Sauce African

Our neighbor Laurent had a ravenous craving for Thai cuisine.  There are a few restaurants here, one run by a Thai lady, that purport to be purveyors of authentic Thai cuisine. Having eaten at 1 of these restaurants where my husband had to administer a kick below table to keep me from asking which part of Thailand the lady came from, I realized that, like most of rural France, Sens is Asian cuisine poor and proud of it 🙂  Ask M. Parret.

Still, with the right incentives, he can be convinced to eat almost anything I make in my kitchen, reserving his inalienable right to criticize any “odd” cuisine prepared on French soil.

Now Laurent’s family is originally from Armenia therefore he is not intimidated by hot chillies and doesn’t mind a little weeping and snorting 😀  Unfortunately, the hottest chillies I could find were chillies for toddlers, even when you cook them with the seeds 😦 Fortunately, for the last 12-15 years Sens has been “colorized” by an increasing flood of West Africans and other Africans from Paris.  I think housing is a lot cheaper here and there are multiple 1 hour trains into Paris for work.  Lucky for me because I was able to find some very serious West African chilli sauce a la Abdoulaye.   Sauce African 🙂

The barely suppressed sneer on Le Parret’s face when I told him we were having frog legs as an entree!  I thought he’d be happy.  Heck, they’re as much a delicacy in France as escargots!  I found the small delicate legs at Picard, the frozen food specialty store, imported from Indonesia.  So good, simply prepared with garlic and parsley.  Of course he ate them and had seconds.  Yeah, I missed him a lot during my exile in the States, but I can’t let him have the run of the picnic table.  It’s actually on American soil but I won’t upset him with that fact.  He’s too old 😀

I made an Asian style “riz gras”  with scallions, multicolored peppers and a ham hock that my husband brought back from Germany.  Very rich, tasty and filling, if somewhat gummy said my husband accidentally  😀

This Thai stir fry of beef strips with basil was good, especially after I stirred some sauce African into my portion 😉  Although the favorite, Thai chicken and aubergine curry, was the hit of day (top picture).

Thai Chicken and Aubergine Curry

3 small aubergine, cubed


2 tbsp peanut oil

2 tbsp peanut oil

3 tbsp Thai curry paste

6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup water

1 can bamboo shoots

Zest from 1 lime

4 medium sized hot chillies with seeds, cut into strips

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp sugar

1 small bunch basil leaves (Thai if possible)

Salt the aubergine cubes, fry in 2 tbsp of oil until lightly brown, then set aside.

Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil and the curry paste, cooking and stirring for about 1 minute.  Add the chicken pieces and the reserved aubergine, stirring to mix.  Pour in the coconut milk and water, bring to a boil, then simmer until sauce begins to thicken.  Add the fish sauce, sugar and basil leaves, simmering for 10 minutes.

Serve with rice.













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Pork Cheeks with Red Coco Beans

In France, pork cheeks are classified as “les abats” or offal because they are attached to the pig’s head.  The head, considered by no Frenchman ever as a thrown away item, is part of the stripped carcass.  I don’t even understand why the French place the head of anything with les abats, considering their affinity for attached heads.   Just try to buy a headless rabbit here and you’ll see what I mean.

Anyway, I was strolling by Maison Trotoux last week and noticed that his blackboard featured veal kidneys and veal liver so I stepped right in.  I haven’t eaten les abats for about 1 1/2 years because I’m suspicious and distrustful of normal meat handling and processing in the U.S.,  so the insides of anything are out of the question.  Thank the Lord for the French who specialize in making everything edible and safe to eat.  It’s the law! Coincidentally, I was also in the market for pork cheeks in order to make a recipe I found in an old French Saveurs magazine and Trotoux had some; beautiful trimmed and irresistible.

For the last few days the weather has been almost wintry cold with rain.  On Sunday we had a pause in the rain and everyone was happy to get to the picnic table for the usual all day Sunday lunch.  We had lots of wine and we began with an apertif of  Bailly Cremant Chardonnay, continuing with this through the entree of a refreshing salad with quail eggs and cubes of fromage bleu cendre (blue cheese rolled in ash).  I guess I forgot to take a picture of the salad or the camera ate it 🙂

The unseasonable heavy rains have rotted some of the fresh beans in the fields.  These red cocos that I bought were picked before time and were a little green, taking longer to cook. There was one green bean in with the bean pods that pleased me and led me to imagine a romantic, pastoral scene of the farmers harvesting in their bean fields, putting me in remote touch with the source of my food 😀

Lardons, onions, garlic, fresh cherry tomatoes, oregano and basil sorted the negativity of the not quite ripe beans.

I even included the lone green bean.

M. Parret brought over well aged bottles of Morgan and Epineuil from his cellar for the main course.  I’d like to say we sipped instead of guzzled, but I can’t remember 🙂

Le Parret criticized this tarte because Kevin bought it at a supermarket.  He called it “industrialized”.  I think he was a little befuddled by the wine once we got to the dessert because he ate a very large piece with relish 😀

Pork Cheeks with Olives

12 pork cheeks, seasoned with salt and pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 large carrots, sliced

2 celery branches, sliced

1 tbsp flour

10 ounces of a yellow cooking wine (like Chateau – Chalon)

2 cups water

1 bouquet garni

3-4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/2 cup nicoise olives (substitute kalamata if not available)

Brown the cheeks on both sides in two batches then set aside.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pan and cook until onion is soft.  Put the cheeks back in the pan, sprinkle with the flour, then cook and stir for about 1 minute.  Add the wine and stirring, reduce for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the bouquet garni and garlic, then place in a preheated 350 oven for 1 hour, covered.

