Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mostly Xenophobic, with Fish ...

I recently changed my shopping habits (sad, isn't it, that I think that might be of interest to anyone other than myself) and started going to Leclerc. Always a pain exploring a new supermarket, rather like getting a new wife: you get sort of conditioned to the layout in one, and when you change nothing's in the right place, even though most things seem to work as before. At Leclerc, for instance, the condoms and KY jelly are jostled up next to the corn plasters - which I suppose could be considered reasonable. I mean, depending on how hard you go at it. Not that I was actually looking to buy any of those items, I just happened to notice en route to the dairy aisle. And anyway, KY jelly has many other uses, as I can recall from my misspent youth in the drama club.

Yes, I will leave you guessing.

Of course, it being the season for it, there are lots of foreigners around for the skiing and as there's no snow up there they have to amuse themselves doing touristy things in supermarkets (like the British family I saw the other day - all fair hair and skin burnt a uniform glowing red - apparently set on buying the year's production of Beaufort) whilst excitedly warbing their glottal squawky language and trying to pay for 20€ worth of groceries with a 500€ note ... I'd actually congratulated myself on sneakily maoeuvring myself into the just-opened checkout line, just behind these hearty Scandinavian-type tourists with only five articles in their trolley.

Which I suppose just goes to show that sometimes you're better off not getting out of bed because there's no way you can get ahead of the game, you can't stay even and you can't even pull out. So I waited at the head of that queue for ten minutes while the cashier went off with the 500€ note to her boss, who took it to her boss, who took it to the security people with the UV lamp ... the tourists looked confused, give 'em that. I imagine no-one had explained to them that in France, there are some people who will stoop so low as to forge money, and the high-denomination notes are the most attractive to forge, and so no-one will accept them any more despite their being legal tender. (Well, not the false ones, obviously, but I think you get my point.)

Met up with our friend Bryan after the market at Cardinals for a quick drink: found him, as usual, discreetly ogling the waitresses. (I must admit that the little blonde is rather nice, but definitely out of both my league and my age bracket. Which does not deter Bryan, who is made of sterner stuff.)

He's decided to take us as rôle models when it comes to doing up apartments: the original plan was to start working on his place straight away, but that's since changed to staying in the place for at least a year without lifting a finger. Time which, in theory, is used in careful observation of how the available space is actually used, and planning any work in consequence. I rather fear it'll be spent boozing and trying to remember if there remains a waitress in Chambéry with whom he has not tried (and possibly succeeded) to sleep, which would be depressing if things like that bothered me.

Now would probably be as good a time as any to bring to your attention an article that I couldn't help but notice on sale in the tabac when I went in to get some cigars the other day: the discreetly named "Suce-moi" edible G-string, apparently made from zillions of lollies strung onto licorice straps. Or something.

OK, so where's subtlety disappeared to? Damn near swallowed my cigar doing a double-take. I imagine they have bras as well, doubtless with two giant lifesavers for where the nipples are supposed to go. Really tasteful.

For some time now I have, given the number of childish readers of this here literary masterpiece, thought seriously of starting a sort of Kiddies Corner, just to keep the little sods peacefully occupied whilst you all go off and get roaring drunk. Unfortunately, to date the only idea I've come up with for the inaugural issue is "How to Build a Fission Reactor".

Although Amazon is very good, and could no doubt supply - in total discretion - the tonnes of lead and graphite required, there are certain logistical problems involved - not least getting a squash court built under the house so as to be able to get started with your very own "Fermi" runaway chain reaction.

Plutonium you could probably get by mail order from Libya, but do remember to order in large numbers of small quantities: otherwise the postie may well reach critical mass before getting to the house with your eagerly-awaited package, and that would be no fun if he took out the neighbouring suburb, would it? As it is, even only getting in 50mg a week, he'll probably start looking unhealthily tanned before too long, and may well develop suppurating facial ulcers. Which is gross. Perhaps I should give up on the idea of trying to entertain the children, it may not really suit me.

Speaking of gross, you really should see the traffic around these parts as the entire population of Belgium (or so it seems) leaves their miserable little shithole country to come here and ski (thanks to EU subsidies they - and Russian mobsters oligarchs upstanding members of the community- are the only ones that can afford to do so). At least the Dutch are still stuck at home, although that won't last for long.

As is so often the case around here, filet de sole à la Gironde involves wine. But as usual, not so much that there's none left to drink while you're busy waiting for it to cook, nor yet so little that you feel ashamed when you open another bottle. Which is exactly the way things should be.

I've a confession to make: I did not head off to the fishmonger and get fresh sole fillets plucked that very day from the channel - not at 20€ the kilo I'm not. The frozen ones from Carrefour, whilst obviously not as good, are really quite acceptable, and the fish, being dead, is in no fit state to complain about the humiliation.

On the other hand, if you don't happen to have any sole lying around the place or perhaps to hand in the fishpond, any firm white-fleshed fish fillets will do quite nicely, thank you. But not rabbit, please. Not at all the same thing.

Whatever, I always start by opening the bottle of white and making sure it's fit for purpose. Once Sophie's decided that it'll probably do (for she can be picky about such things), put the bottle off to one side (you will need to keep about 150ml for the actual recipe, you know) and thickly butter a gratin dish large enough to hold the fish fillets in one layer. (Now would probably be a good time to mention that this is for 6 fillets, about 500gms.) Flour that, and then sprinkle 2 tbsp of breadcrumbs over the bottom: have another gulp and get back to the task at hand.

So, slice 200gm of mushrooms thinly, finely chop two shallots (proper shallots, that is, not spring onions: or use a bog-standard onion if you must), parsley (to get 2 tbsp) and chives (1 tbsp). Mix the whole damn lot together in a bowl, then fry up 3 tbsp of breadcrumbs in 15gm of butter until golden and appetising.

Now it's time to put the lot together: sprinkle half the chopped herbs and mushrooms in the gratin dish, season and spread the fish fillets out over them. The rest of the herbs go on top, and you can now carefully pour 150ml of wine, ditto chicken stock, carefully down the side of the dish (so as not to disturb the herbs, of course). Sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs mixed with around 50gm of decent grated cheese over all that, and stick it into the oven at 180° for around 25 minutes.

If there is any wine left, drink it now: if not, go get that other bottle. (By the way, I'm not a wine Nazi. I have no problems drinking a decent Bordeaux with fish. Nor should you. A Burgundy would, I admit, give me pause.)

By the end of this time it should be nicely browned on top, the liquid will be bubbling and it should smell delicious. If it's not browned and bubbling you can at least stick it under the grill until it is: if it smells absolutely foul then I'm afraid there's not much advice I can give other than suggesting  that sticking the pig's rectum in there, even finely chopped, was perhaps not, under the circumstances, the best of ideas.

Right, more wine and "Primeval" for me. Mind how you go.

No comments:

Post a Comment