Saturday, January 20, 2007

Eating France at home

I'd been planning to whip up some plump pillows of fresh ravioli to show how it should be done but the pasta trauma of New Year's Day has affected MC and he can't be persuaded to partake in such pasta-y comestibles. I've been consulting recipes for crab or lobster ravioli and trying to come up with something special. But with MC's reticence and being inspired by the whole French thing today it somehow doesn't seem right to make pasta. And to be honest, hanging around a food show all day is mighty tiring so it makes sense to conjure up something simple... And French! A quick pop to Waitrose on the way back from Olympia clinched the deal, we grabbed a couple of Bigham's Breton chickens, a Waitrose French onion soup, a part baked garlic baguette, gratin dauphinois (working on the theory that you can never have too much gratin Dauphinois!), a bag of frozen petit pois, some little gems and a Waitrose tarte au citron.

I located the atmospheric French music CD, the French white fluted plates, the bee glasses and bee linen - all very francais! I even graced the table with the Villeroy and Boch ever so classic candelabra. Okay, not very bistro but très elegante all the same! I suppose I could have grabbed the red and white chequered tablecloth from the picnic hamper, melted a few candles in some leftover wine bottles and really gone retro bistro but if Pont de la Tour can do bistro food served with all the elegance of fine dining, then so can I.

I had envisaged serving a rich little soup in the new (and terribly French) La petite black dress espresso cups (despite them being shockingly Franglais in their names!) with a Parmesan lid. But when I decided to serve French onion soup it really could only be with a melting cheese French bread croute. I wasn’t really sure how that would work with such a small cup so I abandoned the cups in favour of small (over proof) bowls as I wanted to flash them under the grill. We also had some spare garlic bread, so that was served on the side. How lovely do my bee linen napkins look?

This was followed by the Breton Chicken which is one of Bigham’s Kitchen Classics range. This was just basically chicken breast pieces, chopped leeks and bacon which are sautéed and then a tasty chive mornay sauce is poured over the cooked chicken and leeks. This would be an easy dish to put together but the boon of having everything prepped and chopped when I’m time pressured was very useful. The box even suggests a couple of serving options including rather interestingly serving the mixture in a pastry case with French beans. This was accompanied by a creamy oven baked gratin Dauphinois. I had intended to serve Petit Pois à la Française but wanted a recipe that used frozen petit pois and the first that I fell upon was the Crafty French Cook Michael Barry but he does his version without water or stock and rather a lot of cream. I realised whilst I was cooking this that the creamy gratin, the unctuous mornay sauce and the additional cream in the peas could possible push us all to cream overload, so I just quickly substituted stock instead. Next time I think I’ll use the queen of frozen peas Nigella’s recipe. It’s available in both How to Eat and Feast.

Petit Pois à la Française

Recipe courtesy Nigella Lawson

3 small or 2 fat scallions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 drop garlic-infused oil (or any oil really)

1 Little Gem (Butterhea
d) lettuce, shredded
2 cups frozen petits pois
1/2 cup hot chicken sto
ck (concentrate or cube and hot water is fine)

- Cook the scallions in the butter and oil until soft.
- Stir in the shredded lettuce, and when it is wilted add the frozen peas and stock.
- Cook at a robust simmer, uncovered, until everything is tender and the liquid flavourful and reduced.

D persuaded me that a cheese course might be a ‘little much’ with all the other food so we finished with just a slice of Waitrose tarte au citron which again I couldn’t work out how to serve in an espresso cup so a spotty plate it was, possible highlighting that the black and white themed blogging party only tipped the iceberg of my extensive monochromatic crockery collection!

Vive la France!

1 comment:

Puddink Please! said...

So enjoyed dining "chez vous".
Isn't the Waitrose Tarte au Citron a delight to end on !?!
On a recent visit to London, a friend had me to a "Waitrose" dinner....a little shop had just opened up near his home.
What a delicious meal it was!
Memories of the tart Tarte bearing a dollop of creme fraiche, linger on....and I have talked of it often since being back here in the "colonies"....where we are acquainted with a distant relative:the Lemon Meringue.