This past week we’ve had our beloved friends Katherine and Bert down visiting us from Holland, and one night we had their friends Annick and Christian over for dinner. I made three sensational dishes, and not one of them was my own. Sometimes borrowing is best.
This is the Major Asparagus Moment here in the south of France, when the markets are spilling over with fat stalks of Provencal asparagus. Most people eat it pretty much every day in this far-too-short season, and after a while you need some new inspiration. I found it, as I so often do, in a recipe of Paula Wolfert’s that has you roast the asparagus in parchment for 2 hours before drizzling it with a creamy caper sauce. This produces some of the most exemplary asparagus I’ve ever eaten, and I urge you to try it as soon as you have fresh local asparagus in your kitchen. I used the recipe found here, although I did use a lot more tarragon than is called for.
After the asparagus I served one of the most tantalizing veal dishes I’ve ever come across. Although it looks fairly brown and unprepossessing, our French guests commented “why do you even need to go to a restaurant if you can have this at home?” which I think about sums up how wonderful it is. If you make it, be sure to get a full kilo of veal bones for the sauce, which when drastically reduced is good enough to eat all by itself. The recipe is here, and although it takes a while to put together, it’s well worth your time. It’s a very special dish, and as an added bonus it can be made entirely ahead of time.
For dessert I topped slices of Dutch spice cake with poached pears and apples in a heady, spicy syrup. I didn’t have enough of the tiny Martin Sec pears, so after the pears were poached I simmered some apple slices in the same syrup, and then served them together, with a bowl of crème fraîche to pass. I didn’t taste this myself, but people were making some of the most ecstatic noises that have ever greeted a dessert I’ve served, so I think it’s fair to say this one is a guaranteed winner. David Lebovitz’s recipe for poached pears is here, and if you can get your hands on some spice cake, or a light gingerbread, serve it with the fruit and bask in the compliments.
So there was a gorgeous meal that I compiled and executed, although scarcely a bite of it was my original idea. It was fun to make, fun to serve, fun to eat, and I’m happy to be able to profit from the brilliant ideas of others. Sometimes originality is over-rated.