the Amuse(d) Bouche

By Cathy Pavlos

the Amuse(d) Bouche

Cooking at Home in Paris

As much as we like to eat out, you just can’t do that all the time and keep your girlish figure…so, as a rule, we generally cook at home about 50% of our meals.    The food shopping spree left us with enough food for all of our breakfasts, a couple of lunches and a couple of dinners.

Breakfast, French style:

We were talking before about how “civilized” the French are, especially in their attitude toward dining. This is something that has always irked Americans—not the fact that the French are civilized, rather the fact that they keep reminding us that they are. Anyone with half a brain can see how civilized they are— French children in fancy restaurants do not fidget or make any noise, they do not need their hand helds to distract them from having to be at a table with adults. They just sit there quietly enjoying their escargo while contemplating their next course. That’s civilized. Alas, I digress….

We are going to make a quick dinner from the gourmet scavenger hunt that we were on yesterday.

First, gather up all of the ingredients:

Check out the nice packaging of the fully prepared chicken:

Check all of our ingredients: The Chicken and the Potatoes (we’re gonna roast them together)

Split the fingerling potatoes in half, chop about a quarter cup of parsely and slice up a couple of cloves of garlic:

Mix all of the ingredients for the potatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper:

And then finish preparing the chicken by (using Julia’s recipe) rubbing the little bird all over with butter then salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, or 165 degrees Celsius. Set the chicken on top of the potatoes in an oven proof roasting pan.

Squeeze some lemon on top of the chicken, add just a little water to the bottom of the dish, and roast for about an hour. I didn’t have a thermometer with me; however, a good rule of thumb is 20 minutes a pound for chickens. I also didn’t trust the oven, figuring that it was probably slow—so I gave it an hour.

Meanwhile, start to prepare the first course, the salad, and the asparagus:

A good ratio for salad dressing is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil, and since we are in France, a dab of dijon mustard. Remember to peel the bottoms of the asparagus if they are thick.
I like to grill asparagus, rather than steam them—grilling retains the color and you can keep them al dente. Nearly every apartment that we have ever rented in Europe always includes a grill pan in the kitchen and this one was no different.

While we are waiting for the chicken to finish roasting, lemme tell you about the kitchen shops that I use in Paris…this is where we were shopping today. They are all in the same area of Paris so that makes it a lot easier. I always go to Duthilleul & Minart, 14 Rue de Turbigo, metro: Etienne Marcel (http://duthilleuletminart.lookreflex.com/). It is a professional uniform store. Here I find chef coats, bandanas, aprons, just about anything for the well dressed chef. This store has been here for a very long time. It is very professional and very French. You will not find Hot Chili Chef Pants here, only what is proper to be worn and used in the French kitchen. They also carry a large assortment of Italian Chef Coats, Asian and British coats. Beware that the French sizes are very small. A large French Jacket is about a medium in the states. The salespeople are very good at sizing and very respectful. Always remember when you walk into and leave a shop to say “Bon Jour, Madame or Monsieur” even if you do not speak French. This is the civilized behavior that I was talking about. That Bon Jour will go a long ways once you start blabbing away in English (first , of course, ask politely if they speak English). In most all of these stores, they do speak English—usually with a British accent.

Next I walk down the street to M.O.R.A. , 13 Rue Montmartre, metro stop: Les Halles (www.mora.fr/). Whatever you might need in the way of utensils, especially pastry and chocolate making, and paper products, can be found at M.O.R.A. Here you first grab a basket, they you must have an assistant package and price everything that is in the basket. He or she will hand you a receipt which you will take to the cashier and pay. He or she will stamp your receipt and you stand in line to pick up or nicely wrapped merchandise.

The next store is called A. Simon and there are two of them—one for equipment and one for tableware 48-52 Rue Montmartre, metro stop: Les Halles.    This is probably the nicest store for all kinds of kitchen equipment. Their pricing is set for professionals as well. If there is one piece of equipment that I would suggest you buy in Paris, and you have room in your bag, it would be a good mandoline. A. Simon would be the place for it.

My last stop is at the King of all professional Kitchen Stores: E. DEHILLERIN,    18 et 20, rue Coquillière – 51, rue Jean- Jacques Rousseau, Metro Stop, Etienne Marcel (www.e-dehillerin.fr/en/index.php). This is the mecca for all aspiring and accomplished chefs—they have everything. The personnel are helpful and patient. While we were just getting ready to go in, the skies opened up and it poured, I mean really poured. We rushed in to find a scene in the front of the store that perhaps only Woody Allen could have written. There were four American women there, from the south, with their husbands in tow. All speaking at once in a southern drawl about some pepper shakers that they saw in a restaurant the night before and now wanted to buy (I betcha, too, that there was not a “Bon Jour Monsieur among them). The French salesman spoke English just fine, he was just having a lot of trouble understanding their southern accent and was trying to help them as they all spoke at once. They had a long list of items that each one wanted to buy. They would tell him what they wanted, he woul d go and get it, there would then be a debate amongst the four whether it was 1) what they needed; 2) what they wanted; 3) what they could afford, calculating the exchange rate and converting to dollars….all to the Greek chorus of their husbands lamenting the fact that it wouldn’t fit in their carry-ons, beside they could get it cheaper at the local store in Alabama. By this time all of the salesmen in the store were rolling their eyes and wringing their hands, and wishing that they would go away.

We watched this scene like someone watches a train wreck…you don’t want to watch it, but you can’t look away. At some point one of the women looked at me and drawled, “I just don’t know why he doesn’t understand what we said.” I looked her right in the eye and said “Mi dispiace, signora, ma non parlo Inglese.”    “ I am sorry, Madam, but I do not speak English.”

Elliott said that I wasn’t being very civil.

Chicken is done!

I always carve the chicken so that we enjoy the chicken breast for dinner, and I save the chicken legs and thighs for lunch the next day. I usually put them in a sandwich or on top of a salad.

Allo…first course:

We chose a nice Sancerre rose for this, bread from our local bakery, cheese from the fromagerie on Rue Cler, Olives from Bon Marche.

Plat Principle:

Followed by the Salad and all the goodies that we got at Hediard.

This was the salad that I made the next day with the leftover legs….and of course, some olive bread from our local bakery.

Trust me, this bread was as good as it looked.

Don’t ever be intimidated by cooking at home when you travel. It is a good way to relax, eat some real food, and control the fat and the Euros. As you can see, it is really easy. We haven’t even scratched the surface on all of the 1000’s of gourmet take away…..

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