Thursday, December 4, 2008

The beginning of better days in France

Once we found the apartment, it was a huge relief. We moved in on a Tuesday, which is one of the market days for the Place des Prêcheurs (along with Thursday and Saturday), which is right around the corner. It's an even bigger market than the one in the Place Richelme.

One thing that I now regret is that I didn't take tons of pictures of all the delicious produce that I found at the market as the seasons were changing. It seemed like there were enough tourists there with cameras and I didn't want to annoy the people I'd be buying my vegetables from for a year or's better to get on their good sides. As a result, we don't have a record of the perfect figs that were everywhere for our first month, or the beautiful tomatoes, or the sweet tart plums that we really enjoyed eating. I do have some pictures though, and I'm going to try to take more.

Our first day in the apartment we took advantage of the delicious wares of one of the rotisserie trucks at the market. The one I went to roasts (among other things that I'm forgetting) whole chickens, chicken legs, guinea fowl, rabbits, lamb shank, sausages, corn-on-the-cob, pork loin, jambonneau (pork knuckle, or the rear leg) and what I got, jambonette de volaille.

Literally, this translates as "little ham of poultry", which didn't make a lot of sense to me or James. In fact, we thought we were eating ham because it was savory and smoky just like ham; however, jambonette de volaille really is poultry. It's a gigantic turkey thigh that has been smoked and roasted. It's called a jambonette because it's the analogous cut of meat on a turkey that a ham comes from on a pig. (Let that be a lesson to us about not knowing where the meat comes from!) When you get anything at the rotisserie stand, it's accompanied by fabulous sliced, herbed potatoes that get roasted in all the chicken drippings (which might sound disgusting, but it's not -- they're not oily and grease-soaked, they have a really nice, waxy texture and are rich and more flavorful than any potatoes I've ever tasted). It's a perfect meal. We decided to be French and have some wine with our lunch. You may recognize said wine from the picture with the ravioli, but it was a much better pairing with the jambonette de volaille. And this time, we really did have something to celebrate.

The celebration continued with dinner that night because it was high mushroom season and at the market in the Place des Prêcheurs there is a mushroom vendor (who also, oddly, also sells avocados as you can see in the picture). They have several kinds of dried mushrooms and they have an excellent selection of fresh mushrooms too. The fresh mushrooms were a little picked over by the time I got there with the camera, so no great picture. (And probably no great picture until next year because the fresh mushrooms are really limited these days.)

In particular, the girolles, or chanterelles, looked great. (You can see some cèpes, or boletes in the foreground.) So to clarify what might seem like a naming oddity since "chanterelle" sounds like a French word, here, what you probably think of as a chanterelle is called a girolle, but chanterelle is used in the names of other mushrooms in the same family like chanterelles grises or chanterelles jaunes (gray or yellow chanterelles, respectively).

I've never been sure about the best technique for cleaning mushrooms, so I asked and was told that I should just rinse them in a colander and sauté them in a pan with some parsley (I ended up adding some shallots too). And then the vendor actually pinched his fingers together and kissed them and said "c'est super!" It turns out most of the people at the mushroom stand are kind of grouchy, but on this day, this guy was pretty excited.

The celebration of finding an apartment also required more cheese. This time we got a half of a fleur du maquis, another Corsican cheese, whose name literally translates to "flower of the scrubland", the scrubland being a major part of Corsica's landscape. It's a raw ewe's milk cheese covered with dried savory and rosemary and topped with chili peppers (and sometimes juniper berries, although this one didn't have any). The cheese itself is a little sour tasting, which is actually really nice with the herbs and chili peppers. It has a soft, creamy texture that's completely unlike the soft, creamy (but slippery?) texture of, say, a brie (even though they have the same fat content). It's drier, somehow, but not like an aged cheese, either. In any case, it's great and you should try it.

The best part of the meal, was that we got to eat it outside, on our terrace.


Anonymous said...

Hi E! Jane told me about your blog, and I had to check it out. I spent a summer in Aix during college and loved it! I enjoyed reading up on your adventures. Keep the stories coming - the food sounds so wonderful!
-Amy (Foster) Adams

Anonymous said...

One thing we did for sure during our time in Belgium was learn to eat - looks like you are off to a good start, too!

David Foster

Ricka said...

Hey, This looks awesome!

Nancy said...

It makes me hungry every time I read a food post!