Monday, February 15, 2010

Beef Bordeaux Faux Pas

15 February 2010

After having been invited over to Isabelle and Thierry’s twice now, I decided it was time to get over my fears of having French people over for dinner and we invite them over for Boeuf Bourguignon on Sunday night. After they accepted our invite, I couldn’t help but question my judgement. I am going to have a French family over for a traditional French dish? Geez, do I not remember all of my faux pas in the kitchen?! Even though Isabelle assured me that she wasn’t the greatest cook and was annoyed by some of her food snob friends, there is just something so intimidating about having people over who have lived their entire lives around great food. Great, organic and fresh ingredients. Beautiful presentation. Saviour faire. I’m just a girl from Orange County who learned many of her first dishes by opening a can or sauce packet and whose favorite snack food was, is and probably also will be, les cheetos.

But, I have always enjoyed cooking and am generally pretty good at it, especially when people are not coming over for dinner. Unfortunately, I have a bad history of screwing up the simplest meal when we are actually having company. Anyway, so I have invited our hosts to share a meal that I have made successfully a number of times back home. Difference is, I have made it in the U.S. where stores are open 24-hours a day when you need those last minute ingredients. Well, in France, stores close at the most inconvenient times. Of course, everyone knows that they close from noon to 2:30 during the magical dejeuner hours. But, they also close on Sundays and Mondays. And in the winter, they close even more often and we never quite know when that is. Luckily, there is always a store in some town that is open during these times. Problem is, we can never seem to remember which store, which village and what time. So as we were driving around yesterday trying to find Burgundy wine (you would think that I would have made this purchase a priority before the day of) and pearl onions and an upgrade in the beouf (since we are having guests). Also, I would really like to find some special fresh cheese for dessert, but we cannot find an open store anywhere.

“Okay,” I decide. “We have the basic ingredients. I’ll just make a slight variation and call it ‘Boeuf Bordeaux” which I do and it is not bad and Isabelle thought that was kind of funny. It was really just the little things that bothered me. Having “store-bought” cheese versus the type bought at the fromagerie or marche. In fact, Thierry said as kindly as possible (I genuinely think he was just trying to give us helpful advise) that we could find much better cheeses if purchased from local merchants. “I know, I really do,” I think to myself while turning rouge. We offered a good foie gras that we had previously purchased at a gourmet store and we offered it with the appropriate glass of sweet Monbazillac wine, but I was afraid that the cornichons we had bought at the discount store were not up to par, so we did not serve them. Hank went a little OCD slicing the baquette into precise ¼” slices and fanned them out on a plate that I ended up tossing about so they would look so well designed. Caleigh questioned his manhood in jest. We were also a little nervous I think and rushed through the courses which was somewhat awkward. But, all and all, everything went fine. Dinner was not bad although the Bordeaux wine was quite strong (burgundy would have been better) and the meat a bit chewy. But, I survived the evening without having hotflashes that I typically do when having a dinner party and Isabelle and Thierry could not have been more gracious guests. I’ll do it again, but maybe next time I will pay a little more attention to the store hours in France.

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