Red Chimichurri

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When my husband and I visited Argentina in 2019, I was served the well known green chimichurri in restaurants, as well as a red version. Yet I kept forgetting to look it up. Here’s what the traditional green looks like.

But finally today, I googled, and up came a Hank Shaw recipe for red chimichurri. His blog is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, and he is a James Beard award-winning author and former chef.

On his blog: “ If it’s wild game, fish, or edible wild plants and mushrooms, you’ll find it here.”

Mr. Shaw has written multiple cookbooks, my favorite titles being “Duck, Duck, Goose,” and “Buck, Buck, Moose!” I don’t own his cookbooks, mostly because I’m not a hunter, and I don’t actively fish or forage in Oklahoma, but I do enjoy his blog.

Shaw recommends chopping everything by hand, otherwise the chimichurri will turn a strange color. I think we’ve all learned with paints that red and green don’t blend together well!

Chimichurri is typically offered alongside steaks.

Red Chimichurri
Recipe by Hank Shaw

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 or 2 small hot chiles, minced
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped (I used a 6.52 ounce jar Piquillo peppers)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup chopped fresh parsley, lightly packed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked or paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste

Mix the vinegar with the minced garlic, shallot, hot pepper and roasted red pepper and let this sit for 10 minutes or so to mellow out.

Mix all the remaining ingredients together and let the sauce sit for at least a few minutes, or, better yet, an hour, before serving at room temperature. There were six Piquillo peppers in the jar. I first gently rinsed and dried them before adding to the chimichurri.

Chimichurri, whether red or green, is a fantastically fresh and flavorful condiment. I could eat it with a spoon.

Try it on steak, but also try it on fish and shrimp and lamb and eggs….

My only suggestion with this chimichurri is to finely chop the parsley!

Salmagundi

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A while back I received a newsletter from Sous Vide Supreme, where I’d purchased my sous vide, and this was the name of the newsletter – Sous Vide Salmagundi! So I had to google salmagundi.

According to Serious Eats, “Salmagundi is more of a concept than a recipe. Essentially, it is a large composed salad that incorporates meat, seafood, cooked vegetables, raw vegetables, fruits, and nuts and is arranged in an elaborate way. Think of it as the British answer to Salad Niçoise.”

Well, it isn’t exactly like a Niçoise salad, if it contains meat, fruits, and nuts, but I was intrigued, and googled more.

From Wikipedia, “It seems to appear in English for the first time in the 17th century as a dish of cooked meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts and flowers and dressed with oil, vinegar and spices.”

Isn’t that fascinating?!!

Furthermore from Wikipedia, “In English culture the term does not refer to a single recipe, but describes the grand presentation of a large plated salad comprising many disparate ingredients. These can be arranged in layers or geometrical designs on a plate or mixed. The ingredients are then drizzled with a dressing. The dish aims to produce wide range of flavours and colours and textures on a single plate.”

Well, I immediately thought, party food! What a fabulous way to serve a meal, on a giant platter, like a whole buffet on a platter. Guests can create their own plates and, it would work for both vegetarians as well as nons.

Here are a couple of photos I found online, the left being from Serious Eats, the right one from The Boston Globe.

I told my husband about salmagundi, and he also said – party food! Surprisingly there is no cheese mentioned, but I added cheese!

Options for Salmagundi:

Roasted chicken legs
Boiled shrimp
Hot-smoked salmon
Corn on the cob halves, roasted
Salami
Potatoes
Hard-boiled eggs
Green beans
Steamed beets
Cornichons
Fruits
Nuts
Tomatoes or roasted tomatoes on a vine
Radishes
Edible flowers

This was a lot of fun to put together, as you can imagine!

I would have had people over but the flies are so bad when I did it. In fact, my husband stood guard for me, waving away flies while I photographed.

I didn’t cut up all of the cheese, or provide any dips, but you get the idea. So much more can be done with this salgagundi concept!

Speidie Sauce

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When I come across something completely new in a cookbook, I get absolutely giddy, especially when it’s not part of an exotic cuisine. Speidie sauce is all-American or, at least, a significant part of upstate New York summer barbecues.

During the pandemic, my daughter and husband escaped to a resort on Long Island over the Thanksgiving weekend. She told me they would be dining at a Charlie Palmer restaurant on Thanksgiving. I hadn’t thought about Charlie Palmer much over the years, but knew he was a highly regarded and successful chef.

