So…the next time you’re in Bourgogne…

In 2007 we had the great  fortune of traveling with some good friends through Belgium and France. It would be our friends first time in France, and our first time exploring the French countryside without a business agenda to tend to.

I think that planning a trip is almost as much fun as getting on the plane and actually leaving, and for this particular journey, we planned for several months. Food and wine played a large role in our wish list and, given all logistics, the Burgundy region of France seemed like a good area to explore. I was responsible for lodging and spent many happy hours perusing hotel web sites. Finally though, I struck gold with www.innsoffrance.com. This site is a great resource if you’re looking for small, out of the way inns. The one we chose, Auberge La Beursaudiere, seemed too good to be true…it’s a few centuries old and the rooms are around a courtyard.

Photo of Auberge La Beursaudiere

There are only 11 rooms, each uniquely decorated. This was the view from our bathroom…you had to open the wooden shutters to see it:

view

 

And this is the little terrace outside our friends’ room. In the early evening we would ask the staff to bring us a bottle of local wine…they always added a little amuse bouche to go with it.

 Europe 07-April 068

So, aside from the price, the charm, the wine and the scenery, this inn also had a wonderful restaurant. The little town of Nitry was pretty dull, but this place was packed every night. They served regional fare…think sophisticated country food. My favorite dish was ouefs en meurette–eggs baked in red wine. Here’s a recipe from a cookbook my friends bought for me in Burgundy:

8 eggs

1/4 lb bacon, minced

1/2 bottle red wine

1 1/2 tsp butter

1 onion, minced

3 shallots, minced

1 bouquet garni

1 baguette

garlic

salt and pepper

Make a roux of the butter and flour. Add the bacon, bouquet garni, wine, 1/3 cup water, onion and shallot, salt and pepper to taste.

Cook for 30-40 minutes.

Remove bouquet garni and strain sauce.

Fill four individual ovenproof baking dishes 2/3 full of sauce. Break 2 eggs into each. Bake at 375 until whites are cooks and yolks are still liquid. (check after 15 minutes).

Serve with sliced baguette rubbed with garlic

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Comfort Food

I have a friend who could really use a break. In the year before I met him, he lost three family members. Since then, one other has died, another was just diagnosed with a debilitating–and terminal–illness and then, I kid you not, his dog died. What on earth can you do to help someone in that situation?

Hugs and prayers are great, but sometimes they’re not all that fulfilling. So I decided to cook.

My friend enjoys his food, but he’s not a cook. I thought about what to make, consulted with someone else who knows him better than I, and decided to cook him meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

You just can’t get more basic than that. In long run, it’s hard to get much better than that either. Besides, it’s easy to transport and easy to fix, even for a noncook. I gave him the meatloaf in an aluminum tin so it only had to be put in the oven. The potatoes were mashed by hand and could be reheated in the microwave.

My meatloaf is little out of the ordinary and is chameleon-like in its makeup. Generally speaking though, the ingredients are:

1 lb ground beef

1/4 lb ground pork

half a chopped onion

3 cloves chopped garlic

1 can chopped tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup or so roasted red pepper (from a jar is fine), chopped

handful each chopped fresh basil and Italian parsely

1/2 cup or so grated parmesean

2 eggs, beaten

bread crumbs if it seems too juicy/catsup if it seem too dry

salt/pepper

mix up everything but the eggs. Just roll up your sleeves and use your hands. Then mix in the eggs and decide if you think it’s too juicy or not. If it won’t hold a shape–like a ball–it probably needs some bread crumbs, but don’t overdo it.

Put into loaf pan and bake at 350 for an hour.

Hope you like it…it really is one of those recipes that you can add or subtract to according to your taste.

My friend loved it. Food can’t make everything better, not by a long shot. But cooking for someone has got to be one of the nicest–most comforting–things you can do.

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Guacomole–less is more

I firmly believe that everyone has one little thing that they do better than almost anyone else. It might be playing the piano. Or folding towels. It can be anything.

For me, that one thing I do better than almost anyone else is make guacomole. Husband has a cousin in Texas who might be better, but she’s a few hundred miles away.

Last night the girlfriends met at Lime, at trendy new nightspot in Nashville. It’s all open patios and cool breezes and a Caribbean sort of vibe. Upscale Caribbean, not funky. They offer all sorts of ‘tinis and the appetizers were two for one.

We started out with some guacomole and chips. Guacomole is one of those things where less is more. There are some dishes out there that require an entire grocery cart to put together. Guacomole isn’t one of them.

Unfortunately, the guac maker at Lime doesn’t agree with me. Not only does this concoction have green bell pepper in it, our server proudly told us that it had been made at 1 a.m. so the flavors would have time to “marry.”

Please, the flavors in good guacomole have no interest in marrying. In fact, they should barely know one another because guac should go from kitchen to table as soon as it’s made. In fact, if you can just stand around the kitchen counter and eat it straight from the mixing bowl, all the better.

