Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bon anniversaire, M. Twain!

The Google Doodle today alerted me to the fact that today is Mark Twain's 176th birthday.  Merci, Google!
Happy Birthday, Bon Anniversaire, M. Twain.  Here is a virtual treat for you!  I know you would love these little macarons.  Were they popular, did they even exist, when you were in Paris?  They are the dernier cri these days in La Ville Lumière.  Wouldn't it be nice to be sitting in a little café or tea shop enjoying a few with a cup of café crème right this very moment?  Watching the Frenchies hurry by on their way somewhere?
M. Twain's best work, in my humble opinion, is Joan of Arc.  (No, I have not read them all.)  It is also called Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by The Sieur Louis de Conte (Her Page and Secretary).  The dedication reads:

To My Wife
Olivia Landgon Clemens
This Book
is tendered on our wedding anniversary in grateful recognition of her
twenty-five years of valued service as my literary adviser and editor
The Author

However, this story was first published in Harper's Magazine, in installments, beginning in 1895, but no one knew it was by Mark Twain.  It was supposedly written by Jean François Alden, translated from the original unpublished manuscripts of de Conte. Twain wanted his identity to be kept a secret, probably thinking that the book would be taken more seriously if told through the eyes of one of Joan of Arc's childhood friends.  Evidently, Twain held St. Joan in great esteem, believing her to be the one historical figure "genuinely free, innocent, and devoid of selfishness."   
Of this work, Twain said this:
"I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well.  And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing."
I am not sure how I first got my hands on this book.  My best guess would be that I found it while just hanging out in Barnes and Noble looking through rows and rows of books (one of my favorite past times).  The version that I have was published in 1989 by Ignatius Press, San Francisco.  The original version was published in book form in 1896.  I actually found a free on-line copy of it, too.
The Innocents Abroad, Twain's travel stories published in 1869, was his best-selling book during his lifetime.  It is sitting on my nightstand, patiently waiting to be read.  From it comes one of my favorite Twain quotes about the French:

In Paris they simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French!  We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.

I will leave you with one more example of his thoughts on French.  This is from Mark Twain, A Biography:

It has always been a marvel to me-- that French language; it has always been a puzzle to me.  How beautiful that language is!  How expressive it seems to be!  How full of grace it is! And when it comes from lips like those [of Sarah Bernhardt], how eloquent and limpid it is!  And, oh, I am always deceived-- I always think I am going to understand it.

Twain had many other thoughts on the French, usually dealing with what he called their lack of morality.  He was, after all, a master of insult!

Bon appétit, Samuel Langhorne Clemens! (Nov. 30, 1835- April 21, 1910)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Le Jour de l' Action de Grâce

Invariably, this question comes up in my classes... "How do the French celebrate Thanksgiving, madame?"  Well, they don't.  They didn't have pilgrims, les pèlerins or Indians, les Indiens d'Amérique.  Just Romans, Huns, Celts and other assorted tribes taking them over thousands of years ago.  French teachers across the U.S. teach their little darlings vocabulary for Thanksgiving or le Jour de l'Action de Grâce, as it has been translated.  I've always thought that sounds a bit strange.  I didn't do that this year.  We've been working on Paris projects in 7th grade, basic food vocabulary in 6th grade, and more complicated food vocabulary in 8th (20 of them will be ordering off Parisian menus in approximately 100 days so this is serious business!). 
WE celebrated with food-- Frenchie-style.  We made crêpes in one 8th grade class.
Modern Family, my favorite TV show, even made a reference to the French and Thanksgiving last night.  Phil was setting up tables for Thanksgiving bistro-style, unbeknownst to Claire, of course, and he told Luke that he bets that's how the French do Thanksgiving.  I hope that some of my students, who also love the show, too, laughed...  please?  Claire changed the tables back to one long one, by the way.
One of my advisees, a piemaker par excellence, made pumpkin pies for us.  Merci, Jacques!  (He treated us to key lime a couple of weeks ago...)
Served with the obligatory Cool Whip, of course. 
The year I made my own whipped cream for Thanksgiving, a huge debate ensued, started by Son #1, about the merits of Cool Whip over the real stuff.  And he took a poll.  I have no idea which one won, but there is a tub of that stuff in my refrigerator waiting for the pumpkin pie I made yesterday.  A great American tradition, folks.
The French have lots - beaucoup- of different ways to express thanks.  They really are a very polite people.  If you remember this and have a few handy phrases in hand (or head!) you will go far.  After you make eye contact and say Bonjour, madame/monsieur/mademoiselle, of course.

