Saturday, November 24, 2007

Novembre 2007

November 2007

Where should I start?

I have to warn you that this month is about food and drink!

Why not start at the very end of October, Halloween. It is not celebrated much here, and it seems less and less so each year. However, the children know the house of the “Americans”. Children that I have never seen before arrive at our door and in their best English say hello or even a few say “Trick or Treat”. And then they say Good Bye or Happy Halloween as they walk away. 

 November 1st is Toussaint (All Saints Day) and is a holiday here (I know that France has a separation of church and state too, but they did not give up these holidays, oh no, it is a day off work, so the logical step was taken and it remained a holiday). It is also the French equivalent of the American Memorial day. Mums are bought and placed on graves in cemeteries all over France. The mums they sell at this time of year are gorgeous. As I understand it, mums are for the cemetery and for gardens and for decoration. But one does not buy mums as a hostess present.

 As November came in, so did the gray and foggy days. We get days with fog days with mist or out and out rainy days. Oh where is that sun anyway! We have not done much in the garden yet due to the weather. The roses are still trying to bud, even after a rather cold week. Along with the change in the weather, one benefit is the tourists have practically disappeared. So the region is returned to those of us who actually live here. A certain "quiet time" has returned. 

I had given you warning last month of the “Foire Internationale et Gastronomique de Dijon”. We went on a Tuesday around noon, and it was practically impossible to find a parking place. The first few parking lots were completely full. Where do all these people come from on a working day?

Once inside, there are booths selling pate, cheese, wine, caviar, cookies, chocolate, champagne, sausages, bread, candies….and the list of vendors goes on. Then there are restaurants set-up between all of these booths. Restaurants that serve food from all over the world, but most are restaurants from the different regions of France. Of course it is made for the French palate (as we were assured by the hawker for the Indian restaurant), which means not spicy. Hot food is not part of the French cuisine. However, having said that, they do use peppers in the Pyrenees Basque region (mountains between France and Spain). 

We looked at a few booths as we entered but Keith was starving. So we sat a Camargue restaurant and had taureau (the Camargue is a region in the south of France and on the Mediterranean Sea. Taureau is bull). 

There were things on display other than food. I bought a ravioli press. You put the pasta on it, put a spoon full of filling in the indent and close, VIOLA, raviolis. Have not tried it yet. But there were booths and demonstrations for pots, pans, and of course even here in France -“it slices and dices”, and many other gadgets for the kitchen.

 I have included a few photos of the Foire (festival)

BAR Cavier
Restaurant Sausage anyone?
Alsacian Restaurant ESCARGOT?

Since this month seemed to center around food, I have to comment on the French cuisine. I now buy groceries every day (except Sunday when stores are closed). Fresh has taken on a different concept. You start to flow more with what is in season. This summer I got excited by some melons I saw at the market. It was early, and it was from Africa (food is marked where it comes from). I bought one! It was too early and there was no taste. One has to wait until the French melons come out and oh la la, what flavor. Live and learn.

It is now fall and of course apples are in season. I took some apples that I had from our friends'trees and cut them up, added a little sugar, a little white wine and a sprig of thyme. What a delightful dessert.

We do get hot house tomatoes and beans all winter, and those do not have much flavor. I much prefer my garden vegetables or those vegetables (legumes) directly from the Cote-d’Or. Fresh beets (betterave) are in season now and there is so much more flavor in a fresh beet then in canned beets! So my shopping and cooking habits have definitely changed. OK, I have to add that although buying vegetables (les legumes) as fresh as possible I do not mean to imply that I am now a health freak. The cuisine of this region is laced with butter, cream, and cheese. Oh well!! Maybe I will slowly change some of that too, one never knows.

 I went with Marie Therese to Nuits St. Georges for “Fete de Vin Bourru” . Bourru is the wine from the first fermentation. It still is somewhat like grape juice, but with a kick. We tasted the bourru and of course made the rounds and tasted some other wines. I bought some cheese from the Pyrenees. Nibble –drink, nibble-drink. Now you must remember that Marie Therese’s business is selling wine, so it is necessary to taste and find new wines. This was strictly business.

 This last weekend, I again joined up with Marie Therese and we went to Beaune

It was the weekend of the Hospice de Beaune auction. I had never gone before. I thought that it was mainly about the wine auction. No, it is a whole weekend of festivities. There were booths everywhere selling food and wine. We watched a contest with 5 women. The prize went to the first person to uncork 20 bottles of wine (I think it was water actually- who would waste good wine on a contest). There were bands too and a parade (défilé).


Hmmm..but what are they?

 Unfortunately, we went to the place for wine tasting and the line was very long (maybe 100 people ahead of us) and they only let in people when others exited. So we had to pass on the wine tasting. Again I must note that this was a trip for business reasons only! 

