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Posts tagged ‘French Food’

No. 278: les petites fêtes

Last night Superman and I were invited to une petite fête with a very international crowd. Being part of an international community in France is one of the things I love most about my life in France. After nearly three years in Paris, we have friends from all over the world, and it is wonderful…plus now I get to have things like this for dinner:

C'était délicieux! Era deliziosa! Estaba delicioso! Es war lecker! To je izvrsno! Det var lækkert! Ήταν πολύ νόστιμο! Ez finom volt! Bhí sé blasta! It was delicious! 美味しかった!To było pyszne! Bilo je veoma ukusno! มันอร่อยดี! Het was heerlijk!

C’était délicieux! Era deliziosa! Estaba delicioso! Es war lecker! To je izvrsno! Det var lækkert! Ήταν πολύ νόστιμο! Ez finom volt! Bhí sé blasta! It was delicious! 美味しかった!To było pyszne! Bilo je veoma ukusno! มันอร่อยดี! Het was heerlijk!

 

Vocabulaire

petite fête: close gathering, party

No. 275: Dîner en Blanc

diîner-en-blanc-paris.jpgOn my way home from the Eurostar last night I found myself smack dab in the middle of the twenty-sixth annual dîner en blanc. This pop-up dining event secretly planned and held al fresco in a predetermined place which is kept secret from attendees until a few moments before it begins, is definitely on my bucket list of things I hope some day to be invited to.

This year’s by-invitation-only-soirée took place over six bridges throughout Paris. Dressed in all white and eating only white food (no vin rouge allowed), over 12,000 people participated in this posh version of a flash mob.

From talking to friends who have been a guest at this feast in the past, dîner en blanc seems to be a highly codified event. There are “team leaders” who are responsible for the invitation, organization and behavior of each small group. In addition to the white dress code, white food, and white wine or champagne (beer and spirits are prohibited), you must also bring your own table and chairs (white, bien sûr), white tablecloths, and dishes. Some diners go as far as bringing white flowers in vases, candles, and center pieces. The most important rule is that everyone disappears before midnight and leaves their dining site undamaged and spotless—under threat of being blacklisted for the following year’s festivities.

Last night there were lots of extravagant white hats and pearl-buttoned gloves, and when the Eiffel Tower sparkled, the revelers did too—producing long sparklers lit up on cue like synchronized swimmers in an old MGM film.

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It is an elegant affair, and possibly the one-and-only time of the year that you will encounter so many happy, smiling and relaxed Parisians. Furrowed brows, downturned lips and icy stares, all disappear for a joyous but respectful evening. It is also the only day of the year that Parisians stow away their all-black wardrobes and slip into something brighter, whiter and lighter.

It is a lovely change. Hmmm…maybe dîner en blanc ought to be a monthly event?

 

Vocabulaire

al fresco: in the open air

dîner en blanc: white dinner, dinner in white

vin rouge: red wine

 

 

No. 255-257: French Mother’s Day: Repopulation, Advice from Vichy France and Cake


“L’avenir d’un enfant est l’oeuvre de sa mere.” (The future of a child is the work of his mother.)

                        -Napoleon Bonaparte

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While Mother’s Day in America was first officially celebrated in 1914 after Anna Jarvas campaigned for six long years for a day to honor “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world,” Mother’s Day in France came to be celebrated with slightly more practical and economic intentions behind it: the necessity to repopulate a country distressed by its declining birth rate.

Journ-e-famille-nombreuse

In fact, French Mother’s Day was first instituted with an award attached to it for producing a high number of children. In 1906, a medal of haut mérite maternel (high maternal merit) was awarded to mother’s who had more than nine children. By 1918, some cities in France had established les Journée Nationale des Mères de Familles Nombreuses (National Day for Mother’s of Large Families), and in 1920 it became an official national holiday celebrated on the last Sunday of May. From the 1920s through 1940 the French government continued to support the holiday to help officially promote and reward large family policy and honor those mothers’ with the ability and desire to pop out baby after baby.

During the reign of the Vichy government, in an attempt to win favor with all mothers, the occupational government (while still actively promoting large family policies), extended the holiday to honor all mothers, even those with smaller families. After the war ended, Mother’s Day gradually became less attached to politics and nationalism, and became more of a day to celebrate your fabulous do-it-all mom.

While I was researching the history of French Mother’s Day, I came across this poster from 1941 Vichy France offering advice on how French children should behave on Mother’s Day and throughout the year, according to the field marshal, no less…

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Ta maman a tout fait pour toi, le Maréchal te demande de l’en remercier gentiment.

Invente la surprise la plus belle que tu pourras, celle qui lui fera le plus grand plaisir.

Offre-lui des fleurs que tu auras cueillies…

ou un cadeau que tu auras fabriqué exprès pour elle…

Fais-lui un dessin aussi beau que tu pourras…

Fais un effort en classe pour rapporter de bonnes notes…

Ne te dispute pas avec tes frères et sœurs…

Va faire les commissions sans qu’elle te le demande…

Aide au ménage en souriant…

Apprends une jolie récitation…

Travail-Famille-Patrie.

 

(Your mom has done everything for you, the field marshal asks you to thank her kindly.

Come up with the most beautiful surprise you can that will give her the greatest pleasure…

Offers her flowers that you picked …or a gift you have made especially for her …

Draw her the nicest picture you can …

Make an effort in class to make good grades …

Do not fight with your brothers and sisters …

Run errands without her asking …

Help with the household with a smile…

Learn a beautiful recitation …

(Remember) Work-Family-Homeland)

 

…and finally in France, fête your lovely mother with a gorgeous cake from your kitchen or pâtisserie that looks like a bouquet of flowers or something too delicious to be true.

source: Meeting the French

source: Meeting the French

 Bonne fête des mères!

