Tuesday, December 21, 2004
2004 Foodblog Awards Nomination - Best Theme
Thursday, December 16, 2004
The enigma of arrival - or - how it all began . . .
from - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FandIWomen/message/7123 9-17-04
From In Remembrances of Things Past, here is Proust's description:
...when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had the effect, which love has, of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it-was-me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. When could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savors...
And . . .
From the French Country Kitchen by James Villas, pp. 3-4: "The novelist and essayist V. S. Naipaul has written persuasively of what he calls " the enigma of arrival," a cogent psychological concept used to describe how sudden exposure at a young age to a new surrounding, a new people, and an altogether new culture can reveal a mystery within ourselves that defines our true nature while remaining unresolved. This experience was exactly mine over 30 years ago when, after crossing the Atlantic aboard the old Queen Elizabeth and taking the boat train from Cherbourg to Paris, I had my first French meal with two other excited but rather frightened students at a bistro called Allard.
Inside it was warm, tables were very close together, and we could barely read the menu scribbled in purple ink. People around the long zinc bar were laughing, drinking a strange yellow concoction, and speaking the language I was yearning to master. The aromas of food and Gauloises and garlicky breaths were like none I'd ever known. The old waiter in a long black apron shuffled across the sawdust floor and placed a basket of bread on the table. I ate a piece, then another, and another, only to realize that the wondrous crust had torn the roof of my mouth. Our waiter finally smiled, and when the time came to order, he simply took over as we stumbled along in miserable French. I recall every dish: escargots de Bourgogne, jambon persille, paté de campagne, coq au vin, gigot aux flagelots, canard aux olives, smelly but wonderful Camembert cheese, and small shiny apricot tarts served with a silver bucket of crème fraîche that was slightly sour. We drank red wine, Beaujolais, which the waiter chose and replenished automatically, I was ecstatically dumbfounded—by the foreign chatter around us, the sense of joyous abandon, the exotic odors, the sensuous new flavors. The only problem was that, for a while, I felt I didn't really belong in this incredible place, that none of us yokels could ever belong here, that we were strangers whose vicarious participation in this alien environment had to be fictional, like something we'd read about back home, in Sartre or Hemingway. Then, just as I was savoring another luscious bite of apricot tart and trying to avoid the boring academic conversation of my companions, someone to my left touched my arm and uttered, "C'est formidable, n'est-ce pas?"—pointing to the tart—"Oui, c'est formidable, formidable!" I responded fearlessly and proudly. Nothing more was said, but suddenly, with the bittersweet taste of apricot in my mouth, and the consoling remark, and the sound of myself perfectly imitating the pronunciation of that strong word, I knew almost instinctively that an important transition in my life was about to occur, that I was moving into a world that was forbidden but had to be explored. The enigma of arrival."
When I married 10 years ago, my husband introduced me to living history. We started out as buckskinners, now we do French Colonial reenacting. We even moved out of Western Idaho to the Midwest so we would be closer to French sites. It's been a wonderful journey back into time--come, join us!
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
We often think of chocolate in terms of a sweet, but in the 18thC chocolate was as often used to flavor savory dishes and chocolate can enrich a sauce for beans.
Soak white beans overnight. Drain and add to your marmite along with some sauteed onions and garlic and a pinch of thyme. Pour hot broth [vegetable or meat or poultry] to just below the top of the marmite, replace the cover and set into the coals at the edge of the fire. Turn pot as soup comes to a boil and keep simmering for a couple of hours. When most of the liquid has been absorbed, stir in a grated square of chocolate and a good pinch of cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Marmite by Michel Nichol. Wood ladle and bowl by my husband at Old Bedford Mercers Woodware.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Savory pyes or tourtes are rib-sticking good on cold winter days. They can either be eaten warm from the oven or are even better reheated the next day or eaten cold as snack food.
Although French people, for the most part, did not eat potatoes during most of the 18thC, considering them to be food for pigs or the English, "the generally accepted story is that a French army officer named, Antoine-Auguste Parmentier, an Economist, was imprisoned in Hamburg during the Seven Year’s War (1756-63), and got used to eating potatoes. Returning to France, he persuaded King Louis XVI to eat them, and his wife, Marie Antoinette, to wear potato flowers on her dress. Potatoes then became so fashionable (c.1787) that even now French dishes containing potatoes are called Parmentier." Thomas Jefferson brought home recipes from his diplomatic sojourn in Paris for potatoes to be served in the "French manner," generally believed to be French fries. Soon, a national dish of Quebec was known as Tourtiere, and is basically meat and potatoes baked in a crust.
