Sunday, December 6, 2015

Meals And Retribution ...

The Parkinsons-afflicted bells on the church stumbled into spasmodic, but enthusiastic, life at some ungodly hour of the moaning, letting all and sundry know that the itinerant vicar was in town, should anyone have a pressing need for a baptism or possibly the last rites. Now it's all over and place St-Régis is empty of cars and people, everyone having - I assume - buggered off to inflict themselves on somebody else for the traditional Sunday lunch.

Not that I care, for I was up early: having previously removed the wall in cellular concrete which went around the little landing at the very top of the stairwell I thought that, having finished tiling, perhaps I'd better stick something in its place; so I finished off installing the aluminium posts and the stainless steel rods and stuck up the handrail. Like that, should ever I be found huddled and broken at the foot of the stairs, Margo will not be able to fob off any curious members of the gendarmerie with "Oh! What a dreadful accident! I've been at him for months to put something up there, told him someone would be bound to fall over and hurt themselves one day." I look on it not so much as DIY but as an insurance policy.

Had I realised, back when we were young and enthusiastic and started on The Shamblings™, just what was entailed by the undertaking to tile five bathrooms, four bathroom floors and 8m² of landing, I would probably have gone out and bought an electric grouting gun. Let's face it, grouting's a tedious and messy job when you're using nowt but a palette knife, a rubber squeegee, a wetted finger and a damp sponge. Just saying.

But finding myself in Brico-Depot this moaning after the market, looking out for a few bits of wood to edge around the wooden panel that is destined to go into the hole left in the tiles from when the fireplace came out, I could not help but notice that they had Bosch electric sabre saws at a knockdown price, so it wasn't really my fault that I bought one. I do actually have a use for it, which is not always the case, and I'm sure it can be pressed into service if need be for carving meat or a recalcitrant chicken.

It is getting on for that time of year around these here parts when spare bits - such as hypertrophied livers - whose absence will no longer be noticed by the duck, due to its being dead, are available at an entirely reasonable price. And as I am a sucker for such things, and just possibly a little bit unreasonable, I wound up with about 800 gm of foie gras cru which, after soaking overnight in ground Panja pepper and bourbon, is now cooked and sitting in a terrine in the fridge. (Why do not more people make their own? It is every bit as good, and about a quarter of the price, as something posh from the supermarket - or from your local eleveur de canards, should you be lucky enough to have one such in the neighbourhood.)

Luckily, it needs to mature for a couple of days, which will bring us up to Friday night, which means heading off to the bar for a drink with Rick and Mary before coming home for a bit of post-pub neckfiller nosh: I suppose that we could do worse than a surfeit of foie gras, maybe followed by a chicken cooked in bread.

Put like that, I admit it doesn't seem particularly appetising, but it is a lot better than it sounds. Also, very simple: stick some parsley 'twixt skin and flesh, then roast the poor beast for an hour at 180° atop however many garlic cloves you happen to feel up to before setting it aside to cool. Whilst that's going on, make some proper yeast bread (handy hint - your Kitchenaid stand mixer is your friend here) with three or four cups of flour, a good glop of sour cream and a teaspoon each of thyme and rosemary.

Roll it out, smear with the soft sweet roasted garlic, wrap the chook in it to make a relatively neat parcel, and sling it into the oven for another 45 minutes or so, until the bread is nicely browned but definitely not burnt. Then tuck into your poulet en croute, wherein the bread has soaked up all the cooking juices, and enjoy. Potatoes would be superfluous.

(It is somewhat less spectacular, but a lot less messy, to slice the top of the bread off in the kitchen, remove and carve the bird, and stick the bits back into the crust - salting as you go if you so desire - before replacing the lid and serving. Take it from me, I know of what I speak.)

I should perhaps get out more often, and go look at letterboxes. Not that they're particularly interesting in themselves, especially as these days they're all standard-sized and painted a standard cack beige, but sometimes ... CASANOVA HICK. I mean, what kind of a name is that? And I put it to you, if you were actually called that, would you put it up on your letterbox?

André the plombier seems to have disappeared from circulation, which is a bit of a b'stard. He called about ten days ago to say he'd be round on the Wednesday so Cédric the maçon turned up too in case his help was needed: he got a text saying that André would be a bit late, there around 10am and then - nowt.

Cédric has now officially had a gutsful, but luckily has been able to lay his paws on another plombier-chauffagiste who is young and apparently competent - bad news for us because if this is the case he'll be mostly unavailable - so maybe, with a bit of luck, that poele à granulés that has been lurking sadly in the garage for the last two years will come out and take up its place in the living room Real Soon Now. Hope springs eternal, and all that.

Margo arrived back home the other night after ten days or so in furrin parts, with only five cases of wine in the car. It seems that if you take the car ferry from Zeebrugge to Hull it actually goes out into international waters, so they open the duty-free and you can pick up Villa Maria for an eminently reasonable price. And as people are always asking us "Just what are New Zealand wines like anyway?", we can now satisfy their curiosity.

Which was convenient, as the next evening we and a swag of others were invited round to Peter and Joanne's huge old house for a bit of festive cheer. The place must be impossible to heat, what with all the glass and the ridiculous height of the ceilings, but there was a fire burning in the Great Hall (well, alright, the summer living-room, which has a 4m stud and was built back in the days when they wanted no truck with insulation) which helped.

Peter had obviously spent the preceding days cooking, and the long table was, quite honestly, groaning under the weight: it was kind of excessive for twelve, so I guess they'll be eating leftovers for a couple of days. Personally I managed a slab of cold pork pie with Cumberland sauce, a bit of coleslaw and a few decent pork sausage rolls before going on to trifle with a trifle and seriously injure the blobby chocolate cake/pudding drowning under whipped cream, but the paté de foie, the stuffed jacket potatoes, the deep-fried spinach and chèvre packets and even the mincemeat strudel - all these, and more, went untouched. Shame really, but I have my limits.

It's good training mind you, for Gristlemouse is approaching fast and Margo brought back mince pies from the UK and I have a cuissot de chevreuil sitting in the freezer which I am going to have to take out and marinate and then roast at some point, and Rick is planning a balefire for the solstice which will involve even more food and wine: gods help me. I guess that, as usual, I'll be living on stale bread and tepid water for most of January.

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