Archive for November 2013

Le Déjeuner Dominical

November 3, 2013

IMG_8325Sunday lunch, le déjeuner domenical, is a wonderful thing in France. I’ve written about it before here, but it bears repeating: Sunday lunch, if you’re lucky, lasts until supper time, and your guests will sit around the table happily eating and drinking until it gets dark, at which time, if you want them to leave, you can invite them to stay for supper. It’s a great custom and a deeply ingrained part of French culture that we love to share.

Today’s déjeuner dominical was beautifully adorned by Dorindo’s gorgeous flower arrangement. Even if I didn’t adore Dorindo himself I’d wish I could import him to the U.S., because no one does flowers like he does. And I wanted beauty, because this was my foray into serving tripes à la Lyonnaise, and even though I happen to find cow stomachs beautiful, it’s possible that not everyone does..

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But first Alain, Marie-France, Shel and I sat around drinking what will probably be the last rosé of the year, nibbling on pretty little trifles

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and chatting about everything that’s happened in the last 20 months. Meanwhile I was fervently hoping for success on the tripe front, since Alain has a Lyon connection  and I was hoping to make a convincing version of the classic dish for someone who really knows how it should taste. Later we would eat an anchovy and garlic-rubbed lamb shoulder with a cauliflower purée and green beans, a perfect Saint-Félicien cheese, a sweet piece of pascade Cévenole for the three of them, and I knew that all of that would be delicious, but meanwhile, I was fretting over the tripe.

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I’d slivered it up, after simmering it yesterday. I’d sliced onions, chopped garlic and parsley, cooked it in lard and butter, added wine and vinegar, and it was about 92% as delicious as the version I had in Lyon a few days ago. I think that simmering it a bit longer, slivering it a bit finer, and perhaps adding a little more vinegar, and I’d have nailed it 100%. Nonetheless, it was really and truly delicious, and even Shel ate it, which is saying a lot.

IMG_8340There’s no reason that this can’t be successfully made in the U.S., the only hard part is finding the cow stomach. But if you have an Asian market in the neighborhood, it’s totally worth getting one and making this. I promise. Remember, Shel ate it, and liked it!

Tripes à la Lyonnaise

Get a cow stomach (the reticulum, if it’s labeled like that. It should look like a bowl, or a deflated ball, and will probably weigh about 1 1/2 pounds.)

Place the stomach in a large pan, fill with cold water to cover, and add a peeled and halved onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook very gently for an hour and a half to two hours. Drain and let cool.

Cut the tripe into long slivers, fairly fine, and set aside.

Peel and slice two medium-small onions, peel and chop a large clove of garlic. Sauté these in butter, about 4-5 Tablespoons, plus a good pinch of salt, until golden.

In another larger skillet, melt 3-4 Tablespoons of lard and add the tripe. Cook over medium-high heat until it’s sizzling and some of the tripe has turned golden. Add some white wine, about 3/4 of a cup, and let it simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the tripe is again sizzling. Add the onions and all of the butter from their pan to the tripe. Add plenty of salt and pepper, a big handful of chopped parsley, and stir until it’s all sizzling and beautiful. Now start adding some wine vinegar, it smells strong at first, but it is quickly soaked up. You want a definite vinegar taste, but don’t drown it. I’d estimate that you’ll need about 3-4 Tablespoons, but add it bit by bit and go by taste. Add more butter and salt if necessary.

The result should be tender and golden, slightly crusty, quite buttery, with an appetizing tang of vinegar. One recipe serves four as a starter, but you’ll need to double this for a main course. It’s a super comfort food, and as soon as we get home I’m planning to go on a cow stomach quest, as I’m looking forward to eating it on a grey and drizzly northwest winter’s day. They have those days in Lyon too, after all, so the dish should feel right at home.

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Inner Beauty: Cow

November 2, 2013

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I promised you cow stomach, more correctly, cow reticulum, or as it’s called here bonnet de boeuf, and there you have it. Isn’t it beautiful? I’m not sure why the inside of a cow needs to be beautiful, but it is.

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It’s an amazing collection of textures, considering that it’s just one part of just one animal. I don’t know why a cow needs so many textures in just one of its stomachs, but I’m sure there’s a reason.

IMG_8314Probably I could shellac this, or paint it brightly, pass it off as sculpture, and make enough to earn my next few plates of tripes à la Lyonnaise. It’s that gorgeous. I imagine that you’re wondering whether it smells weird, coming from the inside of a cow. Actually, it smells a tiny bit of bleach when you buy it, the bleach that was used to clean it perfectly.

