakeries should definitely mean something. This traditional bakery was really good, and we came back again and again for more!

The bread:

French baguette picture

The best baguette ever

Ronde des Pains has without any doubts the best baguette I ever tried. Delicious, with a perfect crispiness, I never thought I could fell in love with a simple baguette… Yes! This baguette is something you have to try if you’re visiting Paris.

Pointe Paysanne picture

Campaillette Pointe Paysanne with a sausage

I also tried the “Pointe Paysanne” of the Campaillette range: excellent bread that can’t be compared to any of the bread we have in Lebanon. It was even better than the baguette, even though the comparison between 2 different items is not fair. I had came back for it again!

The viennoiseries:

almond croissant picture

Pain aux amandes: the almond croissant

For the viennoiseries, if you ever pass by, try the pain aux amandes (almond croissant): not too crunchy, not too soggy, the dough is just perfect, just like the filling that is sweet just like it should be.

Chocolate croissant picture

Pain au chocolat

The pain au chocolat was surprisingly average: the dough is good, but it is very poorly filled with chocolate, so you might think that you’re having a butter croissant!

Chocolate chips drops picture

Drops aux pépites de chocolat

The drops aux pépites de chocolat is a must-try as well: thin crispy layers of puff, baked with chocolate chips and sprinkled with powdered sugar. With a cup of coffee, this sweet creation will certainly make your day!

The desserts:

We did try 4 desserts there!

Cannele picture

Cannelé

I never tried a “cannelé” before, and it was probably my last. This is not my kind of desserts.

Raspberries tart picture

Raspberries tart

The raspberries tart was good. Not the best tart I ever had, but it’s worth giving it a try, especially to try some raspberries that are much better than the ones we eat in Lebanon.

French tart picture

The tartelette Grand-mère

The must-tries are the Paris-Brest and the Tartelette Grand-mère. A Paris-Brest is a choux pastry filled with a praline cream. It was delicious, but I can’t compare it to any other since it was my first and – hopefully not – my last. As for the tart, I couldn’t tell what’s in there, but it was really yummy.

Address : 75 avenue de la Republique à  La Cote Saint Andre 38260, Paris

More about Paris soon! Keep tuned!