Merci bien.
Merci beaucoup.
Merci mille fois.  Mille fois merci.
Merci de...
Merci beaucoup pour...
Merci en avance.
Je vous remercie.
C'est gentil de votre part.
Je ne sais pas comment vous remercier.
Avec tous mes remerciements.

And that just scratches the surface.
Personally, I am filled with gratitude- la gratitude- today.
  • For the sleeping boys upstairs and their sleeping dad.
  • My family, the out-laws, up in the mountains.  I will see them at Christmas.  C'est promis!
  • My in-laws- there are no better ones anywhere.  I'd put money on that.
  • For my friends, both American and French ones, who love me no matter what and make me laugh.
  • For my job -- the colleagues (who are like my family) I get to work with and my students who keep me young and who hopefully learn a few things about life and French. 
  • For the security that job provides me and my family.
  • For living in a wonderful country where I still believe that all things are possible.
  • For living in a great city that continually strives to become even better and doesn't hide it's flaws.  (I don't really care for perfection.  It's taken me a long time to admit this.)
  • For my two goofy cats who get up very early with me every morning and then chase each other around the house like maniacs and go back to bed 15 minutes later while I am still typing away.
  • For this computer and the internet that keep me connected to all those family members and friends and allows me to express myself in this blog.
Okay, time to get the bird - le dindon- ready for the oven.  And to reheat the cinnamon buns I made yesterday (only 3 are missing).  And to make the cranberry-orange relish for moi.  Who knows maybe one of the still-sleeping boys will surprise me and try it today.  Miracles happen.
Today's Thanksgiving menu--
Brie (with little truffle specks in it!)
Goat cheese with herbes de provence
Roasted turkey
Garlic mashed potatoes (served with gravy)
Sauteed green beans
Pumpkin pie
Cherry pie

My mother-in-law made the cherry pie a tradition.  Son #1's birthday always falls right at Thanksgiving (He is 24 today, on November 24th. We will observe a moment of silence around 1:00pm followed by a bubbly toast to his health!)  She made a cherry pie when he was very young and he loved it so much that he asked for it every year after that.  One year, he ate the whole thing by himself.  I am carrying on that tradition...

Bon appétit et Joyeux Jour de l'Action de Grâce à tous!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Mildreds

Happy Birthday, Mama!
I love you.
In your honor, I pulled Mildred the Mixer out of the cupboard several times today and gave her quite a workout.  You would be very proud of us.

I made pies and cinnamon rolls.  You would love the cinnamon rolls.  I promise to make them for you during Christmas when I come up to visit.  How's that?
I hope your day was good.  It was great to talk to you.  Take good care of your cold.


Ultimate Cinnamon Buns
from All-Time Best Holiday Recipes (by the editors of Cook's Illustrated)
makes 8-15, depending on the size you cut them

3/4 c. whole milk, heated to 110˚F
2 1/4 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 large eggs, room temperature
4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
1/2 c. cornstarch
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened

1 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. butter, softened

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar

1.  For the dough:  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200˚F.  When oven reaches 200˚, shut off.  Line 13 x 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing excess to hang over pan edges.  Grease foil and a medium bowl.
2.  Whisk milk and yeast in liquid measuring cup until yeast dissolves, then whisk in eggs.  In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, cornstarch, granulated sugar, and salt until combined.  With mixer on low, add warm milk mixture in steady stream and mix until dough comes together, about one minute.  Increase speed to medium and add butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated.  Continue to mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes.  Turn dough out onto clean surface and knead to form smooth, round ball.  Transfer dough to prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm oven.  Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
3.  For the filling:  Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl.  Turn dough onto lightly floured counter.  Roll dough into 18-inch square, spread with butter, and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture.  Starting with nearest edge, roll dough into tight cylinder, pinch lightly to seal seam, and cut into 8 (or more, depending on how thick you want your rolls) pieces.  Transfer pieces, cut side up, to prepared pan.  Cover with plastic and let rise in warm spot until doubled in size, about an hour.
*After this step, you can refrigerate the rolls for up to 24 hours before baking.  When ready to bake, let the buns sit at room temperature for one hour, then remove the plastic and continue with the recipe from step 4.
4.  For the glaze:  Heat oven to 350˚F.  Whisk the cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar in medium bowl until smooth.  Discard plastic and bake buns until deep golden brown and filling is melted, 35-40 minutes.  Transfer pan to wire rack and top buns with 1/2 c. glaze; let cool 30 minutes.  Using foil overhang, lift buns from pan and top with remaining glaze.  Serve.

Bon appétit, Mama!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


This is how I feel right now.  All sparkly on the inside.  I don't think I am throwing off pulsating lights on the outside.  At least no one has looked at me in an unusually weird way today.  (I teach middle school so there is always a certain amount of strange looks thrown at me on a daily basis.)  But my boys are home!!  I haven't seen them yet since I am still at school.  Son #1 drove to Tennessee and picked up Son #2.  The fact that he drove that long length of I-40 and back is enough reason to celebrate, n'est-ce pas?  For a few days my nest won't be empty.  I can cook to my little heart's delight.  And hum while I am doing it.  Or whistle.  Or sing my sweet country tunes while listening to my iPod.  (It fits just right in the pocket of my Arles apron.) The hormone-free turkey is in the refrigerator. I have pounds of butter and russet potatoes on hand.  Pie crusts will be made tonight.  Yeast and flour are ready for roll-making.  Cranberries are just waiting to be mixed in with orange for a relish that only I will eat.  I have some brie, as well as a lovely round of goat cheese (thanks, BFF!) with herbs and lavender sprinkled on it.  And a new cinnamon bun recipe to try out.  As much as I will miss the in-laws and the out-laws, I am happy to be staying home with the Ex-Ex, the boys, and the cats.

And if I have really and truly have had 2,422 readers today on this blog and it is just not some glitch at blogspot and Google, well, that is certainly worth some sparkles.  A glass of sparkles will be in order to celebrate!  Hmmm... Wine Authorities isn't really out of my way home.  Maybe there is a bottle of Vouvray Le Bouchet 2008 in the refrigerator waiting just for moi...
Bon appétit, cookers, eaters, and readers!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