So now, following an amalgam of recipes, I have my bonnet de boeuf simmering for “une bonne heure,” a little over an hour, in water with onion, garlic, salt and pepper. I think the guy said to add white wine to the water too, but since you add wine to the dish itself, I’m probably remembering wrong. Anyway, it’s wine-less at this stage, and when it’s done simmering and has cooled, I’ll be slicing it up into fine strips and chilling it overnight until I’m ready to cook it for our Sunday lunch guests tomorrow. If you can get a cow stomach you can cook along – I’m thinking that an Asian market will have one.

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I got mine here, where they also sell lamb from the Alps of Provence, beef from Aubrac, milk-fed lamb, farm pork from the Auvergne, lamb from the salt marshes around the Mont Saint Michel, poultry from Bresse, milk-fed veal from the Limousin, and wild game, when it’s in season. See why we love Lyon?

The Pleasures Of Lyon

November 1, 2013

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We went up to Lyon, our favorite city in France, perhaps because it’s the one we know the best, to see our friends Lucy and Loïc (whose lovely nude this is), and to do what we always do in Lyon: eat fabulously, shop, and walk around admiring the city. In the past we’ve always come for Shel’s visits at the cancer center, but this time the trip was just, as the French say “pour le fun.” That’s right, there’s actually no word for fun in French, so they’ve adopted the English word. The French have a lot of fun, but there’s no one word that carries the same meaning, which I find peculiar.

IMG_8258When we arrived at the Avignon train station we discovered a fun new toy – a station where three people can sit and pedal. At first I thought it was part of some national exercise campaign, but actually it’s even cleverer than that: it’s a place to plug in your phone and recharge its batteries by pedaling. Now there’s an idea that we ought to import.

IMG_8274Lucy introduced us to a charming café on the Croix Rousse hill called Le Canut et les Gones, where I had one of the best soups of my life, a velouté of trompettes de la mort and pied de mouton mushrooms with a chantilly of foie gras drifting on top of the soup.  After lunch we went to Lucy’s teaching kitchen Plum Lyon where she and I spent several hours cooking up a complicated and interesting supper of oeufs en meurette and little ballotines of rabbit and veal stuffed with more of the same excellent mushrooms that had been in my lunchtime soup.

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We spent the next day wandering around the area of the lovely Place des Terreaux

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with its stunning Fontaine Bartholdi, which, according to the All-Knowing Wikipedia, depicts France as a woman seated in a chariot controlling the four great rivers of France, represented by wildly uncontrolled, nostril-dilated, and truly ferocious-looking horses.

But to tell the truth, we were in that neighborhood for the shopping, since Lyon is one of the few places in France where I can easily get shoes and clothes in my size. A new pair of boots, a dress, and a vest later, I was as happy as I’ve been in ages, and we were off to Vieux Lyon for lunch.

IMG_8302Vieux Lyon is a pretty area of steep cobbled streets

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and picturesque old buildings, but this time we were there for the food. Because really, when you’re in Lyon, you have to eat as much as possible because you can eat better there, for less strain on your credit card, that anywhere else in France, so far as I can tell.

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We love the cozy little Restaurant du Soleil, where Shel always has their giant quenelle, a specialty of Lyon, and not like anything I’ve ever had elsewhere. This time I had their tripes à la Lyonnaise, which was un vrai délice, something astonishingly delicious, and quite different from other tripe dishes I’ve eaten in France. When I quizzed our charming server he explained that it was made with bonnet de boeuf, a round part that’s one of a cow’s three stomachs, called the reticulum in English, as opposed to the usual tripe in France which is made from pig.

He gave me a hasty description of the recipe and so I made a flying run through the Halles Paul Bocuse, in search of a bonnet de boeuf that I could grab quickly before we missed our train. I succeeded in finding one, as well as some beautiful cheeses from La Mère Richard, all of which I stuffed into the overhead compartment of the train. I did notice some delicate sniffing and curious glances cast in my direction, and so I had to explain that no, it was not any part of my personal stomach that was producing those slightly indelicate aromas, but my purchases from Les Halles, which made our fellow passengers nod and smile indulgently.

So now the bonnet is reposing in my freezer, and on Sunday I’ll be making my best attempt at tripes à la Lyonnaise. I’ll keep you posted, if only to show you the bonnet in its original state, since cow reticulum isn’t a common ingredient, however lovely, however Lyonnais.