Thursday, July 11, 2013

Quand le chat n'est pas là...

(image courtesy of

... les souris dansent.  Or as we say en anglais, When the cat's away, the mice will play.
The Ex-Ex is off with the other school administrators plotting out the school year.  They went to the coast for a couple of days.  Son #2 is here with me for the week, but even he disappeared to see Son #1 when I announced (24 hours notice) that I was having three friends over for dinner.  Two of the friends,  Iron Woman (the former Ms. Sunshine-- I can change names if I want... it's my blog) and Arles Lucy, are former teachers of his and the third, the BFF, is one of his best friend's mom.  He wouldn't have had to hang out downstairs with us, just put in an appearance to say hi, but he opted for hanging out with his brother.  Go figure.
The BFF had announced that she was in need of a Sabbatical Chef dinner-- (French) Southern Comfort Food and some girl time.  So, invites were sent out to the other two and the dinner party was on.  An emergency menu-planning meeting was called -- Foster's Market here in Durham was chosen and over a glass (or two) of lovely white Bordeaux

a shopping list was drawn up.  It has been a tough summer for the BFF, losing her brother to cancer, and for Arles Lucy, losing her house to a Texas-sized tree limb.  Iron Woman finished her little race in Kona, Hawaii with a medal, and I am still riding high on my teaching award.  So, a little party, some good food and wine, and plenty of laughter is just the thing, n'est-ce pas?  Just the girls, celebrating the good and the bad.  No ugly allowed.
I started the day with a shopping trip to Harris Teeter, where I ran into Iron Woman, mouth numb from a trip to the dentist.  She then ran into Arles Lucy at Wine Authorities.  They stocked up on Picpoul de Pinet and rosé, specifically Vénus de Pinchinat from (adorable) Alain de Welle of Domaine Pinchinat.

(I served as Alain's translator one Saturday at WA.  Quite a thrill for me!  I was paid in wine!!)

Iron Woman arrived early to help, bearing two loaves of still-warm-from-the-oven bread.  (See recipe below)

She also brought along Tigger, feeling that I had unjustly maligned him in one of my latest blog posts.

I let him stay.  I was afraid if I kicked him out she would leave, too.  Couldn't chance that.  She is an excellent sous-chef, peeler, chopper, and dishwasher.

The other girls arrived and we had a lovely, much needed evening.  We ate, we drank, we laughed, and just generally enjoyed each other's company.  That, my friends, is what makes a meal memorable.  Not necessarily the where or the what, but the who.

(If you click on the names of the recipes, it will take you to the blogpost where they are found.)

We ate tapenade à la Fanny (I think she would have been proud)--
(I made it in the KitchenAid mini food processor that Son #1 gave me for Christmas.  Worked like a charm!)

gratin dauphinois-- (I cannot find a photo of it!  Imagine thinly sliced potatoes cooked in cream and baked with gruyère cheese in a garlic-rubbed baking dish...)

Iron Woman's bread with Irish salted butter--

I had Brie and St. André cheeses, but no one wanted to risk not having room for... dessert.
However, I had to provide just a bit of comic relief before the dessert course, of course.  I had stashed the potatoes and tomato tart leftovers in the oven since counter space was now non-existent.  But... I forgot about them and turned on the oven to preheat it to bake the tarte tatin.  Until I smelled a strange (awful) odor--
This is what happens to a spatula with a plastic handle if you leave it in a 350˚F oven...

I started to throw it out, but Arles Lucy convinced me to keep it as either an objet d'art or a reminder to always check the oven before you turn it on.
Comedy over, we proceeded to have our dessert.  The BFF is very proficient at this recipe and she also has a pan and glass dish exactly the proper size.  She fell in love with this when she visited me in Arles in 2007.

It was a lovely evening.

Iron Woman brought her bread recipes.  She is thoughtful like that.  I am going to post the knotted one pictured above.

Garden Herb Bread
from Taste of Home
makes one loaf

4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 egg, beaten
Additional dried marjoram, thyme, and rosemary, optional

In a bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, salt, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary.  In a saucepan over low heat, heat milk, water and 1/4 cup butter to 120˚-130˚.  Pour over the dry ingredients.  Add egg and blend well.  Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.  Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.  Punch dough down.  Divide into three equal portions.  Shape each into a 28-inch rope.  Braid ropes; pinch ends to seal.  Tie braid into a knot.  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.  Bake at 375˚F for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown; cover with foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning.  Melt remaining butter; brush over bread.  Sprinkle with additional herbs if desired.  Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Bon appétit, mes amies! Je vous aime.  Bisous!

1 comment:

MPK said...

The best therapy ever. Thank you.