French Snack

While waiting for my sea bream to be cleaned and filleted at L’Ambiance des Halles, we started talking about caviar and how expensive it is.  One of the ‘mongers suggested that I try a coffret of Kaviari with 2 small tins of ossetra caviar.  She assured me a 15 g tin was the perfect one person snack when you need a little something to get you through the day, and that the price was reasonable.  Okay, I like caviar, why shouldn’t it be a snack?

The packaging was simple, though attractive.  The caviar has a rich, delicious flavor although I prefer a firmer texture.  It was a good snack!  I quickly polished off one tin.

I savored my French snack for about 1o minutes, then made an American snack of an omelette topped with sour cream, chives and the second tin of caviar 🙂


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Pot au Feu de Canette de Barberie

A canette is a female duck.  I had to look it up when I found this gorgeous recipe in the winter edition of the French Saveurs magazine.  This is a very timely recipe for all of us on antibiotics, combating severe coughing and lung congestion.  It seems I’m finally over the more than 2 weeks misery.

I found the duck in the market, raised, slaughtered and “cleaned” on a Sens area local farm.  I do prefer the supermarket look, but I did an extra bit of cleaning and the flavor was worth it.  I did have them do away with the head and feet but kept the neck.

Leeks, cabbage, carrots, celery, turnips and potatoes.  I should have had this instead of the antibiotics.  You need a really big pot.  Mine was just barely adequate.

Pot au Feu de Canette de Barberie

1 large canette, 4-5 lbs

8 turnips, cut into large bites

8 potatoes, cut into large bites

5 carrots, cut into 1 inch- 1 1/2 inch pieces

4 leeks, cut into 1 inch – 1 1/2 inch pieces

3 branches celery , cut into 1 inch – 1 1/2 inch pieces

1 onion

4 cloves

1 bouquet garni

1/2 small cabbage, cut into wedges

Thyme leaves

Put the canette, vegetables (except for the cabbage)  and herbs in a very large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes.  Add the cabbage and simmer for another 45 minutes.  Sprinkle with thyme leaves before serving.




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Roasted Lamb and Potatoes

I guess Tonio Mendes is my favorite eater.  His appreciation of simple country dishes was acquired in Portugal where he was born and raised.  This lamb tajine is inspired by “Arni me Patates sto Fourno“, a rustic Greek dish that reminds me of my friend Magdalena each time I make it.  Tonio’s enthusiasm and delight at the table inspires my own 🙂

Because of the weather, the picnic table has been moved into the house’s vestibule whose walls and tiles are in the process of being restored, and repainted.  Can’t wait until the work is completed.  In the meantime, we bring the picnic table in and out between work hours.

I brushed the roast with a mixture of chopped garlic, fresh oregano, lemon juice salt and pepper and olive oil.


Lovely brussel sprouts with lardons and shallots.  Doesn’t get any better than this!

My portion with very rare lamb slices and roasted onion wedges.   Mmmm good!






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The British Are Coming!

I’ve often been impressed and surprised by the excellent recipes from the BBC’s food section.  Forgetting that the days of dull, unimaginative English cuisine are long gone and chefs like Jamie Oliver are showing Americans a thing or two.

I miss rabbit when I’m in the States and BBC’s recipe for rabbit stew with prunes was inspiring and perfect!  I bought two rabbits and barely flinching, I cooked the heads along with the rest because “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”  Anyway M. Parret has a thing for rabbit head 🙂

One of the rabbits was quite a bit larger than the other.  I worried about them fitting inside my tajine but it worked.  Prunes soaked in cognac, a full bottle of red wine, lardons, herbs and carrots; a few of my favorite things 🙂

Rabbit Stew with Prunes

1 cup dried prunes, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 tbsp Cognac

2 cleaned rabbits, cut up, with or without heads

Salt and pepper


3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup lardons

1 onion, halved and sliced

4 large garlic cloves, chopped

2 large carrots, sliced

2 celery branches, sliced

2 thyme springs

2 bay leaves

1 bottle red wine

1 cup chicken broth

Mix the prunes, sugar and cognac together in a small bowl, set aside and allow to soak for about and hour.

Season the rabbits, including the liver with salt and pepper, dust with flour, then brown in a large skillet with the olive oil.  Remove and set aside.  Add the lardons, onion, garlic, carrots and celery to the skillet and cook until the lardons begins to brown.  Add the thyme, bay leaves, red wine, broth and soaked prunes with liquid to the skillet.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Place the rabbit pieces on the bottom of a stove top tajine or stove top casserole with lid.  Pour over the sauce, cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.




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Sanglier Oven Braised in Cider

Last week Tonio, a neighbor, came to the house with a shoulder of wild boar, leg and hoof attached.

Tonio:  One of my friends killed a boar and gave me this shoulder.  My wife and I don’t know how to cook it.  Do you?

Me:  Yes I do, but before that enters my kitchen, you’re going to remove that leg.

Tonio:  How?

Me:  Try a saw.

It’s a shame that I didn’t get a picture of the thing with leg on but I was appalled by the coal black leg hide attached to the satanistic hoof and more concerned about him trying to get it in my door and kitchen in that condition 🙂

It really was a lovely roast.  My biggest concern was to cook it just right without drying it out.  Boar is a lot leaner than pork, lacking the natural marbling of fat that keeps a pork roast moist during roasting.

I wasn’t confident in dry roasting the boar on a rack, depending on basting to keep the juices in, so I seared it, set it on top of herbs, garlic and onions, then poured over and in some hard cider, covered it with foil and roasted for 1 1/2 hrs.  I think 😀

I mixed some Granny Smith apple chunks with halved fingerling potatoes and added them to the roasting pan, recovered the pan and cooked and additional 45 minutes, I’m pretty sure.