Pâte Brisée or enough short pastry dough for two crusts
Parboiled sliced potatoes
Either shredded,precooked meat or raw ground beef [turkey, chicken, venison or veal]
2 slices bacon [turkey], diced or minced
Oil or fat
Roll out pye dough and place half in deep pye dish. Reserve other half under cover. Add a bit of oil to spider [cast iron skillet on three legs with a long handle] and fry onions, celery and garlic until golden along with browning ground beef and bacon, or add cooked, shredded beef. Season with 1/2 teas rubbed sage and 1/2 teas ground allspice and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and cool slightly; then pour onto bottom of pye crust. Cover with a layer of precooked, sliced potatoes.
Take oil or fat and make a roux with flour in your spider to take advantage of the drippings and flavor. Add milk to make a béchamel or white sauce. Season with 1/2 teas nutmeg and salt and white pepper to taste. Pour over potatoes in pye shell. Cover with top crust, seal edges and brush with milk. Cut a vent hole for steam in the middle of the pie and bake in a hot oven until done [450ºF for 15 minutes and 350ºF for 30 minutes more].
Friday, December 10, 2004
Umm, cardamom, allspice and nutmeg--all say apples to me. In accepting Zarah's challenge of Spices for Sugar High Friday and after reading Pascale's post on steamed puddings I decided to try a steamed apple pudding, redolent of spices, butter and molasses.
In Diderot's Encyclopédie many types of cookware are displayed. One is the charlotte mold with lid--this is the ideal baking pan to use for steaming. I butter the inside of my charlotte pan and shake sugar on it instead of flour--this gives a more pleasing brown to the outside of the steamed pudding--which sometimes can be somewhat peaked.
Pudding ingredients: cut up three pealed apples very finely and stir them into 1/3 cup melted butter, 3/4 cup molasses (I actually used a mixture of sorghum and molasses) and 1 beaten egg. Into this stir 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 teas salt, 1 teas cinnamon, 1/4 teas cardamom, 1/4 teas nutmeg, 1/4 teas allspice and 1 1/2 teas soda (not available to 18thC cooks). Spoon this mixture into the sugared charlotte mold and cut a piece of buttered paper to fit over the top of the pudding.
Now, place the lid on the mold and tie the cover to the pan through and around the handles.
Set a trivet into the larger steamer kettle
and lower your mold down onto the trivet. Pour boiling water into the steamer halfway up the charlotte mold sides;
place the lid on the steamer and set onto the fire. Bank coals and ashes around and keep a supply of boiling water handy in your teakettle to replenish the water level as needed. Boil for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the mold from the steamer and let sit for a few minutes. Take off the lid and peel away the paper.
Run a knife around the edge of the mold and invert onto a serving plate. Serve with a sabayon sauce.
Sabayon: 1 egg yolk, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup Marsala (I used Vin Noix [walnut wine]) Whip over a boiling water bath (Bain Marie) until thick. Serve over pudding slices.
Pudding recipe adapted from Ladies Home Journal Dessert Cookbook, edited by Carol Truax, Doubleday, 1964, p. 152.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Squash in Almond Crust
with Spicy Applesauce
This is my entry for the first ever Paper Chef Event - December 2004, sponsored by Owen at Tomatilla, which will continue each first Friday. We were given 4 ingredients on Friday and had to come up with an entry by noon on Sunday using cilantro (or its seed coriander), ginger, almonds, and winter squash.
Crush 12 almonds, 1 Tabls. brown sugar, 1 pinch salt, and 1/2 teas. powdered ginger. Peel and slice the neck area of a butternut squash into 1/4" slices. Press each slice into the crushed nut mixture and fry in butter over a slow fire in your spider. Turn each slice once as soon as it is golden brown. Remove to a serving plate and keep warm.
Grind 2 peeled and cored apples into bits with a sprinkle of crushed cinnamon and coriander seed. Pour mixture into the spider and stir to deglaze the pan, adding a bit more butter for gloss. Spoon spiced applesauce over squash slices and serve with sausages or roast fowl.
The crunchy texture of the fried nut coating contains the soft squash and the citrusy tang and aroma of the coriander in the applesauce finishes the dish just right. My DH (dear husband), who is a meat and potatoes man, said it was good enough to serve to company--high praise indeed.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
The snow clouds are gathering off to the north, but the day is sunny and cold. It's time to gather sumac before migrating flocks of cardinals and waxwings eat them all. Staghorn sumac grows all over the rocky knoll where I live overlooking Lake Huron--unlike other plants, it likes the dry, sandy soil. Sumac is also known as the vinegar tree and a European variety is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine, both as a garnish and a ground spice.
Native Americans and early settlers to America used sumac for medicinal purposes, but today I will gather it to make a refreshingly tart drink, not unlike a pink lemonade. I will dry some, hanging it from the eaves for later consumption, either as a drink, or to add piquancy to my cooking.
To make a drink, you can either soak it overnight in cool water for a light taste, or bring it to a boil and steep it to obtain a stronger solution. Then it must be strained through cheesecloth or a strainer to remove the hairs and stray berries. Add sugar to taste for a drink, or bottle some to use as you would vinegar. À votre santé!