Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why American Women DO Get Fat

For Bastille Day (French national holiday), I talked Amanda into whipping up a lovely French feast! I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I’m actually a rookie when it comes to French fare… but luckily this dinner was meant to be. First of all, the only reason I knew of the upcoming Bastille Day was because a new restaurant, Bastille, opened up in Ballard. I did a little digging around on the ol’ internet to figure out what the heck Bastille was all about, and it just so happened that my web search revealed that Bastille Day was upon us. To top it off, Amanda had just received the latest issue of Bon Appétit, with a huge article about Julia Child, featuring a bunch of tasty looking French recipes (see article link for recipes). And it’s a good thing, because otherwise we wouldn’t know the first thing about French cooking (don’t worry, I’m not going to go all ‘Julie/Julia’ on you and try to cook every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking… although I AM stoked for the movie!)

I took care of the Hor d’Oeurves, and Amanda got to work on our Bastille feast:

Green Salad with Sauce Vinaigrette
Poulet Saute aux Herbs de Provence (chicken sautéed with Herbs de Provence)
Ratatouille (not Emil the rat's recipe though)
Reine de Saba (chocolate almond cake with chocolate butter icing)

To start, we had 3 kinds of brie- a basic every day brie, goat cheese brie, and triple cream VERY STINKY brie. Amanda’s fridge will never smell the same again. It was, however, delicious! We paired the cheese with a few bottles of French wine, two kinds of baguette, dark French chocolate, and my new favorite French snack: radishes with butter and fleur de sel. I think eating these radishes is my destiny, I’ve been seeing it everywhere lately! I just finished reading “A Homemade Life” by fellow food blogger Molly Wizenburg of Orangette. In it, she shares a ‘recipe’ for raw radishes with salt and butter. I thought it sounded interesting, but not 'fancy' by any means (I mean, it’s just radishes…with butter and sea salt…right!?) Then my latest issue of Gourmet also mentioned the combo as a popular French snack. Let me tell ya, those French people know a thing or two about food. Some of their cuisine is so simple, yet so fantastic. Case in point: Radishes sprinkled with sea salt, dipped in butter. Done.

On to the feast. The salad was…funny. Don’t get me wrong, the Sauce Vinaigrette was delish, but the recipe called for the homemade dressing to be poured over a salad of… lettuce. That’s it. Lettuce. It was good, simple, light. I suppose I’m just used to our salads, which often represent every food group and can have more calories than a Big Mac.

No offense Sauce Vinaigrette, but the chicken and ratatouille were the show stoppers of the dinner. Poulet Saute aux Herbs de Provence consisted of expertly sautéed chicken, covered in Herbs de Provence (dried herbs, usually a mix of savory, fennel, basil, thyme, and the kicker: lavender flowers), and doused with white wine.

Pretty much anything that’s cooked in butter, covered with a generous handful of flavorful herbs, and topped off with wine is going to be good. The ratatouille didn’t look like the stuff that the rat Emil served in the movie (don't pretend you didn't see it...), but I’m sure it tasted better. It was an oily, hearty, saucy stew of eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, onions, bell peppers, and zucchini. Sopped up with a thick chunk of French bread, it was exactly how I picture an autumn evening in France. I ate it too fast to take a photo. So here's one more of the chicken... with the simple salad.

With fantasies of France swirling in my head, and flavors of France swirling in my belly, I was full and content. That is, until Amanda brought out the Reine de Saba. Chocolate almond cake with chocolate butter icing. Remember what I said about French food be so simple and easy? Well, you can just forget about that if you want Reine de Saba, according to Amanda’s description of the process (though she tends to exaggerate a bit…I sometimes call it lying… she calls it exaggerating…which is yet another lie…). Anyway, she said that Julia’s recipe was about 30 steps of mixing, then mixing again, then sifting, then sifting again, then sifting 38 more times, and mixing a few more times… and that’s just for the first half of the ingredients. I think it was worth it. Thanks Julia! This cake was amazing.

It was chocolaty with subtle notes of almond flavor. The cake was moist and fudgy, with a slight crunch from the ground almonds. The frosting was out of control delicious. I ended up eating about 3 pieces, and was definitely still full but no longer content…(this was one of those unbutton your jeans or put on sweatpants kind of meals). The crazy part is… I would eat 3 more pieces right now, if I had the opportunity. It was that good.

Other than my self-induced over indulgence, the meal was très magnifique! I can’t wait until the next time I can coax Amanda into slaving over a hot stove and mixing cake batter 386 times for her lil’ sis!

Au revoir!
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