My French Heaven

AUTHENTIC MOMENTS & JOIE DE VIVRE

Category: Recipes

The awesome power of greed and gluttony… and story telling

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It’s quite simple really, if you want the people you love to get together (come together), all you have to do is promise to give away presents and really good food. Loads of it. An orgy of food! You can cut through people’s ego and pride quite easily – “Oh, I don’t know if we can make it this year. We owe money to aunt Selma you know and we don’t get along with… – by adding a good old tale or story to the mix:

Example 1: Come to dinner on Saturday. We’ll have a tree and presents for everyone + lots of alcohol + it’s baby Jesus birthday. You can’t miss it!

Example 2: I know we’ve been fighting a lot lately (your new wife being such a gold digger and all), but come to dinner on Saturday. We’ll have turkey and pie and mashed potatoes + a game on TV + we have to give thanks for all those nice native Americans giving us food and shelter when we needed it

Example 3: Let’s have brunch on Monday for a change. Bring the kids. There’s loads of chocolate all over the garden + we have to celebrate the fact that Jesus did indeed come back and that Moses helped the Jewish people escape Egypt

So yes, as I said, the recipe is simple: if you want the people you love to get together despite all the traditional family fudes and usual bullshit, all you have to do is promise loads of free food and presents + nice story telling to create the opportunity. If that doesn’t work, say y’all have to do it for the kids and baby Jesus. Or better yet for grandma who may not be here next year to enjoy it… I think I should have called this post “The awesome power of guilt”…

It’s a little late to post about this, but we had quite a special Easter weekend this year. A marathon really. I had my dear friend Quitterie, her husband and two kids at my house on Saturday. We did the egg hunt in the garden and then took the kids to the ancient windmills on the hill. They loved it! I spent Sunday with some of my nephews in Poitiers and Monday was at my parents’ with another bunch of nephews. Witnessing the egg hunt never gets old…

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For those who are still wondering (and I understand how confusing it can be), let’s review the symbols:

  1. Why do we celebrate Easter? One, to celebrate the return of Spring after the cold, dark and wet months of Winter. Two, to celebrate the resurrection of baby Jesus (grown ass Jesus actually). Three, to celebrate the escape of the Jewish people from Egyptian tyranny.
  2. Why the eggs and bunnies? They are the symbol of growth and fertility. We got that from the pagan traditions (way before the religious stuff came along)
  3. Why the chocolate? In ancient times, people gave away eggs for Easter. Indeed, after the fast and the chicken not knowing they could afford not laying eggs for a few days, there was an abundance of said eggs. They were given away so they wouldn’t go bad. Now, about the chocolate: In the 19th century, chocolate makers in the North East of France and Germany thought it would be fun (and very lucrative indeed) to dip the eggs in chocolate and sell them for a profit. And so they did. Later, moulds were made and real eggs altogether disappeared from the equation.
  4. Why the winged bells? Traditionally, church bells aren’t rung during the fast and few days before Easter. People had to find a story to tell the kids who were wondering why this silence. The kids were told that the bells all flew to Rome to see the Pope and flew back on Easter morning carrying chocolate eggs.
  5. Why eat lamb? In the Jewish faith, the lamb represent God’s commandment to Moses to sacrifice one lamb per family and spread their blood on the doors of all Jewish homes. For the Christians, it represents the innocent being sacrificed, as well as the virtues of goodness and kindness and all that good stuff… In France, we serve the lamb with “flageolets”. The tradition comes from Germany I think…

I am telling you! Just promise food and tell a good story. You can get away with just about ANYTHING!

This year, my niece made a stew: Lamb shoulder (brazed) + tons of shallots (browned) + water and herbs. All this was placed in a cast iron pot and cooked on low heat for 7 hours! We didn’t serve the traditional beans with it, but truffled mashed potatoes instead. It hit the spot nicely! :0) I had lam chops and beans on Monday (I didn’t want to mess with tradition you understand…

My Legendary French Onion Soup

French-onion-soup

Here is a dish that is a true pillar of the French culinary tradition! One would even say an icon of traditional French cuisine. I had posted about this years ago, but I thought we were due for a refresher post. Plus it’s so darn cold outside :0)

Try the recipe and tell me how it was. For the anecdote, the onion soup was called the soup of the drunks, because it hides very well the smell of red wine: 0) My recipe seems so simple that you could be tempted to add beer, wine or beef/chicken broth. DO NOT DO IT! I myself was tempted the first time and I did well to resist!

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For 3 bowls:

– Cut 9 small yellow onions into thin strips (small onions have more flavor and less water) and sauté them in butter. This is the most important step and it took me about 30 minutes over medium heat. The goal is to sauté the onions until you get a uniform caramel color. If you burn them, you will have to start all over again as it will make your soup bitter. YOU WILL REMAIN BY YOUR STOVE AT ALL TIMES. The taste of your soup will depend on this step (The photos here will show you the exact color you need to get).

– Sprinkle a small tablespoon of flour and mix well

– Add 1.5 liters of water and let simmer for about 15mn. Salt, pepper and voila! Taste and add water or salt as necessary.

– Put the soup into ovenproof bowls up to half a centimeter from the top (the pictures show that I was about a quarter of an inch too low)

– Place a slice of toasted baguette on top and then a layer of grated Comté 

– Place under the grill for a few minutes. Take it out and sprinkle chopped parsley for color. Serve very hot.

A great thing about this dish is that everything can be done the day before, except for the last 3 steps which you’ll have to follow on the day. It is less stressful if you have guests: 0)

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Stéphane’s salmon and hash brown club

Salmon and hash brown sandwich

I’ve always enjoyed people with multiple layers. Multiple layers of goodness that is. I feel the same about food. Taste constitutes the character of a dish, its DNA. But I feel that color and texture make up its personality; the reason why it may stand out.

One of my top five favorite dishes of all times is Peking Duck. The way the crunchy savory duck skin contrasts with the softness of the pancake and the sweetness of the hoisin sauce… I mean come on. If that’s not food porn at its best…

I wanted to find a way to achieve the same complexity in taste and texture last week for my Sunday lunch (or maybe it was the week before. Is salmon like pot? Does it kill your brain cells? I’m getting worried). So, yes, smoked salmon was the main ingredient. I went for a salmon and potato club sandwich and it was every bit as delicious (in it’s own way of course) as any great Peking Duck I had ever had on Stockton Street or in Soho (London) :0)

Salmon and hash brown sandwich

1. Peel, wash and grate raw potatoes. Do not wash them once grated.
2. Form a ball in your hands the size of a golf ball and flatten it. You need to end up with 1/3 of an inch patties
3. Sauté the potato patties i a little bit of oil over medium heat until they are golden brown on both sides
4. Wait for these hash browns type pancakes to cool down (on a grid so they don’t become soft) and build your sandwiches with one layer of hash browns, one layer of red onions, one layer of smoked salmon and so on. You can also add lettuce for color if you want. Avocado would hurt either.
5. Top the sandwich with heavy cream and salmon or trout eggs and maybe some fresh dill

Salmon and hash brown sandwich

It is really easy, not that expensive and looks very fancy… ENJOY!

Note: you may add black pepper for seasoning, but avoid adding salt as the salmon and trout eggs are already quite salty.

 

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