Remove the cover, stir in the olives and return uncovered to the oven for an additional 30 minutes.












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Back in the day, when we were in Niger, I remember being invited to a pig roast hosted by another American and his Vietnamese wife.  I will never forget this barbecue because when the pig was done, every inch of the pig skin was crisp and crackling.  We ate this delicacy as an appetizer with drinks.  This occurred sometime in the mid-80s and it’s only in the last few years that I have finally been able to roast a skin on piece of pork with perfectly cooked skin.

The secret:  Score the skin of a pork belly with a knife or poke the skin all over with a big cooking fork, then rub with salt.  At this point, you can also rub with a flavored dry rub like Emeril’s essence or Bavarian essence.  Place the pork in the refrigerator uncovered.   You want the skin to dry out.  Refrigerate overnight, rubbing with salt again at least 6 hours before cooking.  Grill off flame for 2 hours.  And that’s it!  Works every time.  Slather both sides of a baquette with garlic mayonnaise, add a slice of pork with some crispy skin and you’re good to go.

My other pork challenge was the French answer to American ribs, travers du porc, less bone and more fat.  I could not understand what the French saw in this cut!  Well, first of all you should buy this cut at a good butcher.  The butcher cuts this portion of pork to include a generous portion of meat to each bone and trims the fat to a thin layer.  I now like this cut almost as much as normal ribs 🙂

I browned some local turnips with thyme because they were very pretty, I had thyme and I like turnips.

Okay, these were my last pictures in the camera from when I didn’t have a computer. Now I can start to share our adventures in gluttony in an “au courant” fashion.





Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes, Sandwich | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fish Mongery

The absolute first thing I wanted to do after my arrival was to go to Steve the fishmonger at L’Ambiance des Halles, and I did.  Although I’ve gotten off to a slow start; the weather was a horrendous 96 F for 4 days when we arrived, but I’ve got big plans that could well involve seafood on the “barbie”.  In the meantime, the petit pois called out to me in the market:  “Hey girl, where you been?”

I love to shell peas and beans.  I think it makes me feel, well, “country” but in a good way. I like to shell them outside at the picnic table so that the neighbors and passersby can comment on my technique 😀

These peas were a little older and starchier than I like, but in combination with lardons and shallots, who cared?

The cod fillets at the monger’s were ocean fresh and lovely as usual.  I cooked them simply, sprinkling with salt, pepper and a dusting of ginger.

Fresh Peas with Bacon and Shallots

2 lbs unshelled peas (makes about a pound when shelled)

1/3 cup of lardons or bacon, cut into batons

2 tbsp butter

3-4 small shallots thinly sliced, vertically

3 tbsp water or chicken broth

Shell the peas and set aside.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until brown and crisp.  Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel.  Remove all but 1 tbsp of bacon grease from the skillet and add the butter to melt.

Add the shallots to the skillet and cook until just soft.  Add the peas, sauteing for a minute or two.  Add the water or broth, cover and steam until tender but still green.  Stir in the bacon and serve.



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Les Cerises de Pascal

Pascal is a maraîcher or truck gardener, mainly supplying lettuce and cabbage to the sellers in the farmers’ market and local supermarkets.  I think of him as the lettuce man and he is also the petit chouchou of my friend Veronique.  Choux is cabbage in French 🙂

He’s also got fabulous bing cherry trees.  So that’s why.  Ice cream had to made!  I bought ridiculously rich and thick cream from the market along with farm eggs.  Ben and Jerry can’t compete.

Recipes for ice cream can be found by a search of my blog.  All the recipes are the same, I just change the fruit.


Posted in Dessert, Food and Wine, French, Fruit | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Oh La La!

Well I’m finally back in France and have been here since June 7th, but then a bunch of annoying things happened, like my computer declaring itself old and dead.  I won’t bore you with the saga of how I ordered a computer without an operating system online but, in general, things like that just kept happening!  Still it didn’t stop me from eating and drinking and laughing to exhaustion 😀

The first thing I made was a big pot of mussels Roquefort.  However, those pictures went down with the ship and included a picture of M. Parret 😦   I don’t remember when I roasted these coquelets but I had fresh, green beans with lardons and fingerling potatoes!

I know I’m in  France when vegetables and meats taste like they did when I was a child. And I’ve got lots of fresh herbs still growing, although they were abandoned for almost a year and a half!

This is the good, simple food that I’ve missed along with my Kenyan serving fork and spoon.

No recipes.  I’ve got to catch up!




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Easy Napa Cabbage Stir Fry

An easy stir fry inspired by an attractive napa cabbage.  I added a hamburger steak with melted Swiss cheese for bulk and meat protein 😉

Napa Cabbage Stir Fry

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 small onion, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 multi-colored mini bell peppers, diced

1 tbsp butter

1/2 large Napa cabbage, sliced

Heat the oil in the skillet, add the onion, garlic and bell peppers, sauteing until crisp tender.  Add the butter and the cabbage and continue to saute for 2 minutes, cover and steam on low for about 5 minutes.

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Recipes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment