October 29, 2011

Ambien Anyone?

It's been awhile since I've posted about our trip to Paris but consider this fair warning, I still have a lot of pictures to share if I ever get caught up. I dropped a few references to an incident I had at the end of the trip and I promised I would tell all…just took me awhile.

So on our last night in Paris we wandered le Marais looking for a place to eat dinner and stumbled upon the most perfect bistro filled with locals. They were a little off put by our lack of reservations but we were very polite and once we were seated they were very warm and friendly and thankfully spoke excellent English. It was a great last night, pretty uneventful.
 I think this was beef tartar
my dinner ended up being a huge side of beef, wasn't my favorite
Bernie loved his dinner - pork with the house specialty whipped potatoes
I would have killed for those potatoes
Now back to the story…we were pretty much packed before we left for dinner. We had an 11am flight and decided that night we would take the metro to the airport so we used our remaining euros to pay for dinner. Cut to the next morning, again, non eventful. Finished packing, had some baguette and preserves for breakfast in the apartment. Minutes away from leaving for the subway I took my thyroid pills. Nothing unusual with that. Or so I thought. Within minutes I was sleeping sitting up in the dining chair. Bernie woke me up and I tried to walk across the apartment and instead fell to the floor. This went on for a little while, I had NO idea what was happening. I was seeing double, I couldn't walk, did I mention we had to leave for the metro in 5 minutes?

Bernie figured it out pretty quick. It seems I did not take my 3 round white thyroid pills, I took 3 round white Ambien. Three. Ambien. Still don't quite understand how this mix-up happened. To cut a very long story a little bit short, Bernie decided it best to continue with our plan of taking the subway to the airport. ????? Well, we didn't have money for the cab but in hindsight a trip to the ATM would have been the smart idea. Or maybe even a trip to the hospital. But no. I remember me and my suitcase walking down the flight of stairs from the apartment. I think I was maybe moving 1mph at the most with not a care in the world. I remember parts of the walk to the first metro station. Did I mention we needed to connect to a second train? Bernie was walking soooo fast! I remember walking down the long flight of stairs to the metro and some nice man offering to "carry" my suitcase as Bernie ran back up the stairs yelling, "NO NO NO NO!!!!" I still think this man might have been nice, but I was like the drunkest person on earth so my judgement was off. Bernie said two other men followed me onto one of the trains not realizing I was with someone and when Bernie got on they jumped off - now that is scary!

Did I mention I was seeing double? Everything was blurry and I had to close one eye just to see. So here I am walking as slow as it gets with one eye shut tight, an easy target. Next thing I remember we were on another train and as the doors closed I knew we were going the wrong direction. Not sure how I knew but I was right. We have to flash forward to standing at the counter at the airport because I don't remember anything between knowing I was on the wrong train until I was talking to the ticket agent. Now, I don't know if I sounded like a wasted person, but I did all the talking since I handle all our travel and have the status on United. We had totally missed our flights at this point. There was another flight available but it was going to be a $500 change fee. I handed the lady my fancy new no foreign transaction fee credit card and luckily for me it doesn't have any numbers on the front of the card so she didn't know what to do with it and instead said, "that's ok, don't worry about it, we'll waive the fee." We got our tickets, made our way to customs and got right on the plane. I think anyway, I don't recall waiting at all and I only remember customs because another woman was balling her eyes out. Lucky for me that they focused on that lady and not me.

Next thing I remember I was eating lunch on the plane. Even had a glass of wine. Everything was metabolized and it was like nothing ever happened. I was no worse for wear. It didn't cost us any money and we got home just a few hours later than planned. Bernie was frustrated beyond belief but whatever, it was a fluke accident. Prior to that morning I had taken exactly 1 Ambien my entire life and comparing the pills when we got home they looked EXACTLY alike. So there you have it, the crazy end of our trip to Paris. It could have been worse. At least we got a good story out of it and I didn't, you know, die or anything.

October 23, 2011

Grow Dammit Grow

Wow, I haven't posted anything on our garden in months! It turned out to be a pretty good year albeit much different than last year's garden. I got a late start planting my seeds, Spring was weird, then we had a hail storm that just about ended everything. It seemed to take forever for the tomatoes to grow and then, Whamo! tomatoes everywhere. 

Here is a year in review of the "North Garden." Everything did very well except the carrots, we didn't give them the kind of soil they like so we got stumps. But it turns out some of them were supposed to be stumpy and we just didn't know it (Paris Market carrots). The Swiss Chard was incredible and is still going strong. I keep cutting it and it just keeps growing. Makes for great green juice! I kept the tomatoes under better control this year with lots of pruning so people didn't gasp in horror as they walked by our fence. The cucumbers didn't survive our trip to Paris, too much water. I didn't plant any squash this year so our grass was able to recover, you can see from the brown spots how far out into the yard they crawled last year, just two plants.