It is too easy for me to get carried away when planning for a big meal.  So I am thinking of writing KISS on the back of my hand in permanent marker to get me through the next week.  Keep It Simple Stupid.  Just look at my list.  Marked through, added to, notes everywhere.  I found this magazine, All-Time Best Holiday Recipes, by America's Test Kitchen, the editors of Cook's Illustrated, at the grocery store the other day.  I stashed it in my carry-on 25 pound purse (at least it felt that heavy) on my recent school trip to Tennessee and pulled it out frequently.  I have now marked recipes I plan to use with the darling little pink heart post-its. (I love these magazines-- the recipes are tested over and over and over and they even give you the whys and wherefores about each one.  I've never gone wrong with a single recipe.)
This Thanksgiving it will just be the four of us.  No trips over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go.  After a quick trip over the mountains to fetch Son #2 in Knoxville, we decided that will be enough driving.  I have declared, however, that we will make a quick stop in Spruce Pine to see Mildred on her birthday.  Son #1 will drive over on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, depending on his schedule and we will all be together for the first time since early August when we dropped College Boy off at his dorm.  We will celebrate Son #1's birthday, too, on Thanksgiving Day this year. 
With this crowd of men, though, I must remember that they are very fond of the basics. There is a lovely recipe for Baked Brie En Croûte.  And Son #1 has developed a love for Brie, but do I dare wrap it up in a puff pastry and add apricot preserves?  Maybe I'll have both and see if he likes it.   I'm thinking turkey breast instead of the whole bird.  Gravy, of course.  No brainer there.  Au Gratin Potatoes or Garlic Mashed?  The mashed will probably win out.  Can I get away with adding the garlic, though?  Green Bean Casserole or Sautéed Green Beans?  Most definitely sautéed.  That's not too different from the steamed ones, is it?  Sugar-glazed carrots?  Probably not.  Oven-Baked Stuffing? Fluffy Dinner Rolls or Olive-Rosemary Bread?  Rolls.  Or wait.  Cornmeal Biscuits?  I might be able to get away with that.  Cranberry-Orange Sauce?  I think I am the only one who likes cranberries anyway, so that's a yes!  The recipe calls for a splash of Triple Sec and I just happen to have a bottle of that stashed away somewhere.  Ultimate Cinnamon Buns for breakfast?  They love those.  Pumpkin Pie, of course.  The missing recipe in the magazine is cherry pie.  That's what Grandma started making as a birthday treat for Son #1 years ago and I must carry on the tradition. 
And, oh yes, lasagna will be ready and waiting, along with a big pot of chili.  I doubt that either son has been starving the past few months (we can track Son #2's debit card and see which fine-dining establishments he has frequented on Cumberland Street in Knoxville), but a mom had to feed her babies when they return to the nest, right?
I think I'd best get up from here, finish that list, and head to the grocery store.  With the Ex-Ex in tow to keep me in check, of course.

Bon appétit, America's Test Kitchen and Thanksgiving Cooks across the USA!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

L'Armistice and 11-11-11

November 11 is called Armistice Day because it is the day that the Allies and Germany signed an agreement to stop the fighting of World War I.  It was not technically a surrender on the part of the Germans.  It was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 in Maréchal Ferdinand Foch's private railway car in the forest of Compiègne.  The car was put back into regular rail service after the signing, then was on exhibition in the courtyard of Les Invalides in Paris from 1921-1927.  After that it was placed in La Clairière de l'Armistice, a special building built to preserve it.  It remained there until 1940 when Hitler came to the forest of Compiègne to demand it from the French.  He draped it with his swastika-bearing flag and took it to Berlin.  The SS later burned it.  On Armistice Day 1950, the replacement car, pictured above, was dedicated.  It is the same model and built in the same year as the original.  I've been there several times.  There is also a museum next to it where you can see pictures of the destruction of northern France during the war.  Compiègne is Raleigh, North Carolina's sister city.
Under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI.

There are always fresh flowers and there is a service every evening.  The unknown soldier was interred there on November 11, 1920 and an "eternal flame" lit.

According to Wikipedia, it has only been extinguished once, by a drunk Mexican soccer fan after France beat Mexico during the 1998 World Cup games in Paris.  President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy visited the memorial with Charles de Gaulle in 1961.  After Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Jacqueline decided to have an eternal flame placed on his grave in Arlington Cemetery.
My high school French teacher was a WWII bride.  I wish that I had learned more about her life, that I had asked more questions.
As a tribute to Armistice Day, I decided to make Quiche Lorraine.  Lorraine was one of the regions of France taken by the Germans during the war.  It is next to the German border.  This plaque is also under the Arc de Triomphe.
Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France on November 11, 1918.  I've never been there.  It is on my to-visit list.
This recipe is the traditional Lorraine recipe.  Quiche these days is made with just about anything added, but the original only had bacon or lardon.

