I just rediscovered a great French cheese called “Valençay” when I when to my favorite cheese store in Bordeaux yesterday.
It is goat cheese from the middle part of France, the Berry region. It is shaped to resemble the church of the village it’s from “Levroux”.
It is a summer cheese and should be savored from March to August…
Here are a few things I fell in love with this past week:
When I was working in the kitchen at The Ritz-Carlton in Chicago, a long long time ago, the Executive Chef Pascal Vigneau had me clean fresh morels for several hours one day. The morels were used to create wonderful sauces, usually served over beef…
As a rule, I never use frozen foods. I will make an exception here as fresh morels are not available in the winter and this is a winter dish/sauce.
Do be careful as raw morels can make you sick. They need to be fully cooked before you serve them.
- 2 fists full of morels (fresh is better – Frozen is OK if they come from France or Italy)
- 2 big shallots
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 glass port wine
- 1/2 glass veal or chicken stock
- 1 glass heavy cream
- Canola oil
- Bow tie pasta
- Brown chopped shallots and morels is oil
- Add port
- Add stock
- Add cream, salt, pepper and chives
- Reduce sauce
- Serve over red meat, veal or poultry with bow tie pasta
Molière (1622 – 1673) was our French Shakespeare. One of my favorite quotes of his comes from a play called “L’avare” (the avaricious man or the cheap man).
The main character who hates to see money wasted, says that the purpose of eating should be survival and not the purpose of life to eat (gluttony) “man should eat to live and not live to eat”. I don’t even know if that makes any sense in English. If it kind of does, please read on…
So basically, Molière’s lead character in the play only sees food as a way for the body to survive and nothing more.
I think (and you do too) that food is much more than that. Food nourishes the soul and preparing food elevates the mind.
We need to look at the way we prepare, taste and offer food, the whole process, as a reflexion of our own personal way of looking at life, our personal philosophy.
I know that the way I plan, prepare and give dinner parties, even the way I participate in them will be my legacy. Because you see, I for one, live to eat!
France is covered in snow. I cannot tell you how beautiful the landscape was this morning in Pomerol. The cellars are heated to keep the wine from going bad and the staff from walking off the job :0)
Roties aillées are like our Garlic Bread.
- Toast French baguette (does not have to be fresh. One day old is OK) or slices of country french bread (the kind with big holes in it – “pain de campagne”)
- Rub fresh garlic all over
- Spread the juice from your roast over it (beef roast, chicken, turkey…) This should be done in each guest’s plate at the last minute so the rotie is soft in the middle but remains crunchy outside. This does not work with gravy. It is best with roast juice which is mostly oil and stock.
I remember a lady on the Ellen Degeneres show who wrote a book on how to put together a stress free cocktail/dinner party. Her idea was to order the food and then transform it so she could save time and it would look like she had prepared everything herself. She would for instance order pizza and use cooky cutters to make small round pies…
This was so sad to me. The fact that someone couldn’t be bothered with cooking for her own guests.
She justified her position/concept by reminding us how busy we all are blah, blah, blah…
I truly believe that, when hosting a cocktail or dinner party (or brunch for that matter), the effort we put into it is a big part of the way our guests will remember it and feel about it. “Oh hello you guys. Look at all the little pizzas I made out of the big one I ordered from Domino’s”. PATHETIC!
If people don’t have the heart or can’t make the time to prepare proper parties for their friends, they should avoid playing host altogether. There are many ways to take stress out of party planning. If you are enable to cook for whatever reason, hire a Chef or a caterer, but don’t pretend.
SHORT CUTS WILL NEVER MAKE ONE SHINE AS A HOST (or as anything)!
FABULOUS TAKES EFFORT!!!
This is my favorite dish! It comes before lobster, caviar and everything else.
But please note that there is an absolute must for this dish to be as delicious as it should be: the quality of your chicken. It must be free range and corn-fed!
An easy way to know if a chicken is worthy of your table is this: the meat should be brown once cooked and it must stick to the bone.
Battery chicken might be OK for chicken fingers, but it is NOT OK for a proper chicken dish. Just ask a real New-Orleanian if he would ever dream of using battery chicken for a good deep-fried chicken dish…
- One chicken
- Green olives (seedless – enough to fill your chicken’s behind – usually 1/2 pound – I would have said 3 fists but…). Also note that your olives should have a strong brine/pickle taste. Sometimes in the US, preserved olives are kept in plain water and are completely tasteless.
- Thyme, New Orleans Bay Leaves and Rosemary
- 4 large garlic cloves
- Salt and pepper
- Canola oil
- Put all the ingredients in layers inside chicken
- Add lots of oil inside and on top
- In the oven for 45mn + 20mn at 230C° (450°F)
- Take olives and herbs out 20mn before the end so they can cook in the juice and absorb some of it
- Serve with garlic bread and fried or mashed potatoes
When it comes to brands, I prefer vintage. There are at least 4 good reasons to do so:
- No one will have the same objects as you
- The object has a priceless history/identity
- Furniture, trunks, silver… will show a beautiful patina it would take you years of TLC to recreate on a new object
- You won’t be called a “nouveau riche” behind your back