Romancing the Pork Belly

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Thinking of pork belly sandwiches with bottom of the pan relish, I cruised by the butcher/traiteur, Trotoux.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have any suitable pork bellies :(

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My second option was to go over to LeClerc, the supermarket that has okay pork and an experienced butcher.  He wasn’t there!  On vacation!  In his place I had to attempt to talk to a teen-aged apprentice who wouldn’t listen.  I hate that!  Finally completely frustrated, I spoke to him like his mother probably needs to do frequently, letting him know that he couldn’t help me if he didn’t listen; think of the sound of a cracking whip :)  Still the little person, not from want of listening but because of his inexperience, didn’t quite understand the idea of scoring the pork skin and cut into the meat portion a bit.  He shamefacedly apologized but I told him it would be okay, patted him on the shoulder and smiled encouragingly.  Sometimes you have to raise other people’s children, rather than let them continue down a bad road that could possibly lead to drugs :D

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This Jamie Oliver’s friend’s inspired recipe is easy, fun to make and always pleases.  The mixture of fruit, herbs and aromatics is perfect for roasted pork.

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This delicious, roasted garlic almost didn’t make it back into the pan with the roasted vegetables and fruits.

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As taught by Roger Stowell, Photoshop is not a substitute for good photography; you can’t Photoshop a bad photo into a good one.  I believe that.  However, you can remove an unsightly horsefly from the picture.  Where’d he go ;)

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This is the way we really eat.  Not elegant, but satisfying.  The rest is just romance :)

Pork Belly with Bottom of the Pan Relish

3 lb pork belly, skin scored

Sea salt

2 onions, quartered

3 apples, cored and cut into wedges

3 carrots, cut into chunks

2 garlic heads, tops sliced off

1 cup small, pitted prunes

3 fresh bay leaves

4 large sprigs fresh thyme

2 large sprigs rosemary

1/4 cup cider

The night before, rub the pork belly all over with sea salt and refrigerate.  The next day, rub again with sea salt and set aside.

Put the onions, apples, carrots, garlic and prunes in the bottom of a roasting pan/tajine, then tuck in the herbs.  Pour the cider over the vegetables, then place the pork belly on top.

Place in a 400 F oven for 30 minutes, then reduce to 350 F and continue to cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the pork belly, slice and set aside.

Remove the garlic heads and discard the herb leaves and sprigs.  Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from the skin into the bottom of the roasting pan.  With a hand potato masher, coarsely mash together the roasted vegetables in the bottom of the pan.  Place some sliced meat on a baguette with mayonnaise, some bottom of the pan relish, lettuce and tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, English, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, Sandwich | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Tamale Whatever

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When we were kids, my parents would take us to visit cousins in Richmond, California.  The two things I remembered about these visits were the mosquitoes and the tamales.  The mosquitoes were enormous, science fiction mutants and after an hour of running around in the garden, our bodies were streaked with blood from their bites.

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The tamales were rich, thick and spicy with a tomatoey pork sauce and just enough of the masa harina corn to hold the filling.  They were hand made by a neighborhood “Mamacita”, loaded into a hand truck with steamer and sold from door to door.   What a difference between these authentic tamales and the ones you are served in restaurants today with a thick tube of corn and a slick of meat sauce!  Bleah!  I never order tamales at restaurants.  That said, I totally failed at making the tamale filling!  From the beginning, I didn’t intend to make wrapped tamales (no masa harina here and corn husks), but just to duplicate the texture and flavor of the filling.  Didn’t do it.  I made a good tasting, Mexican inspired filling but it wasn’t a tamale filling :(

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I couldn’t find dried chillies anywhere in town and this might have been part of the reason for my unsuccessful recipe.  Instead I used a chili paste from Tunisia, an harissa.

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To add insult to injury, I hated the pictures I took.  The one above looks like something from My Dad’s Lunch.  Maybe a sailboat in a sea of pork :D

Anyway, no recipe.  So why am posting?  For the sheer delight of saying, so what :)

Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Mexican | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

Cassoule des Haricots

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I met a little lady, like me, of a certain age at the Grand Frais the other day while searching fruitlessly for dried chilli peppers.  She was standing in front of some beautiful fresh, cranberry beans, feeling each bean in each pod before adding it to her bag.

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I usually buy fresh beans at the market but these were truly gorgeous so, well trained by the French in market etiquette, I stepped behind her, centered my body over my feet and gazed serenely, though somewhat vacantly at some Italian beans on the side.  Waiting my turn.

She:  Am I in your way?

Me:  Not at all, I’ve got plenty of time.  I’m retired.

The lady went on to explain to me that the reason it was taking so long, was that one could be seriously ripped off buying fresh bean pods that weren’t absolutely full.  I told her that these beans looked better than the market beans and that she had a good chance of getting full pods.

