November 28, 2012
And just like that, I’m back in Paris.
I know, I had just arrived in Nice when I posted, and I had been intending to stay for at least another month. So what caused my precipitous departure from the French Riviera?
My apartment was robbed.
It happened while I was out at a café, leeching off their wifi and posting about salmon. I came home and saw that drawers were open and things seemed messier than how I’d left them… and the windows were all open… and the closets had been rifled through… and there were muddy boot prints leading from the tiny window in the bathroom, which I saw now had a broken latch.
On the one hand, I was grateful that I wasn’t home when the break-in happened. Intellectually, I knew that the last thing a robber wants is for residents to be home when he’s about his thievery. On the other hand, I was still scared. Scared that whomever it was would come back for more (since I’d taken almost all of my electronics — anything of decent value — with me), and this time I’d be around for them to hurt. I called the gentleman and the friend from whom I was renting the apartment, packed up my things, and found a hotel room. Only after I got into the room did I see that my mascara had run and I looked like the star of a bad 90’s music video featuring a pop star with a no-good cheating boyfriend.
I felt violated. I had started to make a home for myself there, albeit a temporary one, and good homes are extensions of ourselves. I had even roasted a chicken in the kitchen the day before. Is there anything more homey than roasting a chicken on an Sunday?
So now I’m back, sooner than expected, trying to create some normality around me. Maybe I’ll roast another chicken tomorrow.
November 22, 2012
Say hello to one of my favorite French dishes.
I know it’s Thanksgiving and another piece of poultry is the last thing you want to think about, but this is special. This beautiful rosy piece of poultry is magret de canard, or duck breast. Traditionally, magret de canard is the breast from a duck raised for its liver, or foie gras, and it’s usually cooked like a steak — seared, finished with a few minutes in the oven, and served medium-rare. Making this recipe also leaves you with several big spoonfuls of sublime, thyme-and-orange scented duck fat to do with what you like.
It’s an impressive date-night dish, something that so terribly French but so very easy. I serve it with roasted veggies and sometimes mashed potatoes, but the bistro down the street serves theirs with fried plantains and a lightly dressed salad, and that is also heavenly.
October 12, 2012
Why yes, I’m still obsessed with duck fat. Why do you ask?
These potatoes are the most perfect breakfast potatoes I’ve ever encountered. The secret is in boiling the potatoes beforehand — if you don’t, the insides of the potatoes dry out while you’re trying to brown them in the skillet. This way, the potatoes are creamy all the way through, and the outer layers absorb the delicious duck fat more readily.
I like to serve them with the other items that make up my ideal breakfast experience: soft-scrambled eggs, a bit of toast, good salted butter, jam, and several pieces of bacon. But I’ve also served them with braised dishes and stews like short ribs and boeuf bourguignon, and they’re delicious outside the breakfast sphere too.
July 10, 2012
God bless France.
I saw this recipe for popcorn dressed in duck fat (indeed, “the most noble of fats”) gently scented in orange zest and garlic and thyme and suddenly had to make it right now. But whence does one procure duck fat? At home I’d go to Surfas, the enormous cooking equipment and specialty food store, but here? Maybe the butcher’s? The luxury foods shop that carries all the terrines and caviar and truffles?
Turns out, the answer is the grocery store. Next to the filets of duck breast and rabbit meat. Duh.
Only in France.