27 March 2009

Shoulder season

You might be able to tell that I don't have a lot to blog about these days. We're in that awkward shoulder season when it's no longer winter — even though at certain hours it feels like winter — and not yet spring — though somebody forgot to tell the flowers.

Don't tell the hyacinths that it's still winter — they know better.

The chimney is swept. Christian Lucas came and cleaned it yesterday with his heavy duty vacuum cleaner and chimney broom. He said there was no problem except that the stove was really dirty. Walt built a fire last night and it burned hot and smoke-free, the way it supposed to burn.

This time of year, we get rays from the sunrise in our dining room.

Lucas charged us 48 euros, the standard fee, and gave us the certificate we need for insurance coverage. It had been just a little less than two years since the last sweeping.

It rained overnight. We got 4 mm in the rain gauge. That's hardly a trace. The weather reports show it raining all around us, but we are getting just clouds. Today is supposed to be different, with significant rain this afternoon.

White hyacinths in the back garden

That postpones the gardening for a little longer. Like I said, not really winter but still not spring.

Oh, the blanquette was — is — really good. We'll eat it again today. Blanquette de veau is veal (I like to use veal shoulder) cooked in water with white wine, onion, carrot, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and allspice berries (in my version). You start the meat in cold water and simmer it in the cooking liquid for 2 hours or more to make it very tender.

Early on a March morning in the vineyard

Then you make a white sauce (use butter and flour to make a roux) with the veal cooking liquid and half a cup or so of cream. Separately cook some mushrooms and pearl onions in a little butter with some of the veal stock. Put the veal, the mushrooms, and the onions into the sauce and let it all heat through. Add a squirt of lemon juice to bright up the flavors.

Yesterday I added an optional ingredient to the blanquette: steamed celery root. Peel the celery root, cut it into 1" cubes, cook it in salted boiling water, and then add its cooking liquid to the veal stock. After you make the white sauce, add the celery root cubes to the stew with the veal, mushrooms, and all. Delicious. I didn't take any pictures this time.

Early spring primroses

You can make blanquette with chicken or turkey. Chicken thighs would be good, or boneless thighs and breast meat. Serve the blanquette with rice, boiled potatoes, or pasta.

Voilà. One more topic about blanquette, to add to this one (recipe) and this one (in a Paris restaurant). Also see this topic about the same restaurant, and this one. If this doesn't make you wish it were summer, nothing will.


  1. I always feel so much better when the blossoms come out on the trees.

    After the grey winter months they seem to be the herald of better things to come,


  2. Hi Ken:) I love that piece of furniture (the white commode) in your DR... did you get that in France?

    What are those little white flowers called? They're early "risers" at the Mo Botanical Garden, but I don't remember what they're called.

    Nice photos!


  3. I love those springtime rays also. Sometimes we have them right here where I'm typing, but not today. We are having another rainy day with storms due tomorrow. Such is Spring.

    I love your flowers- it's so much fun stepping outside this time of year. The birds are singing and flowers are popping up everywhere.

    Thanks for the blanquette info. I'm going to look for veal.

  4. Hi Judy, we bought that piece of furniture, plus a tall china cabinet that matches it, when we first arrived in Saint-Aignan. We needed the extra storage for kitchen things.

    Evelyn, hope your storms aren't too rough. We're supposed to have rain overnight here. It's gray today but dry. I planted some black-eyed susans out in the yard today.

    GG, yes, the spring flowers are a good sign but I'd still like some more sunny, warm days.

  5. The little white flower is a white variety of the "jacinthe des bois" or "jacinthe sauvage," that is wild hyacinth.

  6. The vineyard photo is stunning! You should enlarge it and frame it.

    Happy weekend!

  7. Agreed. The vineyard picture is very nice. Do you know what type of vines those are?

  8. Hello CHM, I changed the caption in my post.

    Hi Ginny, thanks.

    BB'sD, the main grapes grown out here are Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Gamay Noir, Côt (Malbec),and Pineau d'Aunis. Also some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

  9. Those rays of sunshine coming into the house just make your heart sing....shows up the dust though.!!

  10. I got upset seeing Jean's post.... but went back and checked your photo. No dust visible.
    Your friend,

  11. Do you have mud season there? Or is the frost not deep enough in winter? Beautiful pictures today, especially the flowers.

  12. Hello Jean, dust made visible by rays of sun is why they invented spring cleaning, I guess.

    Ch, no dust but you might detect some dog hairs if you look very closely.

    Emm, our mud season lasts about 6 months. The ground never really freezes so stays mushy forever.


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