After a late rise at our converted farmhouse in Plouer-sur-rance, it was the second morning during our road trip to Brittany. We entered the large, ancient breakfast room to see the same group of retired people who were kind enough to “bonjour” us daily. The room is grande and filled with armoires and tables, (I assume they must date back to at least 1742) that are covered with croissants and baguette. We had virtually failed on our dinner attempt the night before and were ready for this nice beautiful simple breakfast. Patrick, the inn owner, heads over to the lovely three “bonjourers” seated across the room. My french is quite weak but I can tell they are talking about food. The French people (and people that love the French people) have a love and affinity for food that is unparalleled. They all talk about it, all the time.
“LES FRAISES.” “LES FRAISES.” This grey-haired, lovely, simple-looking woman is going on and on about the strawberries with a passionate deep hungry voice. I add her to my list of people that can relate to my affection for strawberries. This love affair has existed for as long as I can remember. The magic was recently re-sparked when my patient also asserted her devotion to strawberries. With her third trimester belly, she described eating these red delicious berries straight from the bag and, of course, on her pancakes. The following weeks, I made strawberries with pancakes more times than I can remember. I decide that I, too, need more strawberries in my life again and I will have no guilt about ordering strawberry sorbet every. damn. time.
<I need a picture of strawberry sorbet ha! To come…>
We have easy access to fresh markets each day. Our first morning in Paris, with much excitement, we danced 15 minutes through the busy streets of the Saint Germain to the Raspail market. The market consists of three blocks of portable vendors: poisson, fromage, vin, viande, legumes. Upon arrival, the options are overwhelming but plush with possibility. I decide my strategy quickly: to stroll through the entire market and consider the options carefully and quickly. My goal: to create something delicious tonight, for my first home cooked meal in Paris.
Quail. I land upon quail. The first time I had quail was in Seattle in a wonderful restaurant called Mkt. This tiny 1/2 bird was fried crispy and presented simply. It was so delicious, we ordered a second one. This was (and has been) the only time I have ever spontaneously ordered a second dish of la meme chose. If you have never had it, this petite feathered creature has the most succulent, richly flavored dark meat you will ever taste. The pieces that you can get are so small that they just tease your tastebuds making you beg for more.
Jon is in charge of getting the quail. Deux cailles from the boucher. They proceed to remove the head, lower legs and innards. They torch the body with a portable gas torch to remove any remaining feathers. We head to the produce guys and with much intimidation, ask for some “fraises.” Les cherises is what we get. Well, I guess we are having quail with cherries tonight. And I will have to improvise on the recipe….
A Brief Review of the Recipe for Quail with Cherries
2 quails (but please next time get 4. You really need 2 per person)
1/2 bag of fresh cherries
2 Tbsp butter
Onion or shallot
Pit cherries. Chop onion/shallot. Rinse and dry birds. Season birds with salt and pepper.
Melt butter. Add onion for a few minutes. Add birds. Golden their skins. Add cherries and a big splash of red wine. Cook until sauce thickens a bit. Add butter. Serve. Preferably with steamed green beans.
Have sorbet aux fraises for dessert. Because we all could use a few more strawberries. Especially right now. Before we talk about the seafood tower.