I seem to remember being told by my French teacher that it was eaten a lot during the war because the ingredients were readily available on farms.  She was very surprised when it became a very chic chic dish.
I found this recipe in My French Kitchen by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde.

Quiche Lorraine
serves 6

For the pastry:
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
5 Tbsp (1/2 stick plus 1 tablespoon) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 c. chilled vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons cold water
**Sabbatical Chef note:  I used 9 tablespoons butter, no shortening. I had to add more ice water later on when mixing to get it to hold together.

For the filling:
Olive oil as needed
10 ounces slab bacon, cubed (I used thick cut)
2 large eggs
2/3 c. heavy cream
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Make the pastry.  Put the flour in a large bowl, add the butter and shortening, and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.  Using a round-bladed knife in a cutting motion, combine the beaten egg yolks with the mixture until a dough ball forms.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and briefly knead until the dough is even and smooth, then wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 375˚F.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and line a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and cook the bacon for 5 minutes.  (I didn't need the olive oil.  After the bacon had cooked for about 5 minutes, I drained it on paper towels before adding it to the egg mixture.)  In a bowl, beat the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper until blended, then add the bacon.  Pour into the pastry shell.  Bake for 35 minutes, reduce the temperature to 325˚F, and bake for 15 minutes more.  Serve warm.

While I was at it, I also made the Onion Tart recipe from the same book.  We had a middle school faculty get together and I thought it would be a nice dish to share with my buddies.

Onion Tart  Tarte à l'oignon
serves 6

For the pastry:
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Dried beans or pie weights for baking the shell

For the filling:
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pound yellow onions, finely sliced
2/3 c. half and half or light cream
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Make the pastry.  Put the flour in a large bowl, add the butter, and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.  Using a round-bladed knife in a cutting motion, combine the egg yolks with the mix until a dough ball forms.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and briefly knead until the dough is even and smooth, then wrap and refrigerate to chill for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 400˚F.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and line a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, making sure there are no cracks.  Return to the refrigerator to chill for another 20 minutes, then line with parchment paper and fill with dried beans.  Bake for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 325˚F, and bake for about 15 minutes more, or until the pastry is golden and set.  Remove from the oven.
While the pastry is baking, make the filling.  Melt the butter with the oil in a saucepan.  Add the onions and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.  This long, slow method of cooking makes the onions melt; do not allow them to brown or frizzle.
Mix the cream, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Put the cooked onions in the baked pastry shell, carefully pour in the egg mixture, and then return the tart to the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm or cold.

**You can, of course, buy pastry dough at the supermarket and skip that step.  I usually have some dough from a vinegar pie crust recipe I love in the freezer that I can pull out and thaw pretty quickly.

Bon appétit, Armistice Day and soldiers everywhere!  Thank you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

France 2012

Right now, I have two trips planned for 2012.  One in January for 3 days in Paris and 3 days in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon.  And the annual 8th grade trip in March for 6 days in Paris and 6 days in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon.   We have a homestay worked out with a collège there.  I am so excited about this.  So, I must save my pennies I mean euros.  I have a few left from last year...

Those 1€ and 2€ coins add up!
I also hope to put together a trip for girlfriends to Paris and Provence in July.  It is in the planning stages at this moment.  The BFF and I have a date planning session scheduled for this afternoon.  A glass of something French as an apéritif will certainly motivate inspire us.  Come on, ladies.  Girls only.  Start saving those pennies!
This bank was a gift from one of my girlies a few years ago.  Too cute, n'est-ce pas?

Bon appétit, jet-setters!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Man In Black

I wear a lot of black.  I just do.  Sometimes I fight the impulse to buy yet another black sweater or dress.  Sometimes, if I find a great bargain, I give in and add it to the collection.  I've struggled with the image over the years.  The Ex-Ex asked me one time if I was having a Johnny Cash day.  However, just recently, I learned to embrace it, thanks to a sixth grade boy.  Here's how the story goes:

First period class, 13 eager sixth graders, lesson on telling your age and how to ask someone else's age...