She:  I rarely go to the Sens market, nor do I come to Grand Frais often.  The market always seem so full and busy that I feel uncomfortable.  In addition, I live all the way in Rosoy (4 miles away).

Me:  You might like the Pont sur Yonne market.  That’s spread out in the town center and not so congested as the covered markets.

She:  Oh no!  Pont sur Yonne (11 miles)!  That’s really far!

Her husband who was waiting patiently on the side, as was mine, entered the conversation with a deadpan expression but irrepressible twinkle in his eye.

He: That’s definitely a weekend trip.

Made my day :D

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I didn’t actually cook the beans in my small cassoule but I could have, just couldn’t be bothered :)  They were excellent says M. Parret  who knows excellence when he tastes it :D

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I love fresh beans!  I began with a handful of lardons and just let the spirit take me. Couldn’t go wrong ;)

Cassoule des Haricots

1/2 cup lardons or bacon, diced

2 knobs of butter

2 leeks, halved vertically and thinly sliced

2 small celery branches, thinly sliced

1 bunch fresh oregano leaves, chopped

2 cups diced tomatoes

2 vegetable bouillon cubes(Maggi)

1/2 tsp black pepper

Salt to taste

3 lbs unshelled fresh beans, shelled

Water to cover

Brown the lardons in a skillet, then remove and set aside.  Melt the butter in the skillet, add the leeks and celery and saute until soft.  Stir in the reserved lardons, oregano, tomatoes, bouillon cubes, pepper and salt.  Add the beans and water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

    

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Two Dollar Chuck

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My husband says that Trader Joe’s is advertising an affordable wine, supposedly drinkable, for only $2.  For those young professionals who crave the taste of wines aged in oak barrels, Joe’s offers the economical alternative of wine aged with oak chips.  Well! That’s all I can say.  Well!

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And the real deal of the day:   Jacques, a retired Parisian butcher and the owner of my favorite spot to have coffee in the morning, Le Litteraire, contacted his friends at the local slaughterhouse and requested American cut ribs.  Because his friends refused to accept money for the ribs, Jacques refused to accept money from me and they were absolutely free!

I thought the ribs could have been cut a tad bit meatier but, as my husband said between bites, you can’t beat the quality and flavor of good European pork.

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When I was shopping at Carrefour they had several varieties of Heinz BBQ sauce.  What the heck!  I took the “Classic” variety because the “Sweet” sounded eerie.

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Surprisingly, the color and thickness of the sauce reminded me of my father’s homemade barbecue sauce, but it wasn’t.  Still it was okay for a bottled sauce.  I served the ribs with leftover ratatouille.

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Barbecued Ribs

3 slabs pork ribs

Salt and pepper

Garlic powder

Rosemary leaves

Cumin Seeds

Barbecue sauce

Sprinkle the salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, cumin on both sides of the ribs and rub in.  Refrigerate the ribs for at least 2 hours.

Heat the grill on high with all burners on for about 15 minutes.  Turn off half the burners, quickly brown both sides of the ribs, then place the ribs on the cold side of the grill, close the cover and roast for about 1 1/2 hours.

Brush the ribs with barbecue sauce and continue to roast for another 30 minutes, brushing with sauce and turning them every 10 minutes.

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Vide Frigidaire Ratatouille

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It’s so hot!  While the heat doesn’t seem to stop me from shopping, I seem to run out of steam when it’s time to get in front of the stove/oven/grill.  Also there’s a fabulous, new, Japanese restaurant in town and other not so fabulous restaurants to be evaluated ;)

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The freezer is moderately overflowing but the vegetable bins were so full of archaic, whimpering vegetables that even my husband said something.  “Uh, you going to cook?  I’ll get out of the way.”  Fine.  Just fine!

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M. Parret:  I’ve not been feeling well lately, so I went to the doctor today.

Me:  Oh really?  What did he say.

M. Parret:  He told me that maybe I should slow down on the white wine…. And the red too.  I told him that I had been drinking a lot of water but he said he didn’t see much of that in my blood.

Me:  He told you to stop, didn’t he?  He told you to completely lay off for some weeks, didn’t he?

M. Parret:  Okay, but that was not the answer!  He’s not that great anyway.

Me:  Ha, ha ha.

