Happiness (A Recipe)

Happiness

On a Sunday afternoon, after a copious lunch, wait for your next-door neighbor Patricia to knock on your window with a wooden spoon. Agree to come over to their place for coffee. From the special chocolate cabinet in your kitchen (surely you must have one) grab what’s left of the excellent dark chocolate with fragments of roasted cocoa beans that your friend Marie-Laure brought you last time she came for dinner. Walk next door in your socks. Leave Maxence and Stéphan to chat about Mac OS-X and guitar tuners in the living room, while you watch Patricia brew coffee on their espresso machine. When asked, opt for the designer coffee cups. Bring the four cups to the table on a metal tray. Take a cup, break a square of the chocolate, sit down, relax. Have a bite of chocolate, then a sip of coffee. Repeat.

Congratulations, you have now attained the blissful state known as Happiness.

Salmon and Leek Quiche

Picard is a French chain store, the concept of which finds no equivalent in the US: it only sells frozen foods.

This may not sound very appealing to the foodiest foodies among you, but their products are surprisingly high-quality, much like I remember the frozen section at Trader Joe’s, in which I loved to wander till my fingers grew numb.

Their selection is wide: from simply cut-up vegetables or fruit, and uncooked meat or fish, to more sophisticated appetizers, main dishes, sides, and “ethnic” meals, plus ice cream, desserts, and breads. You could live off of their products alone — and many do — but I like to simply stock up on convenient staples that reduce the prep time for weeknight dinners .

Salmon and leek quiche is one of my favorite quiche recipes, one I find myself suddenly craving every now and then. And so, on Friday night, I was delighted to have everything on hand to make one, in which both the salmon and the leek were courtesy of Picard.

Salmon and leek are, in my humble opinion, a marriage made in heaven. They both offer wonderfully subtle and sweet tastes, best brought out by a salad dressed with a sharp and tangy vinaigrette.

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Bloxicon

I have worked on creating a handy little lexicon of the French words and expressions I use in this blog. It can be found here, and will be added to, as new posts introduce new words! You can all thank me when you’re fluent in French…

Note that a link has also been added on the left navigation bar, in the “Features” section.

Layers in a Glass

Layered Dessert

This is one of my favorite recipes when I want to make a light individual dessert that’s quick to make, yet looks nice and sophisticated. I served it the other night to end our duck confit meal, after which “light and refreshing” was definitely the way to go. This recipe lends itself to an endless number of variations, but I’ll tell you what I used this time as an example.

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The Paradoxical Duck Confit

The Paradoxical Duck Confit

Thursday night, on a whim, we asked our neighbors Stéphan et Patricia over for dinner, and I prepared the kind of dish that epitomizes the French paradox * : duck confit.

Back in July, Maxence and I spent a lovely extended week-end in the South-West of France, visiting his grandparents in Gourdon and driving around the incredibly beautiful countryside. On our last day, as is becoming the tradition, we indulged in a shopping spree at the Canard du Midi store. We joyously filled our shopping basket with foie gras, magret de canard (roasted duck breast), canned cassoulet (a typical regional dish that involves white kidney beans and various meats in goose fat), a black truffle in its jewellery-like box, canned gésiers de canard (duck gizzards), ostrich (!) and boar terrines, canned confit de canard (duck confit), confiture d’oignon (onion jam), and noisillons (chocolate-covered walnuts). This was stashed away in our luggage, keeping company to the other marvels purchased at the marché : dried cèpes (porcinis), an assortment of duck, boar, hazelnut and pork saucissons (dry sausages), a scrumptious walnut cake, and a rather unreasonable number of Rocamadours, these succulent individual little goat cheeses – which we redistributed to gleeful family and friends upon our return.

* What is referred to as “the French paradox” is the seeming contradiction between the rich foods we typically consume in France and the comparatively low incidence of heart disease. Jeffrey Steingarten (brilliant author of “The man who ate everything”) was among the first to identify it. The expression, in its implication that this is the only paradox the French have, amuses me to no end…

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