It is with great sadness

that I announce the passing of my dear companion of many years, M St André de Figuière, tire-bouchon de luxe. M de Figuière was born in France sometime in the early 2000s and emigrated to the US around 2010. He has served as my trusted and well-loved cork screw, lo these many years. A devoted and well-loved member of my household, he had been on-call and active daily duty without complaint for well over ten years ceaselessly opening tens of thousands, if not millions, of wine bottles.

He leaves to mourn him, me, Michael Dillon (Ashish Gadicherla—M de Figuiére had two daddies), Loralyn Lassoued, many beloved family members and friends who have been faithfully served by him, and a bottle of Rodney Strong with the working business of M de Figuiere stuck painfully in his throat.

He will be missed. The world was a better place with him in it.

Making bread in a heatwave

My French class, as it were, came over pour un petit repas recently. And really, what is a French meal without bread? Unfortunately it was about 940 degrees out and turning the oven on seemed like a bad idea. I went with the grill option.

Worked like a charm.

Carbless dinner party

Entertaining can be a problem when you aren’t eating carbohydrates. For the record this is the South Beach/Atkins diet sorta. No carbs. But recently, in my month of pain, I managed to get a decent enough menu put together so I could entertain without shame. There was no bread, no potato, no rice, no starch of any sort : (

                               

One trick for a successful diet dinner party is to make the menu weird/elegant or otherwise out of the ordinary. I found this recipe in Food and Wine (I have limited success with their recipes) and it looked interesting and totally weird enough that no one would think much about bread. They’d be too busy wondering “what the?” Chicken thighs with charred lemon salsa verde. 

The process was a revelation and I’ve used it since for turkey thighs. Sauté the thighs skin side down and finish skin side up in the oven. In this case there were sage leaves, garlic slices and a pat of butter under the skin. (Butter is technically verboten this month too but I figured that most of it would render off and indeed the thighs were swimming in grease when they were done in the oven.

They were delicious. The salsa with charred lemon slices, mint and oregano was, meh, but it sounds good when you’re serving it at a dinner party and was at least interesting if not rockin’ delicious. My sides were Brussels sprouts and salad.

If anyone missed bread or potatoes they didn’t say. But Kate is a polite guest so she wouldn’t have said word one, and Loralyn, well, she had her eyes on the dessert plate throughout the entire meal. French sugar cookies and chocolates. I didn’t have any. It’s my month of pain.




Left behind…

As much as is possible I transport food back and forth to and from my cottage every weekend. I try not to buy extra food to leave out there except maybe ketchup and mustard. Somehow though, the food piles up and at the end of the season I have to get it all home. You cannot leave it there because it will freeze and explode and rot and all sorts of havoc will be reeked. I beg people to not leave any food. Take home what you bring. Somehow though, things get left behind. Not deliberately. They just do. But there is also the “Oh, he’ll eat these” left behind food. Except that I won’t. Most of that food I throw away. Too bad. There’s nothing to be done about it.

This is what I brought home. I should mention that I do not drink ANY of the beverages that appear in these pix. Alcoholic or no. And I have not consumed a maraschino cherry since I was 15 and worked at the Kiltie and I saw how disgusting the cherry jar got. I could gag.

My refrigerator is filled with condiments. I poured all the alcohol into one bottle and will serve that to non discriminating guests. (Loralyn).

Living room picnic

I like the idea of this. Lots of appetizers (now called “small plates” by the same people who brought you “house-made”) and not having to move to the dining room table. (Which is only four feet away but still).

I made my world renowned chip dip and used the luscious waffle cut chips that get loads of dip on them. I had assorted breads and house-grilled pita chips and a good cheese plate with Cambozola, my favorite cheese no longer sold by the woefully inadequate MetroMarket but I found it at Whole Foods. House-made hummus, grilled chicken wings and ribs (ugh) and creole shrimp. I had quesadillas which I fried on the grill in the fat left from the wings…if you want delicious. Then there were chicken skewers and for dessert: chocolates from Belgium.

The four of us never left the couch. Except to get more margaritas.

