Thursday, 23 July 2009

I have no idea either, honestly.

I don't know why, but, I found this hysterically funny.
While browsing for a certain Chinese Chicken Salad recipe I had modified yonks ago, I happened to look over at the 'Recent Searches' tab, and found this:

Recent Searches

At least Number 5 was honest about their search criteria...

(And if I find the recipe, which always garners rave reviews when I show up with it at Pot-Lucks, I'll post it, because it's soooo good! )

Friday, 17 July 2009

Kitty: MIA... but now FOUND!

So hopefully some of you are asking yourselves, "Where the hell has she been?" Well, my Gentle and Lovely Readers, I must apologise for my absence and beg forgiveness. Life has been just incredibly too much to even consider allowing myself the pleasure of communication. However, now that I find myself finally feeling fairly calm and in control of what is going on around me, I shall make up for lost time.

So, what's with the alcofrolic display, you may ask? Has this something to do with the BAR? It has! After much to-ing and fro-ing and falderall, the bar finally opened mid-June.

It HAD to open before the 30th June or I lost my Class IV Liquor Licence, not an inexpensive thing, either. And once lost, can never be regained since no new Class IVs can be created here in France, you have to find one in another town or Département, clear moving it with both the originating Mairie and the Mairie where it will be used, buy the blasted thing, do a 'Mutation' and transfer, wait 15 days to two months for the transfer to take place, schlep down to the Douanes, do a three-day course with the Union des Métiers et des Industries de l'Hôtellerie (and pay 847€ for the privilege) which consisted of spending three D A Y S sitting in a room in Saint-Brieuc reading and understanding French Law, prevention of Public drunkenness, not selling to Minors, how to spot drunkenness, what bumpf you have to have up on display, yada-yada, and an exam on same. (Deep breath.) THEN... finally, you get your licence.

Plus the local Gendermes come and pay you a call and check everything.

Oh, and the Pompiers. ("Look! TWO fire extinguishers! AND... they are signed! AND... wait for it! ...Alors! They are in date!" Hot damn they were impressed.)

And if anyone thinks I wanted to go through THAT lark again... just... non.

So, it's open, the clientèle is about 98% French, which is rather what we hoped for since we most certainly did NOT want another dire 'Ex-Pat Joint' frequented only by 'Les Anglais', there are enough of those around in Central Brittany, and I personally see no reason to add to that number. The bar is, frankly, still quite rough around the edges, however, as work continues on the room next door with the wood-burning stove in the fireplace and the polished wood floors, where the bar will eventually be located, I think it will be very cosy and attractive when finished.
At the moment, it is serving it's purpose: saved the licence and provides an evenings only place to go here in Ploug.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Being misunderstood

You know, for someone who prides herself on her communication skills, this sure happens an awful lot. BOTH misunderstanding AND being misunderstood.

Take for instance this (true) episode that happened to me just down the road at the (now defunct) café. I ordered a 'petite cream' but was given a 'petit noir', or espresso. So I asked the owner, in my most polite French, as he passed by the table, "Seriez-vous capable de me mettre un peu de lait, s'il vous plaît?" (Would you please bring me a bit of milk?) He turned, looked at me, seemed to focus on my face, then replied in a slurring English Southend accent, "I'm glad you like the meal," then turned and stumbled off, obviously three sheets to any prevailing wind.

Now, that may not be quite so funny unless you speak French or can imagine me sitting there, slack-jawed, trying to figure out how requesting milk could be so misconstrued into a compliment over his cooking. (A dry, oven-baked chicken breast, covered with Bisto gravy... no, seriously. I think not. Oh wait, that might have been the other time I ate there and had the recycled shoe leather masquerading as meat-on-a-wooden-stick. Yeah, I know, I'm cruel but I'm fair.)

Then of course that leads me to thinking about the differences between American English and English English. Oh boy. Let me tell you another true story that happened to me when I was very young and first in London.

