Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

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Shire-d egg

Baked egg, duxelles, maché with craisins and walnuts.

Baked egg, duxelles, maché with craisins and walnuts.

I know that baked eggs are technically called “shirred eggs,” but I like to call them Shire-d because, despite The Hobbit being the first book I ever started that I couldn’t finish and that the LOTR books joined that short list many years later, my best friend and I joke about elevenses and second breakfast so this is funny to me.

I don’t have an oven, but I’ve got a toaster oven, so that’s where this bad boy came from. I put it in a buttered muffin tin with some spinach and duxelles on the bottom to give the egg something to do. It was delish.

On cooking

My mother used to make beef Wellington at home and it was one of my favorite things. I picked up how to make duxelles from her and remember that once, when I was in high school, a friend came over and marveled that I’d made myself lunch that included breakfast steaks infused with garlic and a side of duxelles. I don’t think she’d ever made a meal for herself in her life.

For the record, I call them “the duck” because intentionally mispronouncing stuff is amusing to me. [They’re properly DOOK-sell.]

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Deglaze the pan

I can’t think of a nicer cooking phrase than “deglaze the pan.” Maybe it’s the promise of incorporating all the juices, drippings and little bits of whatever you were cooking into a sauce. Maybe it’s knowing that a deglazed pan is so much easier to clean later. Maybe it’s that whatever you deglaze with can add a whole new dimension to your dish.

Brined pork loin with chicken stock risotto, asparagus and wild mushrooms. And I deglazed the hell out of the pan with more of my homemade chicken stock. This meal rocked my gastronomic universe.

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Chicken mmmmmilanese

I bought these breaded chicken breasts ’cause they were on sale and the label said something about “garlic and herb.” As I was cooking them, I realized that it was just chicken Milanese (aka breaded chicken) but that instead of an egg wash, they’d coated them with garlic and herb spread to make the bread crumbs stick.

Next time, I’m going to make these from scratch since I already have panko and think I could improve considerably on the store bought ones. One thing that can not be improved upon: French lettuce. I don’t know what they hell they do to it, but it’s the best lettuce in the world and requires almost nothing, in this case raisins and some balsamic vinegar, to make a delicious side dish.

(Also, my monkey says hi.)

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You can’t take it with you

For me, the one downside to traveling is falling in love with things I can’t get where I live. I often think about how if I had only stayed in the same geographic area my whole life, like my BFF has, I’d never miss anything since everything I would have ever known would still be right there.

A combination of mustard, cinnamon, Cayenne pepper, clove, turmeric and other amazing things

The first thing I consciously felt the absence of was this incredible mustard called Savora which my grandparents had at their house. I would slather a thick layer onto steaks and tortillas (the Spanish kind) and dip fried potatoes into it until I figured out that the most efficient way to get it into my belly was to eat it by the spoonful. When my parents found out, I wasn’t allowed any more condiments on my food for a long time which pissed me off but probably prevented me from becoming the youngest person ever with an ulcer.

When we weren’t in Spain, my grandmother would sometimes send jars in care packages but since Savora is exclusively bottled in glass, it was a pretty dangerous proposition to do so. In college, my mom would try to stock up and send me a small box of mustard, but since I had become a “grown up,” I would parcel it out judiciously so as not to run out.

Now that I’m living in Europe, I can have Savora basically anytime I want. Here in France, they sell it in every grocery store I’ve ever been in which is incredibly awesome. I use it to make salad dressing, thicken sauces for chicken breasts, smear it on bread for a sandwich and sometimes I’ll just dab a bit on a piece of cheese because it is delicious.

Of course, what I miss now are all the things I can’t get here, like Hostess Cupcakes which create their own shipping problems. It’s cravings like these that make me plan my next trip to the US.

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Bachelor breakfast

I’ve always liked the term “bachelor” though I don’t know how I became familiar enough with the word to grow fond of it. (Of course, Bertie Wooster and his pals are enough of a reason to like anything, but I digress before I’ve even started.) I like that it conveys independence and choice unlike “spinster” which reeks of desperation and homeliness. It turns out that a “bachelor girl” is a thing, but that sounds tawdry, so I’m sticking with bachelor.

Anyway, here’s a breakfast I made recently with some stuff that was going to go bad. A couple eggs beaten with milk, salt, pepper and chives; cheddar melted on tortillas; lettuce; taco sauce (that means the liquid kind, not chunky salsa). My trick is that I cook the eggs with a heavy lid on the pan so that I get some convection action happening. Makes for not-runny and not-hard eggs. Perfection.