Monday, August 28, 2006


I'm up to my ears in prepwork and finally getting back to my own little apartment so I've been rather scarce and may yet be for the next week or two. The beginning of the school year always stresses me out to the hilt. I did not forget however that I owed some people some pictures of Chartres. So, if you hadn't looked over there yet, I did upload some on my flickr account along with commentaries on each. Have a gander if you would like to see my all too short visit to that charming place:

I thank Bonnie of daydreamdelicious for thinking of tagging me for the foodbloggers guide to the world even though I've been so scarce lately. I promise I'll get on it and other posts as soon as I can.

Enjoy the flickr pics! Eat well! Until next time...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back from Bretagne

Dear Bretagne,

I miss you already. I long for your endless outcroppings of ferns,

your prickly little flowers and berries,

your wind-swept trees,

your seaweed-scented shores.

Even your sometimes stony heart...

When I look out the window, I don't see your many boats and little villages dotting the rivieres, ocean or shores anymore.

When I step out the door, I see geraniums everywhere but no more the purple and blue hydrangeas you wore so gallantly.

All the houses I see now are peach-hued and carrot-tops. I look to your pictures for the white skin and black tresses.

Give me back the time when I saw your black and white flag defiantly declaring your uniqueness culturally and linguistically in a sea of French.

Take me back to the shores which offer so much sea wealth

You shipwrecked my heart on your sandy shores and never let it go.

But I don't want it back. It's yours.

ever enamored,



I won't be able to cover so much about Bretagne in the next days as I'd like but I'll do my best until I leave for home on Thursday.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Vacation during Vacation

I will be away for about 8 days or so visiting my beloved Bretagne and taking a look at Chartres Cathedral. I hope to get some more Brittany sea salt and other local treats. Hope everyone has lots of foodie fun. I'll be back with pictures and tales next Monday. In the mean time, enjoy the recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon
Ta-ra for now! Or should I say 'A bientôt!'

Friday, August 04, 2006

Boeuf Bourguignon: A French Gift to You

A family recipe is something precious especially when it is given freely and with love. Although I think my Frogger-in-law doesn't really like people hovering over him as he cooks he granted me the privilege of shadowing him as he prepared Boeuf Bourguignon. I peppered him with lot and lots of questions and had notes upon notes as I watched. He was very good about it all but the recipe was his mother's so I had better get every scrap of information right or suffer ancestral wrath. Frog swears it is the best version of the dish he's ever had. I was a bit worried to ask but he granted me the privilege of letting you, my readers, in on the family recipe, too. Merci, Papa. You may see there are a lot of notes but they are interesting additions and suggestions. You might want to read through them. If anything, read the note about the wine if you read nothing else there. It's important to have the right vine stock for the meat.

So, without further ado, REAL, honest-to-goodness Boeuf Bourguignon.

Bœuf Bourguignon
(à la Papa)

Step 1

3-4 cups beef (stewing beef, chuck steak or roast) cut up into large chunks, about 2-3 inches square each

For the marinade:

1 bottle of inexpensive Pinot of Burgundy stock
1 carrot, cut in chunks (optional)
1 onion, cut in chunks (optional)
1-2 bay leaves (optional)
1 sprig dried thyme (optional)

Open the red wine. Place in medium-sized metal bowl all the stewing beef (or chuck roast chunks). Fit together tightly on the bottom in one or two layers. Add the optional flavouring agents with the meat, tucking them in with the meat. Pour all the red wine over the beef and ensure that any meat sticking out above the surfuce is pressed under the wine. Cover the bowl with tinfoil. Place the bowl in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours. However, if you can, leave it for 48 hours as it will improve the flavour. During this time the beef will absorb some of the wine.

Step 2 NB: This step should be started four hours or so before you want to eat.

3 tbsp margarine (mix of margarine and olive oil OK)
3 large shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
4-5 small onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1½ -2 cups lardons (N.American equivalent is the same amount of cubed bacon slab)
1½ cups flour

1. In a large, deep-sided skillet or dutch oven, melt the margarine over medium heat until golden-brown.
2. Add shallots, onions and lardons (cubed bacon slab) to margarine and cook over medium heat until the onions are a light golden colour and soft.

3. While the onions, shallots and lardons are cooking, remove the marinating beef from the fridge for preparation.
4. Take the beef out of the marinade and place on a paper towel-lined dish. Lightly dab the beef to remove excess moisture but let it a bit damp so that a coating will adhere. Set the wine marinade aside for later use as the cooking sauce. The herbs need not be removed as they will continue to add flavour to the sauce during cooking
5. In a flat dish add the flour for dusting the meat. Drop in the meat and lightly cover each piece completely with a layer of flour. Set the coated meat aside.