First we have to imagine London in the early 1980's. Got that? Need help? OK, Let's focus on when this occurred: 1982. Chuck and Di had gotten married the year before and she was just about to pop out the heir, little Willy. The country was just getting over the race riots in Brixton, Toxteth and other parts of the UK. Pope John Paul II visits UK, first Papal visit since 1531 (so I guess the RCs are 'over' that whole Henry VIII thing, finally.) Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats was playing to sold-out audiences at the New London Theatre. The Social Democratic Party SDP had been launched and was seen as some new hope for the country (bless.) Argentina invades the Falkland Islands and we have that whole kerfuffle marked by Private Eye magazine publishing that marvellous edition where you could play along with Battleship and Elaine Page's performance of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" was rudely blocked out by the Beeb. (Elaine went on to sing "Memory" as Grizabella in Cats.) Oh, and the Thames Barrier was supposedly completed but we were still having to close the submarine door on the lower bar during flood waters, or, twice a day.

Are you there yet? Oh, wait, here's something to help you get in the mood... if for nothing else, Mick Jagger in a shell suit.

So, imagine me, all of 23, week after New Years, the sales in London are in full swing and I got my pay packet in my pocket. 'Come On Eileen' or possibly 'Don't You Want Me, Baby' is playing on the radio. Anyway, I decided to snazz up an outfit I had in mind: White cotton, frothy, beaded 'Diana' blouse tucked into my high-waisted black tuxedo pants, strappy high-heeled black leather court shoes, big hair (of course) and the requisite yards of (fake) gold chains around the neck and waist. Only problem, the trousers kept slipping down, (I was a LOT thinner back then) I needed a way to keep them up, ah-ha! Bingo! Men's department at Marks and Spencers for those... uh, thingys.

Nice, fresh-faced clerk of about 19: "Good afternoon, Miss, may I be of service?"
Kitty to nice, fresh-faced clerk of about 19: "Oh! Hello! I'm looking for some leather suspenders."
Nice, fresh-faced seriously blushing clerk of about 19: "Oh! Erm, (gulp) I think you might be better served in the Lingerie Department, Miss. Right this way, please."
Kitty: Shrugs and follows, What do I know about UK Retail Merchandising?
Sweet Old Dear in Lingerie: "Yes, Malcolm? Does this lady need help?"
Nice, fresh-faced and ready to explode clerk of about 19: "I believe you might be better suited to supply what.. *ahem*"
Kitty (butting in, politely): "Good afternoon, I'm looking for leather suspenders, black leather, if possible. I'll go with white, but I'd prefer black."
Sweet Old Dear: (As she peers over her half-moon spectacles at me) "Oh my, lovey, we don't carry that sort of thing at Marks and Sparks. You'd have to go into Soho for that sort."
Kitty (completely confused) "But... you show them on your mannequins over in the bridal area."
SOD and FFC both whip their head around at the plaster men modelling wedding attire and then back to me, now they looked completely puzzled.
Kitty: "Black leather suspenders.. to attach to the inside buttons of my trousers (I already ran into the 'pants' one earlier, so knew better) to hold them up? They go over my shoulders and attach?" I was now using a complicated series of hand gestures that might have been thought of as cursing in either sign language or Braille.
Finally, the penny dropped for both for them.
"You mean BRACES!" they both cried in unison.
I stared at them and stuttered, "Braces? They go on your teeth..?"

SOD now went and fetched a pair of suspenders for me to see...
"I see, that's what suspenders are known as in England? You must have thought... black leather and... gosh.... huh."
Uh, well.. no.
"Frightfully sorry," I stammered to the clerk, now MY turn to blush, madly.

I did manage to purchase that for which I went searching. And to his credit, nice, fresh-faced clerk waited to burst out laughing until AFTER I had paid and left the Mens Accessories area.

Now as to being constantly misunderstood, I'd like to point out I don't (usually) fault the people who misunderstand me. After all, we all come from widely diverse backgrounds and home environments. Everyone of us have our own special challenges in our day-today lives. So we bring these experiences (and oft-times "baggage") with us when we 'parley', yes? So, from time to time, especially when cultures mingle, we are bound to end up with confusion. As long as we can get to the deeper meaning, and what's behind the confusion, then we'll be all right in the end. All's Well that End's Well, eh? But it still, admittedly, bothers me. Especially when it causes grief or pain to those I hold most dear.

I guess I'll just have to think more before I speak, or type. And try a lot harder.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Thon Mayonnaise (Tuna Salad)

I thought it might be an idea to post up some ideas for Afternoon Snacks or, as it is known here, "Goûter" which literally means 'taste' but in parlance means the snack children have after school. Anyway, the kids at my daughters's school, (a Bilingual French/Breton Catholic school, fabulous, honestly) were so taken with the sandwiches I sent in with the girls for mid-morning break (NO brown bags lunches here in France! Zut alors! But that can be it's own post...) that they requested the recipe to give to their Mothers to make at home. So, I typed it up, printed it out and it is now made in lots of French households around us, according to the children who have thanked me at school. How fun.

La Recette de Kitty Thon Mayonnaise

2 boite 200 ml/185gm Thon, égoutté (2 tins of tuna, drained - I use Chunk light Tuna)
1 boite 425ml/258gm Maïs Doux, égoutté (1 tin of sweetcorn, drained)
2 carottes, râpées (2 carrots, grated)
250 ml Mayonnaise (I prefer Best Foods / Hellmans)
100-200 gm Emmental, râpé (Swiss cheese, grated)
1/2 cuillère Poivre gris moulu (1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper, freshly ground)
1 cuillère Sel au Céleri (1 teaspoon Celery Salt)
1/4 cuillère Piment de Cayenne Moulu (1/4 teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper)
20 ml jus de citron (Lemon Juice)
Mélange. Goûter et rectifier l'assaisonnement. Pour des sandwiches, salade, tomate farci. (Mix all ingredients together. Taste and adjust seasoning, I usually add a bit of seasalt. Great for sandwiches, Tuna Salad Plates, Stuffed tomatoes OR that All-American favourite: Tuna Melt!)
Bon appétit!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Chicken Maruyama

I have quite a few recipes I have developed over the years for various people, for various reasons. They range from starters through to desserts. Even a drink or two. I find it huge fun to play about in the kitchen, taking a recipe and melding with another, changing it so much it bears only passing resemblance to the original. Or starting from scratch with an array of ingredients and building a dish based around a technique and/or a main ingredient. I tend to do this ‘cuisine-play’ when I have good friends around, then we eat the results! I like having an audience, I guess, so I hadn’t been much in the mood to do any experimenting for the last couple years or so, living toute seule… and on Atkins to boot.

That is… until lately… now I have someone around me who appreciates my culinary efforts, is ‘kindly critical’, AND knows how to match wine to a meal, so I feel much more inspired. So I have been banging out new recipes in my little postage-stamp-sized kitchen. Ah... for a big kitchen where I could really let rip...

In my dream kitchen, I will have either a four-oven Aga or a commercial Viking or Wolf range oven plus a centre island with a proper gas-fired wok burner with seating around the countertop so people can be in the kitchen with me and watch me and we can socialize, drink wine and converse while I cook. I will have a Kitchen Aid area, a marble table for pastry and cool granite countertops. I will have plenty of counter space/preparation area so my friends can pitch in and help, if they like. Plenty of seating so they can just kick back and watch if that is more appealing. I think the kitchen is the Spiritual Centre of the home and I want a big kitchen! Space for a sofa or two, space for dogs and children and lots of big windows bringing in the light. I LOVE cooking for people and talking, laughing, drinking wine or cocktails and all the while discussing things as I cook. I suppose it’s a bit showing off, maybe, but on the other hand, I like showing people how to do what I do as I enjoy sharing my knowledge. Good thing I chose the profession I did, huh? (Well, one of them at least…)

Whenever I make one particular recipe, Maruyama Chicken, I can’t help but chuckle to myself. I made up this recipe in honour of my friend Karen Maruyama when we were both students at SDSU. Kind of like Teriyaki Chicken but better, with lots of garlic and the bite of ginger and chile marinated into it. It’s served with coconut rice. I brought it over to her house for a ‘Japanese Potluck’ I had been invited to. Her aunt, uncle, and some of her cousins were visiting from Japan and this was a welcome dinner in their honour. After a hysterical evening, started by lots of toasts with little cups of sake, and then sitting around laughing and eating, her (male) cousins brought out this t-shirt they wanted to give to me, if I would model it and let them take a group picture. Karen and I looked at each other… the t-shirt was in Japanese. Since her Mom didn’t say anything, we thought, yeah, go on, it’s harmless enough, so I went in the other room and changed into this rather tight t-shirt. “What’s it say?” I asked. “It says ‘Japanese’, as in female Japanese,” one of the cousins replied. So we took lots of pictures with the cousins pointing at my t-shirt and grinning and me in the middle smiling (as you do when you have no idea what is going on.)

