Back in the Kitchen

In my last post, I mentioned that I’ve now spent four Thanksgivings in France. I think it’s probably the time of year when I feel most like an American expatriate. What I mean by that is that it’s the day when I feel the pangs of homesickness most acutely. Thanksgiving’s not a holiday here, of course, so I get pretty nostalgic watching my Facebook newsfeed fill up with status updates from back home about thankfulness, good food with family and friends, and even travel headaches. Looking back across the Atlantic at what you’re missing can easily give you the blues … which is why expats just have to make Thanksgiving right where they are! To be frank, I haven’t always succeeded on that score. Out of the first three Thanksgivings I spent on French soil, only the first featured a traditional American feast, so it really was high time for me to get back in the kitchen … Continue reading Back in the Kitchen

Tiny Little Chewy Cakes

They look like bundt cakes, but they’re less than two inches tall. Even so, they pack a wallop of deliciousness. They’re canelés, which have become — hands down … or rather “out” for seconds — my favorite French pastry: pure heaven made from flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar, vanilla, and sometimes rum. Continue reading Tiny Little Chewy Cakes

What breakfast was meant to be.

Image used under the terms of
the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license
© 2006 Virtual Steve

I first encountered muesli in the form of Kellogg’s Müeslix back when I was a teenager, and I finally got to taste the real thing when I first traveled to Germany and Switzerland in 1992. Based on those first experiences, I always thought of muesli as a (relatively) healthy breakfast option. I mean …

whole grains + fruit + nuts = pretty good for you, right?  Continue reading What breakfast was meant to be.

American Sauce

I remember the first time I came across “American Sauce,” too. It reminded me of a less chunky Thousand Island dressing. In any case, as soon as I read this, I ran to check the ingredients in our jar to make sure this vegetarian hadn’t been slathering lobster stock on his sandwiches. Whew! Our supermarket brand doesn’t use it. Check out the story behind the name in this article by a fellow expat blogger: Cheese FC. Bon appétit !

Cheese FC

My wife was surprised the other day to see a sauce called American sauce. Now what would that be?

It’s a sauce used for lobsters or seafood, made with tomatoes, shallots, lobster stock, white wine and herbs.

But why is it called American?

It was invented in the 19th century by a French chef, Pierre Fraise, who had spent a long time in America. One day some customers came for a late dinner. As he didn’t have a lot left in the kitchen he drew up a quick recipe with some lobsters and a sauce. He called it Le Homard à L’Américaine (American Lobster), probably in memory of his time spent in America, but maybe also to explain to his customers why they’d never heard of such a sauce.

But it seems some chefs might have been a tad unhappy to cook lobster the American way, seeing that for most…

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The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

Le Petit Parisien, Willy Ronis (1952)

Even though I’ve lived in France for almost three years, I’m still pleasantly surprised every now and then by cultural discoveries like …

A Baguette Bag! Continue reading The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

The dish ran away with the spoon.

The dessert spoon: everybody knows what one is and what it’s for. If, after a big meal, you’re served … say … a banana pudding, you need a little spoon to eat it. The same is true here in France, of course: to savor a mousse au chocolat, you need a little spoon … for a crème brûlée, you need a little spoon … for a slice of chocolate cake, you need a little sp …

Hold on, wait just a minute …

Continue reading The dish ran away with the spoon.

That was one FAT Tuesday!

Last year, I wrote a fairly popular article about Mardi Gras. In it, I talked about the HBO series Treme, my attraction to the city of New Orleans, the history of Mardi Gras celebrations there, and the story of my first attempt at making a New Orleans King Cake. It was really quite informative and pretty entertaining. (In case you missed it, that was a plug for you to go read it. Go ahead … you can get to it from here.) The article got a lot of hits this Mardi Gras season, too, apparently from people searching for the correct way to pronounce “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” — that infamous Cajun expression that absolutely no one says in France … except for Americans!

To be honest, last year’s attempt at making a New Orleans King Cake here in France bore almost no resemblance to the real thing. Since we didn’t have an oven, we had to depend on the local bakery for our brioche, and they just don’t make brioche here in Paris in the form of a ring or crown. On top of that, we couldn’t find colored sugar or the right food colorings at the local supermarket, so we improvised with candied fruit. And in place of the little plastic Baby Jesus, we used a ceramic Virgin Mary, the fève from one of our several galettes des rois from the Epiphany season. The result — as delicious as it most certainly was — looked more like a shrine to Our Lady of Candy Land than a King Cake.

King Cake à la je parle américaine—You have to work with what you've got! © 2012 Michel Denis Pouradier
King Cake à la je parle américaine — You have to work with what you’ve got! © 2012 Michel Denis Pouradier

This year, I tried my hand at it once again, and the result was a much better approximation of the real thing. Continue reading That was one FAT Tuesday!

Did we eat the President’s galette by mistake?

January 6 is Epiphany, the Christian holiday that commemorates the visitation of the Magi (the Three Wise Men, or the Three Kings) to the Baby Jesus. I’m not going to get into a long discourse on the theological meaning of the festival, but I do want to share with you its culinary meaning …

Continue reading Did we eat the President’s galette by mistake?

Saint-Malo: Traveling Saints, French Pirates, and the Best Crêpes Around

Back when I started this blog, I imagined that I’d have an entire series of posts about my travels around France. As often happens with projects like this, I ended up going off in other directions and I never really returned to the theme of sharing my favorites places in France with my readers. Well, oversight rectified …

Welcome to Saint-Malo!

Continue reading Saint-Malo: Traveling Saints, French Pirates, and the Best Crêpes Around

That Grey Goose doesn’t actually speak French?!

© GREY GOOSE

While sitting on the tarmac in Charlotte last Sunday, waiting for my return flight to France to take off, I was flipping through the pages of the duty-free magazine and I happened across an ad for Grey Goose. And I thought to myself, “Now there’s an interesting subject for my blog: the French vodka that French people don’t drink.”

You may know that Grey Goose is the second-best-selling imported vodka in the United States, and the number one super-premium vodka. But what explains Grey Goose’s success against other vodkas, including other super-premiums like the Polish Belvedere? Certainly it has to do with Grey Goose’s exceptionally smooth taste, but it also has to do with its exceptionally smooth marketing. Grey Goose has created a certain cachet that is based almost entirely on its French origins. In short …

Grey Goose is a French goose.

Grey Goose is a chic goose.

Grey Goose is a goose de grande qualité. Continue reading That Grey Goose doesn’t actually speak French?!