When I googled him, I think he was running something like 19 restaurants! The most famous one being Aureole – one in New York City and also in Las Vegas. And if I counted right, he’s written 7 cookbooks.

I became quite intrigued with Charlie Palmer and his longevity, so I purchased American Fare, published in 2015. The cookbook contains really nice recipes – nothing too crazy, nor too plain, and all perfect for home cooking I bookmarked so many recipes, to my amazement.

One recipe jumped out at me, called Speidie sauce, or Charlie’s Speidie marinade. (Speidie is pronounced speedy.)

From the cookbook, “In upstate New York where I grew up, summertime is speidie time. Speidies are beef or chicken kabobs marinated in a locally produced speidie sauce and cooked on the grill. Almost nobody makes their own sauce; it is purchased by the case to take the barbecue master through the entire summer’s grilling.”

Have you heard of such a thing?! I went to my favorite local deli, Amazon.com, and sure enough, found 3 examples of purchasable speidie sauce/marinade. And what’s funny to me is that they all look so different!

Following is Chef Palmer’s speidie marinade recipe, his version that he “happily” shares.

Charlie’s Speidie Marinade
Printable recipe below

2 cups dry white wine
1/4 sherry wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a non reactive container. Because of the last hand operation, I’m not very good at chopping, so I threw the ingredients into a blender. Yes, sympathy, please!

Cover and allow flavors to blend for at least 1 hour before using. May be stored, refrigerated, for up to 1 week. The marinade can be used for any meat, poultry, or game.

To test out this marinade, I chose to make kabobs with filet mignons, bell peppers, and onions.

The beef and vegetables marinated for 24 hours. After bringing them to room temperature, I grilled the kabobs over coals.

The marinade is good! There is a strong wine, shallot, and dried herb component, which I love.

I served a white bean salad on the side, along with flatbreads.

Honestly, I’d halve the wine, and double the oil. The marinade is tasty, but very “wet”.

 

 

Uchucuta Sauce

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At our first breakfast in Cusco, Peru, when staying at the Hotel Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, there was lovely display of a green sauce with little clay cups for self-serving. I love just about everything green, and I’m addicted to condiments, so I put some on my eggs. I started small not knowing the heat level (see the little blob of green on my egg?! I went back for more.

What was especially nice, for me, was that a recipe was propped up next to the sauce.

It turned out the sauce was fairly mild, so during our time in Peru pretty much everything I ate got slathered with this stuff!

I took a photo of the recipe to I could recreate it at home. I had no idea how challenging that would be. The main ingredient is sachatomates, also known as tamarillos. I happened to have taken a photo of a tamarillo tree in Cuzco, without knowing what the fruits were. And, in a hotel room in Cartagena there were tamarillos in a bowl.

I recently discovered that another name for these are tree tomatoes, and ordered a box from Tropical Fruit Box, out of Miami, Florida. They sell quite an assortment of fruits! (What’s trending now are pink pineapples!) But, when I compare the photos, are they the same fruit?

My other stumbling block was finding green rocoto chile peppers. When you google their images, this is what you get: Only red.

When I looked for the peppers on Amazon, I found only red sauces, no green.

Obviously this is a green sauce, so I’m not going to add a red chile pepper paste to it, but I bought some just for fun. (It’s super hot!!) I decided instead to substitute jalapenos.

The next problem is huacatay, pronounced “wah-ka-tay.” It’s also known as Peruvian black mint. Since I didn’t have any of this mint, I bought a jar of the paste.

I have cilantro, peanuts, and salt and pepper, so I moved on with this Peruvian salsa, fingers crossed. Here is the recipe provided at the hotel’s restaurant.

Uchucuta Sauce

4 sachatomates
1 green rocoto chile pepper
100 grams cilantro
100 grams Peruvian black mint
100 grams peanuts
Salt, pepper

Peel, de-seed and dice the sachatomates.
Boil and dice the chiles.
Grind all of the ingredients until they form a sauce.
Leave the mixture thicken for 2 hours.

My first issue with these sachatomates/tamarillos/tree tomatoes, is that they cannot be peeled with a normal peeler, so I sliced them lengthwise in quarters, removed the seeds, and did my best with my knife to gather the flesh only. You can see that the flesh is thin.

I then boiled the diced jalapenos for a minute, as per the directions, weighed out the cilantro and peanuts.

I placed the fruit flesh in the food processor jar, along with the drained jalapenos, then added the cilantro and a tablespoon of the mint paste.