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I had some veal grillades in the freezer and thought I would make these with an onion gravy to accompany the ratatouille.  Too bad I thought too late about the photo.   My husband was glad about the gravy but kept searching his plate for non-existent mashed potatoes.  He had a glass of rose with his meal, M. Parret had water and I, sympathetically, had water also.  Le Parret was not appeased :D

This was a job for my large Emile Henry stove-top to oven tajine because of the ridiculous amount of vegetables in the refrigerator.  You can make a smaller amount by just not using as much of the vegetables.  You can also add chicken broth/vegetable broth instead of water.  I couldn’t be bothered :D

Refrigerator Ratatouille

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, slivered

2 tbsp olive oil

4 small or 2 normal sized aubergine, cubed

1 round courgette, cubed

4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

2 fresh bay leaves

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup water

1 handful basil leaves, chopped

In a large skillet/stove top tajine, cook the onion, peppers and garlic until the onion is soft. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining olive oil and aubergine to the skillet, then cook until the aubergine is tan brown/toasted.  Stir in the cooked onion mixture, the tomatoes, courgette, bay leaves, salt, pepper and water.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with the basil and serve.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Pappardelle avec Petit Pois

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Inspiration for the pasta with peas came from Saveurs magazine.  The recipe was a little crazy because the title was Pappardelle with peas and mint but there wasn’t any mint in the recipe however there was basil.  Peu import, as they say since I’m not a recipe Nazi and had already decided to change the method and ingredients ;)  The original recipe is in the July-August French Saveurs magazine.

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You see, I had this goodly amount of fairly expensive Bayonne ham leftover from sandwich making and the odd sundowner aperitif snack that begged to be paired with the fresh peas and volunteer onions that I decided to add, only because I was out of shallots.  There was no shallots in the recipe either but, again, peu import.  The method for this simple recipe was so convoluted that it smacked of Jamie when he’s playing super chef and employing too many steps and pans.  I was having none of that, boy howdy!

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There was even a bit of silliness involved in making a regular basil pesto.  Just make it the normal way and you’ll be fine.

Pappardelle, Bayonne Ham, Fresh Peas and Zucchini Ribbons

2 lbs unshelled fresh peas

1/4 onion, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tbsp butter

1 cup Bayonne ham, chopped

1/4 cup water

1 zucchini, cut into ribbons

1 tbsp lemon juice

3/4-1 cup ricotta cheese

4 tbsp homemade pesto

1lb pappardelle pasta, cooked

Parmesan flakes

Shell the peas and set aside.  Cook the onion in the butter until soft.  Add the ham, peas and water to the pan, cover and steam for about 5 minutes.  Add the zucchini ribbons and lemon juice, then stir for about 1 -2  minutes until the zucchini is just wilted.  Set aside and keep warm.

Mix the cheese and pesto together, then add to the warm pasta with the pea and zucchini mixture, tossing until well coated.  Serve immediately,  sprinkled with the Parmesan flakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Italian, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Auberge de la Terrase, Moret Sur Loing, France

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Yesterday was my birthday and Yves, a riverboat friend, had told me about a picturesque town about 35 kilometers from Sens called Moret Sur Loing.  I wanted to go there :)

 

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Gratuitous picture of flowers sent by our son from Aquarelle.  Before we left for Moret, I searched the internet for a medium-high quality restaurant and found, among others, L’Auberge de la Terrasse located on the river Loing.  The prices were quoted at 23-43 Euros per person.  Good, I thought, we’ll have drinkable wine.

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When we walked up to the front of the Auberge we noticed the cook staff unloading vegetables and condiments, obviously purchased from a supermarket, from the back of a car.  Forewarned but oblivious, we entered the restaurant.

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Even if it wasn’t my birthday, I would have ordered the coupe de Champagne as an apertif. I like coupe de Champagnes, but not this one.  It was delivered to the table, lukewarm, clutched in the hand of somebody’s grandmother in a track suit.  No bottle, no tray, no sophistication.  M. Parret was appalled and I laughed out loud at the expression of disgust on his face :D  Apparently Grandma was actually the female half of the owner couple.  I have to admit that I was a little shocked; no matter how modest an establishment in France,  the owners always seem to be well dressed and groomed.  We decided to enjoy ourselves come what may, which seemed nearly impossible after we saw the wine list :(

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Even our wine expert was stumped!  The list was composed of the cheapest wines you could find in a Casino Express (think French 7/11).  Choosing by color alone, we flipped a coin, chose the Macon-Village and got what we expected; a dry, French Thunderbird.

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The food was cooked cafeteria style; overcooked, frozen vegetables and the rest over sauced, oily and bland; the only thing missing was the plate with partitions.  There is no excuse for this!  It’s summer and the farmer’s market, loaded with the season’s best, is near by!

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I can’t say that the service was rude, just brutal in the way the plates were violently served and removed.  What was that about?!

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Anyway.  It’s taken me days to post this.  I just wanted to blank out the experience.  We’re going back because it’s a pretty medieval town, lots to see and other places to eat.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking | 36 Comments