My French Heaven

FOOD, PHOTOGRAPHY & JOIE DE VIVRE IN BORDEAUX, FRANCE

Category: Art de vivre & Design

Of eggs, black truffles and my family tree…

Eggs with truffles

It seems that with every new recipe, I introduce yet another one of my grandmothers; and so today, I want to dedicate this post to my great-great-grandmother Petronille. She was born in our family farm in Dordogne in 1865. Funny to think that we had had the farm for 2 centuries already when she was born. Petronille and her husband (with her in the photo) had a few cows as well as sheep. The farm was (still is) surrounded by deep woods in which truffles grew below the centennial oaks and the chestnut trees. I don’t know if Petronille used a hog or a dog to find her truffles, that part of the story has been lost, but she was famous for making all sorts of fantastic truffle dishes. My great-grandfather whom I had the chance to know well (he passed when I was 10 at the age of 98), would tell wonderful tales of Petronille’s soft-boiled eggs with truffles. We called my great-grandfather “Papy”. He’s the man with the white hair and the beret in the photo. With him are my great-grandmother Manée who you already know and my grandmother on the right who passed 4 years ago at the tender age of 101…

Image 30-07-2014 à 17.24Image 30-07-2014 à 17.3625072014-H92A4842Image 30-07-2014 à 17.27100ans002_2 - Version 2Image 30-07-2014 à 17.25 (1)100ans052_2

Pierre (my cheesemonger) and I were talking about truffles the other day. I was telling him that I wish I had access to fresh truffles year round. Indeed, truffles are harvested in December, January and February. After that, you can only get them in jars. They taste very good, but it is nothing like the fresh stuff. Pierre told me that he keeps a few for himself  every year and freezes them. When he needs some for pasta or eggs or even a home-made paté, he takes one of them out, shaves what he needs off of the mushroom and places it back in the freezer. That’s what I’ll do next year! Pierre will save me some.

ryjtyj24022005-P1030152

I think this is my favorite way to enjoy eggs: soft-boiled. I don’t always add truffles (I don’t have that kind of money), but once in a while, I treat myself. It reminds me of my roots and of our farm in the woods…

Wherever she is, Petronille is smiling down on me. I am certain of it!

Note: I put my eggs in cold water and set the stove on high heat. 5 minutes and they’re out. I mostly use my induction stove though, which brings water to a boil quite fast. Cooking time depends on so many variables. Only you know your stove well enough…

Note: You don’t need to put a lot of truffle. They are VERY fragrant.

Note: You can put a few truffles (when they are fresh) in your egg basket. Their fragrance is so strong that your egg will pick up the taste of them…

25072014-H92A4830

Of friendship and things that are colorful and bright and free

Bastille day

I started this post thinking I’d just share a few pictures of my friend’s Jurina’s 40th birthday that we celebrated this past July 14th weekend. I then thought of what Jurina means to me as a friend and as a positive influence in my life and ended up associating her beautiful free spirit to the revolution and its symbols. Have you ever heard of Marianne for instance?

Révolution-Française

While Uncle Sam represents the American government, Marianne is the symbol of france as our homeland or mother land. It is the symbol of France itself and its motto since the revolution: Liberté, égalité, fraternité which means Freedom, equality, fraternity. The name Marianne was used for a number of reasons:

  1. Marie and Anne were the two most common names for girls in the French countryside of the 18th century. The common peasants were at the origin of the revolutionary movement and the largest cast in France.
  2. A song was published just days after the Bastille was taken. It was very popular and was called The Healing of Marianne
  3. In the play “l’Avare” written by Molière (the French version of Shakespeare) more than a century before the revolution, one of the main characters was called Marianne. She represented freedom of choice against tradition and oppression

So Marianne became the symbol of freedom and of the new France the people had fought for. Until the Euro became our currency, we used “Francs”. Marianne was on every coin. She still is on very stamp we use. Take that Elizabeth Windsor :0) Just kidding, you know how much I love the queen. I wish we had one to be honest. Any half blood aristocrat would be better than this buffoon we call our president… (When I say our President, I mean THEIR president. Heaven knows I didn’t vote for that fill in the blank)

 

So here is to freedom and life and people who keep fighting for them. Here is to the glorious Jurina and the light she shines upon us all. Here is to loud fireworks and food and wine and joie de vivre…

Bastille day at Jurina & Jame'syjetyjejetjBastille day at Jurina & Jame'sH92A4382H92A4200_SnapseedteyjetjyrkryukH92A4689Bastille day at Jurina & Jame'sH92A4113

Note:The toreador is Jame, Jurina’s boyfriend. You guys already know Ségolene and the fat guy holding her in his arms ;0)

Of July in Cap Ferret and lick your fingers delicious flambées prawns

Shrimp - Cap Ferret

Each year in July, every individual cell of our large clan rents a house in Cap Ferret. Except me of course because I’m so busy (and so damn poor). So you can imagine how special I feel when my friends or my nephews invite me over for a day at the beach. I am not too excited about the beach part (never could stand it); rather, I am out of my mind excited about seeing the kids… My nephews and grand-nephews are the children I will never have. I have 19 of them and I can honestly say that they are the only good reason I have to keep on keeping on as they say…

