Friday, January 10, 2014

5 days to go

Montmartre Neige Mars 2013

This is one of my all-time favorite photos.  I keep coming back to it.  We were taking my Favorite Parisien's route through Montmartre and I just snapped this randomly.  I think it was the white and pink that caught my eye, though, truth be told.  And yes, it was cold.  But quiet.  Not many cars out cruising the frozen streets.  Not many tourists out stomping around in the snow.  I was not wearing proper shoes (or boots), but weather doesn't ever slow us down.  I warn the kids about this before we go.  No wasted daylight (or moonlight) while with me in Paris.  Arles Lucy loved it.  She had never seen Paris under a blanket of snow.

And neither had I until my trip last January.  It is magical.  Cold, but beautiful.

Who knows what the weather will hold for me next week or in March.  The mantra that I use over and over and tell the kids--  There are two things over which I have no control-- the weather and the exchange rate.  The euros have been ordered from AAA.  I am a bit worried about my feet and what I will cover them with, though.  I will check in a couple of days when I start to pack.  If rain and snow are in the extended forecast right now, I'd rather not know today.  Not that I mind it terribly.  Paris is beautiful no matter what.  Ducking into a warm café to have a cup of café crème or un verre de rouge is very nice way to spend a rainy hour.  Sipping, listening to the French flow around me, and watching people is one of my favorite past times.  I have the luxury of that in January.  No heads to count, no strict schedule to follow, no pressing need to visit a museum unless there is an exhibit that catches my interest.  Laura Florand's recommended chocolate shops are on my radar, as well as a couple of cafés recommended by Ann Mah in Mastering the Art of French Eating.  I know that there are some who believe that I have already mastered this art, but I have not and look forward to more practice during my 10-day trip.  Ann's first chapter is devoted to steak-frites, a dish that I dream about.  

 Café du Commerce January 2013

It was that good.
Ann taught me something that I did not know.  Many Parisian cafés are owned by folks from the Aveyron départment in France.

A region well-known for good food and cattle.  A region I would love to visit after viewing and writing a review of Entre les Bras, a documentary about Michel and Sébastien Bras and their restaurant.  Ann actually interviewed the Bras père et fils.
Ann's husband is friends with the owners of a restaurant in Paris named Le Mistral.  It is over in the 20th arrondissement, métro stop Pyrénées.  (I've done my homework!)

However, I will have to forego the frites for aligot, a dish of mashed potatoes mixed with cheese, a speciality of the Aveyron.
And I will find proper shoes this weekend.  Weather will not slow me down.

from Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah

serves 4

2 1/2 pounds nonstarchy potatoes, such as Bintje or Yukon Gold
3/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
14 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch dice (in France, tome fraîche, a semi-soft fresh cheese is used, but this cheese is not available in the U.S.  I have asked the BFF to ask her boss, Seth Gross, owner of the brand-spanking new Pompieri Pizza here in lovely downtown Durham, for some of his house made mozzarella...)

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 to 1-1/2 inch chunks.  Place them in a large saucepan and just barely cover them with cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 15 -20 minutes, until a fork pierces them easily.  Drain thoroughly and pass them through a food mill or ricer to obtain a fine puree.  Try to keep the puree as hot as possible.
Return the potato puree to the saucepan.  Stir in the crème fraîche and the whole garlic clove.  Season with salt and pepper (remember, the mozzarella is salted as well).
Place the saucepan over low heat and stir the cheese into the puree.  With a large wooden spoon, beat the mixture for at least 15 minutes, making a figure-eight pattern within the saucepan.  The aligot is ready when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Remove the clove of garlic.  Lift the spoon.  If the mixture flows in ribbonlike strands, serve it immediately, piping hot, preferably with a rare steak.

Bon appétit, Paris!

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