piane-piane
creuset

dégorger

Courgette
Provencale produce waiting to "pleurer" or cry out their hearts via a swift sweat.

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dégorger (day-gor-zhay) verb
  to disgorge, to clear out
  to discharge; pour out, to surge (crowd of people)
  to clean, to scour

Eh bien, pleurez ! soyez triste ! Dégorgez votre coeur et dites moi, de temps à autre, comment vous allez. Well then, cry! Be sad! Pour out your heart and tell me, now and again, how you are. --From the book "Correspondance" by Gustave Flaubert
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A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Some French culinary advice for you today: Don't sweat it. Sweat the vegetables! I know this is what my mother-in-law would do. She knows everything about cooking and could separate an egg with her eyes closed. Make that one eye closed. Now imagine that very eye looking down the ridge of a great Gallic nose, or "pif". That is how my belle-mère* cooks: "Au pif" ("by the nose" or "by guesswork").

When our neighbor offered me that home-grown zucchini (as heavy as a magnum and about as big) he suggested I make a gratin de courgette.*

"Zucchini casserole"? I imagine the words coming out of a neatly painted mouth... Delivered as they were from our neighbor's chapped and wrinkled lips, the lines now erased after nine decades of wear, I couldn't help but wonder how a male of his generation knew anything about home economics. Not that a female from my own generation knows gazillions more about the subject. I made an emergency call to Marseilles.

"Allo?" my mother-in-law answered. I trusted she will be able to help. My belle-mère will stop whatever she is doing (whether that be watching her favorite show--Desperate Housewives--or taking her quotidian nap) to listen.

This desperate housewife's ear is now glued to the phone; on the table before me, a bill from France Telecom doubles as a scratch pad.
"Alors, chérie, il faut faire des rondelles..."* My belle-mère instructs me to divide up the zucchini into slices.
"N'oublie pas de les dégorger..." Don't forget to sweat the slices....
"...et les mettre dans un plat..." ...and to put them into a (baking) dish.
"...et faire des couches." ... and to make layers...

My belle-mère tells me that, between layers, I might add gruyère rapé,* chopped garlic, and a bit of grated muscade.* I forget the muscade and add the bits of ham leftover from yesterday's assiette de charcuterie.* There are a few day-old slices of tomato that need to be used; in they go.... I top each layer with a swirl of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and the herbs (sarriette,* thyme, and rosemary) that Aunt Marie-Françoise has collected near the village of Fuveau.

When the layers are quits with the edge of the casserole dish, I crack three eggs into a bowl, add a bit of water, more herbes de Provence,* salt, and pepper, and beat the mixture together before pouring it over the top. I flip the pouch of grated cheese over, shaking it across the dish, so as to leave no stone (or scrap) unturned.

I hesitate to use the gas oven as there are only two temperatures: high heat and low heat. The oven is on loan from my brother-in-law (who, in turn, has borrowed it from Uncle Yannick. My French family borrows appliances as one might borrow a cup of sugar; indeed, what is not bolted down is borrowable).

I decide to not worry about oven temperature and cook the courgettes "au pif." Not forty-five minutes later, I peer into Uncle Yannick's four* and see the golden croûte* of a gorgeously scented squash. My mother-in-law's final instructions come back to me as I pull the savory dish from the oven. I'll share them with you now, as I have her recipe:

Bon appétit!

.............................................................................................................
References: la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law; la courgette (f) = zucchini; Alors, chérie, il faut faire des rondelles... = So then, dear, you must make slices...; le gruyère (m) rapé = grated cheese; la muscade (f) = nutmeg; l'assiette (f) de charcuterie = plate of assorted cold meats; la sarriette (f) = savory; les herbes (f) de Provence = mixed herbs from Provence; le four (m) = oven; la croûte (f) = crust; bon appétit! = enjoy!

     Clearance sale on Emile Henry oval gratins! Check it out here.
     Herbes de Provence in a neat olive wood grinder.
   
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word & quote:
Eh bien, pleurez ! soyez triste ! Dégorgez votre coeur et dites moi, de temps à autre, comment vous allez.
MP3 file: Download degorger.mp3
Wave file: Download degorger.wav

Shopping:
Improve your French: listen to French music: La Biographie de Luka Philipsen by Keren Ann
Cartes Postales: A Delightful Album for Postcards
La Perruche sugar cubes : made in France -- with a rich & perfumed taste with hints of honey/vanilla.Vogue - French Edition
Gluten free madeleines -- individually wrapped

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