My mom has a saying that I repeat often: Hunger is the best appetizer.
Know what is the second best appetizer? France.
There were a few meals that excited me while we were in France last month (was it only last month?? Amazing.), but the meals that most impressed me were some of the simplest.
My step grandfather is stubborn. Duh, you’re saying, he’s French. Well. Yes, that is true. (He also has a handle bar moustache. True story)
But with that stubbornness and iron resolve there also comes a meticulous attention to detail. He instills (uh, ok, we’ll go with that) that same meticulous attention to detail upon his wife (who is an angel for putting up with him).
Every single morning, no matter what time we went to bed the night before, the pair rose at 6am.
…And started cooking.
Breakfast was anywhere from 6am to 9am – whenever we awoke, we had our lovely bowl of cafe au lait,with toast, jam, and fruit (all that was if you were really hungry). Heaven help you if you eat too many pieces of toast, though, because lunch is at 11:30, and in France, lunch is dinner. It’s at least four courses, and lasts for enough hours that, afterward, you have enough time to clean the dishes, and then start cooking supper. No kidding. Their whole day is about food.
(that coq au vin was marinating in wine and herbs for three days – I was told that is IMPERATIVE for the perfect, most tender coq. Listen, judge all you want , that shit was damn good. Damn. Good.)
Have I already mentioned the cheese?
We’re talking simple lunches, complex lunches. Lunches that required a preparation that started three days prior. But among my favorites of our multiple courses was a very simple salad of hearts of palm and artichoke hearts.
The second thing that wowed me , was the most simple salad dressing I’ve had in my life. I am terrible at making salad dressing – I can never get the balance right, my dressings don’t emulsify… I’d given up.
…Until I had this one that my grandfather made – every morning, as he sipped his coffee. He sat outside , on the veranda while his wife was in the kitchen, and after retrieving the herbs from the garden, he minced them, so fine. Finer than I’ve ever seen. This was his job. Every morning, he minced the herbs for the dressing that we had , every day. After he minced the herbs, he walked to the bakery for his bread. Really.
We ate that dressing on lettuce, on endive. We dipped our (gluten free!) brioche into it. We had it over tomatoes, cucumbers… and it dressed the hearts of palm and artichoke hearts salad.
I’ve made both since returning home, and I honestly don’t want to ever eat prepared dressing again – and the salad? I cannot eat enough of it.
So, I suppose you want the recipes, huh? D’accord. Allez:
1:2 ratio red wine vinegar to olive oil
fresh chives, shallots, finely minced about a tablespoon of each, or to taste
1 Tablespoon of true dijon mustard (don’t use French’s or Grey Poupon. Come on. Don’t insult me)
combine until emulsified, add salt and pepper (freshly cracked) to taste.
Then, pour over jarred (not marinated) hearts of palm and artichoke hearts. Of course, you can use fresh, if you can find them, or have the patience for it. Combine, and try to restrain yourself from inhaling all of it at once. Do share, it’s the nice thing to do.
He’s a jewel, mon grandpere. How could I think otherwise, of he who calls me “Sacre ‘Ezzer!”?
Go forth and eat like a Frenchman.
And, keep it hot.