25 December 2013

Christmas Eve activities on a stormy day

This morning I'm seeing stars, and I mean that in the very best way — out the bedroom window, in the sky. One is so bright it might be the legendary star of Bethlehem. I think it's probably Jupiter. Yesterday, after the winds came the rains. The high winds lasted all day. At nightfall the skies opened up and dropped buckets of rain on us all night. I'll be interested to see how much water is in the rain gauge tout à l'heure.

We stayed busy all day yesterday, almost racing to get things done in the kitchen in case our electricity went out because of the strong gusty winds. The first thing I needed to do was wash and trim about 4 pounds (a peck, I think that is) of collard greens. I had picked them out in the garden the day before. I wanted to cut out the stems and just save the nicest leaves to have as a side dish with our Christmas Guinea fowl capon and oven-roasted buttercup squash. It took me less than an hour to pick through the collard greens one leaf at a time and trim them up. Out in the garden, I left the plants in the ground with their newest and smallest leaves still growing, hoping that they will give us new crops January, February, and March.

A 12-liter pot of fresh collard greens, grown in our garden outside Saint-Aignan

At the market on Saturday, I bought a chunk of smoked pork belly, known here as poitrine de porc fumée (smoked breast of pork), from the charcuterie stand where I used to buy things a lot more often than I do nowadays. I don't know why I've sort of stopped going to the open-air market in Saint-Aignan. Maybe it was because nearly every Saturday over the first six months of 2013 was rainy. And then I was in Paris for a few Saturdays in July, just before the vegetable garden harvest kicked in. Anyway I'm glad I got the poitrine fumée this time. You can see how I cooked it with the collard greens. I also had a good chat with the woman I have in past posts called Mme Doudouille.

That's a chunk of smoked bacon about an inch thick. Most of these greens will end up in containers in the freezer.

The next thing to do was to start the process of making the stuffing for the chapon de pintade. I had got a piece of veal (200 grams or about 7 oz.) from the butcher and also used a packet of supermarket lardons fumés of the same weight. Walt ground all that meat using the grinder attachment on our KitchenAid stand mixer. I wanted to lightly cook the meat with some flavor ingredients — a chopped shallot, a pinch or two of dried thyme and ground cloves, a smashed garlic clove, some hot red pepper flakes and black pepper — and let it cool and blend overnight, before it was time to stuff it into the bird.

Pork, veal, and shallots for stuffing

Today, I'll add some chopped, cooked chicken livers to the mix, and a couple of raw, beaten eggs as a binder. Oh, and a handful of shelled and coarsely chopped pistachios (pistaches californiennes, it says on the label). Then I'll stuff the Guinea fowl before putting it on the rotisserie in the oven to cook for a couple of hours.

I'm trying to make a meat stuffing like I remember eating with poultry in restaurants in Paris back in the 1970s and 80s.

Finally, it was time to get the Christmas Eve fondue savoyarde — a cheese fondue — ready. That meant weighing out 200 grams each of Gruyère, Comté, and Emmenthal cheeses, and then grating them. We didn't take any pictures of the fondue as we made and ate it, but I can tell you it was good. Maybe not as good as last year's, when we used a cheese called Beaumont de Savoie instead of Emmenthal.

We couldn't find any Beaumont de Savoie this year. I think it melts more smoothly and liquidly than Emmenthal, and has at least as good a taste. Maybe next year. This morning I have to get to work on finishing the stuffing and getting the bird into the oven. Walt roasted the buttercup squash yesterday, so lunch is almost ready. Oh, he also made a beautiful blueberry tart, using blueberries that he picked at a farm over in the Sologne last July and froze for use in cakes and pies all winter.

Merry Christmas and Bon Appétit...


  1. That forcemeat can't help being good with such excellent ingredients! Colourful, too. Enjoy your meal! P.

  2. Merry Christmas to you both!!

    My Gran used to make our meat stuffing...
    it was very similar to yours...
    substitute pork for veal...
    chopped streaky bacon for lardons...
    and chestnuts for the pistachios...
    and it always went into the neck end of the bird... Mum's orange and lemon herby stuffing went in the other...
    after Gran died we never had stuffing in the neck...
    I miss it!!

  3. Merry Christmas to you both.

    The cheese truck at Loches market was advertising Beaumont de Savoie. I assume a lot of people must think like you do about it and she wanted to highlight the fact she had it for Christmas. I've never had it.

  4. Merry Christmas to you and Walt. Today is starting out as a nice, calm day -- at least weatherwise. Around the tree, grandchild mayhem.

  5. Merry Christmas to all residents of Les Bouleaux! I'm not sure my 'pintade' can tip on yours :) Martine

  6. We saw it too! We also assumed that it was Jupiter.

    Best wishes for Christmas and 2014.

  7. A very Merry Christmas to you and Walt. Your feast sounds delicious. We'll be cooking a strata for breakfast in a couple of hours and then a fresh ham for Christmas dinner. Norma's (92 year old) Mom will be with us as well as our children, their spouses, and Norma's brother and his wife. We will stay close to the fire as today's high will hot exceed -5 C.

  8. happy christmas! i'm glad you are alright - last nite they said england had 90mph winds and i didnt know if you would get the same storm... so glad you are ok. :-)

  9. It seems to me that Beaumont de Savoie looks more like Reblochon than it does Ementhal or French Gruyère. I don't know if there is a similarity of taste. On the other hand, Beaufort, another Savoie cheese, is more like Comté or Gruyère. Would Beaufort add anything to the taste? Or, could you use Reblochon instead of Beaumont in your fondue?

  10. Joyeux Noel to you both and your followers! How long did you cook the collard greens?

  11. Merry Christmas day!

    Our Tartiflette was delicious! Thanks for posting about it (several times).

    I'm guessing that the kitchen ceiling held up against the rain and wind?

  12. Good to hear that you got through the "Dirk and stormy night" unscathed.
    Merry Christmas to you both.

  13. Glad all is well chez vous!
    Tidings of Great Joy to everyone!

    Mary in Oregon

  14. Merry Christmas to you both. Thanks so much for sharing your year with us!

  15. You really have nice bacon in France. Here in the States bacon is so over-processed and mass produced.

    I just discovered Comté, my new favorite. I was researching the area that it is made. It is where my grandparent came from. I could eat Comté and some crackers and think I was feasting.

    Merry Christmas to you and Walt. I wish you a great new year.

  16. Hello CHM, the Pochat Fils creamery makes both a Beaumont cheese (from pasteurized milk) that resembles a Reblochon or Saint-Paulin cheese, and a Beaumont de Savoie cheese (from raw milk) that resembles Beaufort or Gruyère cheese. Here's the French Wiki article.

  17. Madonna aka Ms. Lemon, you might be another cousin of CHM's. He and The Beaver both have Franche-Comté family connections.

    I too love Comté cheese and we always have some in the fridge. I use it for cheese sauces and gratins and in quiches and on and on. And I just eat it on bread or crackers as you say.

  18. Oh, it's Pochat & Fils, and the company makes Abondance, Reblochon, Beaufort, Tomme, Raclette, and Beaumont de Savoie cheeses. Here's a link.


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