6th grade boy: (hand in air- oh, good, a question, I think, about this fabulous lesson I have just presented)  Why do you always wear black, madame?

Me:  (mouth kind of open, no sound coming out- I should be used to this kind of thing after 32 years of teaching middle school) Uh...

6th grade girl:  (very matter-of-factly) Black is very slimming, you know.

Me:  (composure somewhat regained):  You probably don't know who this is, but there was a famous country singer named Johnny Cash, and he always wore black and so do I. (As good a reason as any, right? And it is slimming, just for the record.)

6th grade boy:  Oh yeah, I know who he was.  I've heard his music.

Me:  (mouth kind of open again, thinking that I must remember to thank his parents)  Good for you!  I am impressed.

Back to the fascinating lesson on the French verb avoir...

Later in the week, I gave them a quiz and I put a caricature of Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, on it as extra credit to see if any of them know who he is.

One girl guessed Johnny Cache.  She spelled his name in French, no less!  She didn't even know she had done it.  How great is that?

So now when I get up in the morning and pull on a black turtleneck or tights, I think, thank you, Johnny.  It's a good look.  I guess it is just who I am.  It doesn't mean I am depressed or going to a funeral, either. 

The black boots that I bought in Arles in 2008--
The black Longchamp purse I bought at Galeries Lafayette on one of my March student trips--
The inside is always a disaster (the phone is usually buried way in the bottom somewhere so that I can't possibly get to it when someone calls)--

One of two black trench-type raincoats that I own--
Carol, at Paris Breakfasts, posted recently about what the Frenchies are wearing... noir, bien sûr, so I feel even more chic.

Back to Johnny... I visited Folsom Prison a few years back when out in California for computer training.  Luckily, I was with another teacher who grew up in the area.  We finished our work early one day and decided to see the sights.  I jumped at the chance to see the prison.  Sounds a little weird to you, does it?  When you grow up on the music of Johnny Cash, it is not at all weird.  My dad and mom listened to him all the time.  When Walk The Line came out on video, my boys gave me my very own copy of it.  Son #2 even downloaded some of the songs on his iPod- I was so pleased and proud.  I am listening to the soundtrack as I type.
Naturally, my thoughts turned to What would Johnny eat?  And bless the internet and google because thanks to them I found out.  All I had to do was just google Johnny Cash favorite food and up popped a picture of his sister Joanne and a bowl of chili.  A fitting recipe for a chilly Sunday afternoon so this is what the Ex-Ex will have while he watches football today.

Rest in peace, Man in Black. 
Johnny Cash Chiliserves 12

(I wish I had my mom's old cast iron pot to make this.  She used to make things like this on the wood cookstove she inherited from my grandmother.)

5 lbs. sirloin steak, chopped
3 packages McCormick's, Lawry's, Schilling or any other good chili seasoning mix
Mexene chili powder
Spice Island's chili con carne seasoning mix
4 15-oz. cans red kidney beans
4 16-oz. cans whole tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
Seasonings to taste:
Sage leaves
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Chopped onions
Chopped chile peppers
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

Brown meat.  Add chili seasoning and cook 5 minutes.  Add beans, tomatoes, spices to taste, onions, chile peppers to taste, sugar, chili powder and/or chili con carne seasoning to taste.  (Tasting here is essential so you won't over season.) If too hot, add more tomatoes.  Add tomato paste.  If chili seems too thick, add water.  Simmer on low heat 20 minutes.

**Sabbatical Chef notes:  I cut the recipe in half (just the two of us now) and made a few adjustments.  I used petite diced tomatoes with green chilies in them.  I used one envelope of chili seasoning, I ground up one teaspoon each of cumin seeds and rubbed sage.  I threw in a teaspoon of herbes de provence (mine is a mix of thyme, basil, savory, fennel seeds, and lavender flowers-- the recipe has been Frenchified!).  I chopped up a medium-sized onion and two cloves of garlic.  I added a tablespoon of sugar.  I left out the garlic and onion powders.  I didn't have any con carne seasoning on hand.  It is pretty spicy as it is.  I didn't add the tomato paste.  The Ex-Ex doesn't care for a strong tomato taste.   It is pretty darned good, if I do say so myself.