It was only later, when we looked at copies of the developed photos that we realised what all the smirking was about on the night. Emblazoned across my pert 36DD chest was the Japanese for Nipponese or Japanese-American street slang ‘Nip on these’. Japanese girls tend to be rather less well endowed (unless surgically enhanced) than most Americans are. (I say Americans because I include women as well as a lot of American men… I think most Japanese women would be proud to sport some of the man boobs I have witnessed on both Florida and California beaches…)
I am sure Karen’s cousins got a lot of mileage out of the photos when they got back to Yokahama…

Still, got a nice t-shirt out of it.

Chicken Maruyama

½ cup Mirin (Japanese Sweet Cooking Wine) Mirin on Foodista
1/4 cup honey
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
6 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon ketchup
½ yellow onion, grated
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or more/less to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

First make the marinade:
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat on stove stirring until the brown sugar is dissolved and all the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Allow to come to room temperature. The marinade can be made ahead of time and held under refrigeration for three days. You get best results if you use it right away, though.

Marinade the chicken: If using the boneless breast/thighs cut up, a couple hours marinating will suffice but I leave it overnight. If using the bone-in chicken, I leave it for 24 hours marinating in the fridge, turning it several times. This can be facilitated by bunging the whole thing in either a heavy duty freezer bag and turning it over every few hours or into a large Tupperware container and just giving it a good shake when you remember.

Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade, and either bake in a pre-heated 375°F/180°C oven on a rack over a foil-lined grill pan/baking sheet or on the BBQ, over coals that are grey-ashed over (so medium heat.) You could also use the marinated meat to do kebabs, threading the meat on wire skewers or bamboo sticks. (Soak the bamboo sticks in water for a few hours so they don’t burn from the heat of the BBQ.) The chicken interspaced with red, yellow and green bell peppers, fresh or canned pineapple chunks and ripe cherry tomatoes would be a colourful and flavourful mix.

While the chicken is cooking, reduce down the marinade to about half of the volume or less. It will go very dark, thick and syrupy. At this point you can strain it for a glossy glaze or leave it as is for a chunkier sauce. Pass this around so people can help themselves to more.

Serve with coconut rice and Yum salad, if desired.
(I'll post the rice and salad recipes one of these days.)

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Fairly Foolproof Chicken Curry

Right, today I am posting my easy-peasy chicken curry I make, on a regular basis, for my family… and often times for the tea room. It is quick, doesn’t use a LOAD of ingredients but has a nice, complex flavour, all the same. This is a combo of the chicken curry from Anita Pal's Bengali Cookery Page found here and the chicken curry from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall found here and me messing around... a bit.
Serves 4

Vegetable oil or Ghee
2 large brown Onions, chopped
6 cloves Garlic, squished through a garlic press
1-4 Serrano chile peppers, sliced thinly (to reduce the heat, remove seeds and ribs from inside the chile. Be CAREFUL not to touch your eyes or any place else ‘delicate’ until AFTER you wash your hands, thoroughly. Or use rubber gloves, better still. You have been warned. How much you use will determine the heat, obviously.)
3 teaspoons Ground Cumin
½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Turmeric
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed into bite-size pieces (or 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or an entire chicken, jointed into 8 pieces)
3-4 whole Green Cardamom (or 2 teaspoons ground)
2-3 small pieces Cinnamon (or 1 Tablespoon ground)
50-75g whole, fresh Ginger, chopped fine (If you keep your ginger in the freezer, then it’s a doddle to peel it, then to chop it finely while it's still partially frozen. Frozen ginger lasts months frozen, and a week or so fresh. I now only keep fresh ginger for when I am doing a Chinese Chicken Salad, and honestly.)
780g tin of tomatoes and juice, chopped (I buy whole ones and chop myself since it’s cheaper)
1-2 teaspoons of salt or to taste
2-3 potatoes, scrubbed well, or peeled, and cubed into bite-size pieces

