Les Bonnottes de Noirmoutier


A few days ago I was at someone’s house and accidentally looked at French TV.  There was a news special about France’s most expensive potato at 6.50 Euro per kilo,  Les Bonnottes de Noirmoutier.  They only cultivate 100 tons per year.


Okay, you know I’m game and not easily outraged when it comes to quality food, although I did stutter a bit when I found out they were selling these gourmet potatoes in our Sens farmers’ market at 9.90 Euros per kilo!  In West Africa they always blame highway robbery on the transportation fees.  That must be the case with these potatoes.  After all, Noirmoutier is an island of the Vendee department, about 6 hours away; probably boats, trains and trucks are involved.  Still, maybe I should have Roger mail them to me next time.


Today is Friday, one of the big market days.  After a protracted coffee seance at Le Litteraire this morning, I swung by the market for the good stuff, including fresh peas and new carrots.


I laugh in the face of frozen peas and carrots.  HA HA HA.


What I really wanted was Toulouse sausages but I didn’t find them.  What I did find were some artisanal sausages from Le Village Gourmand and they were exceptional as are all of their products.


Now all I needed was serious eaters.  Ah-ha, there’s one right in front of the house!  Isn’t he cute when he’s impatient :D


I love to prepare food for those who like to eat it!


No poking at the food like there’s an odd, suspicious object on the plate, but instead workman-like fork to mouth action!


So what did we think of the potatoes?  They were good, but so are the potatoes from Le Parret’s garden and those are free  ;)


Pan Fried New Potatoes

1 lb new potatoes, sliced in half

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter



Melt the butter in the olive oil and pan fry the potatoes until brown, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.  Season with salt and pepper.

Fresh Peas and Carrots

1/2 cup lardons or diced bacon

4 spring onions, thinly slice

1 tbsp butter

4-5 young carrots, diced

3 cups fresh peas, about 2 lbs of unshelled peas

Salt and pepper

Brown and crisp the lardons in a skillet, then add the onions and continue to cook until the onions are soft.  Stir in the butter and set aside.

Boil the carrots in water to just cover for about 5 minutes, then add the peas and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.  Drain, stir in the onions and lardons, then season with salt and pepper.







Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Ma Cour


Our house in Sens is the last house on a dead end street.  When we first bought the house, seekers of free parking used to park right up against our door.  After M. Parret remonstrated with the Mayor’s office, the city sent out workers to install yellow things about 4 feet from the front door to prevent poorly raised strangers from blocking ingress/egress to the house and Le Parret supplied an orange cone to prevent others from parking in the space in front of the house.


As both M. Parret and Tonio have garages on the street, we are almost daily loitering outside the house.  Loitering that sometimes turns into sun-downers and light snacks. Last year the sun-downers became pretty much routine while we discussed beautification schemes for the outside of the house.  I had some antique hanging chairs that we brought from the house when we got tired of standing around.  Occasionally  we were joined by neighbors bearing regional wine gifts to share.


The house does have what used to be a perfectly good garden in the back but first my husband’s dog Sheba and then Jessie, the Irish Terrier, trashed it beyond anything we’d like to look at while we have our drinks.  Jessie can’t help it, she’s an IT.


Anyway, over the years Le Parret filled some pots and a rectangular container with herbs for the kitchen.


Mme Parret gave me a cat shaped flower holder for the window and whenever I was in town, I would buy some flowers for it.


Still we weren’t satisfied.  Before I left last year, we discussed small tables with chairs so that we could really relax into happy hour(s), but I had to go to the States before we found anything.  Although the larger project this year is to paint the house exterior and change the windows and shutters, we still like to unwind at the end of the day  ;)


Yesterday we went to Aldi, a kind of grocery store, and found the perfect table!  A small, folding picnic table with benches, on sale for 45 Euros!  Pleased with ourselves, we chilled a few bottles of  Bailly Cremant and were joined by our neighbor Laurent for a celebration. M. Parret brought sausages, ham, beet salad, his creme and cheese from his refrigerator, everyone contributing whatever they had, the street light in front of the house providing soft lighting until we reluctantly called it a night at 11:00 p.m.  So that’s why :)



Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, French | Tagged , , | 26 Comments

Cassoulet Portuguese


This is not really a Portuguese cassoulet or, maybe it is.  I don’t really know, I just made it up because I wanted to make something for my neighbor Tonio to thank him for all the help he has provided in getting me settled back into Sens.  Whatever it is, it was good and Tonio liked it.  Although I did start with spicy Portuguese chorizo  ;)


Because I got this big idea on Tuesday instead of Monday, many of the shops I wanted to visit were closed and the intended pork cassoulet became a chicken cassoulet with not the beans I wanted to use.  I did have fresh oregano, basil and bay leaf and that was good.


