Week Thirty-Four in France: Fleischnacka and foie gras
09/05/2020: When there's nothing left but dried pasta in my pantry, I often can't help but skulk around in the kitchen downstairs, peeking around the corner, ears pricked, to see what T. and E. have on the menu for the evening. Tonight, when the words "chicken and preserved lemon tagine" reached my ears, I knew there was no way I was missing that meal. Fluffy semolina as a base, blanketed in a flavorful sauce with tender chicken, citrus, tomatoes, chick peas, dried apricots and more. The preserved lemon provided an almost shocking explosion of savory, sweet and sour flavor in each bite. The only problem is that I now want a tagine pot for myself – those gorgeous, shiny, conical ceramic dishes that are the mainstay of a good North African stew.
10/05/2020: You know the drill – Sunday lunch. This weekend, on our last day of official lockdown (Déconfinement Eve, as you will), we went all out. Perfectly cooked lamb, creamy mashed potatoes, buttery green beans, and the two stars of the show: stuffed tomatoes, melting in your mouth and topped with crispy garlic breadcrumbs, and Yorkshire puddings. Why have Yorkshire puddings not caught on in the States? Something about the hollowed, light popover-like dough and crispy, caramelized edges makes them an incredibly hot commodity on the dining table. Sadly, we had to ration ourselves to two each, even though we could've put away many, many more. But the dense, rich chocolate cake with strawberries for dessert made up for our impressive pudding-related restraint, and we ate while enjoying a rousing game of bilingual Scrabble. Which J. won. Which I'm not at all mad about. After sulking all afternoon, I sat down to an enormous Japanese takeout feast for dinner with the family, and I absolutely cannot stress how good my dumplings, California roll, and salmon and tuna sushi tasted after several months going without. Mulhouse isn't exactly a hotspot for fresh fish, but La Maison de Délices gets my vote.
11/05/2020: Today marks the first day of déconfinement, a long, slow and stressful process that differs by "red" or "green" regions in France. Surprise, surprise, Alsace is as red as yesterday's strawberries. Small businesses are reopening, and we no longer need a signed paper to leave the house, but restaurants, bars, high schools and more still remain shuttered. In other words, everything important to my life. Luckily, today was a bleak, rainy Monday, which hopefully slowed the eager French people itching to get out of their houses (and, in turn, to spread disease). This isn't over yet, people, and even though déconfinement does feel like a weight off of our shoulders, it doesn't mean we're in the clear. Despite Alsace's flaws, I still can't get enough of its food – for instance, tonight's fleishnacka, snail-shaped spirals of meat and pastry drenched in a savory broth. Like a beefy cinnamon roll, if that helps. No, you're right, it doesn't...
12/05/2020: The family and I have slowly started to venture out of the house to (safely) resume some old habits. For example, Tuesday night dinner at J.'s dad's house. Under a still-strong sun at 7 p.m., I sipped on a pastis while perusing some of our host's quite ...interesting... cookbooks (including one featuring "risqué and libertine" recipes) before diving into a saucy boeuf bourguignon, finishing with an absolutely show-stopping dessert by J.'s sister, C. A rhubarb pie with generous swirls of burnt meringue on top, a tart custard in the middle, and a sweet and crunchy crust on the bottom. Three layers of ecstasy.
13/05/2020: It's been thrilling to share a house with another food-lover like myself, and today I reaped the benefits. J.'s sister C. has spent some time in hip New York City and London restaurants and decided to tackle an infamous dish today – chicken and waffles. Unfortunately, due to a waffle-machine malfunction, it ended up being chicken and pancakes, but it was divine nonetheless. The savory scallion-spiked pancake dough paired perfectly with the crispy, spiced fried chicken, melted cheddar cheese and my last-minute addition: homemade honey butter! (Miss you, HBFC.)
14/05/2020: Impatient to get back in the kitchen after a week of mooching, I coerced J. into helping me make falafels for the family. We learned a valuable lesson that day. When cooking, it often helps to follow recipes and not just do "what you think looks good." I blame myself. The lemony tabbouleh and garlicky homemade hummus were tasty, but the falafel dough was far too soft and mushy, melting away in the hot oil and refusing to crisp up or hold together, despite our trying at least 100 different cooking methods. What a waste of chick peas. J. redeemed things by cooking for me this evening, serving up a hachi parmentier, a total comfort food comprised of layers of ground beef, mashed potatoes and melted cheese. It was my first time trying this French shepherd's pie, and J. certainly made it memorable and romantic.
15/05/2020: In addition to being the day on which my original flight home to the States was scheduled, today also happens to be C.'s birthday! Naturally, that means a big ol' family lunch. The wine was flowing, and J.'s dad brought out his homemade foie gras spiked with rum from the Île de la Réunion, which we all devoured on slices of baguette. "Just cut me one more little slice..." seemed to be the general consensus. An enormous beef Wellington then landed on the table, alongside veggies and T.'s illustrious, ubiquitous roasted potatoes. For dessert, I'd wanted to bake something for C., who I really look up to, so I spent the morning crafting one of my favorite recipes: dark chocolate salted caramel cupcakes. I've burned my fair share of homemade caramels, but this one was a success. I stuck a candle in C.'s second birthday cake, a coup de soleil (a stunning cross-section of financier cake, vanilla crème brûlée and raspberries) from Gaugler, the patisserie down the street, and we dug in.
Damn, I'm thankful to still be here.