Friday, February 26, 2010

Sweet anticipation


Gracie, one of the 8th graders going with me to France in less than a week, drew this picture on my white board.  To say that we are excited and nervous would be a gross understatement.  We try hard to keep it under wraps and concentrate on our day-to-day work, but it just isn't easy. 
Comments and questions...
--Madame, I found the cutest rain boots and raincoat for the trip!
--Look at this packing list that Courtney found on line. Isn't this so practical?
--Will you bring back a French boy for me?  (from one of the girls who can't go with us)
--Can we put on our pjs and watch a movie at the chef's house one night in Arles?
--Will I get to see pink flamingoes?
--Can I wear shorts on the trip?
--Can I try to get pickpocketed?
--Are French boys hot?
--Can we go to a PSG soccer match?
--What if my suitcase weighs too much?
-- How much spending money should we bring?
--What movies will they show on the plane?
--Is it one of those planes that has a long aisle down the middle?  You know?
--If the girls talk about hair dryers one more time my son may scream! (from the mom of one of the boys)

I am sure the list will go on and on as the next few days pass in a blur of taking care of details.  I have my own checklists and questions...
--Do I have photocopies of everyone's passport?
--Did I order enough euros?
--Will my global phone really work when we get there?
--Who is most likely to get homesick, car sick, flu sick?
--How many times will I count 16 heads?
--Will any parents be high maintenance?
--Will they practice the French I've been pounding into their heads for months?
--Will everyone's ATM card, including mine, work?
--Who is most likely to lose a camera, purse, ATM card, passport?

And I have no idea how I am going to get more of my things back from Arles.  Well, I've already decided that I am bringing back a second suitcase, even though Delta now charges $50 to do that.  GRRRR  Plus the stuff that I will have to have, can't live without for another year-- lavender honey (I hope Sophie has some), sea salt, Camargue rice, lavender sachets, herbes de Provence (yes, I know I can buy them here, but are the ones in the grocery store really from Provence??).  The list goes on and on.  I am back to the dilemma I faced when I packed to come home after my sabbatical.  I just want to bring it all home with me.  The sights, the smells, the sounds, the food, the wine, the civilized manner of eating meals (I have already warned the aforementioned 14 year olds that we will not eat quickly on this trip), being surrounded by the soothing French language (ok, the sounds of sirens in Paris I'll leave behind).  Hélas.

We do have some wonderful plans.  Five nights in Paris.  Highlights: dinner reservations at Le Chartier, a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower at dusk, reservations at Hôtel Le Pavillon, a former convent on Rue Saint Dominique,  the market on Rue Mouffetard or at Raspail, picnics, a guided tour of the Louvre and Notre-Dame.  We will travel by TGV to Avignon, visit the middle school of our new penpals, Collège Le Mourion in Villeneuve-les-Avignon, have lunch in Avignon, head to Arles, check into the lovely Hôtel du Musée, located within the walls and very near the Rhône, cook with Chef Érick, visit the Camargue to see black bulls, pink flamingoes and the Mediterranean Sea, visit the Arles Saturday market, five nights in Arles.  I am already dreaming of steak-frites, seafood risotto, mussels, oysters and salade de chèvre chaud.  

Okay, enough daydreaming.  I still have to get through a hair appointment (I do have to look my best, you know), a Sabbatical Chef cooking class with 20 students with Dorette at C'est si Bon!, and three days of classes before the plane takes off.  And the air traffic controllers in France need to end their strike.  And I have to pack...

Steak au Poivre
4 servings

1 Tbsp. cracked black pepper
4 beef tenderloin steaks or 2 beef top loin steaks (New York strip or Kansas City steaks), cut 1 inch thick (1 pound)
2 Tbsp. butter 
1/4 c. brandy or beef broth
1/4 c. beef broth
1/2 c. whipping cream
2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

Use your fingers to press the pepper onto both sides of the steaks.  If using top loin steaks, cut each steak in half crosswise.  In a large skillet cook steaks in hot butter over medium heat to desired doneness, turning once.  For tenderloin steaks, allow 10-13 minutes for medium rare (145F) to medium (160F).  For top loin steaks, allow 12-15 minutes for medium rare to medium.  Transfer steaks to a serving platter, reserving the drippings in the skillet.  Keep warm.  Remove skillet from burner and allow to stand for one minute.
For sauce, combine brandy and beef broth (or all beef broth); carefully stir into drippings in skillet, scraping up crusty browned bits.  Stir in whipping cream and mustard.  Bring to boiling.  Boil gently, uncovered, over medium heat for 5-6 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally.  Spoon sauce over steaks to serve.

The sauce is also good for dipping your frites!

Bon appétit et bon voyage!

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