I would have liked to sprinkle the chicken with piment d’espelette instead of paprika, but as the chorizo was pretty spicy, I don’t want to hurt the fragile, French stomach of M. You Know Who.  As it was, between heaping fork fulls, “girly man” comments were made :)


For those of you who are new followers of my blog, I am the proud owner of  multiple Emile Henry tajines and I have sorely missed this red one.  Tajine doesn’t have to equal Morocco.  You can cook anything in these babies!


Above is Tonio’s elbow and below is a gratuitous photo of  Tonio’s wife, Chantal, with Le Parret’s cat.


Cassoulet Portuguese

1-2 links spicy Portuguese chorizo, sliced into rounds

6 chicken legs, separated into drumsticks and thighs

Salt and pepper

Smoked paprika

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, sliced

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup red wine

1 1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

2 cans good quality white beans, drained

2 sprigs fresh oregano leaves

1 sprig fresh basil leaves

2-3 fresh bay leaves

Cook and brown the chorizo slices in a large skillet to extract some of the grease, drain on paper towels and set aside.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika, then heat the olive oil in a large skillet and brown the chicken pieces.  Place the chicken in the bottom of a tajine.

Add the onion and garlic to the chicken skillet and saute until the onion is soft.  Add the wine and boil for 2-3 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.  Add the tomatoes, broth, herbs, beans and chorizo then simmer for about 10 minutes.  Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover and cook in a 400 F oven for 45 minutes, remove cover and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes.










Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

M. Parret’s Pork Roast


I was doing so much whining about the flavor and quality of food in the U.S. that I thought that maybe I was exaggerating.  No, I was right :)  There is more “natural” flavor in the meat, vegetables, eggs and especially the butter in France.  This country style lunch of roasted pork and garden vegetables made that fact very clear!


When M.  Parret commented on my substantial weight loss over the last 8 months, I told him that it was because there was nothing to eat or drink in the U.S. and he agreed :D


These crunchy baguettes called “les craquantes” are a treat, spread with a thick layer of butter and accompanied by fresh, juicy radishes and goose rillettes.


I missed this tablecloth.  What are we going to do when it’s completely worn out?!  It just won’t be the same.


I made a cauliflower casserole with lardons, scallions and cheese.  It was okay but not stellar.


Of course we ate and drank the whole day in the traditional manner  ;)  It was also nice to be at a table again where no one was texting and a phone call would have been considered an intrusion.


Of course there was a cheese tray with an exceptional, perfectly ripe Camembert.  I was just able to get this picture before the tray was snatched away.  Notice the French “fingers in the photo” picture.


Ignoring the admonishing glare from the old French guy, I combined my salad course with that of the cheese course and was happier for it.  You’d think he’d learn :)


Le Parret made his “creme” and an apple tarte.  I did mention that it seemed he was not getting his tarte dough from the same boulangerie and that this new supplier’s dough seemed less buttery.   When he admitted it, I laughed.   But in a good way :D


The tarte was wonderful, no matter how much I teased him :)



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

Rabbit with Lardons, Mustard and Mushrooms


It’s such a hoot to be back in France!  When I bought this bunny rabbit at Maison Trotoux, he asked me 3 times if I wanted the head cut off and included in the package.  I told him 3 times, with graphic gestures, to cut off the head and throw it in the garbage or whatever.


I must have blinked or something because when I arrived home, there was the head along with the saddle, legs and other edible parts!  I guess I will never convince these French butchers that I don’t want the head, so in the future I’ll just take it, cook it or toss it as I see fit.  In this case, I cooked it.  M. Parret wanted it :D


Maison Trotoux provides good quality viandes and the rabbit cooked up beautifully, head and all.


