Tuesday, June 14, 2011

À propos de...

...wuouw!  (which is how the French say it here...it kind of sounds like woo-ahh-ouuuh.)

La Fourchette is enjoying the honor of being the featured blogger on BlogHer!  A petite curtsy to food editor, Genie Gratto, and all the other kind peeps at BlogHer for the lovely compliment.  And a warm bien venue to all the readers from the site that are pulling chairs up to the table and nibbling on petite tranches of this little French life.

The plan for today was to bump the Mardi Meteo and offer up something tasty in place of it - and now it seems perfect timing for welcoming guests to the kitchen.

I made a decision years ago to stay away from English-speakers here in Aix.  I arrived with no French and fell in with a crowd of ex-pats with whom I spoke only English.  What's more, they spoke very little French.  Though I had been warned before leaving California to not hang out with other Anglophones (English speakers) "and no matter how painful" to immerse myself with only French speakers, I did not heed that word of caution and realized a year or two into my stay that my language skills were going absolutely nowhere.  "This was not my plan," I remember saying to myself.  "There is something wrong with this picture."

"So integrate, damn it!" (That little voice within sometimes sounds like a drill sergeant - or a mean nun with a potty mouth.)

Thus started a seismic shift in my little French life.  I enrolled in a university course here...

...and plopped myself into 22 hours a week of intensive language courses to bring my speaking skills up to speed.  I even dated a French man (which never progressed far enough for my French to improve in ways that people keep telling me will happen if I get involved with a French man ... but I digress...) The shift in my associations and priorities was deliberate.

I'm pleased to say that a few years later, it was absolutely the right decision for me.  But of course, there are always exceptions to any rule, and so it is for me and my "no anglophones allowed" limit.

This deliciously spicy recipe is from the Provençal kitchen of an Australian friend.  She was here when I first arrived.  We met in a wine-tasting group - so already we had the food and wine thing in common.  Then she and her family left the country when her husband was called back to Australia.  A few years later and - as we say in these parts: voilà!  They are back - which pleases me tremendously.  I break my rule when these folks are in the 'hood.  (Actually, I break my rule a bit more often these days as I'm much more comfortable gliding around in two tongues than I was when the second tongue was still babbling like a two-year old.)

I sat down at their dinner table one night (she is a fabulous cook and enjoys sticking with the local cuisine while she's here) to a lovely souris d'agneau (braised lamb) and begged for the recipe as I licked my plate.  No, really!  I believe I actually licked my plate in a shameless manner...okay, perhaps I used my finger as a mop...same-o, same-o...it was simply that good.  I think we even had a good-natured tussle over who was going to have the last of the mashed potatoes to sop up the final drops of this sauce.  Needless to say, I'm glad they're back...and not just for the great food and the fact that she generously shares her recipes.

As I went in search for the necessary ingredients for this dish I ran into a wall that I've hit before: chilli peppers are not so easy to come by in these parts.  Perhaps in the Basque region and the rest of the southwest of France one might find the chillies that I'm used to as a California Girl, but here....errr...not so much.  A visit to my favorite spice vendor at the marché had me toting away the closest thing I could find:  some little bird's eye chilli peppers - like the kind I use when I make piri piri.  (You can see them in bottom of the mortar - the long colorful peppers laying in wait to release...well...you'll see...)

I tossed them into the mortar with the coriander seeds and a pinch of regular red pepper flakes and hit the pestle against these puppies to grind them into the rub for the lamb.  My throat closed immediately and my eyes filled with water as if my inner fire department had been called to service with and endless water supply for a three alarm fire.  No worries, though!  That passes...but you may want to make a note here to adjust the type of chilli you use to your taste and tolerance for heat. 

The sauce cooks down to a luscious gravy consistency and the meat is fork tender when all is said and done.  I served it with mashed potatoes but it would be just as lovely with a lighter couscous as an accompaniment.

If you're not already beating the heat in your region with salad fare, slip this into your menu before temperatures rise.  If you have to wait until fall, make sure you keep it handy to remember it - it will be worth the wait!

Bon appetit!

Provence meets California meets Australia Spicy Braised Lamb Shanks

4 lamb shanks
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon whole coriander
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh red chillies - to your taste and tolerance of heat
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 large carrot, quartered and finely chopped
1 stalks celery finely chopped
2 large onions finely chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
170ml dry white wine
6 anchovy fillets
2 x 400g tinned tomatoes
1 tablespoon or to taste of fresh basil, torn or cut in a chiffonade

Season the lamb with salt and pepper.  Pound coriander seeds and chillis in a mortar and pestle.  Add the chopped rosemary and oregano and mix with a couple of tablespoons of flour - or at least enough to roll lamb in this mixture,  pressing herbs and peppers in well and shaking off excess flour.

Heat a large casserole, add oil and brown meat on all sides and remove.

Add garlic, carrot, celery, onions and a pinch of salt and sweat until softened.

Add balsamic vinegar, white wine and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add anchovies and then tomatoes. (I used the organic tomatoes in a jar rather than whole for this, but either works well.)

Stir and return lamb to the pot.

Bring to the boil, put on the lid and simmer in a 180 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove lid and cook for another 30 minutes.

Sprinkle basil over the top and serve with garlic smashed potatoes, couscous or crusty bread.

Serves 4
Recipe can easily be doubled to serve more.


Anonymous said...

Madame LER,

For me, the most appropriate comment for your recipe is that I hope you shared some of it with your true love Bodhi!!

Bubba's Person

donna said...

So this will be one of my "Pretend you're in Provence" meals....i occasionally do a theme meal, with a nice french wine, and call it an escape......one prime time is when the "Tour de France" is in your neck of the woods....thanks for the great recipe....looks yummy!

la fourchette said...

BP, *too* spicy for the Bodhster. But this week he's been enjoying roasted salmon, spinach and sweet potato meals. Next week, it's turkey, peas and ... well, actually, probably some sweet potato - he loves the stuff!

donna, what a great idea! This is really good and likely to please your crowd. I can see it now: all of you sipping a lovely French wine after a meal of souris d'agneau - under the wine bottle lanterns in your garden! Bon app!


Ann Knickerbocker said...

I had not been checking in with you for awhile -- travel, struggling with drawing vs. painting --- but I caught up with you this morning. Love the recipe -- sounds scrumptious!! I am delighted to "hear" from your entries that you seem to be getting your groove back. Your happiness is infectious. Take care!

la fourchette said...

Ann, lovely to see you - welcome back! I'm still waaaay behind in checking in around the blog-o-sphere...which is definitely my loss as it's always so inspiring to see what the rest of you are doing out and about in the world. I giggled at your struggle - with respect, of course, and great empathy! Ahhhh...the creative crisis! Thanks for stopping in in the midst of it all. a+


Mary said...

Waouh !
my comment will be short because I'm not an english speaker !! If I could ! .. but English is not so easy !
I love "Souris d'agneau" ! The first time I ate this meal was in the Courtepaille restaurant, in "Ile-de-France", but not with chilli ! But yours seems delicious and tasty : yum ! yum ! I'm hungry now !

la fourchette said...

Mary, waouh! Your English is quite impressive for being a non-English speaker. These second (perhaps it's even *more* than two for you!) languages are quite the task to tackle, non? I'm with you on the souris d'agneau! For me, it's a bit like shooting my favorite fountain in town: I just keep doing it over and over. I collect recipes for souris d'agneau as well. I think you'll like this.


You migh also like:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...