Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Moveable Feast

Sorry it's been so long since we've posted. Honestly, not a lot of interesting stuff has been happening, even though we're in France, which in itself should mean we're having lots of adventures. But there have a couple of highlights the past couple weeks. Last night we had dinner at one of my teacher's, Sandrine. Last night was the first night I met her, because she's kind of on sabbatical from school right now, but we've been chatting the past couple of months via email so she graciously invited us to her home for some typical French fare yesterday.

We were told to show up at 7:30pm, which for us is pretty late, and we enjoyed a very lengthy, somewhat fancy meal. There were cute little menus rolled up and tied with twine at each autumn-themed place setting. The culinary theme was "fruits de mer", or seafood, and each course was paired with it's own wine. Here's the complete menu:
Le plat de résistance

Apéritif (appetizer):
-crème de sardines sur toast (sardine dip on baguette)
-tapenade d'olives noir (olive spread)
-anchois marinés à l'ail (anchovies marinated in garlic)
à boire (to drink): crémant de Bourgogne (basically a bellini: champagne and black currant syrup)

Entrée (second appetizer):
- tartare aux deux saumons en verrine (a type of fresh salmon ceviche served in a little glass jar)
à boire: Touraine cépage sauvignon 2007 (a nice chilled white wine)

Plat de résistance (main dish):
-Noix de St. Jacques sur lit de poireaux (scallops served on a bed of leeks with a creamy parmesan sauce)
à boire: Riesling 2007 (another white wine)

Plateau de fromages (cheese plate)
-chèvre (a creamy goat's cheese)
-a hard cheese whose name I forget
à boire: Côtes de Rhône 2005 (a red wine)

Dessert (made by yours truly)
-truffes au chocolat noir (dark chocolate truffles)
-truffes au chocolat et à l'orange (orange chocolate)
-truffes au caramel et au pralin (caramel and praline)
-truffes aux amandes et au miel (almond and honey)
à boire: café, thé, et eau de vie au poire (coffee, tea, and pear-flavored schnapps)

Dark chocolate rolled in cocoa powder, honey and almond rolled in crushed almonds, caramel rolled in praline, and orange chocolate rolled in powdered sugar

Looking at all this food, is it any wonder we were eating until 11:30pm? It was pretty intense. What was even harder than shoveling in all this delicious food (which, let's face it, wasn't that hard) was keeping up a steady stream of French with Sandrine and Alex. I must say, that even after four bottles of alcohol, I still managed to stay pretty coherent. I only made a few silly mistakes, which were easily forgiven. Andrew said something that was really funny, to both me and our French friends:

Sandrine: Notre fils viens d'avoir peur de noir. (Our son has just started being afraid of the dark)
Andrew: Il a peur de gens noirs? (He's afraid of black people?)

N.B. In French, "noir" means both "the dark" and "black."

Last night we had the food experience I've been craving since I've been in France, at a fraction of the cost, considering I just had to pay for the dessert, and that was only because I offered; I wonder what they would have served us otherwise! In addition, we got great conversation practice and we know a little bit more about wine now, since Alex, Sandrine's husband, is somewhat of a sommelier.

For those interested in making truffles at home, here's the recipe that I used, taken from Clothilde Dusoulier's Chocolate & Zucchini blog, with a few additions of my own:

400 grams of chocolate (I used four 100g. Nestlé bars in different flavors)
1 c. heavy whipping cream
4 teaspoons butter
Crushed toppings to roll the truffles in (I used powdered sugar, cocoa powder, crushed almonds, and praline)

Break up the chocolate bars into very small pieces in separate bowls
Heat the cream just until it boils
Pour 1/4 c. cream over each bowl of chocolate
Mix until smooth
Add 1 teaspoon butter to each bowl and mix until smooth

N.B. I found that the hot cream alone was not enough to melt the chocolate, so I threw the bowls in the oven for a minute or so to facilitate melting. You can also use the microwave.

Cover each bowl with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight
The next day, using a teaspoon, scoop out the chocolate mixture and form into small balls with your hands
Roll each ball in a topping of choice

N.B. Keep the chocolate in the fridge until you're ready to form the truffles. If the chocolate gets too warm, return to the fridge for a while to harden.

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