While rabbit wasn’t the first thing I ate when I arrived (gillardeau oysters, strawberry melba, calf’s liver, ris de veau), it was the first thing I cooked, and with fresh ingredients from the farmers’market, I enjoyed every minute.  The rich sauce of lardons, shallots, shitake mushrooms, mustard, white wine, thyme and chicken broth was a fantastic welcome back to the kind of cooking I like!



I adore the woman who is recently installed next to Jean Louis of the magret de canard. She has gorgeous mushrooms, herbs, and aromatics.  I wanted girolles mushrooms but she didn’t have any on this day.  The shitake were fine.


To be absolutely honest, I’m not exactly sure how I cooked the rabbit because it’s been a while with my computer problems, finding a replacement USB cord for my camera and getting the house back in shape.  However, the following recipe is probably close.  I served it with lightly sauteed courgette ribbons and tagliatelle pasta.

Rabbit with Lardons, Mustard and Mushrooms

1 rabbit, cut up

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup lardons

1 generous knob of butter

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 lb shitake mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper, brown in a skillet in the olive oil, then place in a casserole or tajine with cover and set aside.

In a clean skillet, brown the lardons, add the butter, then the shallots and garlic.  Saute until the shallots are soft, then add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms start to release their water.  Add the wine and boil vigorously for about 3 minutes.  Stir in the broth, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper until smooth.

Pour the sauce into the casserole with the rabbit and gently stir.  Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for about 45 minutes.




Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Louisiana Crawfish


One of the many reasons that we adore Vadim and Galina is that they like food; to eat, to discuss and to prepare.  Since winter Vadim has been waiting for the crawfish in Lousiania to mature so that we could share a feast.


I wasn’t sure how he would purchase them.  Frozen?  Pre-cooked?  Not at all.  He purchased them for live delivery from the Louisiana Crawfish Company.  Good man!  I will certainly use this service when I return to the States.  Unaware of their imminent demise, the “crawdads” seemed happy, actively swimming and flicking their tails.  Apparently, my drool dripping into the bucket set off no alarms :)


I would love to take Vadim and Galina to France with us for the summer!  Le Parret would love them and I don’t think language would be a barrier.


They have such a great house!  This time we sat in the Florida room overlooking the Delaware river.


Galina made a refreshing drink with home grown black currants.  Delicious.


Texas style barbecued baby backs a la Russe.


The ribs were crusty on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.  I’ll have to get Vadim’s barbecue sauce recipe!


Perfectly boiled new potatoes.


Galina’s fresh garden salad with chickpeas.


I made an Asian inspired coleslaw with peanut butter dressing to share, with the tiniest touch of jalapeno pepper for excitement.


I like making this salad and poached the recipe from someone long ago.  It’s easy and delicious.


Before the event, we discussed dessert and decided we would all adore MORE blueberry panna cotta.  In addition, I made pear and apple, pecan crumble.


I created this recipe in Sens when I needed 5 pears but only had 4 and an apple.  Turned out fine.






Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Grilled Aussie Lamb Rack with Turnip Puree


At one point, they were having a run on Australian lamb at Wegman’s and of course I grabbed more than I could use immediately.  Good thing too because there is none to be found nowadays anywhere!  They do have some tasteless and ridiculously expensive U.S.A. lamb at $7.85  per lb that caused other shoppers to stare at me as I loudly laughed in a derisive and rude manner :D


Whenever there is lamb to be cooked, I automatically think of herbs.  The window over the sink is full of potted herbs, so I grabbed some, thinking of Scarborough Fair :)


Herbs, garlic and olive oil.  You can’t go wrong.


The grill is back!


Gratuitous Judy Collins.

Grilled Lamb Rack with Herbs

2 racks of good lamb, fat side scored

1 handful each parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

4-5 garlic cloves

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

Make a paste of the herbs, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil in a food processor, then spread on the lamb.  Let sit for 30 minutes while you fire up the gas grill.

Preheat the grill with all burners on high until the temperature is about 500 F.  Sear the racks on the fat side and the bottom, then turn off half the burners, placing the racks fat side up on the cold side of the grill.  Close the cover and grill for 20-30 minutes.



Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 33 Comments