Purpose: My first post
All the cities in the world vie with each other in the never-stated competition of which has the best “Christmas costume”….Obviously, it is very difficult to beat Paris : is there anything more imposing than the Champs Elysées, with their new lights, that resemble rain drops, or snowflakes…that fall rhythmically in the parisian night ?
And then, “le sapin de Noël” (the Xmas tree), that is easy to find anywhere, huge trees….with or without snow, with special decorations, but few are nestled in an almost theatrical atmosphere, like the one in the Galeries Lafayette…we would expect barons and duchesses to lean from their boxes, for a bird’s eye view, of their descendants, busy in the never-ending task of choosing that will be make the delight of their loved ones….
But Christmas in Paris is not only buying presents, it is also food ….the Christmas dinner !!!! and that can take « affaire d’état » dimensions in this country. People everywhere in the world think long and hard about the Christmas menu…some for sheer pleasure, others to avoid the criticism of not so nice members of the family… =), but in France, the Xmas menu is planned with anticipation, with the same degree of detail we would organise our wedding party. Shopping for ingredients begins long before, and the stores know it. The shop windows overflow with products, to reassure people that there will be enough for everybody, but the French, being an organised nation, deteste last minute rush, and therefore make their orders long in advance, to make sure that they will get only the BEST.
A typical Xmas menu must include the “foie gras” . Did you know that 12000 tons of foie gras are consumed in France yearly? This delicacy can be made at home, but if you don’t have the time, or the skill, you can always buy it following the advice of an expert …….
Yes! if you want top quality, make sure your foie gras is “entier”, which means that the whole lobe of liver has been used…but if you have a lower budget, you can always get plain “foie gras”, which means that pieces of liver have been pressed into the tin, or glass jar. You will also find “bloc de foie gras” and this means that the foie gras has been reconstituted. It can come with or without pieces.
Just like in the case of champagne and wines, where there is an A.O.C. (appellation d’origine contrôlée: place of origin certification), the foie-gras is a product from the south-east of France, so the name of the region, Périgord, Gers, should be in the label.
Poultry is a very popular choice for the main course….again variety can be overwhelming!
I am sure our “feathery friends” don’t find this occasion so “festive”….
but believe me, eating one of these delicacies, prepared as only the French can do, will take you to Versailles, you will feel a member of royalty…after all, all these kings and queens knew what they were doing, or rather, what they were eating !!!
Of course, we don’t have to forget to buy cheese…..from the little “fromagerie” (cheese store) round the corner….
and “du chocolat” (chocolate), in all its forms…….
..…the macarons, “bien sûr” (of course)
But Christmas dinner would not be such, if we didn’t finish it, eating the mythical “bûche de Noël“( a log-looking cake). Armies of “bûches de Noël” will be deployed everywhere, from the humble pâtissier in a narrow street of Paris….
to the sophisticated new creations, of the “big names” of French Pâtisserie….like Lenôtre, among others.
A work of art, isn’t it?
I hope you have enjoyed this Parisian tour !!!!! I expect your comments. What do you prepare for Christmas in your city/country? How is your city decorated?
For more photos of Paris, you can go to My Flickr gallery....
And now, time to work for me !!!!!!! With this recipe, I will take you very far from Paris….down to northern Argentina, Peru….You know, Christmas time can be very hot, in some other latitudes, so dishes tend to be lighter, mainly without endless hours of “oven” preparation. This is a very simple dish, yet incredibly tasteful, and exotic enough (considering the origin) to impress your guests…Enjoy it!
For this Beef and Pevre, from the Andes, you will need:
(for the meat)
* 150/200 gr. of any tender beef cut (“bavette” in France, “entrana” in Argentina) per person
* olive oil, 1 cup
* fresh thyme, chopped
* one clove of garlic, peeled & sliced
* salt & pepper
Marinate the meat in the mixture of oil, thyme, garlic, salt & pepper for 3 or 4 hours (keep it in the fridge).Take it out of the fridge, 30’ before cooking (room temperature). Cook it in a non-stick fry pan or French skillet. Do not add any kind of oil or butter to the pan. Remove meat from the marinade. Cook the meat until it colours, you don’t want it to brown, otherwise it will turn dry.
Cooking time will vary depending on how thick your beef is, and the desired doneness : rare, medium…I wouldn’t recommend well-done.
(for the potatoes)
* 2 big potatoes
* 1 avocado
* 250 ml. chicken stock
* salt & pepper
Peel the potatoes and cut them in rectangles of 6×4 cm. Sauté them in a frying pan with a little bit of butter. Sprinkle them with salt & pepper (not too much salt, because we will cook them in chicken stock) Put the potatoes in a baking dish, cover them in chicken stock and cook them in the oven, 200°C, until they absorb the chicken stock, and they have a golden colour. Only a few minutes before serving, cut the avocado, first in halves , remove the seed, then cut it in halves again, you will end up with four wedges, then peel them. (if you do not serve the avocado quickly, sprinkle it with a little lemon juice, to stop it from browning).
(for the « pevre » from the Andes)
* 3 green onions
* ½ white onion
* ½ red onion
* 3 shallots
* 1 clove of garlic, peeled, and chopped
* 2 tomatoes, peeled and seeded.
* 2 tbsp chopped parsley
* 2 tbsp chopped coriander
* 50 ml. sherry vinegar
* 150 ml. sunflour oil
* freshly-ground pepper
Dice all the onions into a fine « brunoise » (3mm)
Combine all the ingredients. Let them marinate at least 24hs.
* ½ white onion, sliced
* ½ red onion, sliced
* 1 red bell pepper, sliced and seeded
* 50 ml. sherry vinegar
* 150 ml. sunflower oil.
Purée all the ingredients in a food processor, and sieve.
Cut the meat in small pieces and make a “tower” with 2 or 3 slices (according to how thick pieces are). Put this in the centre of your dish. Spoon it with the emulsion de salsa criolla. Serve the pevre in a spoon. Accompany with the potatoes and the avocado.
The French touch:
1. Sprinke your meat with “fleur de sel” Why? Because it is delicious, it changes your dishes unto something special, “gourmet”…Once you have done this, you won’t want to use ordinary salt ever. The proof? My children demand “fleur de sel” on their hamburgers !! (believe me!)
2. Sprinkle the avocado with “piment d’Espelette” for the special taste AND colour…great for a lively touch to your dishes!
Buen provecho ! (Enjoy it!)