Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité, Diner!

Place de la Bastille
(Bastille Day (la Fête Nationale) commemorates the storming of the prison that had housed the infamous Marquis de Sade, among others. The prison also served as an armory and so was a natural target for a furious mob of revolutionaries looking to make a statement and carry off a few weapons to further the cause. Today the Place de la Bastille is home to the Paris Opera, a few cafés, and the statue in the picture above.)

Saturday (the 14th of July) was Bastille Day in France, and that’s a good enough excuse in my book to cook some typical bistro food and drink French wine with friends. The well-travelled Mrs. E and I once spent a memorable Bastille Day evening in Paris and like to celebrate our brush with Parisian mobs and near-death.

After purchasing tickets for the boat ride to view the fireworks, we rushed to the dock, working our way through the crowds headed for the Eiffle Tower and around the crowd control barriers. Mrs. E. had to push past a woman we suddenly realized was Jane Birkin!

The boat was one of the sight-seeing “bateaux mouches” that cruise the Seine. We picked our places and sat down to enjoy the tour that would end just before dark. We returned to the dock and tied up. The view of the Eiffle Tower would be a good one, especially with the thousands of lights that had been put up for the New Year’s Eve 2000 celebration. The show started very late — we didn’t realize that the firework operators were striking. There were a series of rafts anchored in the middle of the river, not far off the starboard side of our boat. We didn’t think much of the rafts until the first fireworks exploded upwards from them. Dazzling, yes. Frightening? Absolutely.

Finally, the barrage ended and shell-shocked and exhilerated we waited to disembark. But we were soon to be caught up in another French tradition: la grève (a labor strike.) The fireworks display eventually ended after midnight and we soon discovered that the Metro, Taxis, Busses, etc. had joined together in a show of solidarity for the strikers. There was only one way back to our hotel — on foot. We set off with literally thousands of others walking back. It took us four hours on foot, but we managed to find an open bistro at 2:30 am! Fotified by a bottle of wine and a quick bite, we made it back to our hotel by 4:00 am. Paris, the City of Lights, had become Paris, our City of Hikes.

As I’ve written before, I’m fortunate to have a great butcher within walking distance of my home. A quick trip landed some free-range, organic hanger steak which would serve as the steak in my steak-frites. Pausing at my local wine-shop on the way back, I lucked into a fantastic $13 bottle of Bordeaux (Château Baulos la Vergne, 2003) and bottles of white Bordeaux and Rosé Cremant to round out the wines for the menu. That is the kind of hike that is more to my liking.

The menu for the evening:

Roasted aspargus with lemon and parmesan cheese (served with the Rosé Cremant)
Escargot with garlic butter (served with the white Bordeaux)
Pan-seared hanger steak with a shallot, red wine reduction pan sauce (the Chateau Baulos went beautifully with this)
Maché salad with a vinegrette (back to the white Bordeaux)
Bay leaf infused crème Chantilly with fresh blueberries or profiteroles (with the Rosé Cremant again)

Roasted Asparagus with lemon and parmesan cheese
Pre-heat your oven to 350ºF.
Wash and then snap off the thick ends of the asparagus and lay them in a baking dish.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt
Grate parmesan cheese over the asparagus
Zest a lemon or use a sprinkling of lemon juice.
Toss to coat well.
Roast for about 15 minutes or until the cheese browns up a bit.

Escargot
I use canned snails that I can get in my local Kroger.
Snail shells may be available at your grocery store or gourmet shop. They come 12 to a tube and are reusable.
For 12 snails:
Soften about 3 tablespoons of butter
Mince 2 shallots and 2 cloves of garlic together
Finely chop some parsley
Add sea salt and pepper and mix all together.
Stuff the snails into the shells and cover the opening with a dollop of the garlic butter.
Broil until that butter melts.
I have special plates, tongs and forks to eat the snails. In France, they will use straight or safety pins to remove the escargot from the shell. Serve with a baguette slice to soak up the butter sauce!

Pan Seared Hanger Steak for 4.
(You’ll need a cast iron pan or another pan that will really heat up.)
1 1/2 lbs. of steak.
Butter
2 shallots
1 glass of red wine
Herbes de Provence
Salt and Pepper

Heat the pan up, drop in about a tablespoon and a half of butter. When it stops foaming, add the steak. Sear on all sides, but keep the steak to rare, medium-rare if you can stand to. Remove to a platter

Add some more butter and cook the shallots, adding the herbs, salt and pepper.

Pour the wine into the pan and scrape up all the brown bits and reduce to half. If the steak has rendered any juices while it was resting, add them now. You may swirl in another knob of butter to make an even silkier sauce.

Slice the steak into equal portions and pour the sauce over the steak.

Serve with shoe string potatoes (I use the “Fast Food Fries” by Ore Ida tossed with some olive oil and salt.)

Bay-leaf infused creme Chantilly.
1 small carton of cream.
a bunch of fresh bay leaves.
Combine and let sit for a couple of days.

Strain the cream into a mixing bowl and add a tablespoon of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar or Splenda.

Using a whisk, start to beat the cream. Eventually it will start to form peaks. STOP NOW. Don’t overbeat them. And yes, this takes forever, but it will help you work off the wine. Serve over profiteroles or fresh berries.

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