Then it was the peanuts, salt and pepper. I pulsed away, not wanting to make it too smooth, although I’ve since seem some photos of Uchucuta that looks like green soup!

In the recipe, a batán is recommended, which to me must be an equivalent of a molcajete, so I used mine to make the salsa a little smoother and greener.

This is what one looks like. Photo from Cuzcoeats.com

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I made eggs and potatoes, which are eaten with uchucuta sauce, also known as uchukuta. Meats are also recommended for this condiment.

After tasting the sauce, it was so mild that I added another jalapeno, and it was still mild.

But it’s good! I just wish I had some mint, even if it isn’t Peruvian black mint.

And, it turns out, that these hard-to-find sachatomates aren’t even that important to this sauce. Oh well. Was this still fun? You betcha.

It’s been so long since we were in Peru that I don’t know if the taste is the same, but I doubt it. And in other recipes, I see feta cheese, and no sachatomates. Interesting.

I have about 30 more sachatomates to eat. They’re good, really tart, but good vitamin C to last the whole pandemic!

My friend took some and turned them into a salsa, which was delicious!

Searing

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There is one important cooking technique that is impossible in my home kitchen, and that is searing. I can get good browning, but in order to sear you need your skillet super hot over the highest flames. In order to prevent my smoke detector from going off, I must also use my ventilation system, which is at the back of the stove behind the burners.

When the vent is on at the highest suction position, it literally pulls the flames out-of-place. Sideways.

Highest flame without vent. The vent is on the right of this burner, and this is the front burner.

And with the vent on.

You can see on the left the flames are practically non-existent, the flames are horizontal to the right, and at the front of the photo they’re all over the place.

Searing colors the meat and creates flavor from caramelization. Searing is important to me because it’s an important first or final step when cooking meat Sous Vide. The Sous Vide does the cooking, so all that’s required is searing the outside, without further cooking.

So if you’re trying to sear with my situation, the meat must sit longer in the skillet waiting for a sear, actually cooking the meat more. And this is wrong and practically defeats the purpose of using the sous vide.

I may have a found a solution for this problem, when I was reading a book called Mastering the Art of Sous Vide Cooking, by Justice Stewart. The book was recommended by fellow Sous Vide aficionado, Conor Boffin, of the One Man’s Meat blog.

I purchased the Kindle version of the cookbook; I was less interested in photos and food styling, and more interested in Sous Vide times and temperatures.

But there it was, at the back of the book, a photo of a Searzall attachment, that is placed on a butane torch.

We all own the little butane kitchen torch, I think use mostly for caramelizing the tops of creme caramel. But have you noticed that nasty butane odor? For that reason, I haven’t used mine for years.

Here is the description of the one I ordered from Amazon.

This thing sears without cooking, and doesn’t have the “off-putting aroma often associated with blowtorches.” Problem solved!

The photo on the left shows an example of a little torch like most of us own, compared to my new one. And on the right, the butane torch with the small Searzall attachment.

So to test it out, I seasoned a 24 ounce piece of beef called London Broil, and cooked it in my sous vide machine for 7 hours at 130 degrees F.

When I was ready to sear the beef, I wiped off all of the liquid and some of the remnant seasoning, and brushed on a little oil. And then I seared away!

In case you’re not familiar with a London Broil, it’s wonderfully tender, and a perfect cut to sous vide and share.

That night I served it alongside hummus and a tomato salad.

Notice that beautiful seared outside!

I’m so excited about this searing technique. I’m going to try it on shrimp next!

Strawberry Onion Chutney

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Rarely do I come out of “retirement” to cater. If I do it’s only for good friends, but still these gigs are few and far between. I’m just not in the catering groove any longer.

A few years ago, however, I said yes to a friend who needed help with her staff party. I don’t remember the menu in its entirety, except that I made a sous vide pork loin.

Because it was springtime, I created a chutney using fresh strawberries to go with the pork.

Following is the sweet-spicy-tart condiment recipe that I’m so happy I wrote down. I must say it was superb and loved by all!

Strawberry Onion Chutney
printable recipe below

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup ruby port
1/4 cup olive oil
4 white onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 1″ piece ginger, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 pound hulled strawberries, chopped into small pieces
Allspice, to taste

In a small bowl, soak raisins in the port. Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the onions and begin the sautéing process. It will take at least 30 minutes. A little browning is fine, but mostly I just wanted them nice and soft and cooked through.

Add the raisins and the port, along with the garlic and ginger, and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Then stir in the strawberries and continue cooking the chutney, stirring occasionally, until the strawberry pieces have cooked, but still hold their shapes.

