One of the best ways to ensure that baked goods will come out of a pan, especially sweet treats that tend to have sticky edges, it to line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Bar cookies and brownies are very good candidates for baking in foil-lined pans. I recommend using the heaviest aluminum foil you can find as the flimsy stuff tears easily. Here’s how I do it:
I’ve had a lot of visitors this season and everyone, of course, wanted me to pick a restaurant where to meet up. It was great to see so many long-lost friends, but since it was two meals a day for a couple of weeks, my “idea list” began to run dry. And while I have a bunch of places that I personally want to try, most visitors don’t want to “try out a new place” (and for some reason, no one wants to go out for pizza…), so rather than risk a so-so meal, they wanted me to pick something tried-and-true. Which I suppose is fair enough.
But after a while, I was tapped out. It got to the point where I had lunch one day at one place, then returned to their partner restaurant across the street for dinner a few hours later that same night. And I also learned that there’s only so much restaurant food you can eat. I used to wonder why food critics complained about their jobs, having to eat all the time. Yet by the end of my guest stints, I was starting to wave the white flag of surrender myself.
I did have a little break and went to a French friend’s home for lunch one day, and knowing both of us were pretty busy, and eating a little too much lately, we left the decision to whatever we felt that we’d be in the mood for that day. Then that day arrived, and neither of us could decide. At her suggestion, and in deference to our waistlines, and our pocketbooks (or in my case, my wallet), she invited me over for soup.
I was recently reading a Paris-based website and a reader had written to them, asking them why they were always talking about restaurants in the 10th arrondissement where “.. there isn’t much to do there.” The response was that that’s where most of the new and interesting places are opening. And while it’s not where most visitors dream about staying when they come to Paris, there are certainly plenty of interesting shops and restaurants there, as that’s where the younger chefs are setting up shop.
I get the reader’s point, that they (like many visitors to Paris), are looking for more traditional French restaurants, such as bistros and brasseries. The other evening I went to a bistro in Paris, up in the 11th, with a friend who is a food writer. The menu outside noted that the cuisine was fait maison (homemade), and we were excited about trying this address, which he’d heard was very good. And I had brought along my camera, hoping to share it.
But alas, the food at the unnamed bistro was served tepid and while it was made with the ingredients that were, as the French would say, correct, the dishes served to us were obviously prepared in advance and rewarmed. (And served on cold plates, which negated the reheating of the food.) It was all very average, including the lemon meringue tart, which, due to the lack of taste, made us conclude that it had obviously been languishing in the refrigerator long enough so that all the flavor had been leached out of it, replaced by that unmistakable dullness of refrigeration.
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It’s easy to forget about Thanksgiving in Paris. There are no bags of stuffing mix clogging the aisles in the supermarkets. If you asked a clerk where is the canned pumpkin, they would look at you like you were fou (crazy). And if you open the newspaper, you won’t come across any sales on whole turkeys. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; a friend saw a 5 kilo turkey, an 11 pound bird, at the market the other day for €68kg, or €340 ($424).
(Although I think if you spent over four hundred dollars on a turkey, you wouldn’t forget it for a long, long time.)
I suggested that the turkey vendor perhaps forgot a comma because whole turkeys are, indeed, available in Paris, and they actually excellent since most are fermier, not the plump whoppers you see in the states. The only thing you have to be careful about is that one turkey might not be enough if you’re feeding a large crowd, say, a group of over six people. Savvy Americans know to order a whole turkey in advance from their butcher and – get this: You can ask them to cook it for you. Yes, since the butchers usually have spits with roasting chickens on them, it’s usually not a problem for them to slide a turkey on there. That’s especially nice because most people in Paris just have one oven and it’s hard to tie it up for the entire day with just a bird roasting in it when you’ve got so many other things to bake and cook off.
The other day, while minding my business, taking a casual stroll about town, I suddenly realized that I’d written “Bonne anniversaire,” or “Happy Birthday,” in French, here on the site. It’s an honest mistake because the happy (or bon, er, I mean, bonne) expression is pronounced bonneanniversaire, rather than bon (with a hard “n”) anniversaire, because, as the French would say, it’s “plus jolie,” or simply, “more beautiful.”
