On Saturday October 20th, Promenades Gourmandes gave a party to celebrate life, love, friendship and 10 years of cooking classes and gourmet tours.
There was great live music, with cousin Georges as DJ, a professional who really knows how to make everyone dance. The 70 bottles of Champagne, for 70 guests, came from one of those “secret addresses” every French person has; astonishing, perfectly well balanced, not too sweet, not too dry, no bottles left.
The place, La Maison Blanche (the White House), in Saint-Rémy les Chevreuse, 30 minutes west of Paris, is magical. This Palladian style manor was built in 1900 by an American architect for an American family, and sold in 1923 to a French family. It is the home of my dear friends Mireille and Jean-Luc Brunel, and also the showroom of Mireille, a wedding dress designer whose original talent is reflected in the airy, romantic decoration. Take a look at the website www.etiennebrunel.fr to see the house.
The buffet was prepared on premises, that same afternoon, under the supervision of Christophe Brun-Desvernes, the talented young chef I share friendship and occasionally classes with. The menu was mostly Mediterranean but also had decidedly French appetizers that mark all important fêtes in France.
There were fresh bruschettas, Spanish ham cut to order by Alain, the maitre d’hôtel, Comté and Parmesan cheese (24 months old each) with orange marmalade and black cherry jam.
Lots of finger food, whose photos (and a recipe!) I am happy to share with you, as Christmas parties are upon us.
Soft sundried apricots stuffed with foie gras, rolled in chopped almonds
(I don’t mean to be provocative, we just love it)
I have been practicing this for years; this one is filled with a pêle-mêle of vegetables. For 12 servings :
Clean all vegetables, peel the onions and red peppers.
Quarter the mushrooms, cube the peppers, mince the onions, dice the bacon, cut the larger artichokes in half, leave the small ones whole.
In a cocotte, sweat the onions in olive oil, add the peppers, the mushrooms and the artichokes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the white wine and reduce to half. Add the chicken stock and lightly toasted coriander seeds, cover and cook for no more than 10 minutes, vegetables should be cooked but not soft. Allow to cool, then add herbs, check seasoning and serve in glasses with some cooking liquid, a fresh herb salad, and a parmesan tuile (made of parmesan simply melted in a frying pan over medium heat).
Soon I will write about a recent amazing excursion in the Rhône region. Among other things, I learned all about frog legs , cuisses de grenouilles. This is an emblematic French dish, as you know, but I had never eaten much of it. Frog legs are indeed delicious, a very fine light taste, with lots of thin bones making them a little difficult to eat, and sometimes a little dangerous for the throat.
There still are frogs in France, in the marshy areas, but commercial fishing is illegal. La Dombes, just outside of Lyon going east, known for its fish ponds, no longer supplies the famous restaurants or the more modest guinguettes* in the area. French frog legs now come mostly from Turkey, and sometimes, I even heard, Pakistan. They are delivered live to the restaurants, thus the mention fraiches (fresh) is actually correct.
Suppose you come across some frog legs, fresh or frozen, here is what to do with them :
Dust with flour, and fry quickly in a combination of butter and vegetable oil (grapeseed is my favorite).
Remove and add a tablespoon of chopped garlic, shallots and parsley.
Stir, coat the frog legs, season with salt and pepper and do like me, use your fingers!
JOYEUX NOEL, A BIENTOT
* Guinguettes are riverside cafés that were popular from the late 19th to mid 20th century. They were located in the suburbs and offered popular music for dancing.