April 18
 May 30
 June 5
 July 3
August 1
September 24
We got our first frost last week when I was in Amsterdam. Bernie brought in about 100 tomatoes and the remaining tomatoes survived the frost but the plants are pretty much toast. I'm trying to leave them out as long as possible to ripen but snow is coming soon, not that you would know it given the beautiful weekend we just had. 

Next up, the South Garden and what two people do to use up the  tomatoes from 9 plants….hang on, it's getting crazy up in here!

October 10, 2011

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce

I have been eyeing this Food and Wine recipe by Jacques Pépin for quite some time. The weather got chilly this week and I figured this was a great time to braise some boeuf. Plus, I love any reason to use my pretty Le Creuset french oven. And I needed something that didn't take too long to prepare because we had friends coming over for dinner and we planned it last minute - some of the braised beef recipes I have tried literally take days to prepare. Days! I used a descent bottle of Pinot Noir for the braise, it is the most important ingredient other than the beef since the sauce depends on the flavor of the red wine.

2 pounds beef from the flatiron part of the shoulder
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon flour
1 bottle of red wine
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
15 cipollini or pearl onions
15 cremini mushrooms
15 baby carrots
5-ounce piece of pancetta
1/4 cup water
Dash of sugar
Chopped fresh parsley


1. Buy about 2 pounds of beef from the flatiron part of the shoulder. Remove the skin or sinew from the top. Alternatively, use lean beef chuck in the same manner. Cut the meat into 8 pieces.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast-iron pot that is attractive enough for the table. Arrange the meat in one layer in the pot, and season it with salt and pepper. Cook on top of the stove over high heat for about 8 minutes, browning the meat on all sides.

3. Add 1 cup of finely chopped onion and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic. Cook over moderate heat for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tablespoon of flour. Mix in well so that the flour doesn't form lumps. Stir in 1 bottle of red wine. Add 2 bay leaves, a sprig of fresh thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir well and cover.

4. Place the pot in the oven and continue to cook for about 1 1/2 hours; the meat should be soft and tender and the liquid properly reduced. The recipe can be prepared to this point up to a day ahead.
5. For the garnishes, peel 15 cipollini or pearl onions, wash 15 cremini mushrooms and peel 15 baby carrots. For the lardons, you will need one 5-ounce piece of pancetta. Bring the pancetta and 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and simmer for about 30 minutes; drain. Cut the pancetta into 1/2-inch slices and then cut the slices into 1-inch-wide lardons.

6. Combine the onions, mushrooms, carrots and pancetta in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 cup of water and a good dash each of sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes; at this point, there should be practically no water left. Uncover and cook over high heat, sautéing the vegetables until nicely browned on all sides, about 4 minutes. 

7. To serve, mix some of the vegetables and lardons into the stew and sprinkle the rest on top as a garnish. Add a little chopped fresh parsley and serve.
Like every good meal I had in Paris, I started eating before I snapped a pic. Look how gorgeous that dish looks! Before the beef we had an awesome salad that our friends whipped up. As for the recipe above, that is Jacques' recipe exactly. I give it 4 stars - easy enough and a rather impressive dish. Very rich. I will definitely make it again.

Here are my tips and things I would do differently next time. First, read the recipe all the way through. Prep the ingredients ahead of time. I typically do both of these things but this time I was in a rush and once you start getting into it things move fast! You need to have your chopped onion and garlic and wine on hand ready to go. It said to cut the beef into 8 pieces, no way! They would have been gigantic. I cut them into very large stew like pieces because you still want the meat to be tender (this does require you cut your meat as you eat the dish). Things get confusing around step 5. I read that part over and over and was still a little confused and ended up missing the part about putting the lardons in with the veggies. Ooops, still turned out yummy.

We went to two stores and couldn't fine the cipollini onions. An ironic twist since last time I made Boeuf Bourguignon I had the onions and forgot to put them in the stew. I just cut up an onion instead.

Next time I think I will try short ribs instead of the flatiron steak. The flatiron turned out tender but it seemed quite lean. The sauce had so much richness but the beef itself wasn't extremely flavorful. I would also cook more veggies as I found the meal to be mostly meat with just a few veggies. Bernie would have liked to see some potatoes in there, not sure how to properly work that in. They call this a stew but really it is beef in the red wine sauce with a few veggies mixed in - more of a knife and fork dish rather than a spoon. Maybe I reduced the sauce too much? Nahhh, it tasted too good to be wrong.

You can find a couple versions of this recipe online, replacing the wine with either Belgian pale ale or dark ale. It would be fun to try the variations and compare.

Bon appéttit!


Related Posts with Thumbnails