Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vide grenier find spotted on TV!!

   Sometime this past summer, we spent a wonderful morning at the annual mega-vide-grenier in Fanjeaux, a hilltop village midway between Léran and Carcassonne. The best stall of all was a lady selling all kinds of linens and I spent a happy time, along with other bargain-hunters, rummaging through a giant mountain of them, all priced at a euro.
   But my prize find was folded neatly on her table where things climbed to astronomical prices--like five euros. Age unknown, this pure linen night-dress has the most beautiful hand-crocheted yoke. Last night, I spotted its twin on the BBC series Downton Abbey worn by the rather dreary Lavinia (spoiler alert: she dies of Spanish flu). Now I can date my purchase to around 1919.


Foie gras season is upon us...

     In addition to knitting patterns, "before" and "after" home decor stories and a beauty column--"oups, une ride!": "Oops, a wrinkle"--the November issue of Modes & Travaux also promises to deliver (in the largest type on the cover) recipes for jams, terrines and foie gras.
    To be honest, there are only two recipes for foie gras inside, one simply coated in salt, the other for foie gras poché au vin rouge. And the ingredients for that are in the photo. One vacuum-packed foie gras and one bottle of Côtes-du-Rhône, as specified by the recipe. It didn't say to wrap the foie gras in cheesecloth but I thought it might be a good idea. Finding it was a different matter. I eventually ended up with a sac à jambon--a ham bag. You can buy these anywhere at this time of year, also entire legs of pork at ridiculously cheap prices. I'm tempted, I'm tempted....
    I turned the gauze sac into a designer ham bag by cutting off one end and wrapping it tightly around the foie gras.  That was after I'd denervé-d it by letting it come to room temperature, feeling around inside it for anything vein-y and pulling it out with my treasured Spencer-Wells artery forceps (an insanely useful kitchen tool when you really need to get a grip).
    Once it had been very, very gently poached, the foie gras was left in the wine overnight. Not a pretty sight and the next morning, it looked so thoroughly disgusting that I started thinking about what else I could serve as a first course that night.
    Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I fished the foie gras out of its winy bath, pressed it hard on to paper towels, and repeated the process until most of the wine had gone. Then I left the foie gras to firm up in the fridge. In the end, it was delicious. Baguette and/or pain d'épices, and fig jam went with it, and glasses of rich amber Loupiac. Then we had salmon with lentils and leeks, various cheeses and a lemon and chocolate mousse. Let me know if you'd like the recipes for either and I'll post them.

Prizes for guessing what this is...

  Desolé for the long silence and a quick catch-up since my last post. We arrived back from Paris late on the Wednesday and my sister and her family arrived on the Friday at lunchtime for a few days stay. In between then and now, one of the things we've been doing is readying the house for the cooler weather. Our downstairs has two doors and one large window at the front (two doors because we live in what was originally two houses). The goal this year is to find or make thick curtains that will add to the visual coziness and keep the cold out. We do have shutters on one door and the window but you have to open both to open and close them. A drafty job.
  The previous owner left net curtains behind but they're decorative rather than functional. What I'm leaning towards are velvet curtains lined with fleece (not sheep's fleece but that faux stuff used to make sportswear). That way, we should be super snug.
  The wood-burning stove throws off an astonishing amount of heat. We buy our wood by the stere, the equivalent of one cubic metre, and have it cut in 50 cm lengths--the width of the stove. The house came equipped with a central heating system but we try to use it just as a back-up, oil prices being what they are.
  Seasonal cooking really starts to make sense at this time of year. Cassoulet, duck, pork belly, daubes, all those dishes you really don't want to think about in the summer but love to eat once the temperature drops.
  Vide greniers (attic-emptyings) continue well into the chilly weather. Léran had its own the other weekend, and here's my prize find.
   If you've been to our house, you know that it features more than its fair share of chipped French enamel. Coffee-pots, candlesticks, things for hanging drying cloths on, but we didn't own one of these

 Aren't those little birds adorable?  I was delighted to pick this up for a mere five euros. Anyone like to guess what it is?