Thursday, January 30, 2014

Simple Sunday Lunch

Our lovely French friends, Les Bons Amis, came for lunch last Sunday. We always have a wonderful time with them, speaking Franglish that gets louder and louder and louder...

When we first moved here, I would fret. I worried over the menu, what to cook for a bona fide French couple who love to entertain and always pull off a long Sunday lunch with aplomb. The first time we had them over, about three years ago now!, I made hamburgers. It was a very messy, very American affair with too many sides and not enough flatware for a French family. They really do not eat things with their hands unless they're children or very relaxed and it's a galette or croissant or something stuck with a bamboo skewer for an apéro dinatoire. They certainly would never eat a big old thick and juicy American hamburger with gooey cheese with anything other than a fork and knife. And even then, it wouldn't be pretty. Of course, at McDo, more and more French will pick up a burger and go to town; but someone's house for Sunday lunch is NOT the same as McDo. (Shhh, they love McDonald's.)
Another time, I felt compelled to share something from home so I made cheese enchiladas from The Homesick Texan cookbook. (Dang, they're good!) They liked it, but its (mild) spiciness was far different from the cheese dishes they're used to like raclette, aligot, and tartiflette.

I've gotten the hang of it now though. Last week I crafted a menu that pleased both me and my French friends very much. I followed the rules of nibbly apéro, simple starter, main with a starch and one green side, salad, cheese, and then dessert. Of course there was champagne for the apéro, white wine with the starter, red with the main and then coffee after dessert.

We talked so long and the children played so well that we indulged in a second dessert of the seasonal galette des rois or king's cake. The traditional galette is a flaky pastry concoction filled with almond paste and baked until golden and puffed. The baker inserts a small figurine called a fève into the uncooked cake and the person that gets it (hopefully without biting into porcelain or plastic) is the king or queen. He or she gets to wear the golden paper crown that comes with every galette des rois around. The grocery store has a section during this season devoted entirely to galette. You can buy them in various forms: filled with apples, made with brioche dough instead of puff pastry, dotted with crystallized toothsome bits of sugar, studded with candied fruit, or filled with the delicious frangipane or almond paste. They are all delicious. I know this because this January we've tried one of each. For our Sunday lunch, we bought one from our favorite bakery along with four of their delicious and perfectly crusty, doughy baguettes called Petrisane. The Middlest's best friend, Petit Ami, found the fève and proudly donned the golden paper crown, proclaiming Ma Fille to be his queen.
{Galette des Rois, source}

If you'd like to have a nice, long Sunday lunch, you can't go wrong with this menu. Try it out on your friends, French or not, and enjoy the compliments. It should be duly noted that Ma Fille made the Raspberry Mousse entirely on her own and it was so delicious that Mme. Bonne Amie requested the recette.

Simple Sunday Lunch Menu, January

Apéro of crispy potato chips, dried fruit, and nuts, accompanied with proper fizzy Champagne
White Bean and Rosemary Soup
Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Potato Gratin and French Green Bean Salad
Green Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
Three Cheeses: One each of hard, soft, spiced or Bleu
Raspberry Mousse with Whipped Cream
Wait, talk, laugh, repeat....
Galette des Rois

White Bean and Rosemary Soup (Barefoot Contessa)
Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin (Barefoot Contessa)
French Green Bean Salad (Jamie Oliver)
Raspberry Mousse, adapted from Blackberry Mousse from Jamie Oliver January issue

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tomber dans les Pommes

Tomber dans les pommes. It's a playful expression that brings to mind young blonde maidens and curly-headed breeches-wearing shepherds laughing and blushing under apple trees in a hillside orchard, tumbling, tumbling. Falling into the apples.

I learned this expression this week, and from Ma Fille. We were at the doctor's office and this was her way of explaining that when she stood up that morning she nearly fainted. 'Je suis presque tombée dans les pommes.' Presque. Also one of my favorite words.

All of this falling into apples and mentally cavorting in orchards was the result of one Mademoiselle Gripette. Our doctor described it as such, nothing more than la gripette, just a small flu, not to worry. Unfortunately, the mademoiselle made way for her bitchy older sister, La Grippe, and she found an in, just the tiniest twinkling of weakness in me, brought on, no doubt, by dancing until dawn in Aix-en-Provence the Saturday before. Naturally, this horrible thing is feminine, as are most destructive, chaotic, bring-you-to-your-knees words in French.
And so, Ma Fille and I spent the week together, holding hands through the tempête (f.), dozing and trying to loosen her grip.

As I began to emerge from the aniseed-flavored medicine haze (all the medicine tastes like Pastis, why?) I craved purification, a detox. Something to flush it all away so I could face life anew, blinking, fresh from the cave. Thankfully, I didn't have to look far to find a recipe for detox tea last night that seems to be the perfect flu and its medicine hangover buster. And even better, (because there was no way I would have been able to  to ask P to go to the store for cloves at 10pm) everything I needed was in the pantry: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cayenne, turmeric, honey and lemon juice. It's not actual tea, more of what the French like to call a tisane. They drink tisanes after meals, when they feel ill, have overeaten, need to sleep, to fight a bloated feeling, have tired ankles or generally need a little bien-être. I'm all for bien-être. Bien-être, all around!

Of course you don't have to be wrestling with a virale (f.) sorcière (f.) to enjoy it. It would be great on any cold weather day.

Flu Detox Tea (Thanks for the recette Tara)

The recipe is at the link above, but as usual, I didn't get all follow-y, rather simply boiled the kettle, squeezed in some lemon, shook in the spices, (use the cayenne, it is a miracle) and then spooned in a bit of honey from friendly French bees (f.). That's something.

{that number may explain why dancing til dawn let me down}

Here's very sincerely hoping that you and yours remain well over this winter season. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bonne Année

2014 has a nice ring to it.

I have to say that there was something not so bloggy about the last year, the one that's over, the one that has been unrung and ended with a 13. I did like it though. I got a lot done. But it sort of flew by in a way that, quite frankly, makes me a little nervous. My goal is to hang on tight to this one and ride it for all it's worth like the cowboys from my East Texas hometown. But, I digress.

One of the things that kept me away from blogging life was that (insert drum roll like in Christmas Vacation when Clark tries to plug in all his twinkly lights) I wrote a book. A manuscript. Women's Fiction novel. Whatever you'd like to call it, feel free. I spent the better part of the year wrapped up in someone else's life. Making new friends (in my mind...) and orchestrating delicious meals, complicated scenarios, make-out sessions and difficult decisions. It was fun. And a lot less boring and lonely than just staying put in the real world all the time.

I have it spit-shined and polished and it has been shared with friends and strangers alike. I have joyfully ridden the finding a literary agent roller coaster. I'm still on it and am very grateful to have a few lovely agents reading it in full now. It is incredible to know that my imaginings, painstakingly strung together words, and wake-me-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night ideas are being decided upon somewhere over there in North America. Thrilling! But, while I wait patiently for the feedback and possibilities of grand and wonderful opportunities, I have to keep on going. Eating more French food, feeding my family with flights of fancy combinations, learning to speak and understand the most beautiful language of all, and well, writing another book.

I've started putting new words together today. If you'll allow me, I will update weekly on my progress. But I will also share some more recipes, a few stories of family travel, maybe a thing or two about the beautiful snow-nosed Clementine, and any inappropriate things I inadvertently say to all of the French people around me.

Welcome 2014, come this way. I'm here with open arms.

Happy New Year!

Aidan xo