Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cooking For Two ...

Having nothing better to do as the pork roast, slathered with a purée of crushed garlic, fresh rosemary, gros sel, paprika and olive oil, slowly roasted in a terrine with white wine and chopped tomatoes, I went looking for dessert and wound up, as I often do, here. It may just be a genoise batter poured over chopped apples, but you really do need to make it. Would I lie to you?

Although, being an inveterate (as distinct from invertebrate) fiddler, I did stick 3 or 4 tbsp of powdered almonds in the batter. And next time, I would perhaps dial back the sugar a bit. Maybe put a bit of lemon oil in there too. And I think there will indeed be a next time. But even in its raw state, no-one's complaining. In fact the whole meal was eaten more or less in silence, which around here means that it's been judged acceptable, or at least fit for approximately human consumption.

(We eat first, and then follows the critique raisonné. Unless it's unspeakable, at which point the critique starts with the first mouthful, rapidly becomes deraisonnable and continues for the length of the meal, until eventually I have to go out to the kitchen and commit seppuku. Fortunately, this is a rare event.)

From the faits divers column in one of the local online rags, a sad story from last weekend: in an underground carpark in Montmélian (the only underground carpark there, we know where he was) some chap let his wallet fall on Saturday night and it slipped through the grating on the stormwater drain. Having no fear, and apparently less brain, he removed the grating and was groping around for the offending article when he slipped and slid headfirst down the 1.5m hole, where he remained stuck.

Luckily for him, as Margo remarked, he was rather more than 1.5m in height, for the next morning someone coming in to pick up their car noticed the feet coming out of the floor and, as one will under such circumstances - especially when the feet in question are moving feebly and thus stand a fair chance of being attached to something living - called the emergency services, who managed to drag the poor guy out, suffering a bit from hypothermia which might well, as it happens, turn out to be the least of his worries.

For the story does not end there: the cops came along as well and, poking their noses into the circumstances of the little drame, discovered (stuck in the sewer, he'd been unable to tidy away the evidence) that he'd actually been siphoning used oil from his car down the stormwater system. An offense punishable by a maximum of two years en taule and a swingeing fine of 75 000 euros. Still, as I always say, you have to laugh, don't you?

More search terms for your entertainment (and also, on the principle that positive reinforcement must have something going for it, trying to get the page hits up - I mean, if they're looking for it, they're going to come back if I give them more, aren't they?):

   bottle blonde girl
   sophie leper lyon
   vegetables raping our women

and the curiously poignant (albeit incomprehensible, unless totally stoned perhaps)

   So Sue, what do you think beyond all gold curtain hope is better in fruit bowl of cherries, yes

I'm not sure what to think about all that.

Whatever, I've got the menu for Saturday. Sophie was quite reasonable - for her: her only exigence was the coquilles St-Jacques as an entrée, and that the main course be fish, accompanied by - of course - a salad. Otherwise, my choice. So after a bit of thinking and digging around in the books, it's going to be

Coquilles St-Jacques à la nage - sauce au vin blanc et crème

Coulibiac, beurre blanc à la badiane
Salade Sophie - douceurs du miel, pimenté au malice


To do a proper coulibiac you really need to have a supply of vesiga, this being the dried spinal marrow of sturgeons: my greengrocer does not stock this (nor, as it happens, do they have dried tiger penis or bears' paws, which kind of scrubs another couple of classic dishes from my répertoire, shit happens, what more can I say) so it won't be 100% authentic but what the hell. And I suppose the sturgeons will be happy. Those of them that haven't had their guts slit open to remove the eggs, anyway. Or their backbones whipped out, just to get at the marrow.

But in these degenerate times we're happy to take a bit of fluffy steamed rice, mix it with some finely chopped, wilted shallots and chopped dill, sandwich the lot with a couple of sliced hard-boiled eggs between two slabs of salmon and then wrap the whole damn thing in some puff pastry and brush it with an egg wash before sticking it in the oven for twenty minutes.

You will of course make a couple of holes in the top of the pastry (do remember to decorate them nicely) for the steam to escape and after ten minutes cooking you could usefully pour a bit of cream in there. And do not cook it too long, fish should always be pink and soft, not grey, sad and dry.

And just so that you don't have to go digging around in the older posts, the beurre blanc recipe is simplicity itself: stew a chopped shallot in butter till soft, add a peeled chopped apple, two star anis and two or three glasses of white wine. Let that simmer gently for twenty minutes or so, then strain through a small sieve (note to self: Sophie doesn't have one of those, take mine) pressing down on the apple and shallot to extract a maximum of juice. Reduce the liquid, add cream and bring to the boil to thicken, then off the heat whisk in 20 or 30 gm of butter.

As for dessert (the recipe is in the link above, I did tell you to go check it out), the only "improvement" I have in mind is to mash up some Philly cream cheese (or mascarpone, if that's all I can find) with chopped dried apricots, then slather that over the top once it's cooled down a bit and sprinkle it with cinnamon. I really cannot just leave well enough alone. Mind you, if that's my only personality defect I should not complain.

So off to the market as usual: gray, dismal, and as you can see, chilly. There is a tendency here to emblazon shopping bags with rather meaningless semi-English phrases (I mean, "Fragrance of Woman"?) and one that puzzled me a bit as I sipped at the second glass (drinking alone, sad to say, the other two alcoholics having hard-heartedly abandoned me to my own devices, and gone off to Grenoble): "24/10/2011 Save the Date". I honestly didn't know they were an endangered fruit; you learn something new every day.

Didn't actually have too much time to ponder that: had to go off and cook. I'd been very organised and everything: even made a little list of everything I thought I'd need, packed up the implements I knew Sophie doesn't have, took a decent chopping board and noted down a reasonable prep order. Which, on starting, I promptly proceeded to ignore, which is about par for the course.

Poor Lucas was just leaving for an afternoon's ski du fond as I arrived: he contented himself with a few pointed remarks to the effect that he was sure to be famished on his return, and that it would make a nice change if, once in a while, people would think of others, such as himself, and make sure there were leftovers. And as there were just the two of us, he turned out to be in luck. No scallops - those, and their sauce, disappeared in short order - but we didn't quite manage to eat all the coulibiac, and although we tried we didn't make much of a dent in the dessert either.

Whatever, it was indeed une tueurie, as she says, and good practice for me too: been a while since I had to plan a menu, organise and prepare a decent three-course meal - and been able to sit down and eat it afterwards - and as Stacey is supposed to be organising one for me soon, with Jean Lain and other notables de la bourgeoisie Chambérienne, I really should get back into it.

Like I said, you do learn something new every day (the French expression, incidentally, is - literally translated - to go to bed slightly less stupid than when you woke up) and I learnt, quite by accident (and I cannot for the life of me remember how the subject came up) that Sophie loves a good choucroute. As do I, and as does Margo: sadly for her, we've organised that for more or less all day on the 28th, when she's away at a salon. I suppose I should save some of the leftovers.


  1. I suppose I should save some of the leftovers
    Yes you jolly well should! At least, were I in Margo's position I know I'd be jolly well pissed off if you didn't :-)

  2. someone coming in to pick up their car noticed the feet coming out of the floor and, as one will under such circumstances

    ... stole the shoes.

  3. Who'd have thought there'd be two people stupid enough to fall into stormwater drains while retreiving lost property in the same week. Didn't work out so well here in Wellington: Guess it makes the fine/prison sentence seem not such a bad outcome.

  4. as one will under such circumstances ... stole the shoes.

    That was my first reflex too, but I prefer to believe in the essential goodness of human nature.