To enter to win today's book--a copy of Flirting with French--tell me your favorite thing to eat. Click here to enter.
Today's delicious fish caper begins somewhere near the sea in La Madrague, east of La Ciotat.... but before we begin, a question for those who have had difficulty viewing these emailed posts: how are things looking today? Thanks for reporting any formatting issues to email@example.com
le sous-vide (sew-veed)
: vacuum-sealed (in a plastic bag)
emballé sous vide = vacuum-packed
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Le poisson était présenté en sachet sous-vide.
The fish came in a vacuum-sealed bag.
- Correctly pronounce French with Exercises in French Phonetics
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Sunday morning was quickly turning into a day of galère rather than a day of repos. There was my husband--lying on the floor wrestling with the dishwasher--my clean kitchen now teeming with screwdrivers, filters, even the vacuum cleaner (what in tarnation was he going to suck up this time?)
I took a deep breath, pivoted on my heels, and was on my way back out to the strawberry patch to continue planting all those leafy offshoots, when I heard the victory cry: "Ça y est! Je l'ai réparé!"
Jean-Marc had located the imposteur: a morsel of broken wine glass that had lodged itself into the dishwasher motor. "Je suis assez content de moi!" my husband declared, holding up the shard for an admiring glance. Examining it, I was contente too (we wouldn't be forking out $$$ to the repair man this time!).
This got me thinking...
"Why don't you go to the farmers market and get some daurade to barbecue for lunch?! You could stop at the lone fisherman's stand. His is more expensive--but it's local!"
"D'accord!" my husband agreed. He was in such a good mood I might have asked for lobster, too, but le homard not something you find here, in turquoise blue Mediterranean waters--though you'll find plenty of sea urchin, now that oursin season has begun! (Don't remind my husband of this fact, for no delicacy compares to his beloved oursins, which taste even better when you hunt for them yourself!)
As luck would have it, we were not having those damned urchins today. No, not we! And by the time Jean-Marc had cycled back from the farmers marché , Jackie and I had set the picnic table, adding a bowl of greens from the potager and a tray of new fromages to tide us over until le pièce de résistance!
My daughter and I were now seated table-side on the front patio, picking at our salads and cheese--en train de patienter--when Jean-Marc hurried by, pausing only to yank several branches of rosemary from the bush behind my chair.
"What's that for?" I asked, remembering he only used romarin for mussels. "I thought we agreed on sea bream?"
"C'est pour faire parler les bavardes!" Jean-Marc snickered. "It gives the chatterboxes something to talk about!"
"Ha ha! How much longer?" I shouted as The Rosemary Thief ran down the path on his way to the barbecue.
"Cinq minutes!" came the answer as an unusually giant bundle of herbs disappeared around the corner.
Ah, the famous five minutes! Jackie and I looked at each other when both of us automatically began betting.
"I'd say this particular five minutes translates to..."
"Twenty!" Jackie guessed, beating me to it.
A little while later Jean-Marc returned with three grilled daurades, which looked so good my daughter and I forgot to check our stopwatch.
"Wow!" I cheered as Jean-Marc lowered the platter and three entire daurades were grilled to perfection. Their silver skins cracked with a light charcoal finish and their eyes looked right up at the cook... who would soon eat them--as would his daughter (just as her great-grandmother did and the generations before her who'd lived through war et revolution. Fish eyes were nothing to throw out! Fish cheeks neither!)
"Voilà. Just what you asked for, ma chérie." Jean-Marc purred, serving the crispy-skinned fish. "Daurade sauvage."
"Oh, yes! I can tell it's wild. It looks so... sauvage!!"
"Mmm mmm!" Jackie agreed adding a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of citron before taking another bite. The meat was moist, tender, and faintly sweet. Jean-Marc had obviously spared no expense!
"I know it's a little more expensive," I admitted, setting down my knife to savor the next bite, "but it's so worth it! Don't you agree?"
"Only the best for my chérie!" Jean-Marc insisted. I could tell he was in an especially good mood, which was strange given he'd just emptied his pockets to pay for high quality.
"Au fait, what did it cost? I wondered.
"Thirty? For three fish?! Ten euros each... Well, no wonder it's so good! None of that farmed fish! Besides, you get what you pay for!"
Jean-Marc smiled as he listened to me go on and on about fish quality and how, anyway, it was less expensive than if we were eating daurade in a restaurant--where a single fish could cost up to 27 euros! Just ask my unsuspecting Dad, who treated us to lunch (seaside in Cassis) when he was here last month.
"Well... maybe we could serve this when Sophie comes over next weekend?" I suggested, taking advantage of the generous atmosphere to milk it some more!
"Anytime," Jean-Marc laughed--admitting he'd bought all three fish on sale at the grocery store!
Jackie and I dropped our forks.
"They were out of daurade at the fish stand, so I rode my bike to the supermarket. Found these sous-vide! They were fished in Greece, and are now on special--three for 14 euros! When I got home I removed the packaging, tossed it behind the bushes and put it on a platter.
I looked over at the rosemary bush, his partner in crime. And had he also used its branches to camouflage the taste of cheap fish?
But the fact was, the fish was delicious--and Jean-Marc deserved the praise...as well as a reminder:
"Next time, let's make it local. Better for the environment!"
That smirk returned to my husband's face. Uh-oh, I know what that meant. Prickly sea urchins! And lots of them (the season is now open through April!). My husband would be only too happy for any excuse to go underwater hunting--for the love of les oursins.
"On second thought, Greece isn't so far away...."
* * *
la galère = pain, chore, hell
le repos = rest
je suis assez content = I'm quite pleased
la daurade = sea bream
d'accord = OK
le homard = lobster
l'oursin (m) = sea urchin
le potager = vegetable garden
en train de = in the middle of
patienter = to waiting, waiting
le romarin = rosemary
le citron = lemon
chérie, chéri = darling
au fait = by the way
New rental in Provence. In the charming village of Sablet--this spacious home is the perfect place to return to after sightseeing, bicycling or hiking.See photos here.
"Laguiole" (with the little bee on the handle)! Did you know you can get these popular French knives online? Click here.
Jackie, enjoying the not-so-local daurade, or sea bream.
The winner of Friday's giveaway is Rhonda! Rhonda, your name was drawn randomly, and your reminder, "Pets can be such a comfort for those suffering from Alzheimer's" is a good one. I will contact you today, so get your address ready so I can send you your book.
Meantime, for all readers, here's another chance to win another book.....
WIN THIS BOOK!
In today's story we learned about Jean-Marc's great-grandmother, who ate the eyes right out of the fish on her plate! We learn even more about French culture--via the language--in William Alexander's latest "Flirting With French".
ENTER THIS GIVEAWAY
To enter, simply share your favorite delicacy (if not fish eyes!) Click here to share and enter.
Meantime, I'm taking advantage of the rain to plant many more seeds... and to divide these. Chives! Lots of them. Can't wait to see all the purple flowers some day. In front of the chives, I've planted fraises--strawberries (all free, given they were shoots from the mother plant!). Also planting fèves, or fava beans, pois chiches, or chickpeas, and more comfrey.
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