Dinner and a Movie: Midnight in Paris

We are introducing a new series to the repertoire called Dinner and a Movie. We thought it would be fun to pick a movie and develop recipes for a dinner inspired by the chosen film.

For our first feature we chose Midnight in Paris, because what food lover doesn't have a special place in their heart for Paris and French food? I collaborated with my dear friend and talented chef Julie from Kitchen Culinaire on this one. Julie's culinary roots are strongly based in the French culinary tradition and she has spent a lot of time in France recently, specifically Paris, where she has offered amazing culinary tours.

Julie was the brains behind this operation and developed three simple, yet very delicious recipes perfect for a late night dinner and movie for two. I had the pleasure of photographing the food and sampling along the way. We hope you enjoy.

Bon appetit!

Endive Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts and a Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette
(serves 2)

This is a simple, yet flavourful salad. Crunchy and slightly bitter, Belgian endive is the perfect foil for the tangy, tart mustard vinaigrette and earthy hazelnuts. The added bonus is that this salad can be dressed up to an hour ahead of time while preparing the rest of the meal. Red, or the more readily available yellow endive work equally well in this salad.

4 to 6 medium heads of red or yellow Belgian endive
1 tablespoon sherry or champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped chives

 Trim off the core of each head of endive and separate out the leaves continuing to cut the core to facilitate leaf separation. Set endive leaves aside in a medium bowl.

In a separate medium bowl whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and grape seed oil to make an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the endive spears with the vinaigrette and season with a bit more salt and pepper.

Stack the endive spears on a platter or on two serving plates and sprinkle the toasted hazelnuts and the chives over the top.

Croque Madame with Asparagus and Prosciutto
(serves 2)

The beloved French classic sandwich is perfect for a romantic dinner for two. For our version we used silky slices of prosciutto crudo layered inside the sandwich and draped over the top and some grilled asparagus. Champagne optional, but highly encouraged and recommended.

 For the béchamel sauce:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
fine-grain sea salt 
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

For the sandwiches:

4 slices of country style bread
8 slices of prosciutto crudo or other thinly sliced, cooked ham
6-8 spears of asparagus, trimmed, grilled or blanched until just tender
3/4 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
2 large eggs, fried, sunny side up
fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 C).

To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until barely brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Gradually add the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and has the consistency of a thick pudding and readily sticks to the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat and season with salt. Allow to cool slightly and stir in the grainy mustard.

Divide the mixture between the 4 slices of bread and spread the béchamel evenly to the edges of each slice. Place two slices of prepared bread on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Lay a slice of the prosciutto on each of the pieces of bread and top with 2 tablespoons of the Gruyère cheese. Place the remaining 2 béchamel-coated slices of bread on top of the Gruyère, with the béchamel facing up. Top the sandwiches with the remaining Gruyère and bake the sandwiches in the preheated oven until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes.

Once the sandwiches are nearly done, fry the eggs sunny side up.

Remove the sandwiches from the oven and place them on warmed dinner plates. Place 3 or 4 spears of grilled asparagus on top of the melted cheese and top with a fried egg. Drape the remaining pieces of prosciutto over the top or attractively alongside the egg. Season with a sprinkle of salt and a grind or 2 of pepper.

Serve hot.

Bay Leaf Crème Brûlée
(Serves 4, because who doesn't want leftover Crème Brûlée)

 Many people equate bay leaves only with savoury dishes like stocks and stews but historically laurus nobilis was used in many sweet custards and puddings. It adds an herbal, ethereal, almost nutmeg-like note that perfectly compliments the vanilla in the custard and the crunchy, caramelized topping.

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 fresh bay laurel leaves
1/2 of a vanilla bean
2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar, plus an additional 2-4 tablespoons for the brûlée top
a pinch of salt

Pour the milk and the cream into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, coarsely tear the fresh bay leaves into pieces and add to the milk and cream mixture. Split the vanilla pod, scrape out the pulp and add both the pulp and the pod to the milk mixture and stir to combine. Allow to steep for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (160 C).

Using a whisk beat the eggs, egg yolks, 6 tablespoons of sugar and the pinch of salt in a medium bowl until the sugar begins to dissolve and the mixture begins to lighten in colour. Whisk in the steeped milk mixture until well combined and then strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Discard the bay leaves and vanilla pod.

Ladle the custard into four, six ounce (180 ml) ramekins and set them in a shallow baking pan that has been filled with one inch (2.5 cm) of hot water. Carefully place the pan in the preheated oven on the centre rack and cook the custards until they are just set, about 40 minutes. 

Remove from the water bath and chill in the refrigerator until the custards are set, at least 2 hours or overnight.

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on top of each ramekin and using a blowtorch, heat the sugar until it caramelizes evenly. Allow to sit at room temperature for a couple of minutes until the caramelized sugar hardens. 

Recipes: Julie Marr
Words and Images: Melissa Quantz