Saturday, November 10, 2012

200 diamonds, 40 gift tags, and how to devein a foie gras.

    The magazines I buy in France often come with a little freebie attached, a small cadeau stuck to their cover with some magical sticky substance that you can peel off and roll into a ball.
   In the spirit of the approaching season, this month's issue of Modes et Travaux has two giveaways: a small booklet of 40 quite good-looking gift tags, and a petit sachet of 200 "diamonds" to sprinkle on your festive table. This photo doesn't do them justice. These are very sparkly indeed to the point that I think I'd want to save them rather than throwing them out at the end of the meal, (except that the thought of sorting them out from the baguette crumbs doesn't thrill me).
   I suppose I'd define Modes et Travaux as a women's general interest magazine, assuming her interests are fashion, home décor, crafts, gardening, travel and food. At this point I can see I've wandered far off-piste and am going to have to cut straight to the topic I planned to write about in the first place, which is...
   How different the recipes are in French magazines.
   I'll pass briefly over the one for poularde au champagne, which calls for an entire bottle and is snuck in with an article on decorating, and move to the main event: seven fabuleux menus to make for Christmas.
    One begins with a soup of wild mushrooms and foie gras, and moves on to filet mignon en croûte. Dessert is a quick assembly of hazelnut, and chocolate, ice creams, marrons glacés and cream. A "black and white" menu kicks off with a carpaccio of black radish and scallops. "Noël So British" is nothing like any Christmas meal I've ever had in the motherland. Not when you start with a truffled pea soup and the main course--leg of lamb--calls for a great deal of whisky and Asian spices. Dessert is a traditional Christmas pudding topped with sparklers rather than the usual blue flames. Thank you, and God save the Queen.
    The points I'm trying to make here is that a) Christmas in France is more about the food than anything else, b) that what elsewhere in the world are thought of as luxury ingredients may not be cheap here but they're definitely within the realm of possibility--and finally, c) that you'd better have your methods down pat.
    In case you don't, Modes et Travaux's monthly "Masterclass" this time around describes, in words and pictures, four basic techniques that, at this time of year, everyone should have at their fingertips:
     How to fillet a salmon.
     How to open oysters.
     How to carve a capon.
     And...wait for it...
     How to devein a fresh foie gras
(P.S.  I'm dying to make the recipe on the next page. A "shepherd's pie" of duck with wild morilles.)

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