Monday, October 27, 2014

Cajun Chicken, Chèvre and Veggie Flute

Did you know there are laws in France that dictate where, when and how bread is made and sold?

I didn’t either, until one of my fellow ex-pat friends told me.

Apparently, the law was passed in 1993 and dictates:

“traditional baguettes have to be made on the premises they're sold and can only be made with four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. They can't be frozen at any stage or contain additives or preservatives.” (

Once I knew this, it made a lot more sense that the ‘baguettes’ in our local grocery store look, feel and taste slightly different than the ones from the bakery near our house. They’re not made at the store, they’re bigger and much crunchier and they (gasp!) may have been frozen at one point. For these reasons, they’re not actually baguettes, they’re called flutes.

I know – my mind was all quoi?! too.

But a wise playwright once wrote: That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Hence French bread, by any name, is still French bread and that means they make très beaux sandwiches.

Of course, it takes more than just beautiful bread to make a beautiful sandwich, hence the fun I had assembling the ingredients for a warm, juicy, spicy, strong, crunchy concoction that became the Cajun Chicken, Chèvre and Veggie Flute.

Beautiful fresh ingredients make a beautiful sandwich.
It requires:

-chicken breasts, one for as each sandwiches you make
-Flute (or other such loaf-y bread)
-red and green bell peppers
- Chèvre (which literally means goat, so basically goat cheese)
-greens, such as baby spinach, arugula, mizuna, lettuce, etc.
 -Cajun spice
A flute is a bigger, thicker French loaf. Perfect for this sandwich!
-Olive oil
-fresh ground pepper


1-Saute the chicken in olive oil over medium heat.
2-While chicken is cooking, chop up the peppers, slice the chèvre and cut the bread in half lengthwise.
3-Add some Cajun spice to the chicken in the last few minutes of cooking. To check for doneness, cut into the breasts at their thickest. The meat should be white, not pink.
4-Remove chicken from heat and slice lengthwise to thin the meat; it fits better in the loaf this way.
5-Place chicken on the bread, top with chèvre and veggies.
6-Assemble the sandwich and cut in half, if you like.
7-Mangez le sandwich!

Veggies and cheese ready for meat and bread.
What I really enjoy about this sandwich is the variety of flavours and textures: the crunchy, crusty bread, the warm, yet spicy chicken, the strong and smooth cheese and the fresh vegetables. You could also sauté the peppers for another flavour layer; I actually used leftover sautéed peppers and they tasted great.

A word about chèvre: I really love this cheese but it’s strong smelling and has a crumbly texture that’s not for everyone. It really pairs nicely with the Cajun spice on this sandwich but you could substitute it for a mellower cheese, like emmental, if you like.

The Cajun spice is a special blend we picked up at the local market and truth be told, I don’t actually know what’s in it, but the spice man said it’s great for poultry and gives it a Cajun/Louisiana style seasoning. He was right.

For a sandwich that covers all four major French food groups: bread, cheese, meat and veggies, give this one a try! It doesn’t matter if you use a baguette, a flute or a sub, just pack it full of fresh, tasty ingredients and it’s sure to please.

Cajun Chicken, Chèvre and Veggie Flute

Special thanks and credit for this sandwich go out to my fellow Canadian friend Kellen. It's great to have a new friend to talk sandwiches with! 

For more information about French bread, check out these great websites!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall evenings with Gouda Grilled Cheese and Spicy Carrot Soup

It’s fall everywhere and it’s a beautiful time of year!

I love finally getting to wear my favorite fall jacket: a dark green corduroy blazer, with matching green leather gloves. It’s time for sweaters, boots and scarves. Fall means mornings with a slight misty chill that turn into sunny afternoons that are still nice enough to be outside for a walk or a coffee on a patio. It’s beautiful colours and smells and it’s time for warm, gooey, spicy comfort food: grilled cheese and spicy carrot soup!

Sizzling and simmering! My Mom made the Bon Appetit needlepoint.
It's perfect for a French kitchen!

A simple soup and sandwich night has been long overdue, especially after such a crazy/busy summer of traveling, moving and living out of suitcases. But no more of that! I have my own kitchen again and all the knives, gadgets and appliances I’ve missed since they were packed up and shipped out, so the time for a lovely comfort meal is here!

I could have gone the easy route with regular grilled cheese and tomato soup and although it’s tasty, we've been there, done that. I like this spicy soup as a beautiful and unique alternative to tomato soup, since it’s still fairly simple, but that also has a touch of the new and blog-worthy. A distinct soup needs a distinct sandwich, so this particular grilled cheese uses special Gouda seasoned with cumin. This soup and sandwich meal may be comfort food, but it’s definitely not ordinary.
Gorgeous fall-colored ingredients.

To make Spicy Carrot Soup, you will need: 
1 kg of carrots, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 knob of ginger, around the size of your thumb, peeled and chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, either minced or chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups of vegetable broth or the equivalent in instant vegetable stock
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp* red pepper paste, found with Cajun/Creole ingredients (It won’t look like much, but trust me – it’s enough! You can add more but only if you want it really, really spicy! You can substitute the paste for red pepper flakes)

Blender method is worth a try.
1-In your soup pot, sauté the ginger, garlic and red pepper paste/flakes in the olive oil for a few minutes.
2-Add the carrots and red pepper and keep sautéing, until everything is slightly softened.
3-Add the broth.
4-Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer on low for around 20 minutes.
5-Carefully scoop out small portions to puree in a blender until the whole soup is pureed. Let simmer on low while you make the sandwiches.
6-Enjoy with a side of sandwich!

To make the Gouda Grilled Cheese, you will need:
-sliced sandwich bread, in this instance, I used a Boule, a type of French bread that’s round, like a ‘boule’
-slices of cumin-seasoned Gouda

Bread, Gouda and Butter.

1-While the soup is simmering, heat some butter in your skillet and assemble the sandwiches.
2-Keep the heat on low and press the sandwiches into the skillet with your spatula.
3-Carefully flip each sandwich until the bread is grilled golden.
4-Remove from heat, slice and enjoy with a side of soup!

Zing! This is not a bland vegetable soup!

Its bright orange color might seem mellow and soothing but look out – the combination of ginger and red pepper paste makes this soup nice, hot and spicy! As I mentioned before, be careful with your quantities, unless of course, you like it that hot. A generous dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt also adds a cooling sensation, without taking away from the overall taste. All spiciness aside, this is one of my favorite soups because it’s so flavorful and simple to make. Plus, it’s ridiculously healthy! This was the first time I used the blender method, as opposed to an immersion blender, and although slightly less convenient, it worked out just fine.  

As for the sandwich, I really liked the cumin in the Gouda and I’m glad I tried it for a new twist on an old classic. It adds a rustic, slightly smoky flavor to the sandwich. It was a nice, relaxed touch to a spicy and satisfying fall meal.

Gouda Grilled Cheese and Spicy Carrot Soup

For a meal that’s as healthy as it is hearty and warm, it’s hard to beat the soup and sandwich combo. Play with the flavor combinations to find one that’s comfort food without being boring. Then enjoy those chilly fall nights, listening to the wind while you’re curled up with your hot bowl of soup and gooey grilled cheese sandwich.

Bon appétit!