Monday, June 29, 2009

Languedoc - Menu for a Friday Evening at Soustres

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.

Menu for a Friday Evening at Soustres

Radishes with Sweet Butter & Salt
Mixed Grill of Spare Ribs, Chicken and Sausage*
Printanier of Fava Beans, Artichokes & Peas*
Une Salade Verte
Les Fromages

*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.

Mr. de Ravel starts the fire using les souches, or grape vine trunks.

Anne and fellow house guest, Beth Higbee, shell fava beans in the garden of 'Soustres.'

French radishes, fresh from the market, different looking than American radishes. Anne has a recipe for a cold soup using the radishes' green tops. You can find it here: A Frugal Meal.

The raw meat before marinating.

The spare ribs, or coustillous in French, in a marinade of olive olive oil, balsamic vinegar, white wine, garlic, green and white onions, soy sauce, harissa paste and several fresh herbs.

The chicken in a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and fresh herbs.

Onions, spring onions and garlic for both the printanier, and the meat and chicken marinades.

The raw fava beans and peas ready to be prepped for the printanier.

The cooked and peeled fava beans ready for the printanier.

Shelled peas ready for the printanier.

Fresh artichokes from the Béziers market. Anne removed the leaves and used the hearts only for the printanier.

The artichoke hearts soaking in water with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown just before the final cooking.

The artichoke hearts for the printanier cooking away.

The spare ribs and the chicken done and ready for the table.

The finished spare ribs, or coustillous, resting before the meal.

The cooked sausage ready to eat.

The finished Prinatanier of Fava Beans, Artichokes and Peas. This was the hit of the meal. A recipe for this will follow in the next blog post.

Anne's ancestral home, 'Soustres.'

Bon appétit!

Check Out: Gobs! Have you ever heard of a Gob? It's a cross between a cookie and a cake, layered in frosting yet still airy - something akin to a cookie sandwich. They're sold at grocery store check out lines all over Pennsylvania. Well my enterprising friend Steven, a native Pennsylvanian, has improved on the originals and brought them to the streets of San Francisco. Read about them here Gobba Gobba Hey Blog and find out where you can get them here:

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'.

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  1. This is a beautiful house and what a delightful meal! A wonderful experience!

  2. Thank you 5 Star. I appreciate your stopping by. Yes, it was all of those things and more. I feel very lucky to have had the experience. Recipes for a couple of the dishes coming soon.

  3. What a feast!!! Love the photos...Now I want an invite!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Figtreeapps

  4. Than you Figtree! When I win the lottery - which I plan to do - I'll take everyone to France for a repeat performance plus more. Thank you for stopping by.

  5. It all looks so good, I'm a vegetarian but even the meat looked good. I can't wait to be buying fresh veg in Beziers. I really want to try the buttered radish, never would have thought of that combination.