If I might say so, this chutney is spectacular. When I made it the second time, I used dark raisins, and served it with roasted chicken, which was equally delicious as previously with the pork loin.

And with cheese? It’s fabulous!!!

 

 

Cabbage Rolls, Deconstructed

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I am completely aware that the term “deconstructed” is overused these days, but that’s exactly what innocently came to mind when I first thought about this recipe.

Cabbage rolls have always been a favorite of mine – mostly because of all the varieties of stuffings potentially hiding inside. Ground pork with rice and raisins, reminiscent of dolma, or sausage rolled in cabbage, smothered in red sauce – all delicious, comforting, and reliable.

There’s nothing tedious or challenging about making cabbage rolls, but it’s easy to run out of the nice big cabbage leaves.

So I was staring at a cabbage the other day, and thought I could simply parboil the cabbage, and create a layered “casserole” of cabbage and sausage. But I also needed a white sauce and cheese.

I not only was thinking of traditional cabbage rolls, but also a recipe I made which was bacon and mushrooms in béchamel and wrapped in cabbage leaves – more of a side dish than a meal, and deliciously rich.

So here’s what I did, combining the components of both recipes.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls
printable recipe below

1 large head of white cabbage, about 3 pounds
1-2 tablespoons oil or bacon fat
2 pounds Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Approximately 4 cups of bechamel, double this recipe
Grated Gruyère, about 16 ounces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Have a large pot of slightly salted water heating on the stove. Slice the cabbage in half and remove the core.

When the water comes to a boil, add the cabbage halves and keep them submerged. I used a plate with a weighted lid.

Cook the cabbage for about 6-7 minutes, or until the leaves soften a bit. Place the cabbage in a colander to drain and cool. When you can handle the leaves, separate them slightly and let them drip dry on a dish towel or paper towels.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage, pork and onion over medium-high heat, along with some oil, until barely any pink shows; don’t overcook.

Add the fennel seeds and white pepper. Taste for salt.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ baking dish.

Begin with adding cabbage leaves to the bottom of the dish.

Next add one-fourth of the sausage mixture, topped by one cup of bechamel, and sprinkle with about 4 ounces of grated cheese.

Repeat these layers three times or, if your baking dish is shallower, form only three layers, using thirds of the sausage mixture, bechamel, and cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Serve with some buttered potatoes for a really hearty meal!

One could certainly add celery, carrots, and parsley to the meat mixture.

Or, go a different direction with seasoning the meat component to make it Italian-inspired. There are so many options.

note: This deconstructed cabbage roll casserole would be just as good with a red sauce instead of a cheesy white one, and definitely less caloric, if you worry about that sort of thing.

 

 

 

Chinese Steamed Buns

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I enjoyed many variations of steamed buns while growing up – some were plain, some were filled with bright red pork filling, others looked like works of art. They were especially ubiquitous during the time my French mother was in her Chinese phase (see Growing up Foodie,) which was a mostly wonderful culinary experience for our family.

But I never knew the extent of the magic created in a bamboo steamer until my husband and I went to our first dim sum restaurant. This was in San Francisco’s Chinatown, 30+ years ago. It was a busy, bustling restaurant, full of people who spoke non-English. Waiters pushed little carts around tightly-placed tables and it was a bit unsettling. This is what the insides of the carts look like:

We weren’t sure what to do, so we kept pointing at food and nodding, because everything looked so good. There must have been at least 200 different items from which to choose. Maybe even more. We were so excited, hungry, and a little nervous, that I think we ended up with food for a dozen people. Knowing us, we probably finished it all.

This recipe for steamed buns is my one of my husband’s favorite things to eat. He asks for them as part of his birthday dinner, like he did last week. The dough is a basic bread dough, and the filling is Chinese sausage. It’s a recipe my mother created, because of her love of Chinese sausage. Try it in soups and omelets. It’s a bit greasy, but wonderful!

You can double the recipe, but it’s tricky unless you have two steamers.

Bread Dough

1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm milk, at about 110 degrees
3 1/2 cups white flour

Heat 1/4 cup of water in a large bowl to approximately 110 degrees; if you can put your finger in the water and hold it there, it’s hot enough. Sprinkle on the yeast and sugar, and let it sit for a few minutes.

Then stir up the mixture, place it in a non-drafty part of your kitchen, and let it sit for 5 minutes; it will have doubled in volume.

