Saturday, August 13, 2011

DAILY MENU

Mobile Meat Counter, Cazouls, Market Day
Now that we've shopped, let's eat.

Breakfast

Cathey's day starts with coffee. Two cups. French press. Nothing, and I mean not one single thing, happens before the coffee happens. If she's lucky, the smell of the fresh-brewed coffee wakes me up.

I scratch, yawn, wash and brush, dress, and take the short walk to the artisan patisserie for my morning pain au chocolat, Cathey's croissant – when she chooses to risk the carbs and the fat, and the day's baguette or other specialty loaf. Yes, one of the truly wondrous experiences for any foodie living in France is having the smell of fresh-baked bread permeating the house every day.

Once coffee has kick-started the digestive and intellectual processes, we decide on breakfast. To a certain extent, the breakfast menu depends on the previous night's dinner. If we splurged, went to a favorite restaurant for courses and courses and wine to match, there is the distinct possibility that we're still full. Or we might be anticipating a lazy, grazing lunch. If either is the case, a simple menu of juice, fruit, and that flaky pastry that I just bought might suffice. If UK Sharon brought some fresh preserves – or if we bought some at the market – we might spread a bit on slices of our baguette.

If a greater degree of sustenance is required, add a one-egg omelet, perhaps with a bit of cheese. Beyond that, the choices are endless – a couple of links of merguez left over from the night before, rashers of thick-sliced smoked bacon, perhaps a few slices of smoked salmon; Europeans really appreciate smoked salmon and that particular section of the supermarket is a delight for this Jersey boy. (That's NEW Jersey, if you please.)

Lunch

When we're on vacation and money is no object (yeah, right) we generally plan to eat out once a day, either lunch or dinner. Most often, it's lunch. We're already out and about, often far from home. So many of the places to which we might want to go – specialty shops, vineyards – are closed for the lunch hour...or two or four. And the specials at good restaurants can be inexpensive and a good measure of what the dinners might be like. For instance, the 12 euro lunch special at Le Terminus, a picturesque dining spot in a beautifully redesigned old railroad station between Quarante and Cruzie, includes an amuse and three courses.

But more about restaurants in my next post.

The point is, if we're eating lunch at home, it generally means that we're either going out to dinner or cooking dinner ourselves. Either way, since we expect dinner to be heavy, lunch at home is usually light. Remember the wonderful deli and cheese counters at the supermarket? When lunch is light, we graze.

One plate holds a selection of cheeses – St. Nectare, something bleu, something hard, something goat. One plate features meats – a dry chorizo, salami – perhaps with a peppery crust, a country terrine, a coarse pate, thin slices of serrano ham. Side goodies might include a selection of olives for Cathey, perhaps some of those marvelous Mediterranean anchovies for me – although Cathey gets into them too, maybe a few slices of smoked salmon. Don't forget the slices of fresh baguette and the fine butter of Normandy or Dijon mustard.

And wine. Usually rose. Usually only 3 or 4 euros a bottle. Often from Caveaux St. Laurent in Capestang.

By the way, this setup can be packed up and taken along as a picnic lunch. Don't forget the sharp knife and the corkscrew, though.

Dinner

If we've eaten our lunch out, dinner is the grazing described above. If the dinner at home is to be the main meal of the day, wondrous possibilities present themselves.

Main courses in our house in Cazouls have included French lentils with merguez sausage, rabbit braised in wine, beef steaks on the grill, salmon steaks on the grill...

And speaking of the barbecue out on the patio, you should know that grapevine wood added to the fire imparts a distinct, delicate flavor to grilled foods that is unique. We've used it for grilling duck duck breast – complete with a thick layer of fat that kept the breast moist through the process, for smoking fresh sardines from the Mediterranean, and for mutton chops.

Starters might include salad with buttery fresh lettuce or leek and potato soup. Sides of fresh veggies (haricots verte or potatoes or whatever else looks fresh that might come from either the outdoor market or the super. – except Brussels sprouts. I hate Brussels sprouts.) And dessert.

DESSERT!

Wonderful little pastries from the artisan patisserie. Chocolate.

FRENCH CHOCOLATE!

DESSERT!

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