Pour enough oil to just cover the base of a dry medium to large saucepan and heat until the oil is very hot but not smoking. Add the onions to the oil. Sauté until the onions begin to caramelise. Add the garlic and chiles and stir until the garlic is turning opaque but do NOT brown. Try not to inhales the fumes as it will be cough-invoking from the chiles! Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to stand.
Place all the spices (turmeric, cumin powder and Cayenne powder) into a small cereal bowel. Add about half a cup of water and mix. Pour the spice mixture over the onions. Fry on a medium heat until most of the water evaporates but make sure that the spice mixture does not burn.
Add the chicken and stir until all the chicken is coated. Reduce to low heat.
Add the ginger, tomatoes and salt and cook for 10 - 15 minutes. Then add enough water to just cover the chicken. Add potatoes. Place a lid on the saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes (30 minutes for bone-in chicken pieces) or until the potatoes and chicken are both tender.
Meanwhile, grind the whole cardamoms and cinnamon pieces together in a spice grinder (or use powdered spices.) Add the cardamom / cinnamon powder 10 minutes before the chicken is served. Serve with Basmati rice.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Moong Dahl

This is a recipe that Ruby gave me. It is very, very more-ish. It’s like a cross between a soup and a stew and is vegetarian. I have only altered it slightly to take advantage that the split Moong dhal is sold in 500g packages. This alteration uses half a 500g bag.

250g moong dhal (washed well in a fine sieve until no more colour comes off)
1 teaspoon salt
2 onions, chopped
1 ½ litres water
60 ml oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh root ginger, very finely chopped
180ml chopped tomatoes (I use tinned)
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons chilli powder (I use ground cayenne)

Place washed dhal, salt, onions and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, as the dhal cooks, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the cumin, mustard seeds and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly for two minutes or until the garlic turns opaque. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, garam masala and chilli powder/cayenne. Cook for an additional two minutes or so. Add to the moong dhal when it is finished simmering and stir in well. Allow to cook for an additional five minutes.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Best Living Will... ever! (From Maxine)

I, your mother / friend, being of sound mind and body, do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means.

Under no circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of pinhead politicians who couldn't pass ninth grade biology if their lives depended on it, or lawyers/doctors interested in simply running up the bills.

If a reasonable amount of time passes and I fail to ask for at least one of the following:

Glass of wine
Cup of coffee
Cold Beer
Chicken fried steak
Cream gravy
Mexican food
French fries
Ice cream
Cup of coffee

It should be presumed that I won't ever get better. When such a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my appointed person and attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes, let the 'fat lady sing,' and call it a day!

In the meantime: Have a Drink

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Tuesday's morning market in Mûr-de-Bretagne

It's a tiny affair, the Tuesday market. Since it is raining, only the butcher

and the fishmonger

arrived to set up, no sign of the green grocer or the Couscous lady (stop snickering!)

I just took this picture, so you can see, despite the on and off drizzle, the loyal housewives and househusbands are out in force to get their fresh fish and meats.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Easter Monday

Today is a busy day for me. I still have the Cornish Pasties to make, the gluten-free stuff, it's 2 am and I'm knackered after today; I worked my tush off at work.

Well heh, that's life.

But I could sooooo just stay in bed tomorrow instead of being perky at work. Bah, thank goodness there is espresso there, I'll need it, I doubt I'll get to sleep tonight.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Happy Easter!

Artichokes are in season, you know

I was at the wholesalers in St Brieuc on Friday to pick up provisions for both the Tea room and the food I am making for AIKB for Monday's Easter Fair. There in the fruit and veg section were crates of our local Breton globe artichokes, which I just adore.

This is a picture I took at the Pontivy market, the mobile phone camera compression doesn't do the startling purple against the vibrant green any justice. I must go back with my digital camera and try again. But, don't you just love these artichoke cut flowers?

Now, usually, I will just buy a nice plump artichoke, cut off the stem so it sits upright, wash it really well and leave the water in the leaves to aid in the steaming, wrap it in microwave cling-film, set it in a microwave safe bowl to catch the water run off and nuke it for 6-8 minutes or so. You have to let it sit after you take it out for two minutes, still wrapped in the plastic wrap to finish the cooking. It's done when one of the bottom leaves pulls out easily and the flesh is tender. What could be easier for a quick snack? I am very happy eating this with some Best Foods (or Hellmann’s) mayonnaise or just some lemon mixed into softened demi-sel butter or even Beurre Blanc, if I'm feeling adventurous (and not lazy.)