I prepared a small Thanksgiving this year. I ordered the turkey 10 days in advanced. I ordered about 5 kilos (11 pounds) fermier (farm raised, not industrial). I ended up with 2 small turkeys (about 6 pounds each). They have the big turkey factories here too; turkey is a Christmas tradition. But the fermier turkeys are not raised to the extra large sizes. So I had the 2 small ones. I cooked both (really too much turkey) and the taste was wonderful. I will continue ordering small fermier turkeys in the future.

I did a traditional mid-west Thanksgiving. There were 5 of us for dinner. I made turkey, mashed potatoes, wild rice casserole hot dish to Minnesotans), sweet potatoes (patate douce) without marshmallows, cranberry sauce (pinot noir cranberry sauce) and pumpkin and pecan pie. Guests arrived at about 12:30 and left about 6:30pm. There was no football, so we sat and ate and talked at the table the whole afternoon. I had stated that I would take pictures, but I was serving food, and talking and forgot the pictures! Mr. Turkey was good looking, you will just have to believe me.

 Now we start the season of Marché de Noel (Christmas market). A few years ago I had gone to the one in Strasbourg when Keith had a meeting there. Since this area has a strong German influence, the Marché de Noel is very large. Here in Dijon it has gotten smaller each year. I am not sure what they will have this year, but I will go and check it out.

 Since the weather has changed and it is a bit nippy, I will add the recipe for Beef Burgundy (Boeuf Bourgogne). I have to admit that I just throw this together, so I went out and found a similar recipe on the net and then made the changes that were more to my taste (I think I use more wine than any recipe on the net). I did this to get some idea of the measurements, since I do not use any. Remember you can flavor to your taste.

 Boeuf Bourgogne (Beef Burgundy)

 A great rich dish to serve on winter nights. This dish does not take long to prepare, but cooking it slow makes all the flavors blend together to form a wonderful sauce. You have to think that a peasant woman put this dish together long ago. She would throw everything into the pot, probably swing it over the fireplace coals and then continue with her chores. 

20 minutes preparation 3 1/2 hours cooking 

  • 3 slices smoked bacon or about 6-7 ounces, (buy the extra thick slices of bacon and cut into match stick)
  • 1 lb boneless of beef cubes , cut into 2-3 inch squares
  • 2 TBS of olive oil (as needed)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, thick sliced
  • 4 carrots cut in large sections (3 inches long)
  • 4-6 potatoes cut into quarters
  • 1 beef broth cube
  • 1 bottle of red wine, such as pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon (should be the same grape variety that you will drink with the dinner- I do not feel that a superior wine is needed for cooking, but it should be drinkable wine)
  • 1 large or 2 small yellow onions cut into large pieces
  • 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme ( or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
  • 1 to 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tsp Worchester sauce

  • 1. Cook bacon in a heavy 4 qrt Dutch oven (or large pan with cover that is ovenproof- top should be tight fitting to minimize the loss of moisture)  

    2. Transfer bacon with slotted spoon to a medium bowl; set aside.  

    3. Add oil to the pan as needed. Brown meat with garlic, transferring it to the bowl  

    4. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.  

    5. Add mushrooms to drippings in pan; cook 3- 4 minutes or until mushrooms are browned, stirring frequently. 
    6. Transfer mushrooms to the bowl with bacon and meat.  

    7. Return contents of the bowl with all the juices to pan; add onions, broth cube, ¾ of the bottle of wine, and thyme, bay leaves and rosemary. Stir in tomato paste. Meat should be covered completely. If not add some water to cover. 

    8. Add Worchester sauce 

    9. Add one of the carrots ( the carrot will add flavor to the sauce) 

    10. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low.  

    11. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.  

    12. Put in the oven at 300 degrees for 3 hours (should smell the herbs as they cook) –a slow cooker would work too. Maybe cook 5-6 hours in the slow cooker, I do not use one so not sure of the time 

    13. Check every hour to be sure meat is covered. Add the rest of the wine and then water as needed. 

    14. After 2 hours, add the rest of the carrots and potatoes 

    15. Return to oven for another hour 

    16. Combine flour and butter, mixing until smooth.  

    17. Stir into meat mixture to thicken the sauce.  

    18. Return to the oven for the last ½ hour.  

    19. Remove thyme sprigs, rosemary and bay leaves.  

    The main note for this dish is to cook slow. The flavors mix together and the meat becomes tender. The fat from the oil and bacon help keep the meat from drying out as it cooks, so do not cut out these ingredients. Boeuf bourgogne may be made 1 day ahead (up to #14). Add the carrots and potatoes when you put it in the oven the next day. Cool, uncovered, then chill, covered (it tastes even better made ahead because it gives the flavors time to develop). I do not use a recipe when making this dish, so it varies time to time.