There’s a little gem in Philadelphia called Café Lutecia. It’s located in Fitler Square, which is kind of like the Upper East Side of Manhattan (in my opinion at least). Once we come into an extra $500,000 we will definitely be buying a house in this part of the city. I discovered this little Parisian café a couple of years ago when Ryan and I moved in together.
Since then, it has become a weekend ritual. Owned by a lovely French couple, Café Lutecia simmers the best soup in the city, hearty and elegant quiches, and a great variety of cold and/or toasted baguette sandwiches, including a Croque Monsieur – the famous French “ham and cheese” sandwich. You can usually find us there eating soup – whether its 90 degrees or 30 degrees – as early as 10 a.m. on Saturdays because we simply can’t wait any longer than that.
This weekend, I had quite possibly the most delicious bowl of soup of my life. If you recall, I shared a recipe for lentil soup in my last post (the one that caused the bowl licking). Let’s just say if I wasn’t in public I would have absolutely licked this bowl clean. It was a Green Lentil Curry Soup with Coconut Milk. A perfect blend of spicy and sweet. Out of this world! It is my mission to get my hands on this recipe – so keep reading.
In lieu of this recipe, I’d like to share two of my favorite non-soup dishes at Café Lutecia – a goat cheese, spinach quiche and the Parisian sandwich. I’ve duplicated these to the best of my ability. You’ll find that these are perfect for brunch, a light dinner, and any occasion you want to create a little hint of the City of Lights in the comfort of your own home. Or of course you can stop by 23rd and Lombard and do your own taste testing. We’ll be at the corner table…
Goat Cheese & Spinach Quiche
Food and Wine Magazine
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons ice water
- 1 pound spinach, large stems discarded, leaves rinsed but not dried
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup milk (I use soy)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2-pound goat cheese log, cut into seven 1/3-inch rounds
MAKE THE PASTRY: In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Lightly beat the egg with the water and sprinkle over the flour mixture. Stir with a fork to lightly blend, then squeeze gently until a dough forms. Pat into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 14-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Fit the round into a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and trim the overhang. Refrigerate the shell for at least 20 minutes. Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or rice. Bake until the pastry is firm, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake for about 10 minutes longer, or until golden brown. Transfer the shell to a rack to cool.
MAKE THE FILLING: Heat a large skillet. Add a large handful of the spinach and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until wilted. Transfer to a colander set over a bowl. Repeat until all of the spinach has been cooked; let cool. Squeeze the spinach dry and coarsely chop it. Toss the spinach with the garlic and spread it in the cooled pastry shell. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk with the cream, eggs, egg yolks, salt and pepper. Arrange the goat cheese rounds on the spinach. Pour the custard into the shell and bake for about 40 minutes, or until just set. Transfer the quiche to a rack to cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve.
Parisian Baguette Sandwich
• Baguette, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Herbs de Provence, Swiss chese, Bechamel sauce
Slice baguette. Assemble broccoli, mushrooms, and swiss cheese. Season with herbs de provence (to your liking) and top with béchamel sauce. Toast in oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Bechamel sauce is a key ingredient in the famous Croque Monsieur sandwich – a Paris staple. You can literally find it on every menu – and in almost every bakery – in Paris. Here is an easy recipe for béchamel courtesy of Mario Batali.
• 5 tablespoons butter
• 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 4 cups milk
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.