Sunday, May 2, 2010

This can't be right ...

Something must be seriously wrong, but I can't actually put my finger on it - we've had five or six straight days of absolutely glorious weather, getting up to 26° in the afternoon, and it hasn't actually rained on any of my barbecues. This is pretty unnatural, and I'd be steeling myself for the worst were it not for the fact that it's so nice I just can't be arsed worrying. Apart, that is, from concerns about the way the bottles of rosé in the fridge downstairs keep disappearing. We're just hoping it keeps up until the end of the weekend. (The weather, you fools, not the disappearing rosé.)

Speaking of weekends, the next two are right bummers: the 1st and the 8th of May, both public holidays over here in our little bit of Ole Yurrup, fall on Saturdays. With all the concomitant problems of supermarkets being closed, market not taking place and stuff like that, and on top of it we don't even get a long weekend out of it. There was talk at one time of passing a law to the effect that both days would always fall on either a Tuesday or a Thursday (as the intervening day would, by tradition, be considered a holiday as well - it's called "le pont") but it seems to have fallen by the wayside, sacrificed in the relentless rush to globalisation and increased productivity. That's what you get for electing a workaholic dwarf Hungarian as president.

Which reminds me that the little chap was in our neck of the woods a week or so ago, for the 150th anniversary of the absorption of the Duchy of Savoie by France. (Only it's called "la rattachement", which sounds nicer.) I wouldn't have noticed myself, had it not been for all the major roads being blocked, clumps of CRS goons lurking behind every thicket or spinney, and Mirage jets buzzing around the place as though aviation fuel was still at $10 the barrel.

Oh, and we had the flap about that unpronounceable bloody Swedish volcano spewing crap into the atmosphere - bit of a non-event really except for the Parisians, who got a week's respite from the planes heading in and out from Orly and Roissy. We didn't even get any particularly spectacular sunsets, which'd be the only good reason I can think of for such events occurring.

Well, Friday's rolled around, as it does, and true to form it's started to rain. I'd been thinking idly about a barbecue for tomorrow's lunch, looks like that will have to go by the board. And we might not be having Jocelyn's surprise birthday party outside tomorrow night, either. (You know Jocelyn. Our New York Jewish lawyer friend. Apparently even they have birthdays.)

We were privileged to have Jerry with us for a night this week: got a call from the lycée to say that he was sick and could I please come and remove him from the premises. Arrived to find him with eyes like watery fried eggs and a dripping nose: he really does suffer from hay fever, poor lad. (Like his mother - Margo doesn't dare go down to the paddock at this time of year. It's bad enough, apparently, up at the house.) So he wasn't particularly sociable, but it did give us a chance to observe just how much coffee he's capable of slurping during 24 hours. (Which reminds me that it's always a good idea to put the coffee-pot back in the coffee machine before turning it on. I neglected this simple precaution the other night, and when I came down the next morning for a nice fresh cup, I found it was mainly on the floor. Which kind of screwed up my morning, as I usually spend twenty minutes or so trying to kick-start the metabolism with caffeine rather than mopping floors and benches.)

Saturday now, Labour Day and of course all the supermarkets are closed. The market, luckily enough, was still open for business and consequently even more jammed than usual, despite the rain. Which did, on the other hand seem to rather dampen the spirits of all the kids standing disconsolately around, trying to earn a bit of pocket money on the side by flogging off bunches of muguet. (By long-standing tradition, world + dog may go off and cull lily of the valley wherever they find it, although I'd be a bit dubious about invading someone's garden to get the stuff, then sell it without getting a permit or reserving a place or declaring any income.)

Whatever, being a public holiday all the car parks are free (that's "free" as in "non-paying", not "available". There in fact very few that are available, because everyone has decided to take advantage of the fact that they're free. If you see what I mean.) so rather than whipping through the place like a dose of salts as is my wont I went around at a more leisurely pace, pausing occasionally to smile benignly at small children. Unfortunately it's that time of year when the clementines have finished and it's too early for the summer stone fruit, so we're reduced to apples, pears and bloody bananas, with the occasional strawberry or loquat for variety. Still, mustn't complain, at least the tomatoes are starting to taste like they're supposed to, there are snow peas and asparagus around, and I managed to pick up some Sarde cheese to age in the cellar. (That's an extremely palatable - and much cheaper - alternative to parmesan. I like parmesan, but I do not like paying 24 €/kg for the stuff.)

Then for some strange reason I wound up in a bar on the place du Palais de Justice, sipping a glass of white with Brian and watching the rain piss down on the crowds milling around. (And getting the odd cold drip down the back of my neck from the puddles on the awning overhead, but that's another matter.)

Anyway, this is what chicken looks like when it's gone to heaven. Yeah, I know, yet another Saturday lunch with Sophie. But this is so easy you really should try it - unless of course you're allergic to lemon juice - or rosemary - or chicken, come to that. Take one chicken leg per person (or two per adolescent) and brown them slowly in a decent not-no-stick frying pan in a bit of olive oil - this should take about 15 minutes to get them golden all over. About half-way through that time, fling in a chopped onion and a couple of chopped garlic cloves. If they start to burn, the heat's up too high.

During these 15 minutes, open a bottle of white and make sure it's fit for purpose. You will not need a great deal for the sauce, so feel free to double-check. I used a vin moelleux de pays Landais, which  has a bit of sugar in it after fermentation but still pleasantly acidic and with oodles of fruit: I rather doubt you'll be able to find that so you may have to make do with a chardonnay. Sprinkle the chicken with a tbsp of chopped rosemary, a bit of pepper and a half-glass of the wine; scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get the browned caramelised sucs dissolved into the sauce (this is why you don't want to use a non-stick pan) and let the wine boil off,  then turn the heat down really low and add the juice of 1 lemon. (As quantities go, that's pretty ratshit, I know. What size lemon? How juicy? About 5cl, I reckon.) Then - and this is the good part - you cover it and forget about it! For about 45 minutes. You might have to add a bit of water from time to time, and maybe turn the pieces over once or twice, but otherwise it'll look after itself.

At the end of this time, take the lid off and add the juice of another lemon and maybe some more rosemary - quantity depending on how much you like it. You could add some cayenne as well, if that takes your fancy. Once that's reduced a bit add 10cl of cream and stir it in until it all starts to thicken a bit (should not curdle, if it does you've done it wrong), at which point serving it would be a good idea.

I'm unimaginative, and Sophie was a rabbit in a previous incarnation, so we had it with salad and bread, but sitting in all its glory atop a bed of buttered tagliatelle would also be a fitting end. (It seems, by the way,  that this is an Italian dish. I cannot myself vouch for this, but it is kind of delicious.)

1 comment:

  1. mmmmmmm, nom nom nom - Alex I made the chicken & it was DELICIOUS. Although we did not have the recommended accompaniments: ate it with roast root veges & nice steamed brocolli.