Cooking as collaboration is one of the joys of food and eating. Collaborating with a friend of almost thirty years is the zenith of that experience. Anne and I chose Friday dinner to be our pièce de résistance, a culmination of several days together in the kitchen at her ancestral home, 'Soustres' in the Languedoc. We went about this in the French fashion, in that, Friday was market day in Béziers, the closest large city to Anne's home, so we went there Friday morning to see what was available, and fresh. Once we were there we devised the menu; Anne was gracious enough to allow me to take the lead. She helped in choosing the right ingredients from the vendors she new well. When one shops in a French market it's all about the conversation, a sort of negotiation with the merchant takes place. At the butcher's we scanned the case of meats, poultry, and charcuterie to see what looked good. I noticed pork ribs, chicken and fresh sausage and immediately thought of a mixed grill. Anne quickly agreed as the nice weather would allow for outdoor cooking. Anne spoke with the butcher and worked out what we wanted, and how much of each item; he cut the ribs to our specifications, chopped up the chicken and gave us a nice coil of sausage. That got us started. Our menu for the evening quickly came together.
Radishes with Sweet Butter & Salt
Mixed Grill of Spare Ribs, Chicken and Sausage*
Printanier of Fava Beans, Artichokes & Peas*
Une Salade Verte
*Recipes for both of these dishes will follow in the next blog post.
I knew I wanted to have radishes with sweet butter and salt as a first course as I used to eat them when I lived in France as young man. It is such a simple dish yet so pleasing. There's something about the peppery crunch of the radish with the sweet butter and salt that wakes the taste buds up. And to prepare it could not be easier: remove the greens leaving a bit of the stem on, wash the radishes thoroughly and let drain, or pat dry. To eat them one takes a radish puts a bit of butter on it, salts it and into the mouth it goes. The market was full of gorgeous spring produce. We stopped at a produce stand to buy the radishes, and we also grabbed garlic and spring onions; I wanted to make something with the beautiful fava beans and artichokes I had already seen, and Anne came up with the idea of a printanier of spring vegetables. She added fresh peas to the mix.
Back at the house everyone chipped in to help prepare the meal. First I marinated the ribs and chicken in olive oil, lemon, garlic and fresh herbs while Anne began the printanier. Anne's father and Robert started the grill using les souches, discarded grape vine trunks. They add a unique flavor to the food. After the meat was marinating, I helped Anne with the printanier prep work. Anne and I along with Beth, a fellow house guest, sat outside in the garden and peeled fava beans and shelled peas. We were well on our way to a stellar springtime meal on a Friday night in the Languedoc.
My Status: home, blogging, cooking, missing Paris, eating, blogging, missing France, dreaming of Barcelona... (yes, still!)
Upcoming Posts: France and Spain: more detailed blogs about our food and travel adventures in France and Spain. The Wedge Salad: a recipe, the origins of the salad and of Iceberg lettuce. Review: 'The Barcelona Cookbook'.