Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chainsaws and Charcuterie ...

Well, bugger me rigid, what a sad, dreary day! Here I wuz, leapt from bed at the crack of midday with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart, headed downstairs to grab a coffee (if Jerry had left any) with a view to curling up in my favourite armchair and feeling smug about all those bloody tourists who so pissed me off on the roads having to ski on gravel, and what do I find? It's only gone and bloody snowed down to 600m.

So the best I can salvage from the wreckage is to hope that they feel really miserable skiing in a snowstorm, and just maybe they'll all be carried away by avalanches. Preferably whilst eating reheated tinned ravioli: that would be a fitting end.

Margo is happy, if a bit stiff: she got to borrow a chainsaw, and once she'd collected enough extension cords (for it is an electric one) she went down to the garden with it yesterday and started "pruning" some of the acacias. You know the old saying - "to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail"? My advice to you would be to not go down to our garden and stand still for too long: you might start to look like a tree. To a woman with a fuschia hat and a chainsaw, anyway. Just saying.

They've got a respite until next weekend anyway, what with rain and electricity not mixing too well. (Also, we need to get a 100m extension cord.) She has it all planned out: there are a couple of the big acacias to come out (particularly the one that shades the apricot tree, that we tend to blame for the complete lack of apricots over the past five years) and the ginormous bay tree to be severely reduced. And if I were the old apple tree, I'd be quaking in my boots around now. Although it's probably safe enough for the next few years, even if it is riddled with bloody mistletoe.

I did in fact go down a year or so back and cut out some of the more infested branches: now I really have to get off my arse, make up some more bacon (maybe finish curing it with a bit of maple syrup) and then use some of the apple wood to smoke it. God knows I've got all the required bits and pieces (a cheap electric hotplate, an aluminium pie dish and an enormous flower pot, should you be wondering), just have to get around to actually doing it.

Maybe this summer, when it's barbecue time. Which reminds me that sometimes I wish I had a kettle barbecue, which would be a handy thing to have for one of the dishes that's on my list of things to try one day: basically you barbecue a chicken and then, while the coals are still glowing, fling on an enormous quantity of tea leaves and close the lid on the thing so that it finishes cooking in the smoke. It's doubtless hideously carcinogenic, but it sounded kind of attractive to me. Or at least interesting, which often comes down to the same thing.

I do sometimes wonder who it is that got the job of naming the cocktails at Cardinals. Perhaps they should get out in the fresh air a bit more, it can't be healthy being stuck in a dim cupboard all day, with only a few old magazines and some acne cream for company.

Speaking of which, so far we've not seen much of Jerry, so my misgivings turned out to be unfounded: he crawls from his nest sometime at the end of the morning when we're out (ontogeny definitely recapitulating phylogeny here), spends all afternoon working for Stéphane (yesterday it was getting rid of the heaps of hay that the previous owners had left in the grange), comes back about 18:30 and disappears into his room until it's time for dinner.

Then he eats ravenously, pausing only to inhale from time to time, and goes back to his room until midnight or thereabouts, when it's time for a fridge raid. I do not care to consider how big the heap of yoghurt pots is up there, nor what strange slime-descended life-forms may be lurking underneath the mattress. All hail our alien dairy-food overlords! (I don't really mean that, but just in case they win I'd like to be on their good side. If a puddle of 90% lactose with amino-acids can be said to have one.)

And whilst I'm thinking about food; I vaguely recall mentioning Stephanie Alexander's peaches and cream tart a while back. It turns out that if you add about a quarter cup of flour along with the cornflour to give a stiffer dough, so it turns out more like a cake batter than a custard, it works really well with fresh pears too. I had some sitting in the fridge that were perhaps a wee bit too ripe to eat just like that, so I had to do something with them, didn't I?

Plus I just came across Clotilde Dusoulier's latest, which is something I've in fact known of for a long while but never got around to doing 'cos I suspect that I'd be the only one around here to actually like it (well, maybe Jeremy ...): Chicken Inna Bun, perhaps better known as chicken baked in bread. (Probably poulet en croûte, actually.) Maybe I'll get around to making it anyway: need something to surprise Sophie with one of these days.

Couldn't be simpler: just stuff the chicken under the skin with chopped parsley and salt, and stick half a dozen squashed garlic cloves in its little guts, then wrap it up in a circle of bread dough. At this point you can stick it in the fridge overnight if you need to, or bung it straight into the oven for an hour and a half, or thereabouts.

Because she's really into pain au levain she used a sourdough bread, made with a starter, but you can use any basic bread dough - I'd personally be tempted to use yoghurt or buttermilk as the liquid, and add no other fat. She reckons about 400-500gm of flour, plus 3tbsp of dried herbes de Provence for flavour: she's doubtless right, as you don't want the bread too thin. It should go nicely crusty on the outside and soak up a lot of chicken juice, which sounds rather good to me.

I had precious little choice after the market this morning: Sophie's off again, down in Cannes or somewhere, and Bryan was at a DIY store of all places, doubtless stocking up on power tools so that he could stick them away somewhere and contemplate them any time the urge to actually go do some work on his apartment  came upon him.

Lesser men might have blenched, but the Bimlers are made of sterner stuff, so I headed off to Cardinal's anyway for the usual restorative, and then somewhat foolishly decided to make my way back to the car by a rather circuitous route.

This unfortunately took me along one of the little ruelles that lead off place Metropole, and as luck would have it there's a small cosy bar-restaurant along there that, at this time of the year, has a stand outside with a great simmering pot of diots in white wine. I caught a whiff of it as I wandered along, then a great lungful, and the temptation was too much: I turned on my heels and walked rapidly back to the market before it closed.

I came away with four diots and a pot of batusson to add to the three Saint Marcellins nestling in the shopping basket (and incidentally sterilising the inside of the car), came home, and stifled the hunger pangs for an hour whilst my diots au vin blanc cooked. Couldn't be arsed making a salad, but at least there was some wine left over from the cooking.


  1. I came away with four diots and a pot of batusson to add to the three Saint Marcellins - you realise that this is all French to me? Gonna try the chickeninnabun, though, that sounds really yum!

  2. Diots is pork sausages: 100% pig (with fat). Batusson I know I've mentioned before: fresh goat's cheese whipped up with chopped chives'n'parsley'n'garlic: treat for the gods in baked potatoes or, as Jerry prefers, slathered on bread. And a St Marcellin is a proper cheese, which is divine if you like that sort of thing. Tends to disappear around here, except for a tiny bit that gets left in the fridge "for Mr. Manners". Who never turns up, the arsehole.