(And I’m pretty sure I got that jolie right. Since it refers to l’expression, which is feminine, it’s jolie, rather than, joli. Although both are pronounced exactly the same. And people think I spend all day making up recipes…)
I raced back home as fast as my feet could take me, shoving pedestrians aside and knocking over a few old ladies in my path, to correct it to “Bon anniversaire.” Then afterward, after I caught my breath, I did a search on some French grammar sites on the Internet and landed on one forum with four intricate pages of heated discussions on whether it was actually masculine (bon) or feminine (bonne). Everyone (well, being France, most people…) agreed that it was masculine – although curiously, it’s pronounced as bonne, the feminine, when wishing someone, or anyone, a “Happy Birthday.”
Just like you would never write, or say, ma amie (feminine) – even if “my” friend was a girl or woman, because it would sound like ma’amie, which reads like Finnish, and if spoken (go ahead, try it) sounds like bleating sheep. So it’s always mon ami, and mon amie, a gender-bending (and for us learning the language, a mind-boggling) minefield of a mix of masculine and feminine pronouns.
Another thing that confuses people is salade, which is what lettuce is generally referred to in French, when talking about the genre of lettuces. If it is a specific kind of lettuce – batavia, rougette, romaine, l’iceberg, etc, it’s often referred to by type. Yet the word salade is also used to refer to composed salads, like salade niçoise, salade de chèvre chaud, and salade parisienne. Hence non-French speakers are often confused when they order a sandwich with salade and find a few dinky leaves of lettuce on their plate, not the big mound of nicely dressed greens that they were hoping for.
Whew! After those first three paragraphs, I think you’ll understand why French is a tricky language to master, and even the French are at odds with how to say and write what. No wonder everybody smokes. #stress In fact, I think I also need to step outside myself after writing all of that.
As the weather turns cooler, the skies of Paris take on that violet-gray color that we’re all (too) familiar with, which means the onset of winter. When you live in a space-challenged city like Paris, that means going through those long-forgotten boxes you’ve stored away since last spring, and sadly putting away those short sleeve shirts and linens, replacing them in your closet with wool coats, scarves, and mittens. (Although I think I am the only adult in Paris who wears them. The other people, over eight years old, wear gloves.)
The outdoor markets of Paris take place, rain or shine, sunshine or sleet, no matter what the skies and weather are up to. The vendors never go on strike, and even on les jours fériés (national and public holidays), they are always there, selling their fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. I’m always struck by their ability to stand out there in the dead of winter when their cabbages, bunches of radishes, and rows of lettuce, are all frozen solid. When the rest of us can barely stand to be outside for more than thirty minutes, they’re there from 7am to 2pm in the unfavorable weather, setting up, selling, then breaking everything down and packing it all up, ready to do it all again the next day in another neighborhood.
There is an outdoor market every day, somewhere in Paris, except Monday, and most people simply go to the one closest to where they live. Other markets may beckon, but few want to schlep bags of produce home on the métro when they can walk to a market just a few blocks away. And once you know the vendors at your market, it’s a much more enjoyable experience to shop there. (Plus you get better stuff, and most vendors let me pick my own produce, rather than decide for me.) I happen to live between three outstanding markets – the Bastille market, Popincourt, and the Marché d’Aligre. Here are some of the things that caught my eye this week at the Popincourt market:
The first thing you’ll notice during the winter is a lot of mandarines. It’s not winter in France if you aren’t walking by tables heaped with mandarins – a jumble of tangerines and clementines. They come from a variety of places, but the ones from Corsica seem to draw the most interest. As for me, I tend to grab ones that don’t have seeds in them. I also look for ones with fresh leaves; wilted foliage is an indication that they’ve been picked a little while ago.
Next Sunday – November 30th – I’ll be at WHSmith Paris for a booksigning.
I’ll be at the book shop from 4pm to 5:30pm to meet and greet. There will be copies of My Paris Kitchen and The Sweet Life in Paris, as well as a limited amount of copies of The Great Book of Chocolate and Ready for Dessert. It’s the perfect opportunity for some holiday gift shopping – for yourself, or for friends or family. Or both!
If you can’t make it to the event, you can order a book from WHSmith and pick it up at the store, or have it shipped to you. (Depending on your location – more information is at that link.) You can visit the Facebook Event Page to RSVP, although it’s not necessary. Just stop by! See you there…