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2005


Before I give you a recipe I have discovered in France, here are a few photos I recently took around Paris, most of the Christmas variety.


Christmas lights in one of the most beautiful passages in Paris, Galerie Vivienne.


I liked the reflection of these silver birds into a silver dish that I saw in the window of a florist in the Marais.


This Christmas window was in a hotel near the Odeon metro stop. I love the red cardinals.

One recipe that I discovered here in France is Farci. I don’t think its orgin is French but rather middle-eastern. There are many dishes around the world including in France, that arrived along with immigrants-farci is one. I tried to do a google search to find the source of this meal but the closest I came was that the word farci means stuffed. My mother used to make stuffed peppers that I wasn’t that fond of which consisted of hamburger meat mixed with rice, put into a green bell pepper and topped with a tomato sauce. Here in France I see farci offered often on menus and sold in street markets-either just the meat or already all done ready for cooking. Vegetables used for cooking are bell pepper, zuchinni-they these cute little round varieties that are good for this-tomatoes and sometimes mushrooms or onions. This recipe is from the book, On Rue Tatin by Susan Loomis. Two friends who do alot of French cooking looked at the recipe and said, “Hmm, milk and bread?” Maybe this is an Americanization of the usual Farci recipe, I’m not sure, but I know many Americans add that to their meatloaf recipes. I tried to make this recipe from memory once and, my memory being what it is, forgot the milk and bread and it still tasted great.

Stuffed Tomatoes (Tomatoes Farcies)

2 slices fresh bread
1/2 cup milk
2 pounds juicy tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 oz button mushrooms, diced
1 3/4 lb. lean minced pork (sometimes I use half pork with hamburger meat or veal)
1/4 c. fresh tarragon leaves (I used 2 Tb. dried)
1 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 425 F (220 c )
Tear the bread into small pieces, put in bowl, cover with milk, let sit about 30 minutes.
Slice the top off each tomato and remove the seeds and most of the inner pith. Lightly season with salt and pepper and place in oven proof dish.
Heat oil with the onions and garlic over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes, transfer to bowl. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to bowl with onions and garlic.
Add the bread and milk to the bowl along with the pork. Chop the tarragon and parsley and add along with the eggs. Blend the mixuture thoroughtly-you will probably have to use your hands..
Evenly divide the stuffing among the tomatoes (or zucchini). Place the tops of the tomatoes on top. Bake until deep golden color, about 1 hour. Drizzle the tomatoes with the cooking juices in the pan.

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There are a few differences here in France as to what is eaten at Christmas. The French, naturally, don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so their big family meal is Christmas Eve. On the menu is foie gros, raw oysters, turkey or capon, and Buche de Noel. My family isn’t here, Christmas being the time when I get a little blue because of this, so Maurice and I had our own Christmas Eve celebration. We had some really good foie gros, the goose liver of an over-fed goose. I didn’t think I would like this when I first moved to France, but it is really good stuff. Maurice also had oysters. I will have one, but that’s about it. I had some shrimp instead.


Maurice’s oysters. Note the little bowl-it contains vinegar with chopped up shallots. Maurice likes these on his oysters. It does give it a great taste.

On Christmas Day we had a great turkey from Picard, a place selling really good frozen gourmet food and also a ice cream Buche de Noel, really seriously good stuff.

Another food often seen during the winter is Chacroutte, which is a variety of sausages and ham with sauerkraut, potatoes and carrots.

This is very good, but very filling. What I would call comfort food. I don’t know why but about twice a year I crave sauerkraut. We bought the items for this meal at a local market. They had cooked the sauerkraut in champagne which made it really good.


An unusual pair of Christmas trees that I rather liked. At least you wouldn’t have to clean up pine needles afterwards. I didn’t have a Christmas tree this year, just some candles. Feeling a little “Scrooge-ie”

