Saturday, July 27, 2013

France

L'Opéra et l'Hôtel de Ville avec la Tour de l'Horloge, Avignon, Vaucluse, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France.
Photo courtesy of user Bernard Blanc on flickr.
Location: Main part is in Western Europe.  However, five former overseas territories were made part of France proper, and they are in South America, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and Southern Africa.
Area: Over 550,000 sq km (main part); 43rd largest in the world
         Slightly less than the size of Texas
Population: Over 65.5 million; 21st highest in the world
Capital: Paris
Nuclear Electricity: 53% of total install capacity; 1st in the world
Kevin's favorite link about France: The Complete Military History of France (not for the easily offended)

Sources: CIA Factbook

This was still while we were in Virginia, so it has been a while.  I apologize for any lack of detail...my memory may have gotten a little fried during all of this travel.

I knew that France would be big and important in my cooking travels.  It, unfortunately, also corresponded with the craziness of getting ready to move.  I wanted to do something good and cool, but not overly ambitious.  We were busy trying to get our lives sorted out.

The number of dishes that you can cook for France are overwhelming.  Their culinary story is rich, storied, and worthy of a lot of study.  I knew that whatever choice I made, in the end it would be inadequate and someone would think I didn't choose correctly.  I did some research, picked a few things, and hope for the best.

First, with some people coming over, I picked a beef burgundy recipe.  I also bought everything for french onion soup and two different crepe recipes from two of my international cookbooks.  I couldn't decide which one would be better.

Beef and bacon?  Starting in the right spot.
Beef burgundy basically takes some meat and vegetables and simmers them in red wine.  There are obviously variations on ingredients, but at the heart this is what you do.  In this recipe, first you saute the vegetables with some spices and brown the meat.

Carrots, onions, and garlic.
Kevin helped.
This particular recipe has you add wine and cognac.  And set it on fire.  You can't tell in this picture, but the vegetables are on fire.

 
It was probably around this time that I decided the soup was not getting done.  C'est la vie.

The beef burgundy then has to simmer for a while to soak up the wine and some other ingredients added, such as tomato paste.
I highly recommend this stuff.  You don't need to take out only a tablespoon and the throw away the rest of the can anymore!
Add some mushrooms, frozen onions, etc, and voila!  You have a thick stew you serve on bread.

Brendan even got a taste of this stuff.
After the baby was in bed, I decided that one crepe recipe was enough.  Luckily, I had made up some crepe batter long before, as it was supposed to sit, so my work was greatly reduced.
It was a fairly simple recipe: flour, sugar, salt, milk, eggs, butter.  The hard part is getting the cooking right.  You pour just a little batter in the pan, swirl it around until it covers the bottom, then immediately pour out any excess that doesn't stick.  Once you get the hang of it it goes pretty well, but it is a bit awkward at first.

When Kevin was in Paris he said he got a crepe every day, so he dictated the fillings.  Nutella, strawberries, bananas, and powdered sugar.

The beef burgundy?  Blah.  I didn't like it at all.  Couldn't bring myself to eat a lot of it.  Everyone else seemed to be fond, though, so it may just be me.  I remember the last time I tried eating beef burgundy I didn't like it either.  It is too...dry?  I'm not sure how to describe it.

The crepes, however, were amazing.  They came out of The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman.  If you want a great crepe recipe, go there.  Since you do the batter ahead of time, it really helps the cooking by more quickly.  In fact, when Kevin's parents visited a little while later, we made them again.

But I wasn't done yet, I still had another dish to cook.  France still had more to say.

Next time: France, Again

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