However, sometimes you want something a bit more chi-chi for dinner guests; so, may I recommend this excellent recipe I use from Gourmet magazine?

Whole Stuffed Artichokes Braised in White Wine by Marie Miraglia
(With commentary and additions by Kitty)
Makes 4 first-course servings.
From Gourmet Magazine March 2002

If you have a pressure cooker (and I just bought myself one for my birthday, stainless steel, and it’s big enough to can in,) then by all means, do the artichokes in there! It takes a fraction of the time (1/5, for the pedants) and the leaves get so tender... Mmmmm. You can make the stuffing the day before and just keep it covered and chilled in the fridge. The fiddly bit is trimming and you need to do that either just before you cook them or do as I do and trim them and then place in a large pot of salted, well-acidulated water. (That’s half a handful of sea salt and the juice of a big lemon [or 4-5 Tablespoons if using squirty lemon juice] in 3-5 litres of water.) Weigh the artichokes down with a plate and a heavy can or two of something and place the lot in the fridge overnight. If I get an artichoke that is slightly past its prime, I do the same salty-lemon water thing and it plumps it right back up.

OK, stuffing the artichokes is pretty fiddly too, but, Oooh! Is it ever worth it!

For stuffing artichokes:
2 cups fine fresh bread crumbs from an Italian loaf or ‘pain’ (4 oz)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Parmesan Cheese (1 1/2 oz)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup minced sweet soppressata (dried Italian sausage; 1 1/4 oz)
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon sea salt (Only ever use sea salt! How many times have I told you?)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium artichokes (8 to 9 oz each)
1 lemon, halved
4 thin slices provolone cheese

For cooking artichokes:
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Special equipment: a melon-ball cutter; a 6- to 8-quart pressure cooker or a wide 4- to 6-quart heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid

Make stuffing:
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Spread breadcrumbs in a shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until pale golden, about 10 minutes. Cool crumbs completely, and then toss with parmesan, garlic, parsley, soppressata, zest, salt, and pepper. Drizzle oil over crumbs and toss to coat evenly.

Trim and stuff artichokes:
Cut off artichoke stems and discard. Cut off top 1/2 inch of one artichoke with a serrated knife, then cut about 1/2 inch off all remaining leaf tips with sturdy kitchen shears. Rub cut edges of leaves with a lemon half.
Separate leaves slightly with your thumbs and pull out purple leaves from centre and enough yellow leaves to expose fuzzy choke. Scoop out choke with melon-ball cutter, and then squeeze some lemon juice into cavity. Trim remaining artichokes in same manner.

(If the artichokes have spent the night in the fridge, turn them upside down and let them drain for five minutes or so. Then add a squeeze of lemon juice to the centre cavity.)

Spoon about 2 tablespoons stuffing into centre cavity of each artichoke and, starting with bottom leaves and spreading leaves open as much as possible without breaking, spoon a rounded 1/2 teaspoon stuffing inside each leaf. Top each artichoke with a slice of provolone.

Cook artichokes:
Put water, wine, oil, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in pressure cooker (without insert) or pot and arrange stuffed artichokes in liquid in one layer.
Seal pressure cooker with lid and cook at high pressure, according to manufacturer's instructions, 10 minutes. Put pressure cooker in sink (do not remove lid) and run cold water over lid until pressure goes down completely.
If using a regular pot, simmer artichokes, covered, until leaves are tender, about 50 minutes.
Transfer artichokes with tongs to four soup plates and spoon cooking liquid around them.
I will happily eat this as a light lunch in summer with some chewy, slow-ferment rye or pain de campagne and demi-sel butter, a glass of Pinot Grigio and a perfectly ripe white peach for dessert.
Bon appétit!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Chicken Tebee

I am bringing over my food-related posts from Kittychat and putting them here, now, so... if you have followed me over there, it will be a case of déjà vu for a bit... (Just warning you.)
Yesterday was my partner Tebee’s birthday. I really wanted to take him out to lunch at the Auberge de Guerlédan, it’s one of our favourite spots and, frankly, affordable… but… not affordable enough this month, sooooo… I thought I would dig out a recipe I created for him when he first moved in with me in Cleg, way, way, back in September 2005, and for reasons unfathomable, hadn’t made since.

