Over the past few years, Paris has seen new types of food events appear: gallery openings in which the catered buffet matches the exhibition; food and wine tastings in unusual locations (barges, museums, antique butcher shops); renowned chefs cooking on the street or from market stalls and offering their food for free; edible sculptures that disappear into the viewers’ stomachs and have to be built afresh the next day. These initiatives stem from a desire to look at food in a playful way and are enthusiastically received by the public.
I’ve had the opportunity to take part in a few such events, including one in a famous Parisian department store, where my partner Marion Chatelain and I set up a series of tastings that we called Bar à Veloutés (“velouté” means “velvety soup”). From this bar we served a colorful variety of sweet or savory soups in small shot glasses, with a choice of toppings and dippers, so people could experiment with flavor and texture pairings.
These tastings involve more planning and logistics than one might think, but they are fun and gratifying. You get to see the tasters’ reactions up close, and receive instant feedback on your ideas; most visitors are intrigued and appreciative (apart from a few graceless characters, but these are entertaining, too), and the food always disappears in no time, as free food will.
Among the edible stirrers we created for the Bar à Veloutés were these two-bite hazelnut thyme matchsticks, thin and crumbly and racy in flavor. I was so taken with them that they were soon added to my repertoire as an oft-prepared and much loved aperitif nibble.–Clotilde Dusoulier
Hazelnut Thyme Matchsticks Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 1 H, 30 M
- Makes about 80 crackers
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan, about 1 1/2 ounces
- 3/4 cup shelled hazelnuts (skin on, for a prettier color effect), very finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme or 4 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel or kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk, for glazing
- 1. In a large mixing bowl, rub the flour and butter together until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the cheese, hazelnuts, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Blend well. Add the egg and blend it in with a fork. Once the egg is absorbed, knead the dough lightly until it comes together and forms a ball. It should be smooth enough to be rolled out: if it is too dry, add a little cold water, teaspoon by teaspoon, until it reaches the desired consistency.
- 2. Divide the dough into two balls, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a day. (If you refrigerate it for more than 2 hours, remove it from the fridge about 15 minutes before you use it, or it will be too hard to work with.)
- 3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- 4. Remove one ball of dough from the fridge. Roll it out thinly on a well-floured surface to form a rectangle approximately 6 by 8 inches and 1/6 inch thick. Beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon fresh water in a small bowl. Brush this mixture lightly over the rectangle of dough and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- 5. Turn the dough so the longest edge faces you. Use a sharp knife to divide it into vertical strips about 1/4 inch wide. Cut the rectangle in half horizontally so each matchstick is 3 inches long. Transfer the matchsticks onto the prepared sheet, leaving 1/2 inch of space between them. Repeat with the second ball of dough.
- 6. Bake the hazelnut thyme matchsticks for 13 to 16 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. They will keep for a week in an airtight container at room temperature.
- For a quicker preparation, shape the dough into two logs (about 1 inch in diameter), put in the freezer for 15 minutes, and slice thinly to form round crackers.
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Hazelnut Thyme Matchsticks Recipe © 2007 Clotilde Dusoulier. Photo © 2007 Clotilde Dusoulier. All rights reserved.