6. When the onion mixture is browned, set aside the onions, shallots and lardons in a separate dish but leave as much of the drippings in the pan as possible.
7. Add 2 more tablespoons of margarine to the drippings and set back on the medium heat. Lightly scrape off any leavings from the onion mix as you stir the margarine.
8. Add the floured meat to the pan in one layer( if your meat cannot fit in one layer you may have to repeat the procedure more than once). Over medium heat brown and seal in the juices of the meat chunks. While a side is cooking do NOT stir around. Let them remain in their layer and only press down on them from time to time. Once a side is a nice dark brown colour, repeat the process on another side. Add a bit more margarine if the meat seems to be sticking too much. Continue this until at least four sides are brown and sealed on all the meat. (NB: Darker brown is better so don’t be scared to let this part take a while to finish). If necessary, set aside first set of meat and repeat step 8.

9. When all the meat is completely browned (and, if necessary, all returned to the pan) add a ladlespoon-full of the wine marinade to the pan and deglaze anything stuck to the pan. Let the wine come to a boil and then add another ladleful of wine marinade. Again let the wine come to a full boil. Repeat this procedure of slowly adding the wine until it is completely added and the wine is bubbling.

10. When all the wine marinade is in with the beef and bubbling gently, add the onion mixture. Stir until completely mixed in to the beef and wine.
11. Cover with a tightly fitting lid, turn down until a gentle simmer. Check every ½ hour, stir, return lid. Simmer for 3 hours (2 is okay, 2 ½ is pretty good, 3 is best).

12. Serve hot with suggested side dish and a nice Bordeaux (we had a nice Château Lieujean Haut-Médoc).

Notes :

1. Take a Pinot red table wine in which the meat must marinate. Be sure it is a Pinot from the Burgundy stock of vine and not the actual Alsatian wine. This Pinot does not have to be expensive because you will not taste the difference with the cooking. Also, do NOT use a Bordeaux red as it is not acidic enough to create the right flavour for the meat.
2. Rich people have been known to use an expensive Pinot in their Boeuf Bourgignon and have another expensive bottle of the same for drinking with the stew. This is really not necessary and only an affectation of the nouveau riche. It will not make the meal taste any better. Cheap wine works just fine.
3. Take beef for stewing (chuck roast) that has a bit of fat to it. A stewing beef with no fat will not taste as good. Pack this beef into a metal bowl as tightly as they will go together but not with too much squishing. The tight packing will help make sure that not too much wine is needed to completely cover the beef.
4. Flavouring agents can be added to the wine to give the sauce more flavour: bay leaves, thyme, carrots, onions. The herbs can be added whole to the wine and beef but the vegetables can be added cut up.
5. Butter can be used for the cooking of the onions or the beef but it will sputter and spit more. However, if you want to use it, it will impart more taste to the meat.
6. If the meat, for some reason gets a bit burnt during the browning process do NOT worry. The three hours of simmering will improve the state and it will still taste fine.
7. This meal can be served with Alsatian egg noodles, a nest of flat fresh pasta, spaghetti, boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes.
8. You can create a chicken dish, Coq Bourguignon, using the same procedure and ingredients except replacing the beef with chicken.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Travels to Alsace and Southern Germany: Part 3

9:30 am 33°C (nearly 100°F) Walking to Hohenschwangau Castle

Me: We have to walk up there?
Frog: Yes, first we climb up to Hohenschwangau and then we climb up to Neuschwanstein. What's the problem? That's the way it's supposed to be done.
Me: *grumble* <--me being mad in the already scorching heat

- - - - - -
Later, walking in the shade, up the hill, to Neuschwanstein, Castle of Ludwig II of Bavaria

11:22 am

Frog: *gasp, wheeze* Do you need to slow down? We can slow down.
Me: Nope. It's a good pace for me actually. Grade's not too steep.
Frog: Wha..? *wheeeze... kabloosh!* (Frog exploding from heat and never-ending hill)
Me: Hmmph... told you we should have taken the horse and wagon ride up *continues walking, leaving a pool of Frog behind her on the road*

§ § § § § § §

Where do I begin with German breakfasts? Well, first thing, they are NOT the spare thing the French call breakfast--bread, butter, 2 kinds of jam, coffee. Yet they are not North American either. Not a bagel, poached egg, pancake or muffin to be seen for thousands of miles. Let's just say that Germans seem to embrace the idea of a hearty breakfast with all their heart and soul.

