(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, August 15, 2008

la cuisinière rustique.

Readers, let me introduce you to my principal appliance currently in residence in my kitchen.

This is actually an almost exact replica (see kitchen photos below) and I am ever so thankful to J-Y for loaning it to me. Because of this *cough* stove, I am able to have a coffee in the morning, soup at night and I've even branched out into cooking. Yep that's right, I've made multi-dish meals on this baby. Three times. Two dejeuners and one petit dejeuner.

The first time, I had grown weary of lunches out and the dents in my pocketbook. I'm sure it would have happened sooner if I had some means of refrigeration. In any event, I bought some potatoes, shallots and garlic, a steak and one zucchini. I started by quartering the potatoes and boiling them with a couple of cloves of garlic. Drained that, threw in some butter and set it aside. Next I sliced the zucchini and steamed them in a pot. After that, I heated some butter in the cast iron fry pan and cooked the steak on lightly both sides (I like mine rare), put the steak on a plate and quickly sauteed shallots and fresh garlic, reducing them with red wine. This was the sauce for my steak. Took a fork and mushed up the garlic and potatoes with a little more butter and sel de mer. Served them on the plate. Had some leftover cubed feta salad with red peppers and vinaigrette ... mixed that with the zucchini and finished plating my meal. A glass of red wine completed my feast ... my first meal prepared in my house. Dessert, you ask? I forgot to mention that I took a glass, sliced a nectarine and macerated it with sugar, a sprinkle of orange juice and red wine and crumbled biscotti to make a fruit compote of sorts to enjoy after my meal.

My next effort was chicken. I sauteed the chicken with onions and butter, simple and delicious. Of course, the French chickens help that along. I served this with lentils and a nice cucumber and beefsteak tomato salad ... dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.

Finally, I have been craving an eggy breakfast for awhile. Haven't bought eggs due to the refrigeration issue. But yesterday I broke down anyway and this morning I dined on eggs scrambled the French way (soft soft), toasted fig bread (toasted over the camp flame), cafe creme and orange juice. Quite the process ... boil water for the coffee (cone drip), heat the milk, melt the butter and stir the eggs (2 pots involved in repetitive fashion), hope the eggs don't get cold while I toast the bread.

It is all reminiscent of those Thanksgiving meals where it seems the eating takes 1/10th of the cooking time!

With no refrigeration, I guess I will boil the remaining eggs hard and use them in a salad. I haven't bought any of the lovely lettuce because 1-the heads are colossal and 2-have you seen unrefrigerated lettuce after a day or 2? S'okay the tomatoes are incredible right now ... so tomato and egg salad with perhaps some cucumber? delish. And the nightly soup is heaven for my waistline.

Even so, I confess I am excited for my appliances to arrive on Saturday. Even though the stove won't be hooked up, at least I will have refrigeration. Although now my guilt factor has multiplied tenfold since reading Riana's Blog, especially the bits about Keeping Cool and consumerism. See, I didn't get the hugungo American refrigerator but I also didn't get the office style French refrigerator. Mine is not an under counter mini but it is about a 3/4 size of US standard. A freezer/fridge combo, very sleek and euro looking with its silver coloring. I'm not big on frozen foods see, so as lovely as Riana's efforts appear with the freezing the water every night to cool her unplugged fridge daily... it just isn't me. Does this make me a big fat greedy American? I hope not. But I suspect so. Even when you market daily or every other day in France, you still want safe food. Now I sound like I am justifying things to myself, don't I?

At least we (Riana and I, who by the way I have only ever read not interacted with) have the same mindset when it comes to big box stores and reducing one's consumption. But I also kind of secretly think that all pursuits can lean toward the obsessive if we aren't careful ... whether they are massive over-consuming obsessions or neuroses involving puritanical frugality. Thankfully, both Riana and I appear to be somewhere in the middle, separated by degrees toward either side.

Basically we are all a bit obsessed in one way or another, I suppose. But now I've gone and gotten off track when all I really started off to do was crow a bit about what a great indoor camper I've become. Although I'm not sure that was my exact intention in moving to France.



Randal Graves said...

But the food sounds like it was tasty! Once you get your appliances, it'll feel more like home and you won't have to think of yourself as Miss Flannel Winnebago anymore. Patience, grasshopper.

Our Juicy Life said...

you have been quite crafty with the cooking, I'm impressed. Making due with what you have, good for you. the kitchen is coming together, yay! You'll be so happy when the fridge arrives. What has to happen to get the range hooked up?

Je ne regrette rien said...

rg-it was, in fact, tasty ... despite my rudimentary tools. flannel winnebago ... shudder.

ojl-well we are relocating the kitchen to another room ... so all of the toil encompassed with that such as running gas and new electric (the electric throughout the house is not only deplorable, it is "dahngereuse ... " according to J-Y ... in fact, its danger has become a joke with us because I just roll my eyes and say the house hasn't burned down yet and he double-rolls his eyes and repeats himself for emphasis!) oh and the plumbing will need to be extended ... well basically the entire room will be fitted out with new stuff to support a kitchen.