Sauerbraten

On the flip side of the irish thing, there’s my German heritage. I imagine that I like German food. It is the food of my grandfather and theoretically I like all the heavy cream sauces and gravies, the dumplings, cabbage, the dark winter dinners laden with long roasted fatty meats, potatoes and lugubrious side dishes. My mother, Loralyn, my sister Ann and her husband, what’s his name, and I had dinner at Pandl’s. I didn’t recall that it was such a GERMAN place. Rouladen, schnitzel, and god knows what else was on the menu, all of it heavily teutonic except for maybe the cobb salad or some such thing.

Sauerbraten was the evening special. Mit dumplings and red cabbage. So I imagine that I like German food, in reality it wasn’t so great. But maybe that was Pandl’s problem. There was a vague nod to my German forebears on the plate but in my memory sauerbraten has a far more deliberate impact on my taste buds. More sauer and less braten. The dumpling was nice and who can resist red cabbage? (OK, I cannot. Most people can. Realizing that I could buy a jar of red cabbage and eat it all myself was one of the rites of my adulthood along with some other things not quite as doofus-y.)

Below is my grandfather’s hand-written recipe for “instant” sauerbraten. It appears to have been provided by somewhere called The Blue Dot. Not so German sounding. It hangs on the wall in my mom’s kitchen. She’s never made it that I am aware of.

Bavette, le boucher

Had lunch at Bavette yesterday with Loralyn. We each ordered a sandwich. She, the paté, and I had the meatball sandwich and we split them. Both of the sandwiches were awesome although Miss I Can’t Eat Anything Spicy could not eat the meatballs which were as spicy as oatmeal.  

As delicious as the food was, the place has issues. 

Their ordering system leaves something to be desired. The waitress has to tell you what’s on the menu which is time consuming considering she has to read everything off of a little spiral notebook and really, it’s hard for customers (me) to remember from thing to thing when the descriptions are complex and include possibly frightening ingredients. 

And speaking of possibly frightening. On the butcher table behind the bar there was a dead pig. OK, that is not just possibly, it was in fact, frightening. I could not look at it and I didn’t like the thought of eating there knowing it was behind me. (I deliberately sat facing away from it.) It was hard, however, to ignore the sound of a band saw cutting it up. 

The place is a butcher shop, after all, so from now on I think I will only patronize it as such. Unless I get take out.

Glorious grilled food

Last weekend at the cottage I made grilled nectarines for dessert. I would say that this is an easy thing to make, and it is. For me. I bought the pound cake, and, obviously, the nectarines. But painting the pound cake with butter and then doing the same with nectarines but also sprinkling them with brown sugar and a bit of salt is messy as hell. You can do that in advance so it’s not a last minute thing, so there’s that. Caramel sauce is easy and can be very unmeasured. Butter brown sugar, rum and salt. Gotta have salt in it. And grilling isn’t so hard unless you don’t do it right but that’s pretty much how everything in life is, isn’t it?

I served it with ice cream. But not the Kiltie frozen custard I’d planned on. Since Loralyn ate the entire half gallon I had in the freezer at the cottage the week before.

Cottage with Carol

I invited some friends to dinner at my cottage. Richard and Jurg, Carol and Loralyn, and Mary Kay and Peter joined us. The kitchen in the cottage is nearly impossible to work in. Making my preferred wilted lettuce salad was easy. I’ve done it 4 billion times (and it never fails to please—there was none leftover).  Mechouia and cilantro rice. I made the mechouia the day before so all the flavors could meld and it’s best served room temperature. The rice seemed a natural match. And it was. And then ROCKIN’ North African spiced chicken thighs.

I’m going to have to get off the mechouia thing. It’s just too damn labor intensive. It is good though but too hard to make in the 2×2 foot square kitchen. Soon to be remodeled.

Cassoulet, or something

Loralyn served cassoulet for her 55th birthday. She asked me if I would help her make it and I jumped at the chance. What she really meant, though, was would I make it. By myself. She brought the duck confit. That was thoughtful at least. But the burden of making it fell to me when she had to go see The Sound of Music with her kids. On the whole I’d rather make cassoulet.

I have never made cassoulet before. I am sure that it is not supposed to be the anxiety provoking nightmare I made for myself. Just the can of confit was daunting.

In the end I became so overwhelmed I stopped taking pictures as you can see. But no matter. It was fine. A little too tomato-y but it was delicious. It’s like stew. There is no real right way. We (I) used canned beans and Italian sausages both of which are heretical. There was no way you could tell.