IMG_4789.JPGMore packing, more cleaning out the shed, more and more just moving things out. Borrowed truck, a run to the dump, a run to the toxic waste depository (it was free), and then…

Something light“, she told me. In the same breath she suggested both Ensaladilla Rusa and Salade Nicoise. Uh huh. Well, the Salade Nicoise works as ‘light’ for obvious reasons, but the Ensaladilla rusa? That’s a Spanish potato salad dish. “Potatoes are ‘heavy‘”, I told her, which elicited a look which said Ignore my inconsistencies…I contain multitudes and so I let it go.

Thirty years together, you learn shit. Ignore it at your peril. So I opted out of the Russian potato salad scenario and chose the French classic salad. The weather has been perfect for this, anyway, but it didn’t stop me from procuring the necessary ingredients for my Ensaladilla rusa special version (thanks Jose Andres) to be used another time.

I also bought the requisites for bourguignon de joues de beef (Beef Cheeks Bourgignon) except that everywhere I called didn’t actually carry the damn things–even the local Chinese and Hispanic butchers. The only place that did carry it was Local Butcher Shop as they practice whole animal butchery and they had just sold their two cheeks a couple of hours earlier, and as any animal sold for meat, they still have only two cheeks per. #%$&! And they had only bought a single steer.

This left me with the need to substitute for the cheeks, so some quick inquiries of my own Berkeley Bowl West butcher confirmed that brisket would serve up just fine for a braising approach. Roasts and braised meats are not styles of cooking I utilize often these days, given that in some cases the cooking can take from two hours to an entire day to complete and both wifey and I aren’t keen on leaving our oven or stovetop unattended for even a little awhile. As this particular dish requires an overnight marinade and the cooking will only take a couple of hours (90 minutes, hopefully), it lay within the comfort and safety zone for us (though the ’90 minutes’ is a bit of a fantasy I’ve been led to believe).

I pulled this recipe out of this book because…frankly, the book is so casually written but most importantly, the photos inside are absolutely mouthwatering. French Feasts will provide you with the bare bones approach to cooking nearly 300 classic and traditional recipes. Believe me, you might buy the cookbook for the photos (which is why I bought it) but as I said the recipes are pretty bare boned. If you are an experienced cook, you will be able to navigate through these recipes with a little application. If you are uncertain what the difference between braising and roasting meat is, then just look at the pictures.

But seriously…more on that later.

Friday ended up with me in the kitchen, preparing Salade Nicoise and a more delightful result I cannot think of nor remember. Hard boiled eggs, haricot Verts, fingerling potatoes all got boiled/blanched in the same water (to different times obviously) and the rest was simply putting together sliced red bells, nicoise olives, good oil-packed tuna, sliced cucumber, diced red pearl onions (only two of us, remember), and anchovies. The dressing was mashed garlic and shallot with lemon juice, a spritz of red vinegar, and olive oil–and a touch of this German sweet mustard we bought the other day, Handlmaier’s Sweet Mustard.

We demolished nearly the entire plate. To accompany this, I thought to make a tarte aux poireaux, a simple leek tart put over puff pastry. Merely sautée the sliced leeks with a bit of cucumber, add some heavy cream and a bit of egg and combine…then spread on the puff pastry shell. Very simple and tasty…though I added a soupçon of butter to the cooking olive oil for added flavor. Note–the recipe called for a helluva lot more cream than was really necessary for this dish.

We shared what was left of a bottle of burgundy (Chateau de Terrefort-Quancard 2008) as the rest was marinating the brisket bourguignon in the refrigerator.

It came out reasonably well. I’ll probably serve this as a little appetizer tonight before the beef is done.