Johnny's Cornbread

Once again, a well-seasoned cast iron skillet would be the best thing to bake this in.

1 1/2 c. self-rising cornmeal
1 1/2 c. self-rising flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2 3/4 c. buttermilk
1 onion, chopped
1/2 c. melted butter

Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.  Add egg, buttermilk, and chopped onions. Pour into skillet and bake at 350˚F for about an hour or until done.  Take out of oven and pour melted butter on top.  Let set for 10 minutes before cutting.

Bon appétit, Johnny!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Le Toussaint et Maillane

All Saints Day.  November 1.  No work for the Frenchies.  No school.  Tomorrow is the day when they visit cemeteries and leave flowers.  However, some of them will do this today since they work tomorrow.  Chrysanthemums are the flowers for graves in France.  You would never, ever offer them to a living person.  Remember that in case you are invited for dinner and want to take a nice little gift to your host or hostess.  Stick with roses.
In 2008, Chef Érick and I took guests to Fassy bakery in Maillane in late October and Jean-Pascal was making these lovely pâtisseries

He is one of my favorites.  Always very welcoming and very funny.  He had a hard time understanding why I was going to leave his Provence and return to the United States at the end of my sabbatical.  He let me make my own fougasse that day.  Well, I got to cut it anyway. 

His family has been baking for six generations. 

The bakery occupies the former home of the maternal grandparents of Frédéric Mistral (1813-1914), the Nobel prize winning poet.  I took this photo of him just a day or two before I left Arles.  I roamed around town taking my last sabbatical pictures.
I am quite sure I heard him whispering to me that I would return someday.  That I wouldn't be able to stay away from his Provence.  He's right.  I will be back in January, Frédéric.  Attends-moi.

Two of M. Mistral's quotes I particulary like--

-"Quand le Bon Dieu en vient à douter du monde, il se rappelle qu'il a crée la Provence."
   (When the Good Lord has doubts about the world, he remembers that he created Provence.)

-"Qui a vu Paris et pas Cassis, n'a rien vu."
 "Qu'a vist Paris e non Cassis a ren vist." 
  (He who has seen Paris and not Cassis has seen nothing.)

recipe from Érick and Madeleine Vedel

Fougasse is a Provençal flat bread.  It is cut in a ladder-type shape and can be savory or sweet.  When it is made with olive oil it is part of the Christmas meal in Provence (Pompe à l'huile).  It can be filled with olives, cheese, anchovy paste, pork cracklings, etc.  Or it can be flavored with orange, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. 

500 grams of bread flour (2 1/4 cups)
10 grams of salt (1/2 tsp.)
20-30 grams of baker's yeast in cakes (more in winter, less in summer)
200-250 grams of water (1 cup or a little more), as needed

Mix together the above and knead for 15 minutes.  Let it sit overnight in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic to keep the dough from drying out.
The next day, take out the dough, cut it into sections, roll it out and make the cuts you would like.  Add pork or duck cracklings by folding them into the dough, then rolling the dough again, folding it again, rolling again.  Or sprinkle some cheese and sun-dried tomatoes on top, or olives, olive oil, herbes de provence, or honey.  Tapenade could be used.  If you decide to use orange flavoring, do so when you mix the dough.  You can really use your imagination here.  (I really liked to eat it for breakfast, no matter what flavor, so when I went out to get pastries, I almost always bought one or two.)

Preheat oven to 200˚C/420˚F.  Let rise 15-30 minutes in a warm place just until it is filled out.  Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes or until just golden brown on top.

Bon appétit, Le Toussaint, Jean-Pascal Fassy et M. Mistral!