No Pie for You

Kelie, Tuesday at 10 am: “I came out of Wholefoods with my heavy Thanksgiving meats, including a ham that put me in the poor house (why is ham so expensive?). My goal for Thanksgiving is to show up at the dinner table and still have my hair.”

Kelie, Wednesday at 11 am:  “I am hosting Thanksgiving and doing everything under the sun that goes along w/that; how can I come up w/an easy, no fuss sure to hit them right dessert? I’m at the point where I don’t want to do anything else…but I’m only making one pie. (I’m making two but only ONE is for the guests.)  I need something else that is sure to please or at least looks good!

Faye, Wednesday, 9pm:  I have the solution–Last Chance Chocolate

Turkey Time

Shopping List:

ABC by the Jackson Five

Nana Mouskouri singing the cover title for the soundtrack of Le Parapluies De Cherbourg

Video by India.Arie

The Sweet Smell of Success by Elmer Bernstein

You can get these on i tunes; you can buy them for 99 cents.

From the grocery store:
1-Turkey (and be sure to measure your oven before you leave for the store.  I like an 11 pounder.  If more people than that will feed (6 with leftovers) insist on coming, buy 2 11 pounders.  A great big turkey is easier to overcook out of panic from thinking there is no way on God’s earth that it could ever done.)

1-2 pound bag of carrots.  People are going to go on and on about how they don’t like carrots, and how no, they’re not ever going to eat carrots, until they try these.  Cook them in simmering water with a few tablespoons of butter, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, a garlic clove, a pinch of sugar and a half a shallot. (salt the water)  When they are tender, strain them, give them a good few pinches of sugar and another few tablespoons of butter.  Saute without moving too much until they are caramelized on the bottom.
5 pounds of potatoes; I like yukon gold.  Remember that you can peel and hold potatoes in water for an hour or so before boiling.

A lot of butter.  You can never have enough.  Buy 3 pounds and freeze one in case of an emergency.

The best olive oil you can get your hands on.  It’s a holiday for goodness sake–if you can, treat yourself.  Your salad will never taste so good.

Chestnuts.  They’re fun and they’re cheap.  Roast them in the oven at about 375 degrees, making an x on the flat side with a sharp small knife before they go in.  If you’re nervous, forget about the chestnuts.  Nerves and small knives have no business in the same room.

Cranberries.  FRESH ONES. Follow the recipe on the bag. It’s really good.  Secret ingredient:  a knob of fresh ginger cooked along with the cranberries.
A bottle of really good vinegar.  A four year old balsamic is always good, or try sherry vinegar.  Even if you don’t use it.  In case some asks for it, you can say “oh yea, there it is, help yourself.”

3 Small pumpkins or 1 butternut squash
1 dozen eggs

Some beautiful mushrooms

Fresh sage.  If the grocer doesn’t have it, you could either pick this moment to let him have it so that you can vent now instead of later, or just forget about it and head over to
1 bunch of celery (I started crying when I ate a piece of Standard American Celery this morning.  That’s how good French celery is.  The celery alone is worth the plane ticket to France.  When you get there, find the closest open market and make a stop at the cheese truck for a beautiful bleu and tiny walnuts just picked from the tree for a salad to knock your silk stockings off.

1 can of pumpkin pack (recipe on the back of the Libby’s can.  Instead of condensed milk, use half milk and half cream.)

8 beautiful apples, using at least 3 varieties

1 lemon (comes in handy; halve it and rub it on your tongue to freshen your breath for kissing)

1 orange

1 box of brown sugar.

1 box of cinnamon

1 box of whole nutmeg

1 box of ground cloves

1 bunch of parsley

1 bunch of thyme

2 bags of onions

4 heads of fresh garlic

1 box of heavy cream

1 quart of whole milk

1 box of kosher salt

1 bunch of white roses; they look great all together in a jelly jar with some sprigs of English ivy and a couple of gourds thrown around with whole walnuts.

1 bunch of rosemary

2 loaves of excellent bread for eating.  (unless you are making biscuits; and if somebody says they don’t like biscuits, may they have bread instead, you have my permission to turn around and walk away from that person.)

2 more loaves for stuffing.  It seems like a lot, but people eat a lot of stuffing.

2 pounds of string beans or 2 bunches of collards or 2 10 ounce packages of FRESH baby spinach.  (No, I do not support frozen, and that’s that.)

1 head of radicchio

2 heads of endive

1 bunch of watercress  (forget the traditional leafy salad; the bitter crunchy leaves tossed with a mustardy vinaigrette, stand up to all the cooked food on the plate.)

1 bar of dark chocolate (it’s good for the nerves.  Keep it hidden in the fridge for yourself)

Here we go.

All you need for app’s are either what everybody is bringing or cheese, crackers and nuts.

If your turkey is frozen, TAKE IT OUT OF THE FREEZER RIGHT NOW AND PUT IT IN THE FRIDGE.  A turkey is not a chicken.  If you are reading this after Wednesday afternoon, you can put the turkey in a huge pot and keep a small stream of COLD water running into the pot so that the water is constantly replacing itself, until it’s thawed, but I suggest get a fresh turkey.  Much easier.  When it’s ready to go, pull out everything inside.  If there is neck in there, get in a pot, cover it with plenty of water and drop in a carrot, a celery rib, an onion, a garlic clove with skin, a bay leaf, and a sprig of fresh thyme.  If there is no neck, just clip the wing tips off at the joint and use those instead.  Pat the whole thing dry with loads of paper towels.  Season inside and out with kosher salt that you have in a dish.  Give it a grind of pepper.  Stuff the inside with a few heads of garlic and a big bunch of rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage.  If you have the courage, sear the thing off, breast side down.  When it’s golden and gorgeous, take it out and rub butter like you have never rubbed butter before, all over the thing.  If you don’t have the courage to sear such a big bird, forget about and put it on a rack in pan in a 450 degree oven for half an hour with the same butter treatment to get the skin going.  Turn the oven down to 325 degrees.  After 10 minutes, baste with cold water.  Keep basting every 10 minutes, using pan juices instead of water as soon as they start happening in the bottom of the pan.  The juices should run clear when you stab the thick part between the thigh and leg with a small knife.  Or a thermometer will read 155 degrees.  (It will continue to cook after it comes out of the oven.)  DO NOT SLICE for at least 30 minutes.  The juices need time to settle.

With the rest of what you bought, here is your menu:

Pan roasted onions with balsamic, a pinch of sugar and olive oil (salt and pepper)

String beans with whole garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and pepper

Mashed potatoes with lots of butter

Smashed roasted butternut squash with fried sage and garlic

Stuffing with sauteed onion, celery, garlic, fresh thyme, sage, bread barely soaked through with hot chicken stock and melted butter.

Either sauteed mushrooms to go over the turkey or in the stuffing
Salad of endive, radicchio and watercress

Pumpkin Pie

Apple Pie

You can do this. You got a friend by the name of Faye.

Fitting in

Our forefathers did it.  The English get the press this time of year, but the truth is not everybody’s people had big buckled shoes and crazy black bucket hats.  From every country all over the world over and over again, people have been figuring out how to give up everything and everybody they know to make the move to a fast talking, over sized, belly laughing country with good looking teeth.

I am on the other side–an American with Italian in her bones via osmosis, now in France.
It’s lonely to come to a new country with a history of cooking something other and no language to cross the bridge with.  I have secrets in every pocket for cooking, and the Faye in me makes every dish my own no matter where I am, but to truly cook French food, I have to walk through a market in France and smell what’s there. I have to look into the faces of who is selling and buying and find my cooking soulmates.  I have to come to know this place.  I think my new French shoes might fit my feet so to speak and I think I might break them in to where I don’t ever want to take them off.  But there isn’t anything that starts there.

As much as I loved my husband backwards and forwards from the moment I laid my eyes on him, that moment is one word in the epic of how I love him now.

The show starts early

The butcher at the G20 accepts that I act out my order, and I just don’t pay any attention to the stares.  A girl has got to do what a girl has got to do to get the meat she wants.   I started with a gorgeous loin of pork, seasoned it with sea salt and seared it on all sides.  In a separate pan I very gently sauteed slices of leeks in butter with a sprig of thyme and a whole head of garlic, slashed into two pieces right through the middle, until they were completely softened.  I poured in a few cups of milk and a few cups of cream, brought it to a simmer and then added the loin.  After about an hour and 45 minutes it was the tiniest bit rosy, cooked through, tender and delicious.  As much as I love Le Creuset it didn’t work to use it for braising on top of the stove, because it holds too much heat right above the burner.  I finished it in the oven instead with a piece of parchment over the meat, and a lid set askew over the pot.  The carrots were simmered in water with butter added, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, a pinch of sugar, a peppercorn and salt.  When they were tender I strained them, reserving about a tablespoon of the liquid, added a bit more butter and sugar to the pot, and let them go a little golden over a medium heat.  The string beans in November are no where near as tender as the ones in April so you have to be generous with the cooking time and really let them relax in simmering water for a good twenty minutes.  More butter to finish, with a little shallot and parsley.

It’s cloudy now in Bourgueil, but round yellow leaves are still clinging to the trees outside the window and it’s still warm enough to get away with a thick sweater and no coat.   I would say it was almost nine this morning before the vendors were set up for the market this morning; we got a chance to watch the fish monger make a fish stew on a pan the size of a small dining room table with tomatoes, onions and a piece of just about everything he had on offer.  I bought scallops still in their shells, opening and closing like castonets, and huge shrimp waving their little legs above the ice and rosy filets of salmon.  It’s beurre blanc night.

When, when, when?

My mother always said, it’s not what you know, it’s what you know how to fix.  I was off to the butcher in Bourgueil to buy my boeuf for the Boeuf Bourguignon and nestled in next to what looked the most like chuck, was a cut called “boeuf bourguignon.”  Incredibly lean, definitely not chuck.  What is a cook to do?  Question the butcher?  Of course.  Insult the butcher?  So way not.  Just how would I feel if he came over to my homeland and said “I make my hot dog with saucisson and I serve it on a baguette.”  I would have to say, “you might, but that’s no hot dog.”

