Bechamel sauce is one of the mother sauces. It’s pretty easy to make, but requires nearly constant whisking. It adds a richness that cheese simply can’t match.
“Now what do you want to do?”
The first night in every city is daunting. Do you want to see the highlights your first day or save some for your first full day?
My travel pattern so far has been to explore that first day/night to get an idea of the transit system and where things are located. It has proved successful do far.
Staying in Montmartre is a bit far from the main attractions of Paris which are mostly in the 7th arrondissement. Alors, we hopped the metro and ventured off to see PARIS!
After walking around a bit we realized we were near the louvre. Then a few more turns and, in the distance, we saw the glass pyramid designed by I.m. Pei. I squealed. I’m not ashamed. Maybe I pranced with a bit of frolicking. It wasn’t my most masculine moment but I don’t care. We snapped some pics then soldiered on pointing at buildings we’d long read about but had never seen in person.
A few more turns and I saw it. Bright in the night. Just the narrow, skeleton top. Le Tour Eiffel! This is one of those moments in your life when it’s ok to pee your pants. Just a little bit. It’s amazingly impressive to see an international landmark. Le tour Eiffel quintessentially IS Paris.
Nous faisons une promenade à le Tour Eiffel. There is a mini arc de triumph which we initially mistook for the real thing. Le grande arc is a ways up Le champs des Élysées. It took a while to get there on foot. But when you do…
It is breathtaking. Unquestionably impressive and beautiful.
Every hour at night, the tower sparkles for 5 minutes. Make sure you stay to see this. Overall, there’s no better way to see a city then to visit some of it’s quintessential attractions at night. So what if it’s touristy. You ARE a tourist.
Vivre le grande vie!
After battling frugality-induced starvation in Venice, I was glad to see so many shops while walking to the hôtel in Paris. I saw tous les mots I learned years ago in French class: boulangerie, pâtisserie, supermarché. I read a few articles on budget-friendly restaurants, but most listed were about €20 for dinner.
After wandering around Montmartre we started to get hungry. Typically deciding on a place to eat takes a while. We are both indecisive and have no clue if the food is good. Each pick is a pick out of the chapeau.
Aside from 1-2 meals on this trip, the food has all been good with a few great dishes. So, we can’t really go wrong. We decided on Chez Ginette.
Pour dîner, nous decided on ratatouille et un croque monsieur. Yes, I have watched “Ratatouille” and loved it. I had tried making my own in the past and at restaurants. Neither came close to the original. Theirs was heavy on bell peppers. Plus it came in this mini cast iron pot.
The sandwich came with fries and a petite salad. On our way to Paris we listed a few dishes we were hoping to try. I’d had the grilled cheese with ham variant in the past. Chez Ginette served it as an open-faced sandwich, but the shining factor was the basket of frites. I want it. Badly.
Another dinner sur les livres. I find my years of français are slowly coming back. Les Parisians aren’t as likely to acquiesce and start spending English. This has forced me to awaken that part of my brain that once knew how to form simple sentences in another language. The first night was rough, but we were able to order and request the check. Not très mal pour un homme qui n’étudie pas français en 7 ans.
It only took an hour water taxi, 90 minute flight and an hour on the trains to get from Venice to Paris. After 7 hours in transit, I wasn’t fired up to go exploring. But I was hungry.
Coming to Paris I’d commonly heard how unfriendly the French are. So far I’ve found that to be markedly untrue. Two people helped us at the train station to navigate our way to l’hôtel. One went as far as googling where we needed to go and printing a map with his written directions.
After checking in and studying our maps we set out for food and Montmartre. We got this baguette with Brie and tomatoes.
I didn’t fully realize the altitude of the area. There are beaucoup d’escaliers.
We climbed and climbed some more, finding a cemetery, Au lapin agile and the first Starbucks of the trip. No, we didn’t get americanos. Instead we headed back to the hotel to disco nap before exploring the main attractions of Paris. I’ll share those photos later. For now it’s off to le petite déjeuner. Then Versailles!
A bientôt mon amies!
God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.
Stop. I know what you’re going to ask.
French food, Andrew? How are you going to use tortillas avec la cuisine française? I’ve opted to take a break from my paramour, at least for one meal.
