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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Thirty-Five in France: Beef carpaccio and an apéro to-go

My favorite Mulhousien mural.

16/05/2020: This sunny Saturday featured shopping for ingredients for tomorrow's barbecue at the (socially distanced) market in Brunstatt and top-notch Boucherie David (complete with a snacking sausage for the road), and it culminated in an impromptu meal at J.'s dad's house. A couple Panachés, or French shandies, in the shade later, we sat down to luxurious, butter-basted lunch steaks alongside pasta and veggies – and a pour from the bottle of red that our generous host always has on hand. Not too shabby for an accidental afternoon. I guess life is just like that in France...

17/05/2020: Sunday BBQ, again at J.'s dad's house, was an afternoon-long affair. We (well, J.) grilled marinated beef and chicken kebabs, pork belly, and spicy merguez and chipolata sausages (chipos, as they call them). The ever innovative C. whipped up a potato salad as a side, converting even me, enemy of all things "salad." Olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, cornichons, onions and tender potatoes – it had me coming back for seconds and thirds. Accompanying this knockout dish was J.'s dad's homemade carrot salad, a recipe that's as French as it gets, even though no on seems to talk much about it, favoring boeuf bourguignon and foie gras over simple root vegetables. It doesn't sound like much: grated carrots and much of the same aforementioned seasonings, but its sweetness, tang and texture play nicely together to create something downright addicting. (David Lebovitz has a great recipe on his blog.)

18/05/2020: My boring lunch of plain pasta with butter (I managed to grab a bowl and avoid eating it straight out of the pot) made for a strange juxtaposition with my very emotional day. I cycled between excitement, pride, joy and nerves as my first freelance article, a very personal piece, was published on the Huffington Post. Trying to sift through the "free rent" comments and responding to kind messages from my friends and family took up so much of my day, I had no energy left to devote to food.

Anything But Clothes salad.

19/05/2020: When I think "ABC," I think of either the alphabet, or those college "Anything But Clothes" parties – you know the ones. Where freshmen dress up in garbage bags and caution tape. Anyway, those images didn't stop my from enjoying E.'s self-titled ABC salad for lunch this afternoon, a flavorful mix of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, avocado, corn, goat cheese, olives, chicken, ham, herbs and crispy, almost-burnt croutons. Talk about an explosion of taste and color. Then, for the second time this week, I found myself staring at a beef-tongue studded blood sausage at Boucherie David, picking up ingredients for tonight's dinner. My first ever time trying a homemade beef carpaccio was a revelation. I couldn't get enough of the marriage of tender, thinly sliced meat, salty capers, tangy lemon juice, grassy olive oil, parmesan and oregano from the garden. But what really took things above and beyond was the bread. The lardon baguette and ail des ours (wild bear's garlic) baguette from a local bakery embodied everything I love about France. I need another bite, now.

20/05/2020: As is becoming our weekly tradition, C. and I made macarons. This time, we made an XXL batch of chocolate and white chocolate and mixed and matched with the shells (coques) and the two ganaches. Our oven temp was a little too high, so they were ever so slightly cracked, but other than that, we just keep on improving. Maybe we'll start a business... After all, I've got a head full of flavor ideas and nothing else to do. We brought a batch to our hairdresser friend's house as an apology for being late for our hair appointment. She couldn't stifle her laugh when I asked for Kylie Jenner's new hair color, but she obliged, and it turned out perfectly (four hours later). I'm a new woman!

21/05/2020: Yet another impromptu lunch turned out to be one of the best bouchées of this week – E. whipped up duck à l'orange and pesto pasta for lunch ("I want it to be pretty for your blog!"), which was perfectly cooked, again proving why duck in all its forms is one of my favorite French foods. Later that evening, after a fun food-themed English Club, I returned to my tried-and-true bobo café, Le Nid. Their unique apéro to-go is a collab with other Mulhouse small businesses like wine bar La Quille and chicken joint Plume Rotîsserie. The spread, which I shared with my friend I., was jaw-dropping. A bottle of Viognier, chips, cheese, charcuterie, a bredzel, veggies, gyoza, bread and "savory cookies," plus a variety of dipping sauces (and our own added accoutrements, from smoked salmon to olives to cornichons). We spent all night snacking, playing the ukelele, catching up after months in confinement, and sipping on homemade whiskey sours after our bottle of white – whiskey, lemon sirop and an egg white in a cocktail shaker. Learn from my mistakes and go easy on the lemon syrup.

J.'s unassuming but delicious scrambled eggs.

22/05/2020: Little to report from this lazy Friday, besides the absolutely life-changing scrambled eggs J. made me for breakfast. I don't know what he did (maybe it was the generous shakes of salt and pepper), but they were some of the best I've ever tasted. Here are his closely guarded tips that he was reticent about sharing with me: Start with a non-stick pan, and heat it on medium heat until it's hot. Turn the heat down to low, add the eggs, and stir (don't stop stirring!). When they're the right texture – for me, that's firm, no longer runny but still unctuous – quickly take them off the heat and serve. With a coffee in the morning, there's nothing better (I take mine with milk and sugar). Well, a cold brew would be nice. Iced coffee isn't really a thing here in France. Next project?

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