“Mummy… what is that you are making?” “It’s something special for dinner, baby, you’ll like it, you had it before.” “Is it with the octopus? I like the octopus thing, with the tenti… testic… te” “Tentacles, sweetie. No, no octopus this time, anyway, that’s called Cioppino, remember?” “Do we get a starter?” “Yes, love, go get me the little salad plates”

Then bigger kitten wonders what littler kitten is getting action with in the kitchen…

“Mum, what’s for start.. OH!! Andouille! Yummy! …and de Vire! I love that kind!” (Yes, my children CAN and DO differentiate about very odd food choices, seriously. You should hear them discuss cheese…)

Little kitten wrinkles her nose. “What’s the squiggly bits?” “That’s how Vire does it, sweetie, in Guémené the intestines are pulled inside each other so it makes concentric circles and then it’s boiled, baked, smoked, baked, smoked…etc until it’s done.” “Intestines?” she still queries. “Pig guts,” her sister helpfully explains.

“Hmmm… do I LIKE pig guts, Mummy?” “Well, you used to like Andouille, but, try it… if you don’t like it, someone else will eat it.” “Do I get cherry tomatoes?” “No, but there is cucumber and red pepper.”

This seems to assure her, but I see her sneak the jar of Maille cornichons from the fridge, just in case…

So, I’ll just describe this, since there is no real written recipe. First, thickly slice some brown mushrooms, if you can find them, or white Paris mushrooms if not. Place these in a non-stick skillet with a hunk of butter (NEVER margarine, ick, you know I hate margarine, horrid stuff, all that hydrogenated fat… but I digress.) Add some squished garlic and finely chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, thyme, marjoram. Cook then until all the water boils off and you are left with just the little mushrooms happily browning in the last vestiges of the butter. Then, add half a glass of white wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up the browned bits. Take off the heat and set aside.

Then, for each person, you take a skinless, boneless chicken breast, butterfly it open and then pound it into a vague square shape. First, smear roasted garlic butter all over the breast and lightly sprinkle with finely chopped fresh herbs (same mix as above for the mushrooms.)

At the bottom edge of the pounded breast, place a thin slice of Roti du Porc or Canadian Bacon, cut in pieces to fit. On top of that, place slices of half a ball of mozzarella ( leave some to go on top, in other words, each breast uses half a ball of mozza) then roll it up so the pork and mozza are enclosed inside.

Using thin strips of smoked streaky bacon, wrap around and around the roll so it is completely secure. I use three slices per breast/roll. You don’t HAVE to secure it with toothpicks, but, if you feel better, go right ahead.

Brown in a non-stick pan over medium heat. You don’t need to add more fat, since the streaky bacon should, in theory, have enough but if it’s looking dry, add a tiny dash of olive oil. Turn carefully so all sides brown, slightly. Continue to cook and gently turn until it looks evenly browned, this should take about 10-15 minutes or so, in total, and the mozzarella inside should be beginning to try to leak out. Make sure all sides of the chicken have turned opaque white, then push the rolls together, place the remains of the sliced mozzarella on top of each, then a generous dollop of crème fraîche down each on top of the cheese, THEN cover all this with the mushrooms. Cover tightly; turn heat to low and cook until the cheese melts, about another 5-8 minutes or so. It is done when it probes at 160°F or 72°C. The heat WILL continue to rise, slightly.

Now, I probe EVERYTHING to make sure it is thoroughly cooked and you should as well. OK, yes, you might NOT have an instant-read thermometer, well, go on Amazon dot com, or dot fr, or dot and BUY one. Seriously, it helps you both NOT undercook or overcook meats. Either are bad. One “can” make you sick, one is an insult to the animal that died to give you it’s tasty flesh to eat. If you don’t have a probe, then cut the fattest roll in half and LOOK to make sure. If it isn’t, then return all to the pan, cover and cook another few minutes.

To serve, you can either slice each one into slices and arrange in a semi-circle around one edge of a (warmed) plate or just plunk the whole thing down and let each person have at it with a steak knife. Serve with (real) mashed potatoes or sautés and some steamed broccoli (or asparagus, when it’s in season.)

This dish is kitten approved, by the way.