Stir in the warm milk, then add 3 cups of flour. Mix as much as you can with a spoon. Then turn out the dough on your work area and, using flour only as necessary, knead the dough until it is smooth. This should take about 5 minutes. Don’t add too much flour – just enough to keep the dough from sticking.

Form the dough into a ball, and place it in a clean, greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel, then put the bowl in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 1/2 hours.

It will have doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, and let it rest about 20 minutes.

To Prepare the Steamed Buns filled with Chinese Sausage

Have about 7 ounces of sliced Chinese sausage on hand, as well as toasted sesame oil.

Turn the dough out onto the work area. Roll the dough into a cylinder, and divide the dough evenly into 12 pieces. Form each piece of dough into a disc, about 3 1/2″ in diameter. Sprinkle a few drops of sesame oil in the middle of the disc, and then top with some sausage slices.

Pull up all four sides of the disc, then squeeze them together and twist to seal the dough. I’m not really good at this part….

As you make the buns, place them in a steamer basket that has been oiled. Or, alternatively, cut out squares of parchment paper and spray those with oil to keep the buns from sticking, placing them underneath the buns. Just make sure the steam can move around the steamer basket. When you have finished making all twelve buns, let them rise in the steamer basket.

There are also liners with holes that you can buy to fit into your steamer baskets.

Meanwhile, bring a wok or pot of water to a boil on the stove, with the water level with the bottom of the steamer basket. After the buns have risen for about 20-30 minutes, turn the water down to a simmer, then place the steamer basket in the wok. After about 10-12 minutes, check the buns; the dough should be firm. If they are sticky, keep steaming another minute or two, then turn off the heat and remove the lid.

Remove them as soon as you can from the steamer basket and let cool slightly. Then enjoy! They’re soft and the most fragrant while warm.

Here’s a panorama iphone pic of a dim sum restaurant we went to in New York City in 2017. It truly is as big as it looks!

I encourage everyone to enjoy dim sum at a reputable Chinese restaurant. There’s always chicken feet – for the hard to please!

Boneless Leg of Lamb

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Years ago, I remember telling a friend that I wanted to take a butchering class some time. She said, “you mean you want to learn how to kill chickens?”

I then clarified that I wanted nothing to do with animals outside of my kitchen, but I wanted to know what to do with them once they were in my kitchen.

The extent of my butchering has been trimming beef tenderloins. This came from too many times purchasing packaged filet mignons, which looked perfect underneath the stretched plastic wrap, but when I got them home they would fall into 2 or 3 pieces.

That’s when I started buying whole tenderloins and being in charge of cutting the filets myself. It’s less expensive, and nothing goes to waste.

When on Amazon.com looking though cookbooks a few years ago, I came upon what seemed like a perfect reference book for me. It’s called The Butcher’s Apprentice, by Aliza Green, published in 2012.

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This book was my dream come true. Pretty much anything you need to learn how to do with meat is in this book, along with step-by-step directions. Recently I decided to de-bone a leg of lamb using the book.

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I opened it up and immediately noticed that the photos are mirror images of what they should be. I would have imagined the photos be from the butcher’s perspective, maybe using a camera attached to the ceiling.

I tried laying the book on the floor upside-down, but the angle of the camera was off for me.

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There was also no labeling of the leg of lamb. Turns out mine didn’t have a pelvis attached. The parts about shanks and femurs and so forth were lost on me – I was mostly trying to match what the meat looked like in the photos.

Basically, I gave up on my “prized” book, and just removed the two bones that I found, some fat, and some of the fell.

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What was left was a mess, but I seasoned it with garlic pepper and salt. Check out my scimitar! My husband thought I’d perhaps joined the dark side when he spotted it.

Then I pushed it all together, and tied it up.

I placed halves of garlic cloves, from about 5-6 cloves, into holes I made in the meat using the point of a knife.

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I poured some olive oil in a large roasting pan and placed the lamb on the oil. Then I turned over the lamb, making sure it was covered with oil.

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After more garlic pepper and salt, I put the lamb in the oven that was preheated to 400 degrees.

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After 10 minutes I used large forks to turn it over. The other side browned in about 5 minutes.

I reduced the oven to 325 degrees. I think the old standard is ten minutes a pound, but I decided to use my oven probe to make sure the lamb cooks only to medium rare, or 125 degrees.

The thing is, when you use a probe, you actually have to listen for the beeping that tells you that the probe has reached the desired temperature. I, unfortunately, was not in the kitchen, so the oven went to HOLD and continued to cook my precious lamb roast.