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We have a small apartment in Paris. When we did a bit of remodeling and made our kitchen into what is called an “American kitchen”, we added a new stove and over that stove, a ventilater that is supposed to wisp all of the smoke and grease up through a filter and outside somewhere. However, I’m starting to think the vent leads right back into our apartment as whenever I take down a painting or plate from the wall I see the shape of whatever was on the wall. Then I get a sponge and spray the area with my trusty 409, a cleaning product I bring back with me from the States for its cleaning power with grease, and when I clean a small area, I end up having to clean the whole wall which, it turns out, has a thin film of greasy dirt. One wall in our living room I have not been able to get clean for some reason and it started to irritate me whenever I sat on the couch and saw a sort of black cloudy area. I finally decided to paint the irritating wall. It has been over three years since our apartment was painted, so maybe it is time in any case.
I make a trek to Castorama in Nation near our apartment. This is a French Home Depot. When I got to the paint center I had my sticker shock when I found a gallon can of paint costs over 50 Euros. I know gas is more expensive here in France and that paint is petroleum based but I couldn’t believe the price. I finally found a brand of paint by Castorama, one of those generic type of things, and bought it for 24 Euros which still seems high to me. A new paint roller was over eight euros. I do miss my forays into my Home Depot of old where repainting, and other household do it yourself projects always seemed affordable. I must say my wall looks so much better now. I may even extend my project into our bedroom but I don’t think I have enough paint.

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There are several dessets that are a custom to serve in France during the Christmas season. After Christmas, for instance, there is a cake called a Gateau de Roi, into which a small little prize is baked, usually a small figurine, and the person getting this in their slice of cake gets to wear a crown and be “the king”. The cakes can be bought in every place in town and come complete with the crown.
A dessert seen right now as we approach Christmas is the Buche de Noel, a pastry that I will never attempt. It is just too much work for me. I can tell just by reading the recipe that there are too many things to mess up, starting with rolling up a thin sheet cake into a roll. I see disaster right there. And, really, why make one when they look like this in every window of every patissere in town?


They are usually filled with a flavored, creamy interior, chocolate or grand marnier flavor, and then iced and decorated sweetly.

For those feeling brave, here is a recipe I found on the internet:

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of cream of tartar
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
For the frosting:
1 cup whipping cream
10 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 Tablespoons rum

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 375°F. with rack in the center of the oven. Grease the bottom of a 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan and line with parchment paper.

1. Put the eggs yolks into a large bowl.
Remove 2 tablespoons of the sugar from the 3/4 cup measure and set aside. Beat the remaining sugar and eggs together until pale.

2. Beat in the vanilla.

3. In another greasefree, clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of the cream of tartar until they hold soft peaks.

4. Add the reserved sugar and continue beating until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks.

5. Divide the flour in half and gently fold it into the egg mixture in 2 batches.

6. Add one-quarter of the egg whites into the batter to lighten the mixture. Fold in the remaining whites.

7. Pour the batter into the pan and spread it evenly into the corners with a metal off-set spatula. Bake 15 minutes.

8. While the cake is baking, spread a dishtowel flat and lay a piece of parchment paper, the size of the cake, on top of the towel. Sprinkle the paper with some sugar.

9. Invert the cake onto the paper and carefully peel off the lining paper. Slowly, roll up the cake with the paper inside, and starting from a short side. Wrap the towel around the cake, place on a rack and allow to cool.

Prepare the filling & frosting:
1. Put the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Stir until it has melted.

2. With an electric mixer, beat the chocolate until it is fluffy and has thickened to a spreading consistency.

3. Spoon one-third of the chocolate into another bowl and stir in the rum.

4. When the cake is cooled, unroll it. Spread the rum-flavored chocolate evenly over the surface. Roll the cake up again, using the paper to help move it forward.

5. Cut off about one-quarter of the cake at an angle. Place it against the side of the larger piece of cake, to resemble a branch from a tree trunk.

6. Spread the remaining chocolate mixture over the rest of the cake. Using a fork, press the back side of the tines against the chocolate and lightly drag through to resemble bark.

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I roamed around Paris the other day looking at Christmas lights and window decorations, mainly around the large department stores, Galerie LaFayette and Printemps. The windows are a delight full of moving creatures usually up to no good and some intriguing fashions.


These lights are outside Printemps above the doors and windows.


This was a window for children. A green giraffe has its body inside the window and its head outside.


A turkey with a diamond chocker. Not the most festive site I saw but I’m sure it made Christmas turkeys happy everywhere.


A fashion display with some space-age hair.


This huge, fabulous tree is in Galerie LaFayette where it soars up to the incredible glass dome.


A very simple decoration that I saw in the walk-way at Place des Vosges.

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There seems to be more and more graffiti in Paris and I hate most of it, but a few are interesting and even amusing. Some of these graffiti “artists” have become famous in Paris and are culture pop stars invited to parties, that sort of thing. One of these is Nemo. What I like about his graffiti is that is is always different. He always has the same objects: a man in a hat, a cat, a blue bird, an umbrella and a red ballon. However, they are always doing something different.


Here he is in the corner of a Marais building.


This was also in the Marais.

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