Shrimp - Cap FerretShrimp - Cap FerretShrimp - Cap FerretShrimp - Cap Ferret

Of course they all know how important good food (and seafood in particular) is to me. So we make it a point to always cook something special when I’m with them. Something light and tasty and lick your fingers delicious… One dish everybody loves to eat on a hot summer day by the pool is grilled or seared prawns flambées with Ricard or Pastis or even Jack Daniels. So I will be driving around Cap Ferret with several bottles of brandy in my car this month :0)

Shrimp - Cap FerretRicardShrimp - Cap Ferret

Every Mediterranean country has its own anise based alcoholic beverage. In Greece it’s Uzo, in France it’s Ricard. We call this type of drink “anisette”… It is very popular everywhere in France, but it is an absolute star in Provence! It is also perfect to flambé seafood. You can find it almost anywhere in the world. You can also look for “Pastis”. I modified my recipe for the marinade recently. Here is the new version:

  1. Marinate prawns in olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zests, salt and black pepper for at least 2 hours.
  2. Grill on a cast iron plate or plancha (2 to 3 minutes on each side) or on the BBQ.
  3. Flambé with Ricard and serve with the left over marinade on the side. You can spread it on toast or put it in your rice or your pasta…

Note: if you BBQ the shrimp, you will obviously need to transfer them into a pan in order to flamber them. Just make sure the pan is hot enough for the alcohol to catch on fire.

Note: Obviously, we don’t have huge prawns like these in France. They come from Madagascar (the best ones do). I will have to post again soon on my next Cap Ferret trips and the local specialties we’ll cook. Oysters and turbot anyone?! :0)

Shrimp - Cap FerretShrimp - Cap FerretShrimp - Cap Ferret

3 simple steps a great host should always follow

IMG_1760

I think the secret to being a great host is quite simple. One principe; three easy steps. Maya Angelou got the principle down for us: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Image 06-01-13 à 03.07

That’s really all there is to it. If you want people to remember a party you hosted, whether it’s a simple gathering in the yard or an elaborate wedding at the Ritz, you have to find ways to make them feel the love ;0) Once you own that principle, you just have to follow the 3 steps I learned from my time working at the Ritz. I have always treated (I think) everyone like this; It is in my nature. But the sequence is important for us all to remember. It takes a little extra effort sometimes just to stay on top of one’s game ;0) Here are the steps:

  1. Provide a warm and sincere welcome: Always welcome people yourself. If the queen of England can do it, so can we all. Use people’s names too. Introduce them to someone you know they’ll have fun talking to, and offer them a drink right away.
  2. Anticipate individual needs: Use what you know about each guest and their preferences. If you don’t know enough about them, ask a person who is close to them. Your goal is to create positive surprise. Admins, life partners, family, friends are ideal CIs! Facebook is a personal favorite of mine! When my now dear friend Melanie and I first met, she was coming to spend two weeks with me in Saint-Emilion. Although she was staying in a very high end hotel, all hotel rooms tend to be quite impersonal. Since I knew how much she loved her little dog Annie, I printed and framed a picture of Annie from an e-mail addressed to me months before. I placed it on her night stand in her hotel room. Of course Melanie loved it. That made her feel more than welcome and I think quite special indeed. She felt and understood right from the beginning how much her wellbeing mattered to me. Of course, the very least we can do, in terms of anticipating needs, is to know what the person is allergic to. I am not just talking about food allergies; Magie may very well be allergic to John and his political views. One should never talk about politics or religion at a dinner party, but you never know. Sitting is always important!
  3. Give a fond farewell: This is where people can feel how genuine your friendship/respect is towards them. This is how people can really tell if you’re all for show or someone who truly cares about them. I was graciously invited to a dinner party last Thursday. It was my nephew Geoffrey’s best friend’s birthday party. Geoffrey now lives almost three hours away from Bordeaux, but of course he drove down to surprise Nicolas. There were many guests present that evening. All of them extremely close to Geoffrey. So of course I was able to spend a few minutes catching up with him, after months apart, but I had to share him with all the other guests. The party went on and it was quite a success. As I was leaving around 1am, I said goodby to everyone. Catherine (we call her bangs because her hairdo resembles one you’d see on a Playmobil action figure), the gracious hostess, escorted me to the door and I was on my way. After just a few steps on the sidewalk outside their home, I heard the door open again and a voice: “Steph, let me walk you to your car. I didn’t get to spend any real time with you!” Yes, it was Geoffrey. He wanted to get at least two minutes of real time together. That small gesture made me feel so damn special!

IMG_7683 _SnapseeddtyjdIMG_5102IMG_5078 _SnapseedIMG_3902 _SnapseedIMG_4975 _SnapseedImage 03-07-2014 à 15.38

Whether I am with my friends or with guests I have never met before, making people feel important and heard and seen is what gives me joy. That’s probably why several of my guests have become life long friends… A good indication that what I do is what I am I guess…

And the beauty of it is that it works quite well the other way around too: it is Jurina’s 40th birthday on Saturday. I can’t stand Jurina. Jurina is allergic to nuts.  Guess what I’ll be serving :0)

Just kidding, I love my beautiful Jurina. She’s the lady with the checkers pants holding her wine glass in the air. Geoffrey is the guy above, with the big stupid hair :0)

IMG_4957 _SnapseedImage 06-01-13 à 02.49 _SnapseedIMG_9616 _SnapseedImage 06-01-13 à 02.18IMG_3596 _Snapseed

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,146 other followers