Nail in Foot, Burger in Hand

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We are in the demolition stage of our new apartment.  This morning, as we walked into the place for our daily visit, our quirky 1950s flat to-be was transformed into the town of Bedrock.  Before I could even say “Wow, what a dump!”, “Ohmygawwwwputainmerde!”  My first step into the apartment, I got a nail in the foot.  The throbbing pain was the least of my worries.  Since I have the undisputed Generation Me dilemma of not having had health insurance since my shatterproof undergraduate days, I was sure I could feel my jaw locking in the matter of moments. Luckily, I had an unsuccessful semester in grad school that got me up to speed on that important tetanus shot.  Phew!

To help ease the pain, I was whisked off for lunch at the hyper-popular food truck Le Camion Qui Fume by mon mari qui fume.  Le Camion Qui Fume ends the search for an authentic American cheeseburger in Paris.  Although there are imposters on every cafe menu, 18 euros for a dry, uninspired hamburger on an industrial bun is not worth the ho-hum indulgence.  Food trucks have not  taken off in Paris yet, partially considering that the French cannot eat with their hands alone.  But fellow American expat Kristin Frederick has mastered the right fatty mix of ground beef, the soft, butter-brushed sesame seed buns, real cheddar and shoestring fries to cheer up any expat having a bad day.  Although the truck changes locations everyday, we dug into our burgers on the steps of the Église de la Madeleine overlooking the Place de la Concorde.  And at just 10 euros for a burger and fries, there is no better bargain or breathtaking view.

http://www.lecamionquifume.com/

I usually have no problem putting my own foot in my mouth, but my phone has been helping me out a lot lately.  Bless its heart though, the poor thing isn’t completely bilingual yet either.  It has not adapted its predictive text to French yet.  Consequently, I have sent a few doozies lately.

When a friend texted proposing to get a coffee, intending to reply “oui, avec plaisir” (aka “I’d love to!”), my phone responded with “oui, avec plaudit”.  No, we did not plan a rendezvous, but rather a rigoletto.  Comment-allez vous?  Comment-allez voucher.  Fortunately, my phone has a thing for the opera; he will do just fine here.

Waiting for Anton Part 2


So the 48 hours after my last posting were a continuous panic attack.  What could I possibly scrounge up for a 3-star Masterchef to eat?  Sure this would be a great story to tell, but at the moment it was far from funny.  Although it was the first thing C had to share with everyone we crossed paths with last week.  And everyone sure thought is was hilarious!  And an unlimited budget and creative freedom only made the scenario a bit more daunting.

Although it has been over a month since I have been back in France, I am still relearning my tools of moderation.  My day usually revolves around my daily treat, which usually is product of a trip to the boulangerie, or I happen to be in the neighborhood of Laduree, or a something else that involves a helpless pastry.  Needless to say, because I’m surrounded by decadent, comforting foods, I am starting to crave things spicy and fragrant things that remind my life out West (meaning NYC and the 31 flavors of takeout).  Speaking of which, I’ve been on a bit of a curry kick the past few weeks.  And I was confident enough in my technique to pull it off elegantly for the big dinner.

I made a special trip to Passage Brady in the 10eme for some authentic spices at sensational prices.  I fried up some onions and ginger with my spices (fenugreek, tumeric, mustard seeds, and divinely aromatic curry leaves) and added the last heirloom tomatoes of the season.  I hit it with some coconut milk for some richness.  I carefully threw my curry sauce through a sieve to give it a touch of refinement for French tastes.  And from there, I used the sauce to slowly poach a few chicken breasts.  Paired with basmati rice with lemon zest and curry leaves, it was a simple, but special dinner for a very special guest.

The real star was my first course: empanadas of espinacas catalan.  I did a quick sautee of garlic, baby spinach, chickpeas, pinenuts, and golden raisins.  I hit it generously with salt, pepper, and lemon juice and wrapped it all up in puff pastry.  A tasty first course full of surprises.

Following the dinner party, I got a text from the host exclaiming it was a hit and the food was ‘supergood’.  Bon!  Success!  Does this mean that I, Jessie Kanelos from the Midwest USA, might have a chance at becoming a French Masterchef via reality tv simply by cooking a humble chicken curry for the big judge?  Sure enough, the guest star of the evening was caught up at work and did not attend.  Here I am, feeling played like Stanley Tucci in a Big Night that I did not even attend.  Although Frederic Anton could not enjoy my empanadas, maybe you will!…

Espinacas Catalan Empanadas makes 4

1 sheet puff pastry

6 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup pinenuts, gently toasted

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup chickpeas, drained

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg white

zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt & pepper

1.) Preheat oven to 400 f.

2.) Heat olive oil over low heat and cook garlic for several minutes until fragrant, but not brown.  Add golden raisins.  Start adding spinach one handful at a time.  When it has wilted, add more until all cooked.  Add chickpeas.  Place mixture in bowl and let cool.

3.) Roll out pastry dough and cut into 4 parts.  Add a handful of the spinach mixture on one side of the parts and fold over.  Crimp edges to close the triangle.  Poke a few holes on top of the empanada.  Brush with egg white for a pretty sheen.

4.) Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Serve as light lunch with a green salad.  Or as a first course at a very important dinner party…

Waiting for Anton…

So, I’m in Paris.  I have a humble babysitting job to make ends meet while waiting on my working papers.  I search for the kids after school, buy groceries, cook dinner, and encourage the completion of homework.  Yesterday afternoon, the children’s mother informed me that I would be cooking for 8 on Friday night.  Nothing a roast chicken couldn’t handle, right?  Sure enough, this afternoon she informed me of one other important detail.  And guess who is coming to dinner!  It’s family friend Frédéric Anton, three-star chef and judge on Masterchef France.  (SHIT!  SHIT!  SHIT!)  There really is no American equivalent to this.  But I’ll shallowly compare Frédéric Anton to Tom Colicchio since they are both tv personalities with culinary street cred and members of the bald brotherhood.

So, what does one cook for a famous 3-star chef?  One thing is for sure, even though I can crank out a decent boeuf bourguignon, there is no way I’m touching French food.  Just like I would never sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in the presence of Aretha Franklin. Luckily, I have been a devoted pupil of Masterchef since its conception.  And Frédéric Anton preaches to his puppy-eyed aspiring chefs to keep it simple and respect the integrity of the ingredients.  Part of me feels like I should really do something American; there’s always something to be said about the complimentary coupling of peanut butter and jelly.  At the end of the day, I need to make something I know.  Needless to say, HELP!