I made this a while ago but the picnic table attendees are still talking about it and suggesting other game I could cook.  I assured them I would be happy to cook any game as long as it has the supermarket look and not the tied to the hood of the car/road kill presentation.



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Poisson St Pierre with Fennel

The French Saveurs’ October edition has some extraordinary seasonal and appetizing recipes for the month.  That’s why I bought this extremely ugly fish.  Evidently, looks aren’t everything because St. Pierre fish is delicious.  And, you can buy a whole fish at L’Ambiance des Halles.  Of course.

I was interested in this recipe because it included fennel and the fennel bulbs are looking rather sexy in the market.

The fish is laid on a bed of thinly sliced fennel.

Then sprinkled with coarsely chopped olives, basil and garlic.  I liked this.

The fish was starting to look interesting.  Mediterranean?

Then topped with thinly sliced lemon and tomatoes.  I sliced the tomatoes and lemon like a savage and they should have been more thinly sliced but….

The fish came out white and flaky, it’s flavor enhanced but not masked by the vegetables.  Okay, the presentation was lumpy with the tomatoes and lemon but it didn’t ruin our appetites or anything 🙂

This was a very nice meal and you could choose any whole white fleshed fish if you can’t find the St. Pierre.

In the evening we still had room for a light, evening snack of charcuterie, cheese and wine that’s always nice.

St. Pierre Fish with Fennel

1 large St Pierre fish, gutted and cleaned

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

4 fennel bulbs, sliced thin

6 garlic cloves

1/3 cup pitted black olives

Leaves from a small bunch of basil

4 small tomatoes, thinly sliced

2 lemons, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Salt, pepper and brush the fish with olive oil.  Set aside.  Oil a large, shallow baking pan, then place the sliced fennel inside.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the fish on top of the fennel.

Chop the garlic, olives and basil together, then sprinkle over the fish and fennel.  Top with the lemons and tomatoes.

Place baking pan in oven for about 30 minutes until fish flakes.


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Castelnaudry Cassoulet

The recipe for the cassoulet and the earthenware pottery originated in the town of Castelnaudry, France, although there are many variations of this dish, Castelnaudry is named the “pere”.  In fact, before my orphaned camera arrived, I made a Spanish/Portuguese variety, containing chorizo and blood sausage.  Delightful!

I’ve made a cassoulet before but this time I wanted it to be as close to the original as possible, cooked in the pottery and without drastically fiddling with and adjusting the ingredients.

While shopping for my cassoulet meats in the farmers’ market, I noticed that the Ambiance des Halles (Fishmonger) had 3 kilos of  Coques St. Jacques in shell (scallops) on sale for 18 euros.  I found this impossible to pass up and planned it for a starter, grilled with butter, parsley, garlic and chives.

The scallops were rather large and it took about 5 minutes, top down, on the gas grill for perfection 🙂

Sometimes the wine is so good that it deserves to be hugged as well as drunk 🙂  At least at this picnic table.

I bought 2 kilos of unshelled Paimpol coco beans, my favorites.  Shelling beans is one of my favorite activities, a sort of meditation with coffee.

2 kilos of the unshelled beans gives you enough for a very hefty casserole indeed.  I love the look of these beans, so plump and white that you want to tasted them immediately, but raw doesn’t work 😀

No matter how many beans I buy, I always get a little surprise of mangetout, romano or fava.  Whatever I get,  I happily cook it along with the beans.

No vegetarian meal, cassoulet contains, Toulouse sausages, lamb neck, pork loin, garlic sausage, thick bacon, duck fat and is topped with with duck legs confit before baking .  The recipe says for 8 but 12-16 is more realistic.

M. Parret didn’t want any dessert, he was barely able to shovel down 3-4 pieces of cheese with baguette after the cassoulet.  Poor thing!  I gave him a coffee and a Calvados instead.

Cassoulet Castelnaudary

2 lbs unshelled Paimpol beans or 1 lb dry white beans soaked overnight

1 whole carrot

1 onion, quartered

4 cloves garlic

8 cloves

1 bouquet garni

1lb fresh garlic saucisson

1/2 lb fresh salt pork

1 hefty tbsp duck fat

Put the above ingredients in a large stock pot.  If you have dry beans soaked overnight, add them also.  Bring the pot to a boil and them low simmer for 1 hour.

If you have fresh beans, add them to the pot after 1 hour and remove from flame.


Duck fat

1 1/2 lb boneless pork loin

1 1/2 lb lamb neck, sliced

1 1/2 lb Toulouse sausages

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 bouquet garni

2 medium cans diced tomatoes

Brown the pork loin, lamb and Toulouse sausages in large skillet in duck fat.  Remove and set aside.  Brown the onion and garlic in the pan.  Add the bouquet garni and tomatoes.  Add 2 ladles of broth from the beans, bring to a boil and low simmer for 1 hour.

Slice the cooked pork loin in cubes, the neck chaotically, the salt pork in medium size squares, mix together and set aside.  In another plate, slice and set aside the garlic sausisson.


Duck fat

Duck confit legs

Grease a large baking pan/pot/tajine with duck fat.  Add a layer of the mixed meats, a layer of Toulouse sausages and sauce, a layer of garlic sausages, a layer of beans.  Repeat.  Place a tbsp duck fat on top, then top all with the duck confit legs(not degreased).  Add 1-2 ladles of of the bean broth.  Preheat the oven to 350 F and bake for 2 hours.  Put a pan underneath, in case of spills.














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