 

No. 251: French MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)

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Here is what I know about the American military’s Ready to Eat Meals or MREs: the military chefs strive to make meals that “don’t just taste good… but last … for three years stored at 80 degrees F (26 degrees C), are capable of withstanding chemical or biological attacks, and (can) survive a 10-story free fall (when packed in a crate of 12).”

American MRE: noodles in butter flavored sauce and toaster pastries

American MRE: chili macaroni

American MRE: chili macaroni

I am assuming that the French Ration de Combat Individuelle Rechauffable (Reheatable Individual Combat Rations) or RCIRs, which a friend of mine in Paris let me take a peak at, have to follow the same rigorous guidelines, as they are NATO approved.

French RCIR: slightly more gourmand...

French RCIR: slightly more gourmand…

Whatever the circumstances, you’ve got to love the French’s dedication to meal planning. I don’t know what the rest of the brave soldiers serving their countries are eating tonight, but somewhere in the world, some French soldiers are eating rillettes de saumon préparé en Bretagne (salmon pâté from Brittany).

rillettes de saumon préparé en Bretagne, along with some other very French eats...

rillettes de saumon préparé en Bretagne, along with some other very French eats…

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SALMON RILLETTESFood and Wine Magazine – Anna Zepaltas

            ACTIVE: 30 MIN

            TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 45 MIN

            SERVINGS: MAKES 2 CUPS

 

 INGREDIENTS 

.    1/2 pound center-cut, skinless salmon fillet

.    1 tablespoon anise-flavored liqueur, such as Pernod

.    Salt

.    Freshly ground white pepper

.    1 celery rib

.    1 leek, halved lengthwise

.    1 small onion, quartered lengthwise

.    1 bay leaf

.    1 teaspoon black peppercorns

.    1 cup dry white wine

.    4 cups water

.    5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

.    1 large shallot, minced (1/4 cup)

.    1/2 tablespoon sour cream

.    1/4 pound skinless hot-smoked salmon, flaked

.    2 tablespoons snipped chives

.    1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

.    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

.    1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika

.    Toasted baguette slices, for serving

 

 DIRECTIONS:

  1. On a plate, sprinkle the salmon with the anise liqueur and season with salt and white pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the celery, leek, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, wine and water to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Add the salmon to the pan, cover and remove from the heat; let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the salmon, picking off any peppercorns, and refrigerate until chilled, about 45 minutes. Flake the salmon.
  4. In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened. Let cool.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter until smooth. Whisk in the sour cream. Add the cooled shallot, along with the poached and smoked salmon, chives, lemon juice, olive oil and paprika and stir until combined. Season the rillettes with salt and white pepper. Serve with toasted baguette slices.

MAKE AHEAD

The rillettes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Pack into a crock and press a sheet of plastic wrap onto the surface.  Pour melted butter over the top to seal in freshness. 

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No. 227: Huîtres: Where Have All the “Rs” Gone?

Yesterday was the end of oyster season. Sigh…

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We have to wait for the next month with an “r” in it to come around before we can enjoy the best of the best huîtres in their proper seasons.

We did have a terrific fall and winter tasting season, and nearly 6-weeks of spring, but now it is May, and May is “mai” en français. Oh why, oh why, can’t “mai” be one of the thousands of French words with a string of silent letters? Why didn’t l’Académie française or one of the 40 all-knowing immortels slip in a silent “r” somewhere between May (mai) and August (août)?

As it is, we will need to wait until September (septembre)—123 days until oyster season rolls around again.

In the meantime, we’ll always have the memories…

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Vocabulaire

huîtres: oysters

 

No. 221: Pâtisserie Algérienne

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Another one of the things I love about France is the very different and interesting culture that the Algerian immigrants and citizens bring to this country. The North Africans bring so much color, flavor, and vibrancy to the forever black and often mild palette of Paris.

I was recently reminded of this wonderful Algerian influence when I was exploring the 11éme arrondissement and came across yet another La Bague de Kenza Pâtisserie. The name, “The Ring of Kenza”, as all good names do, has a story attached to it. It has to do with one of the owners losing (and then finding) one of his daughter’s precious rings. I’m not sure why the father had her ring to begin with, but I like to imagine him panicked in the street of Paris, asking every one he came across if they had seen “Kenza’s ring”.

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It is fitting that bague means ring, because La Bague de Kenza is filled to bursting with sparkling, pastry jewels, the pâtisseries orientales. Everything behind the glass counter is yummy, but as I am nutty for pistachios, I always go straight for the pochette pistache, chopped pistachio and honey paste tucked into a light pouch of heavenly dough. The marzipan shaped fruit aren’t just delightfully whimsical, they are also every bit as delicious as German marzipan.

As you can imagine these pastry chefs bake with many different incarnations of almonds and dates, and pine nuts make a star appearance in several of my favorites, as do walnuts and coconut. La Bague’s pastries are a nice change of pace from French pastries and perfect as a delicate, and different dessert at your next dinner party. Mildly sweet and exquisitely crafted, it is worth stopping by just for the photo opportunity. And if sweets aren’t your thing, they do a mean tangine and fruity couscous, and don’t forget your mint-leaf tea.

 

106 rue Saint-Maur, Paris 75011 (Belleville)

 

No. 219: One More Reason Bordeaux Makes Me Smile

It's all smiles on the Marché des Quais…thanks to a very friendly English vendeuse and her melons...

It’s all smiles on the Marché des Quais…thanks to a very friendly English vendeuse and her melons…