The French Farmhouse Report for 1/22/20

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

 Two consecutive weekends of storms with freezing rain as the headliner and a couple of days of pretty cold weather kind of took the stuffings out of me. At least last year’s polar vortex event featured clear skies and snow that a person and a dog could walk on without crampons.

Liberal use of a paw- and grass-friendly ice melter kept the back step cleared and a path open to a patch where Oakley could tend to those most personal forms of business. Otherwise, we stayed inside. Oakley played with his holiday puzzles and napped. I read, napped, and succumbed to the lure of the TV.

As I flipped around, I saw a teaser for a show featuring unusual Chicago area restaurants, such as one near the Northwestern University campus that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. They certainly had my undivided attention.

After some five minutes of ads, the show started. Interview with the chef/owner, shots of the funky/cozy/brick walled interior with hand-lettered chalk board menus. Tour complete, it was down to business in the kitchen. Texas toast slices (the ones at least double the thickness of a regular slice of bread, usually involved in making diner-style French toast) were brushed with what may or may not have been melted butter, topped with some sort of cheese, then passed through a broiler like the ones in chain burger joints for a preliminary browning and melting.

Then came a filling of delicacies such as French fries or macaroni and cheese before the two slices were assembled into a sandwich and given a final browning in a buttered frying pan.

Now, the Mystery She knows that I have consumed my fair share and someone else’s of carbs and fats, especially back in the day when I may or may not have ingested adult beverages and more so when my hormones dragged me to the store and demanded potato chips. But this was so totally over the top that it didn’t even look good. To me, anyway.

Maybe it’s because I’ve developed discernment as I’ve matured; maybe it’s because of the lessons learned during my trip to France and subsequent readings about their cultural attitudes towards food. In any event, I would take a pass on it, thank you. OK, maybe I would split it with someone, but it’s not something I’d order on my own.

This over the top type of grilled cheese wouldn’t fly in France, except as a novelty, maybe.  A diner would get a much smaller sandwich consisting of two conventionally-sized slices of bread with cheese or a cheese sauce and some ham, turkey, or chicken in the middle. That would be baked for about 15 minutes, then perhaps served with a fried egg on top. There would be a small side salad. (Fries are usually served with steak.)  And that would be it. Except for some fruit for dessert. And don’t forget a small cup of coffee or tea to conclude the meal.

My own hankerings for grilled cheese get satisfied here at home with two slices of whole wheat bread, an unprocessed cheese in the middle, and the twist courtesy of one of my friends: instead of buttering the outside, spread with mayonnaise and sprinkle Parmesan  cheese for a crunchy brown crust. I won’t say it’s life changing, but I will say it makes the next fifteen or so minutes pretty tolerable, indeed.

If I have an urge while I’m out, I stop at Belladonna, the local point of refuge for artists, Bohemians, and people who appreciate the art of really good food, coffee, and tea. One of the grilled cheese paninis with a cup of the homemade soup always elevates the day.

It’s just enough, and a little more (I usually take half home for dinner), and that’s just right for me.

 

 

French Farmhouse Project Report for 1/12/20

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Well, this last week was not as French as I had hoped would be. We no sooner resolved the issue with my computer when my car hesitated and stalled on acceleration, plus it was making a weird rattling noise.  The dealer, the import mechanic here in town, and Google are at odds with each other regarding the issue. Whatever is going on involves the bearings, but the dispute was over which set and the cause of the hesitating.

In related news, the hunt for the best Prius at the best price is under way.

On the French living front, I made a very French dinner last week: blanquette de poulet with roasted potatoes. It provided an antidote to the car-related chaos as well as the cold weather. The recipe for the blanquette is Mimi Thorisson’s from her book A Kitchen in France. The potatoes are in the book, but not on the website for some reason.

While it is technically a recipe for blanquette de veau, we just aren’t into veal around here. I used chicken legs (remove the skin or it will make a greasy mess). This would probably work well with turkey, too.

Yes, it is rich (I used sour cream, not creme fraiche, and it worked perfectly well). Yes, it is time consuming. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients. But it provided a counterbalance to the stress of the day. And it made the house smell great.

Hubby commented that he felt like he was eating in a high end French restaurant. Not long after that, he dozed off in his chair.

I smiled, knowing my job for the day was done.

The Holiday Report, New Year’s Wishes, and Announcements for 2020

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Happy New Year, Gentle Readers! On behalf of Hubby, Oakley, and myself, we wish you all the best.

This year’s greeting was delayed due to technical difficulties. On New Year’s morning, I turned on my laptop, and started going through my emails when it suddenly froze up for no discernible reason. Reboot. Reboot. And nothing. As soon as I finished with the dry heaves, we made  a trip to the Apple store for diagnostics.  A dead hard drive.

Luckily, Hubby’s sangfroid based in 35 plus years of engineering allowed him to get it tended to pretty quickly. And get a can of ginger ale down me while running through the troubleshooting protocol. He replaced the hard drive, downloaded the latest and greatest operating system, and had me back in business by yesterday morning. The only delay was waiting for the new drive that he’d ordered.

Otherwise, we had a pretty enjoyable season: good visits with my family; the usual excesses; and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas Eve.

And now with the turning of the wheel of the year comes some changes and projects:

  • Santa brought me a camera for Christmas. I’m excited to share photos of my corner of the world with you this year as well as food pics.
  • Expect more info and news on fighting hunger this year. I may not have the words to express the disgust I feel over vulnerable neighbors taking the brunt of greed, but I will certainly use the ones I have to do what I can on their behalf.
  • Expect a return to news and views on sustainability practices.
  • Of course you’ll get cute pictures of Oakley.
  • And now for the big one…..:

It is my pleasure to announce The French Farmhouse Project.

Once a week or so, I’ll be blogging about my efforts to live as closely as possible to how I would if I physically lived in France.  I will also provide resources and references.

When I was much younger, I wanted to spend a semester in France, but it wasn’t meant to be. In 2006, I took a cooking class through a local community college that involved a stay at a chateau near Lyon. We spent a week immersed in life, food, and culture. Parts of  my heart and soul never quite made it back. While I may not be in a position to make a return visit at this time, I can make some changes here at home to reflect lessons learned while I was there.

So…stay tuned.