Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baguette with Rustic Soup

I began making apple corn bread late yesterday to accompany the soup I'd made and to take to a friend's for dinner.

But time got away from me and I abandoned the bread -- though the ingredients are still sitting out.

On the way to my friends, without the intended corn bread, I stopped and picked up a French baguette from Whole Foods.

When I worked in Courchevel in the French Alps for a British ski company, I cooked for groups of 10-20 people who were staying at the chalet I managed. Evening meals were always 3 hearty courses, plus baguette with the starter or with the main dish.

Most evenings I'd do something fancy with the fresh baguette purchased that morning. From slathering the sliced baguette with garlic butter, wrapping it in foil and heating in the oven, to variations on that favorite such as parsley butter, mustard butter, butter beaten with grated cheese, and so on.

At some point during the winter, I had a chalet of 18 guests from Nice -- an extended family plus family friends. They were a rowdy bunch at the dinner table, talking animatedly about politics, skiing, skiing and politics.

Because I ate dinner with my guests, I was very away that their rowdiness had more to do with the copious wine they drank and they're home-brew grappa and brandy, which they drank after dessert with coffee, than the favored topical conversation.

I thought the first couple of evening meals went very well. At 23, I was a bit nervous cooking for a chalet full of sophisticated Nicoisians and so I'd put my best chef-foot forward. This included heating the dinner baguette with one, then another of the butters mentioned above, and serving it piping hot on a platter with the foil slightly opened to release the delicious aroma of the baked, buttery bread.

After the second night's dinner, one of the women approached me in the kitchen. She very graciously asked that the evening menu be altered slightly. For instance, the family and friends didn't eat the kind of fancy desserts I'd prepared, could they just have "fresh fruit and yogurt?"

Secondly, they preferred not to have their baguette heated with garlic or parsley butter or any other butter for that matter. Instead, could they have at least "4 plain baguettes, uncut, and placed in the center of the table."

Both were very easy requests since it made my work easier. Certainly I was a little surprised because I'd imagined that they'd prefer fancier fare, yet I was wrong. So plain baguette at dinner it was, followed by fruit and yogurt, and then coffee with that wicked home brew!

Since the baguettes were placed directly onto a long, wooden table with no cloth and since the guests could easily break chunks off while they ate, drank and talked animatedly, the amount of baguette crumbs scattered across that table and on the floor beneath the table was something akin to a sea of confetti post wedding nuptials.

As my guest's two-week stay came to a close, I came to appreciate that the messier the table and floor with baguette crumbs, the more successful the dinner both in terms of the food and conversation.

Last night I simply sliced the baguette I'd purchased, placing the pieces on a plate. We had it plastered with buttered as an accompaniment to our salad and salmon.

Today, I'm having the leftovers warmed in the oven (I'll spritz it with water first; this softens the day-old crust) and again, I'll slather it with butter, and then I'll dunk it in the soup I made yesterday (pic above).

Chances are there'll be bits of bread on the kitchen bench at which I'll sit to eat, and on the floor beneath my stool; I learned from my Nicoisian guests that in order to fully appreciate baguette one must break off chunks from the whole, sop up whatever is in front of you with those chunks, all the while inadvertently scattering crumbs about -- since the resulting mess is a direct correlate to a meal truly enjoyed.

1 comment:

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