It would take a whole post just to name everything a hotel will offer at breakfast. I'll give you a quick version: 8 kinds of sausage both cold and hot, 4 kinds of rolls, 3 kinds of bread, Quark, Yoghurt, 5 kinds of cheese, scrambled eggs, bacon, liverwurst/paté, 10 kinds of cereal, fresh meusli, fresh milk, orange juice, carrot-orange juice,whole fruit, cut fruit, cut veggies, 3 kinds of honey, 10 kinds of jam, Nutella, a weird chocolate donut thing, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and so on and so on. Really, it makes the mind explode at 8 am to have all these choices.

A couple things I'd never had before and really liked. The fresh, creamy meusli was quite good with lots of things in it and the alpine honey I had was almost molasses-like in its richness. Even the wasps were waiting in line for it.

We spent a good part of the morning climbing hills and visiting the two castles of Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as Mad King Ludwig. He was known for his extravagent tastes in architecture and interior decorating. Neither castle allowed photography inside due to all the original paintings and fabric in the rooms but if you want a sense of the inner castles visit here and here.
The castles are breath-taking inside and out. Each is unique in its own way.

Hohenschwangau is replete with silver, ivory and painted scenes of history and myth all over the walls. Neuschwanstein is a fairytale castle come to life. The throne room alone is enough to make you cry it's so beautiful. A pity he drowned mysteriously in the nearby lake before it was completed. I doubt I can even imagine the beauty or wealth involved if he had finished it all. I guess you can tell which of the two was my favourite. It was worth the climb up.

We decided to have lunch at a restaurant that lies just below Neuschwanstein. Again, no A/C in such hot weather. The spinach pizza I had was mehh... but I had something more local for dessert. Bavarian waffles with stewed apples. It was very yummy and even had a dab of the local cherry specialty dabbed on top.

I was glad to leave the warm, sticky interior only to find that, at the bottom of the hill, our car's interior had reached 49°C (120°F)YUCK! After a while the car's A/C finally made the temperature bearable but it wasn't until we reached within 50 km of Ulm, our next stop, that clouds and rain hit and we were really cool at last HURRAH!

After a quick break in our rooms of Innercity Hotel in Ulm we were off to see sites and have dinner. First we saw the Cathedral which has the tallest spire in the whole world. The exterior was amazingly covered in statues and scenes. The inside was scrubbed down clean in many places because it was converted to a Protestant church. A lot of the old scenery of saints and such were no longer decorating the interior walls. A bummer but it made finding the remaining original paintings (which, surprisingly, hadn't been removed) amazing.

We wandered through part of the old town to find a place for dinner and found a little place with a name I have forgotten but the dinner was not so easy to forget. Nor was our waitress who was worked off her feet, poor thing (Not by us LOL). Dinner didn't start out promisingly for me as I found out that I don't like the German's idea of salad. The creamy-vinegary dressing poured over it was not at all to my taste as it was just like the dressing of my much loathed nemesis--coleslaw. A restaurant salad in Germany, according to my Frogger-in-law, is always this way--dollops of saladbar type concoctions, topped with lettuce and THAT dressing. However, the main meal made up for it. A giant thick crêpe, in the style of the Bavarians, served with the local bacon and fried onions and bit of potato salad. It was so huge and so filling that I just couldn't bring myself to finish it all. My companions ordered a shared dish of the local specialties of meats and spaëtzlé which they quite enjoyed with a German red wine.

It seemed this place was a pancake house of a kind because a lot of the desserts were served on those huge crêpes too. Thankfully, we were told we could get a card with light desserts on order. Light... ha! They were quite large cups of ice creams. Still it was nice on a warm evening. My companions chose a mixture of three kinds of ice cream including pistachio and walnut. I chose a local specialty with tipsy cherries, chocolate and vanilla. The menu said it had a little bit of kirschwasser added. Rather it was drowned in the liquid. The kirschwasser bowled me over (I really felt like I had been punched) when I ate it with the vanilla but it was REALLY good with the chocolate part. Now I understand why kirschwasser is used in the original blackforest cake.

It was a really slow, enjoyable dinner on the sidestreets of old Ulm and I wouldn't have changed it for the world. Despite my negative reaction to the salad, I would do it all over again.

* The next day was spent driving back home. Nothing much to write about in that.