Also, guac should not have the appearance of green French onion dip. It should be chunky. If you ever run across soupy guac, you can be sure that it was either a) made from a mix or b) stretched with sour cream.

Here’s how I make it–with a nod to the Barefoot Contessa.

4 ripe Haas (black, bumpy skin) advocados. They should give slightly when squeezed, but not be mushy.

2-3 lemons

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

kosher salt

2-3 T chopped purple onion (optional)

2-3 T chopped tomato (optional)

Slice advocados lenghtwise around seed. Hold the half with the seed and whack it with a sharp knife so that the knife sticks in the seed. Gently twist and remove seed. With knife, score the flesh into cubes, scoop out with large spoon.

Start adding the other ingredients remembering that it’s almost impossible to have too much lemon juice. The lemons not only add flavor, they also keep the fruit from discoloring. Don’t stir too much, it needs to stay chunky. Just add and taste.

I promise, if you like avocado, you’ll like this version.

guacomole

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A Story About Cheese

One thing that husband and I always knew was that we wanted to travel.  We wanted to see the places we’d learned about in school and explore the places we hadn’t.

In 1990 we made our first trip to Scotland and England. In 1992 we went again. These first two trips were sort of shake-down journeys for us…learning the ropes of international travel. Each time, we went with a small group from Little Rock.

Yes…we went with a group. It was a good introduction to travel and we have fond memories from those excursions.

On our second trip to England, in 1992, I was just learning about food. You have to know that even though this was only 17 years ago, things like fresh herbs, salmon and exotic cheese were rare in Arkansas–despite being the home of the newly elected president.

So off we went to England. One thing I quickly learned whilst lunching in British pubs was to order the Ploughman’s Lunch–typically this consists of bread, good English cheese, maybe a pate and some pickle. No baked beans poured cold from the can…no sausage roll.

One night in London, most of our group went to an upscale restaurant named after a famous degenerate, Thomas de Quincey. I don’t remember that much about the main courses, but I do remember the cheese.

Allow me to digress here momentarily…growing up, cheese was not something I loved. Cheese in Franklin in the 60’s mainly consisted on Kraft Singles. But as I got older, I discovered things like Roquefort Dressing and a whole cheesey world opened up.

When the waiter came by to take our dessert orders, I opted for the cheese trolley. He wheeled it over and lifted the cover. Immediately, a foul smelling stench surrounded our table. Think amonia mixed with week-old garbage that’s been left in the July sun. The rest of our table recoiled. Except for me. Hmmm…I said, perusing my options. I queried the waitier and he was only too happy to answer any questions. (Never underestimate the power of a Southern accent.) I finally choose three…I wish I could remember what they were, but I can’t.

A couple of snooty older women at the table took me to task for making them smell the unpleasant cheese. I had had enough of their carping.

“Listen,” I said. “I’m in England and I’m going to eat the cheese. Y’all can just go back to Little Rock and have your Velveeta.”

They were a little stunned. But I looked across the table and saw our tour guide, a bon vivant if there ever was one.

“Oh bravo Cindy…bravo.”

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Come in. Sit down.

Hello and welcome to Here In Franklin’s Table.

Would you like a glass of wine? Red or white?

A beer? Let’s see…I’ve got some Harpoon IPA, Budweiser…oh, and there’s some Sierra Neveda Pale Ale too.

Please, just don’t ask for iced tea because despite my Southerness, I don’t drink it and hardly ever make it.

If you found your way here from my other blog, welcome. If you stumbled  in, glad to meet you.

This is where you’ll find the occasional recipe…shopping tips…commentary on the state of food and whatever else comes to mind. The food in the header all came from the local farmer’s market, except for the herbs, which came from my own backyard.  The squash and sage are in my oven right now and smell delicious. Here’s the recipe.

Wait, before I give you the recipe, you should know that I’m not a real measurer, so amounts tend to be approximate. But here’s a good rule of thumb…start with a little and add as you go. Remember, you can always add, but you can never take away.

Here’s what I used:

Six young yellow squash

2-3 tablespoons butter

About 1/2 cup of finely grated reggianito Argentinian cheese–now I’m just showing off here–any parmesean-type will do, EXCEPT that powder in the green can

About 1/2 cup of finely grated cheddar

1 heaping wooden spoonful each of sour cream and Hellman’s mayo

2-3 Tablespoons fresh chopped sage

2-3 Tablespoons chopped onion

A few dashes red pepper to taste

Kosher salt to taste

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Slice up the  squash–if they’re young, you don’t have to bother with peeling them. Simmer them in a covered pot until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

Put the squash in a good-sized bowl. Add butter and stir.

Add other ingredients, a little at a time. Mix all and taste before adding egg. Adjust as necessary. Pour into 9×9 dish. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until set.

This blog is a work in progress and if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see, please let me know. If I can make it, I’ll tell you. If I can’t, I’ll try to steer you in the right direction. 

Ok…squash is almost done. Time to get the chicken on the grill.

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