Maya said...

Moi aussi...Got something similar as a kitchen (cooking plate) not because I'm in lovely France, no because of remodeling. Funny, I don't mind, maybe it's because my parents took me camping on the French Riviera every summer!

Je ne regrette rien said...

maya-well I'm glad I'm not alone (welcome by the way) but also, don't you every get scared the pan is going to teeter off? especially the little ones? I do ... I brought a 2 burner hot plate with me but dolt that I am forgot that a converter wouldn't adapt the voltage.

off to check out your spot!

La Belette Rouge said...

Look at you, you are a French Girl Scout. I fear that I would just live on wine, cheese, and bread until I got scurvy or something. But, I suppose there is vitamin C in wine.

La Framéricaine said...

Hip! Hip! Hurray! for improvisational living! I love the on-the-job-site camping mode you've gotten into.

The whole time I was reading your post, I was thinking about Riana. So, it was funny to get to the part where you were comparing approaches.

LF and I had our house rewired from top to bottom due to old, outdated, dangerous wiring. Now we are ship shape re: electrical power and outlets. We also had the rudiments for installing new wiring in the attic and the forge set up so that we can continue to rewire when we get there.

All of your cooking forays sound superb! Appetizing, inventive, and practical. Congratulations on keeping your euros in your pocket.

By the way, you must learn to make la soupe au laitue--"Lettuce Soup"--then you won't have wilted lettuce (Wilted Lettuce Salad is delicious) on your hands after 2 days. LF makes the best lettuce soup in the world! All my American family love it! It's pretty straightforward to pull off. I'm hungry just from reading your menu of past repasts!

By the way, if it makes you feel any better, I told the electrician/plumber in Le Blanc that I was American and needed lots of electrical outlets all over the house. Of course, that was before I knew how much all that electricity that I was planning on wasting was going to cost. Drats! Back to the drawing board.

Double by the way, if you install solar panels and double-paned windows in your house, the French government will give you a break on your taxes and your utility bills will be lower. If you want invoices for a job that was done in Neuvic sur l'Isle, Brantôme's neighbor, let me know and I will send you .pdfs. LF's friend sent them to us, originals, for comparison purposes.

Happy camping, Keeemmmm!

La Framéricaine said...

Cream of Lettuce Soup
(Potage Creme de Laitue)

4 potatoes
2 heads leaf lettuce
1-1/2 quarts water
1 chicken bouillon cube
Salt and pepper
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. heavy cream

Peel and wash the potatoes, and cut into 1/2" pieces; set aside.

Wash the lettuce leaves and chop them. Place the chopped lettuce, potatoes, water, bouillon cube, and pinch of both salt and pepper into a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are well cooked.

Puree the mixture through a food mill. Return to the pot. Mix the egg yolks and cream together in a small bowl. Whisk in about 1 cup of the hot soup. Gently whisk the egg mixture into the soup. Correct for seasoning.

Je ne regrette rien said...

LAF-thanks, sounds tasty.

also, all readers please note I spared you glimpses of my empty gin bottles.


James said...

Heard of many things, but not lettuce soup. Shudder.

James said...


"empty gin bottles."

Im certain they are arranged on the floor with great style.

Je ne regrette rien said...

j-lovely vases and such. you know me, panache! lol.

Je ne regrette rien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

Well Kim, you are heading in the right direction.Youve gained some net access (at the local bar).
So thats cool.

Once you get refrigeration it might help to chill the wine to the right temperature for times when you are sat outside swatting all those bugs who seem so eager to befriend you, but other than that.....

Je ne regrette rien said...

funny fellow, that James~ :P

Kim said...

Well I must say....you are my absolute idol. When I can figure how to get myself to paris full time we will certainly have to compare notes. Until then, I plan to stay tuned to what is happening in your world. Many thanks for visiting mine.

Je ne regrette rien said...

LBR-I've been called many, many things in life but don't think girl scout was ever one of them! LOL

LAF-how funny, yesterday I was researching the possibility of even semi-powering with solar (prices are prohibitive as you know); found DIY kits for as low as $600 but they don't power much so ...

Kim-well, idol worship is okay in my book. Of course now that I've whined a bit about being a tad lonely, you may want to retract that!

misschris said...

I've just started following your blog and I'm really enjoying it. You will have fun sharing your camping stories in a few years.

Je ne regrette rien said...

missC: welcome and thanks for your interest! You're right, I think my trove of old-age stories grows everyday ... you know the ones, those you envision sitting in your rocking chair (or bar stool-ha) and regaling (boring) friends and family with ... unless of course I get discovered and publish a memoir and it is all old news by then .... *snaps out of daydream* LOL