P is for Paris; Bon Appetit!

P is a week I’ve been looking forward to, since we’re exploring Paris and it’s always fun to try a little real French cooking. Even back in my early travels when I couldn’t afford to eat much besides bread and cheese, I quickly learned that even the bread and cheese was something special in Paris. We don’t have any specific plans to go to Paris in the next few years, but I’m sure I’ll find a way to get my kids there at some point in their childhoods.

I ended up dividing our exploration of Paris into two days. I normally do our “county of the week” meal on Wednesday, but this week we had swimming lessons in the afternoon, so I didn’t have time for a real French meal. Instead, when we got home I made one of my favourite French street foods, Croque Monsieur, along with a mesculn salad with a simple vinaigrette and a Pinot Grigio.

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After supper my husband read the kids a children’s book called Crepes by Suzette, about a woman who goes around Paris with her cart selling crepes, while I used the recipe in the back of the book to make chocolate filled crepes for our bedtime snack. It’s amazing how some food are tied to certain places in our memories. For me I can’t eat a warm Nutella crepe without thinking of my first taste of one, freshly made and wrapped in wax paper, eaten while walking around the Notre Dame on a chilly morning.

Crepes by Suzette

Today we started Day 2 of our Paris study and it didn’t get off to a great start. I had planned to make a model of the Eiffel Tower our of wafer cookies that I’d seen on Pinterest. It didn’t look too hard. Famous last words, right? Let’s just say that the results of our sad attempt will not be published on this website. In fact, they would fit in perfectly on one of those “Pinterest fails” lists that you sometimes see. We definitely did not “nail it” this time. Oh well, the kids were happy to eat the evidence of our failure.

With that rousing success under my belt, I rolled up my sleeves and did my best to attempt a full French meal of the kind that you might find at an extremely simple bistro in Paris. I made a leek and potato soup to start, served with French bread and the last of the Pinot Grigio from last night.

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Then for the main course I made Duck a L’Orange (just a large breast, not the entire duck), Potatoes Dauphinoise, and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. To accompany that we had a fruity red from the Loire Valley. I had never cooked duck before and I found it quite interesting to try. The potatoes were quite easy to do and the asparagus was fantastic. Multiple sauces seemed like quite a French thing to do, and I was quite proud of myself that everything turned out.

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For dessert I made creme caramel. I’ve actually made this several times before and it’s one of my favourite dishes for impressing people. It’s one of those desserts that really is quite easy once you have the technique down, but looks a lot harder than it is.

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And the verdict? Well, my husband and I ate way too much. I had actually purchased some French cheeses and had planned to do a cheese course between the main course and dessert, but we were just way too full to even think of it. Maybe I’ll have to drag “P is for Paris” into a third day to get that done. My son actually ate his soup and the bread quite happily at first, but didn’t understand the whole thing about eating in courses. When he found out that he was going to have to stay at the table through another whole meal he became quite unhappy and flatly refused to eat anything else. My daughter loved the asparagus, but didn’t eat much else. It’s good to know I won’t have to be wasting any money buying fancy food for them if we ever do take them to France. (Here’s some bread and cheese, kids. Go sit by that fountain and eat while Mommy and Daddy enjoy a nice meal in that sidewalk cafe over there.)

And that was Paris. And now every pot and pan in my kitchen is dirty, but we’re well fed and happy. We’ll be sticking with the French theme for next week, so stay tuned!

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