Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chips de Banane - Banana Chips

I recently went on a hunt for colombo spice, an exotic-sounding blend used in Caribbean cooking. I was also looking for christophines (commonly referred to as chayottes in Mexico.) This brought me to the 18th arrondissement of Paris where there are a ton of epicerie exotique (literally, this means exotic grocery store). In these stores I found what I was looking for...and then some! Most stores greeted me with an unrecognizable odor until I spotted the open air bins of smoked fish piled high on top of each other or next to each other. I even saw a few bins of whole chickens just sitting there. I didn't get close enough to see if the heads were still there, but I definitely saw some feet....Luckily I saw those chickens at only one store because that kind of scared me. I sure hope they were smoked because they surely were not refrigerated! I also saw several types of vegetables I didn't recognize & other things I had no idea what to do with! I honestly like exploring these kinds of stores. Makes me feel like I'm travelling or something.

Anyway, I digress. It's here that I found plenty of plantain bananas. I brought some home and I made us some banana chips. Mighty good chips, at that. Even my sister-in-law, a doctor specializing in micro nutrition, thought they were good. And she's very picky about what category of food she nourishes her body with. Rightly so. I say, if she likes them, then you might like them, too!

Recipe for 4 people - for an Aperitif or Appetizer

2 plantain bananas (green)
bunch of oil in your fryer
salt & other seasonings of choice (colombo, paprika, pimento, etc)

Basically, peel, cut & fry the bananas. That's really all there is to it. But here are a few photos to further explain...

Use the green plantains for chips. I tried the yellow one, and as you might imagine, it was more ripe (or is it riper...humm...) and therefore it was more difficult to cut & fry.

Peeling these things is the most difficult part. You can see my knife cuts down the length of the banana (they look like black lines). I made the incisions and then removed sections of the peel.

This works pretty well, if I do say so myself.

A raw banana like this is just not edible. Yuk. yuk. You will want to spit it right out. Like someone I know! Very bitter and awful tasting. The texture looks kind of tough & mealy, doesn't it? Well, trust me, it is.

But this is exactly what makes them easy to slice! About 1-2 mm. A mandoline makes this job kids play. Less than 30 seconds to slice a banana. (I love my mandoline!)

Fry at 180°C about 1 minute, or until all of the water is evaporated off & they crisp up.

These are just about done here. After that, just turn out onto a paper towl, season & serve immediately.

They'll be gone in a second...

And for the curious, here's a picture are the "chips" made with the ripe banana (see below). They're actually very, very good. I just wouldn't call them chips because they didn't crisp up like the other one, no matter how long I left it in the hot oil. They turned brown before they wanted to crisp up. Kind of weird. But what happens is this: the sugar from the banana caramelizes & you're left with this really nice, tasty, sweat treat. They might get slightly stuck to your teeth because of all that sugary goodness, but you don't mind because the taste is so sweet & nice! For me, these would be perfect with dessert. Except, despite how enjoyable they are, I'm not inclined to make them again because cutting them was a royal pain. The banana was mush by the time I got 3/4 through. And the slices that I did get through the mandoline stuck together like glue, making them a real pain to get into the fryer. It would be great to find a solution to this problem, but until that happens, I won't be doing these again. Any ideas, anyone?

As for the christophines, well, they got dropped from the menu I was planning (too expensive). But I'm still glad to have looked for them. It led me to discover a new part of Paris I hadn't seen before. I would even say it felt like I wasn't even in Paris anymore! And it certainly led me to these banana chips. A good adventure all around. Enjoy!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Cooking Classes & Pastry Classes in Paris - La Cuisine Paris

On October 6th, a new company called La Cuisine Paris (The Kitchen) opened its doors for business. Here's their deal:
  • First & foremost, they offer cooking & pastry lessons to particuliers (non-professionals). Their classes are centered around different themes such as french cuisine, healthy cooking, global cuisine, special holiday cooking, and even non-kitchen topics such as wine tastings. They also offer special-event dinners, and other non-lesson things upon request.
  • They're located in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, near the metro stop Luxumbourg.
  • They've installed 2 stellar kitchens & 1 really great dining room. All done in very good taste. It feels like the designer kitchen & dining room you wish you had at home.
  • They can offer two different classes at a time (the kitchens are side-by-side & separated by a glass wall). The limit is 12 people per class.
  • The company is owned by a couple - he's French and she's an American who also hails from Chicago! They left their corporate jobs to start this adventure. Don't you just love the coincidences!
  • For the month of October, (its first month ever in existence) it's my understanding that they're going to hold the cooking classes no matter how many people sign up. Even if only 1 person registers for a class, the lesson goes on....that's a great deal if you're the attendee! Catch it while you can because the rules might change later or their popularity might take off...
  • Almost all lessons are given in french, but about once a week there's an class given in english. The website is only in french for the moment, but you'll find a little english.
So, why am I telling you all of this? Besides being food- & cooking-related, the real reason is because I'll be giving some lessons there this month! Yes, those English-based lessons would be the ones I'm giving.

My first class is scheduled for October 15th. It's a 2 hour session on Mediterranean tapas (warmed hummus with tomate confite, whipped feta cheese with roasted red peppers, coriander & spinach falafel with a harissa sauce, and chorizo empanadas). Another class is is set for October 21st - it's a 3 hour lesson on American cooking (think high-end hamburgers with foie gras, fries, and a caramelized apple cheesecake). A Halloween-themed cookie-making & cookie-decorating lesson is also scheduled on October 28th - labelled as patisserie pour enfants, but kids of all ages are welcome!

Anyone interested in taking cooking or pastry lessons in Paris should consider La Cuisine Paris....and please be sure to let them know I referred you there!


La Cuisine Paris
89, rue Saint Michel
75005 Paris