I bought the “boeuf bourguignon” cut, did everything I could to make myself believe it was exactly the same as chuck–that it just looked different.  We diced and boiled salt pork belly with a few peppercorns, bay leaf and a clove of garlic and then sauted them til they were crispy.  We diced onions and cubed carrot and sauted them with half a head of garlic, some fresh thyme and another bay leaf, until the onions cried out to us to be eaten. We restrained, removed them from the pan, added the fat that was left from browning the pork bits and browned off the boeuf.  Gave it a hefty pour of red wine, let it come to a simmer, and then put everything together in a dutch oven with enough chicken stock (made from raw bones, carrot, celery, onion, a piece of tomato, a clove of garlic, parsley sprigs, and fresh thyme) to cover, covered it with parchment paper and a lid set ajar on top and left it to ever so gently braise in the oven at 325 degrees.  After two and a half hours there was no sign that the beef was done.  We ate perfectly boiled eggs, tender in the center with a spill of homemade mayo, green olives, tiny slices of shallot and slices of hefty country French bread (pane traditional) and a salad of fresh tomato, walnuts just picked from the tree, olive oil, thyme, parsley and a bit more shallot.  We baked off the cakes and whipped the cream, we boiled the potatoes with butter and still the boeuf wasn’t done.  We ate the chocolate cake and finally some of the sauce from the boeuf on top of the potatoes with one of the chunks to chew on.  I said good night to everyone, cleaned the kitchen, checked the boeuf (four and some hours now) and not quite.  The next day I put it on top of the stove for another two hours and like a turtle crosses the finish line after never moving forward to the naked eye, the boeuf, boeuffed.  It’s the difference between making it through the movie and marrying for the rest of your god given life.  The French demand a reduced work week for a reason.  They are cooking.
Since then the ladies have seared salmon, whisked the most gorgeous beurre blanc ever to have been whisked, brined shrimp, cancassed tomatoes, poured lovely dijon vinaigrette over teeny tiny lentils, tasted a dozen cheeses, climbed the steps of Chinon, wandered through the markets of Montesereau and Bourgueil, and reposed.  Tonight we have a wine tasting here at home after class and before dinner.

the trainsition

I have bought myself two thick slices of bread and what was meant to be “un po di formaggio per fare un panino” (just a little cheese for in between), but I don’t think the lady behind the counter at the grocery in Lisciano was impressed with my skinny wrists and baggy jeans.  I came away with about a half a pound of a good solid pecorino wedged between nearly a whole loaf of pane normale, clementines, pears, whole milk yogurt with apricots and ginger and a bottle of water.  The train leaves from Terontola for Pisa at a little after 2.  There is a connecting train at Santa Maria Novella station in Florence, and another at Pisa centrale for the airport.  All I have to say about ryanair calling Pisa airport an airport of Florence is, liar, liar pants on fire.  It’s like saying there is not much difference between that aiport over there, that you can practically walk to from the duomo, or that one over there that takes trains, buses, a lot of yelling and mule to get to. 

It would be best if I stopped drinking cappucino to prepare myself.  One should be calm and have no need of the facilities when travelling.

I have decided to do a deconstructed cassoulet for the first night at chateau des Sablons.  A saute of onions, celery and carrot, gently caramelized for half an hour and then added to tender white beans, along with pulled duck, tiny handmade sausages from pork shoulder set on top and surrounded by tomato confit.


If you have the chance, go

Naples is crazy!  It’s a great big plate of tangled pasta with every single thing you have in the fridge thrown into the pot from across the kitchen as fast as you can, while company is passing through, and for reason unknown to man, it works–it is in fact, absolutely delicious.  I was greeted at the station in Naples by my friend Pam who expertly wound us through the crowds and stairwells back to her home, nestled into the hillside above the sea.  Fusun, whom I had never met, but was a friend as soon as I hugged her, had made a huge gift of a Turkish feast of carrot, Greek yogurt and garlic salad, stuffed eggplant, fried zucchini cakes and red lentil balls and we had it along with Pam’s delicious, spicy, lentil soup.  We ate and laughed, said goodbye to Fusun and walked around a lake.  Through the bamboo was an oasis of grapevines, ruins and volcano, and in the Naples tradition–every so often, tiny cars zipping along the nature trail.

We came home and made more food. Pam marinated chicken with green and black olives, onions, figs, prunes, garlic, capers, white wine, and bay leaves and when Pam’s husband came home, we had that with fresh mozarella di bufala from Fusun’s landlord (it comes in exchange for paying the rent.)  This morning we are going directly to the heart of Naples to brave the mad streets and markets, before I take the train back North.

Life is worth the trip.

On the road again

It is raining and dark and cold, but only for two days they say.  I am taking the train to Naples tomorrow and then back up to Tuscany to fly from Pisa to Paris.  I always struggle with the travel days, and I’m always so happy when I get there!  I miss my family like crazy.