Earlier this week, I joined a friend for dinner at Bistro Voltaire, a French restaurant in River North. After practicing my French while reading the wine list and menu in my head, I decided on getting coq au vin. I don’t think I have ever had it at a restaurant, largely because taquerias don’t offer it. Previously I attempted to wing it by cooking chicken in half a bottle of red wine. While that was tasty, it was far from the elegant and tender chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes I got at Bistro Voltaire.
Similar to when I was first exposed to arrabiatta sauce at an Italian restaurant, I decided I would master coq au vin. I read a few recipes to see if there were any extra ingredients I didn’t spot in my inspiration dish–mushrooms, pearl onions, carrot, thyme. The ingredients are straight forward. This dish necessitates some basic kitchen competencies: sauteing, knife skills, and patience. Most of my kitchen creations are great for after work when you don’t have a lot of time. This dish will take about 90 minutes to make, but it’s worth tout les temps.
- 6 chicken thighs (you could also use chicken breasts, but I’d suggest bone-in chicken)
- 3 strips bacon, cut into lardons (large chunks)
- 1/2 package mushrooms (I used baby bellas. The restaurant used button and oyster ‘shrooms.)
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 onion, medium dice
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 2 cups red wine (Pinot noir worked well, and be sure to pour some for the chef.)
- 1 cup beef stock/broth
- 1 tsp. tomato paste
- 1/8 cup of flour
- 1 bay leaf
- 6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
In an effort to be as French as possible, I started cooking this at 8PM and attempted to get all my mise en place out of the way like a real chef. If you’re cooking with a date, congratulations. You’ve managed to either get someone into your home or invite yourself to their home. If you have an extra set of hands to help, chopping duties can be split up. Additionally, your sous chef can help wash, peel, cut potatoes for mashed tatters or take care of making pasta.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat a dutch oven to super hot. I let mine heat over medium-high for about minutes while I chopped up my ingredients.
- Brown the bacon until all the fat renders. Then remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate, leaving the artery-clogging bacon fat.
- Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel, then season with salt and pepper. Drying the chicken ensures that it will sear better, forming a crisper exterior. If there is moisture on the skin or meat, it has to cook off before the meat can sear. Sear for 5 minutes on each side. I had to work in two batches. Remove the chicken to a plate with a paper towel, then cook the remaining chicken. Don’t crowd the pan. It prevents you from properly searing the meat.
- Once all the chicken is seared, remove all but a few tablespoons of fat in the pan. I poured out about half the fat. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the onions and carrots, stirring occasionally. We aren’t looking to brown the veg, merely soften them. Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the mushrooms and garlic clove. Cook those 3-4 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, then flour. These only need to cook for a minute or two to remove the raw flavor. The tomato paste adds a meatiness to the sauce, while the flour will aid in thickening the sauce.
- Combine 1 1/2 cups wine and 3/4 cup of beef stock in a measuring cup. This is also a good time to pour yourself another verre de vin. Add the wine/stock combo to the pot, stir to mix. Then return the chicken and most of the bacon to the pot. You can’t make bacon and not have a piece. Add the thyme and bay leaf.
- Bring the liquid to a boil. Put on the lid. Then put the put in the oven for 30-40 minutes. I checked the temperature after 35, and it displayed 170. Parfait!
- Serve with mashed potatoes (I added bacon to mine). For round 2, I’ll be serving this with egg noodles.
So, the dish takes some work, but is definitely doable and amazingly worth it. The sauce is phenomenal. I’ll be using up the thyme for some other dishes this week. If your date doesn’t profess their love for you after eating this, either you messed up OR you need to find someone else.
Suggested Listening: Old Folks by Miles DavisBack and forth they rocked.
“How’s yo daddy?” Mawmaw asked, with a pronounced, drawn-out lingering on the “add” and a quick trailing off on the “y.”
Four oblong, baby blue bathroom rugs were placed under the four rocking chairs in the living room. A faded picture of her daughter’s wedding portrait was centered above the couch against the back wall. The other walls were adorned with an array of family photos like most grandparent’s homes. They always hold onto those school photos from when you awkwardly teetered on the precipice between childhood and adulthood.
“Y’all meet rain?” Mawmaw’s sister asked from her still rocking chair. Continue reading Rockin’ with Mawmaw on the Bayou