When I realized that the lamb had been in the oven too long, I quickly took it out of the pan and let rest on a cutting board.

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When I sliced it, the lamb wasn’t terribly overcooked, but it certainly wasn’t medium rare, which is how I love it. This is not a mistake I haven’t made before – I’ve got quite a few burnt pots to prove that I get distracted easily when I’m cooking.

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If lamb is cooked properly, just like a filet mignon, it doesn’t need much!

I served the lamb with persillade and roasted tomatoes.

The persillade was also wonderful with the tomatoes.

The pinkest parts of the lamb were wonderful, probably because of the high quality of the meat.

Overall, I’m really disappointed in this book. I don’t think photos taken from an observer’s perspective does anyone any good when trying to learn an involved skill like meat butchering. I had better luck closing the book and using common sense.

French Markets

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I don’t profess to be an expert on markets in France. In fact, I’m not at all. In the past, when I visited my family as a child, I don’t remember markets. I do remember walking to shops with my grandmother in her village, getting milk, then cheese, then meat, and so forth. I don’t think I remember seeing a farmers-type market until I was much older. I also remember my mother commenting on how much prettier all of the produce is compared to the U.S.

Fast forward to married life, when my husband and I have, luckily, traveled in France and many other European countries. Because we always wanted to see the countryside, we’re typically on the move. We’ve never rented a home, spent a week, and cooked.

So it wasn’t until I visited Stéphane from the blog My French Heaven, that I really got to see markets and experience them.

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In 2013, when my daughter and I went, the three of us went to a different market on four days in four different towns! But I know that the one Stéphane frequents is on Sunday in Libourne, where he resides. Which is why he refers to it as his church.

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In France, as it is in many European countries, markets aren’t like a visit to a super Wal Mart. It’s about planning what to cook, seeing what’s in season, visiting with friends. It’s almost more of a social institution than just buying groceries.

After three trips to visit Stephane, I’ve been to the Libourne market many times now. I recognize his favorite butcher, who blushed when my girlfriend gave him a hug for a photo. I recognize the old curmudgeon of a foie gras guy. And there are the cute young ladies who sell seafood. And so forth. Can you imagine having such a relationship with a cheesemonger? I have none of that where I live.

If you’ve never been to a French market, please read Stéphane’s post, entitled “My Market is my Church.” It gives you tips on how to navigate a market, how to talk to the vendors, and also what not to do.

I thought this was such important information because if I’d never had guidance from my mother, I could be one of the ugly Americans, touching the beautiful produce, asking for samples, perhaps yelling when a Parisien butted in line in front of me.

That doesn’t happen in France. In fact, you keep your hands to yourself and you remain calm. Farmers are proud, and they’re not selling any strawberry or green bean that isn’t perfectly ripe. There might be dirt on the carrots and potatoes, but that’s the only thing that an American would consider imperfect. You tell the vendor you want a half a kilo of mushrooms, and he/she will place them in a bag for you. Payment is in cash.

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Farmers markets are also not like our food festivals in the US. They’re not giving out food samples to draw you in. They’re too busy doing what they should be doing anyway. If you want one of their cheeses, ask for it, or move on.

There are counterfeit farmers. In Stephane’s post, you’ll read that if you see stamped eggs, for example, or if a “farmer” has baby-bottom soft hands, chances are you’re not dealing with a true farmer. They’ve most likely stopped by the French Costco equivalent and are re-selling at the market.

When my husband and I visited Stephane recently, we spent a couple of days in his home town. This was at my request, because as much as I like traveling and eating out, I can honestly say that there’s nothing quite like spending time with Stephane at his home, shopping with him, sipping the wine he’s chosen for you, and being served perfect food prepared by him.

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For lunch on our first full day in Libourne, he served my husband and I steaks with a green peppercorn cream sauce, and sauteed potatoes. Followed by a platter of cheeses.

We had purchased all of the ingredients that morning at the market.

In the evening, just for me, along with my Lillet, I enjoyed cured duck filled with foie gras.

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Then Stephane made us a dinner of his famous prawns in a Jack Daniels cream sauce.


How nice it must be to have a relationship with people who really understand their food, who have raised it, caught it, cooked it, and are proud of it. It’s wonderful to have trust in these vendors as well, and know their reputations. These people are so knowledgeable that they will tell you how to cook the eel they’re selling, still wiggling, of course, or even how best to prepare a cut of lamb. This is also a part of what makes shopping at farmers markets so meaningful.