Sunday, November 27, 2005

Gien -- The Factory Store

Thanksgiving Day was Clay's 18th birthday. I decided to treat him to a spectacular lunch at l'Astrance. 'Chef' knew that it was a special day and in the middle of the Egg Nog, served in the trademark eggshell, was a little Birthday Candle. It really was a special lunch! The chef had many surprises, some new dishes.
This was the start of our 4-day weekend. Followed by Clay hosting a 'dinner party' for the guys!

As you must know by now, that when it snows in Paris, it is a big deal! I always think it is because the local drivers = The French= ignore the icy road and drive like it is Le Mans race day. But, early Saturday, with the threat of 1 inch of snow in the forecast I felt like a drive to the town of Gien for some more dishes, would be safe, only 1 inch, right! Especially with a sunrise like we found yesterday! I didn't see any snow clouds! (It did snow like crazy on the drive back to Paris, but it was beautiful, and the other drivers on the road did behave, after all!

In a cooking class last week, a gal mentioned that she had just made the journey down to Gien and she found the shelves fully stocked. I thought I better head down myself, I needed to complete my Christmas set (Le Houx). It used to be a 3 hour drive but with the A77 being finished a few years ago this is a 2 hour trip! No sweat! Home before lunch!

I've been traveling down to Gien since before Clay was born. I fell in love with the different patterns and wanted to add the Oiseaux de Paradis for my daily use back then. Little did I know that I would be a collector of many plates!
The town of Gien isn't really much. It is in the Loire Valley so a tourist could pack in some site-seeing and shopping at the same time.
Saturday seems to be a big tourist day in the factory/musee. They had ladies painting the Faience, I'm sure they are thinking if you see the work that is involved you are inclined to spend more money! Don't you love the fact that you load your plates into a mini grocery cart, and you even have to pack and wrap when you leave.
I found some (more) plates on sale that Gien had made for Pierre Frey! Perfect for Autumn and Winter!

If you happen to find yourself in town during the lunch hour, I suggest Le Poularde. Lovely place on the Loire River, and each course is served on a different Gien plate!

Le Poulard
13, quai de Nice
54400 Gien
02 38 67 36 05

Such a beautiful table, and we didn't have time for lunch, just wanted to snap a photo in case you are there during you next Paris trip!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Puy Lentils

Lentils are good for you! These French Puy Lentils are beautiful! Look at that blue-green color! These choice lentils are grown in the volcanic soils of Puy in France, hence that deep color! They're great to cook with because they remain firm and have a rich flavor. They cook a bit slower than other lentils.
Just rinse them in cold water, 1 cup lentils to 4 cups water and bring to a boil, then simmer till tender. I always stick some bacon, onions and carrots in the pot to flavor the cooking liquid.
I like to simmer them till the liquid gets rather thick and the lentils are tender.....
Now comes the good part, the sausages!
These babies are British, they have been sitting in my freezer waiting to meet their perfect match. I bake the lot till the sausages are nice and browned.
To try to make this a healthier version, I added some baby spinach, it wilted and just peeks out! Instead my beloved Creme Fraiche, I had some leftover broccoli and butternut squash that I puree'd and that concoction got mixed in as well.

There you have it, one peasant style dish served proud!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Belgian Beef Stew, served in France!

The damp grey days have moved in. This is the time of year that can make or break a new ex-pat, endless clouds and short daylight hours can bring depression to a newbie! I've known many ladies who start to count the days that they have left in their 'tour' here in Paris, they are dreaming of the day when they depart Paris and head off to for the comfort of Kroger or Piggly Wiggly in their hometown. (did I ever feel that way, I don't remember!)

I'm afraid I've been here long enough to find comfort in the dark rainy days, I nest! I cook...... create new recipes! I light a fire every afternoon, a scented candle glows on my coffee table. There is usually a pot of 'something' bubbling away on the stove! In a word, life is COZY!
Today is no different, I've got a pot of Carbonnades Flamandes (Belgian beef stew- cooked in beer) in the oven cooking away slowly! This is the first time I've made this recipe, I love stews of all kinds, and this recipe looked pretty good! I had a special beer in the fridge, Biere au Cognac.....not a classic Belgium beer that the recipe calls for, but hmmmmm........the beer sounded interesting! Should tenderize the beef anyway!
My local Auchon carries an amazing selection of beer from around the world. You buy one beer at a time, instead of in a 6-pack. I've filled my 'back fridge' with Raspberry, Cherry, Japanese and other interesting beers. (note: a certain teenage boy will gaze dreamily inside my fridge, the euro-mom in me says, "Go ahead, help yourself"....)

What was most intriguing about this recipe is during the final half hour of cooking is the addition of a piece of bread that has been spread with mustard.....the idea is the bread will soften and dissolve into the stew, thus thickening it.Now, don't count points off for the addition of potatoes and carrots, OK!!

Note: Stay tuned, today is Beaujolais nouveau day, I'm heading off to my local Nicolas store to bring home some samples! I hear it is pretty good this year!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Mmmmmmm, potatoes, cheese, onions & bacon!
Oh yes, lets not forget a huge dollop of Créme Fraìche de Normande!
This wintry favorite is from the Savoy region in France. It usually accompanies a ski break, eaten right in front of the fire place served with a large pichet de Vin Savoie!

No! I'm not on a ski trip. It really hasn't been cold enough for my fire place yet....I was just meandering around my local Super U looking for inspiration for dinner. Scanning the cheese section I spied some cheese for a Tartiflette. The package even had a recipe provided on the back! It didn't take long to fill my panier with some potatoes, onions de Roscoff and lardons. I plunked in some of my favoite Créme Fraìche (Reo brand) and was marching out the door.

The cheese provided in the package was not the cheese a true Tartiflette is comprised of, Roblochon cheese is the 'correct' cheese of the region. But......remember.....This was quick and easy, no fuss!

First take a little oil (your choice) and add the lardons. Fry. Then
slice the onions and potatoes, plunk into the frying pan and saute' away till tender.
Cube or slice the cheese, add the Creme Fraiche to a baking dish. Cook for a few more minutes.

Bake away in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Finished result......well, see for yourself! You only need a green salad to try to balance out that cheese! Really yummy, but next time, I'm going to get the 'correct' cheese, I think the Super U cheese was a bit too mild! Still, not bad for a spur of the moment question of What is for dinner???