Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Waiting for St. Sylvestre

Pile them high and ...

When I went to my favorite supermarket today I could hardly find my way - there were walls and walls of oyster cases stacked all over the place - a sure sign that "Le Reveillon de St. Sylvestre" - New Year's Eve - is coming closer.

...sell them not all that cheap...

After all the capons, turkeys and poulardes, the goose liver and Bûches de Noël (the traditional creamfilled Christmas dessert) for New Year's Eve and the next round of gluttony it is mostly seafood - lobsters, crawfish, scampi, oysters and scallops that are being served. The choice and quality is most impressive and so I had a real hard time to decide what to choose when I went to scout out what is on offer today.

Up for inspection - fresh oysters

... or rather some crayfish from Cuba?

... and what about scallops and some clams?

After much looking, sniffing and discussion I have made up my mind - we'll have some crawfish with a homemade mayonnaise and a scoop of fresh salmon tartare for starters. Since that is all I am in charge of this year I can happily lean back now until the 31st when I have to get up real early and do the shopping, because all the good stuff sells out real fast - The Provençal are dyed in the wool gourmets.
And because that is so I just know we'll have a real feast coming up - I have heard rumors of a whiskey-poularde and  I know that the cheese board comes from our wonderful local cheese shop. And then of course, just like last year, we'll have "Les treize desserts"  to see in 2011 in style. Can't wait!

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy New Year 2011!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

I feel hugely honoured to have been nominated for the "Beautiful Blogger Award" by Claudia of "A Seasonal Cook in Turkey" - a wonderful Istanbul cum cooking blog I very much recommend reading. In order to receive this award Claudia tells me that I have to tell you five things you so far didn't know about me. Since Cuisine de Provence is first and foremost a culinary blog, I thought it best to keep my confessions along those lines. So here we go:
  • Biggest culinary failure - I cannot cook rice. I tried it the traditional way, I tried cooking rice in a microwave, I tried it with a rice-cooker, no matter what I tried - somehow rice and I don't agree. So whenever a dish calls for rice it is my beloved OH who does that bit of cooking and he does it fabulously well!
  • Food hate - in order to appreciate Jellied Eels I guess you have to be born and bred in the East End of London (at least that is what my London fishmonger told me after making me taste them and seeing me trying not to gag) and I think the same is true for Andouilettes. As I was not raised eating these pungent sausages I am sorry but there is simply no way I can stomach them. For those of you who have never seen them, they are made out of pigs intestines and that is what they smell like, too. And I have yet to be invited to a BBQ in Provence where they are not served...
  • Best loved food - almost anything Chinese. As much as I like French, especially Provençal or Mediterranean cuisine I just love Chinese cuisine - as far as I am concerned one of the best cuisines of the world.
  • Coffee or Tea? Having lived in London for quite some years I can't function without a big pot of tea first thing in the morning. But ever since George Clooney seduced me into buying our wonderful Nespresso machine more and more of those fragrant little black cups keep sneaking into our daily routine.
  • Favourite larder standby - chopped vegetables - carrots, red and green peppers, leek, beans etc. Okay so it is not strictly a larder but a freezer standby but whenever I buy or harvest vegetables I chop some up and freeze them. Take a handfull here and there, add some vegetable stock and when al dente stir in some pistou that has also been fabricated in summer when the basil was plenty and frozen in ice cube trays. Inhale deeply and wherever you are: this is instant Provence on a plate.
Also in order to receive my award I was asked to nominate five blogs for the Beautiful Blogger Award myself. So here we go - and for good measure here are six blogs I either have been following for some time or have justy recently discovered:
Avignon in Photos - I adore this photo blog that lets you discover (not only) the city of Avignon because Nathalie is a wonderful chronicler with a fantastic and artistic eye for details.
Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino - because Italian Cuisine is the next best thing to French-Provençal cooking and not only do Eleonora's photos leave me salivating, her blog is amusing and instructive to read, too.
Tumeric n Spice - two sister in laws write this blog that deals mostly with Indian Cuisine and is just too beautiful for words. Do go and see for yourself!
Our house in Provence - because Michel from California with a house in our neighboring village of Sablet has a knack for discovering the hidden beauties of Provence, plus he is a fabulous restaurant tester - one look at his blog and you'll know where to go.
A Feast for the Eyes - because it is just what it says and Debbie who calls herself a "foodiewife" is a joy to read.
Schnitzel and the Trout - because Susan (the Schnitzel) writes one of the nicest, interesting and yummy foodblogs, often commented upon by her flyfishing husband (the Trout) - lovely!

So I guess I have now earned my Beautiful Blogger Award - thank you so very much Claudia - I wish I could nominate you right back because I really do enjoy your blog a lot!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vacqueras' Christmas Market or "La grande Bouffe"

Mulled Wine helps fight the freezing Mistral  

So there was mulled wine (generously offered by the local winegrowers and much needed to fight the freezing gusts of Mistral) plus a few art and craft stalls but what this mornings Christmas Market in Vacqueras really showed was that come Christmas time what interests the true Provençal is "la grande bouffe" (politely translated: big dinners).

Shopping for oysters: Father Christmas

And this is what he bought

We met Father Christmas at the oyster stall, discussed the price of truffles - 980 Euros a kilo at a stall that advertised them as "washed and brushed" and 320 Euros at another stall where they didn't look all that dirty either. Selling truffles unwashed, i.e. adding expensive grams of caked dirt to the precious tuber is a well tried trick of Provençal truffle merchants.

Somewhat expensive but clean truffles

Christmas dinner suggestion: Stuffed duck legs


So instead of stocking up on truffles  - that will have to wait until after the holidays when the price goes down - we admired Santons, the typical Provençal figurines that populate the "crèche" - the nativity scene. I especially liked this truffle hunter:

Truffle Hunter

Guarding the Wine

Driving home we met yet another Father Christmas. This one was guarding the entrance to the Vacqueras winery, probably in preparation to a night shift of stuffing stockings. I sure wouldn't mind receiving one of those!