Friday, April 23, 2010

Easter Dinner in Paris

We don’t celebrate Easter, and the funny thing is the French don’t either, as far as I can tell.   French people I know will point out that they are Catholic and that it is a Catholic country, with a sense of pride that sounds like it descends from 300 year old distinctions between Catholics and Protestants that don’t have a lot of resonance to me.  But I spent a full day walking around Paris on Easter Sunday and didn’t see a single person who looked like they were coming or going from Church.  No Mass going on in the churches that I could see.  It makes you realize what a religious country the US is.

DSC_1587 But it is of course a holiday, as is the Monday after, so most of the restaurants were closed.  No problem because Sunday (and Wednesday) is the Grenelle Market.  DSC_1580 Two blocks from the Ouessant apartment, under the elevated metro tracks along Boulevard de Grenelle, it runs for three or four blocks, a mix of clothes, assorted bricabrac, and food.  Blocks and blocks of stalls of every kind of food imaginable.  Vegetable stands, butchers, pork butchers, bread shops, wine merchants, olive places, an oyster stand, dried fruit, honey, nuts, prepared food (the prepared food specialty seems to be enormous open platters of paella, and big pots of sauerkraut and sausage).

DSC_1582 What is most amazing is that there are three of each of each of these places.  One of the fish stalls has five times the fresh fish you could find in the best fish market a thome.  Big stacks of flounder and sole, five different kinds of shrimp, so many kinds of fin fish that I would be embarrassed to ask which is which, and fifty feet down there is another one. How does that work?  Some kind of consequence of French socialisme, I guess.  And the people shopping were almost all French, ladies with their shopping bags who looked like they were getting food for dinner.  DSC_1586

For a cook like me it is just heaven, it is my real reason for being in France.  I have visited these markets for years (they are all over Paris, on different days) but I never had any reason to buy anything, since we were always eating out.  It was frustrating.  So tonight I was going to DSC_1589 make Easter dinner.  Among other things, it was a French language challenge.  My French is OK, nothing great, and since CAMs is basically perfect it is too easy for me to coast along and let her do the talking.  But I was shopping on my own, so I had to deal with all the fish and meat guys on my own.  And just like Julia Child’s says, they are wonderful, old-fashioned, heavy-set, salty men who were all happy to answer my questions and chat a little.  I got nice cooked shrimp at the fish market, some grated carrot salad (carrotte rapee) from the prepared food guy, asparagus and an avocado from the vegetable people (I chose the one with a long line, figuring that people must know something).  Finally I had to get some lamb to roast.  DSC_1597 This was the trickiest part, because it was expensive and I don’t know the words for the various cuts.  But I found a guy who had what looked like boneless legs, and after some discussion I bought one.  He talked me into buying too much, so I wound up leaving 15 bucks worth of lamb in the rental frig the next day. 

Now for food blogging (like on my abandoned food blog, at  MT and I halved the avocados and hung three shrimp off each one, filled the cavities with some vinaigrette.  Roasted the lamb to medium rare coated with mustard and black pepper, and roasted the potatoes and asparagus in olive oil right along with it.    DSC_1600 Had to keep it simple because I didn’t know my way around the tiny and ill-supplied kitchen.  But it was good, and fun.  Dessert was an apple tart CAM bought from one of the three tart ladies in the Grenelle Market.We had Sandy and Steve over for dinner, sat up late eating and drinking wine.  Great evening.

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