02 January 2014

First post of 2014

Let me wish all ye faithful a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year one more time. I haven't sent individual messages, but you know who you are and how much I appreciate your loyalty and your comments. I blog largely for myself because it's important for me from many points of view, and I blog for you too of course. Thanks.

I didn't take any pictures on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Sometimes you're either having too much fun, or you're too busy, or you're too tired to pick up the appareil photo. We ate our oysters on New Year's Eve. I did them North Carolina style, which means briefly roasted in a hot oven (makes them easier to open and more appetizing for the slightly squeamish) and served at the table with cocktail sauce (tomato sauce, vinegar, chillies, and horseradish). We also made a French mignonnette sauce, which is wine vinegar flavored with chopped shallots and coarsely ground or crushed black pepper. It was a success, and we have fresh oysters left over for today's lunch.

Oysters for sale at the New Year's market in old Saint-Aignan. Prices were lower in 2005...*

Dinner was pan-roasted magrets de canard — duck breast filets — served rare with an orange sauce, prepared by our hosts. Delicious. With that, there was a gratin dauphinois (potatoes au gratin with cream) and nice fresh green beans. And with all that food, we drank... let's just say... a certain number of good wines — mostly from the Loire Valley, except for some Champagne.

The old (and only) bridge across the Cher River at Saint-Aignan — there used to be a mill here.
We often park the car down by the bridge and then walk up into town when we go to the market.

The weather has been wet and windy for a few days, so we were more or less confined to the house on 12/31 and 1/1. Still, Callie and her canine friend Lulu needed to be walked. I didn't volunteer. I had taken Callie out on her two previous walks, so it wasn't my turn. And then we all actually stayed up until midnight to welcome in the New Year. That's two hours past my normal bedtime, so I was pretty wiped out yesterday (Jan. 1).

The display of wintertime pork treats in a charcuterie stand at the Saint-Aignan market

For our New Year's Day lunch back at home, we put together our traditional cassoulet using confit de canard (duck leg/thigh sections cooked in their own fat and left to cure for three months in that fat in the refrigerator), black-eyed peas (for good luck in 2014), and Toulouse-style pork sausages. Here's a link to an earlier post about it. Incidentally, I heard a cook who has a show on the French Cuisine+ TV network say yesterday that for some people in France, it is traditional to eat lentils on January 1 because that is supposed to bring you health and happiness for the rest of the year. Les grandes traditions se rencontrent.

* I reached back in time eight or nine years to find the photos I'm posting today.


  1. I think most people blog mainly for themselves in the first instance...
    it is a fairly painless and enjoyable way of keeping a diary...
    it is nice when it brings some of that enjoyment to others...
    or gives people information...
    or teaches language [thanks, Ken]...
    or shows other people the wonders of an area...
    it is lovely too, when the public "diary" is responded to by others and a 'conversation' begins.

    Again, Happy New Year and all you wish for in 2014 and "Bonne santé surtout"

  2. Happy New Year Ken! Thank you for continuing this blog, I check in from time to time to see what you have posted, for inspiration, and to learn (mostly about cooking). Thanks to you I've tried many new things. This past year I started making tarts. And now after reading today's post I'm going to try cassoulet.

    I really like that picture from the charcuterie, I wish we could have that here, that pate de tete looks delicious!

    Keep up the good work!



  3. Part diary, part soap box. That sums it up for me.

    Happy New Year from the Charente

  4. I made black eye peas and collard greens. I actually love collard greens. I cooked them for a long time with shallots. Even my son got to eat some before going back to college. It was delicious! Happy new year to you both!

  5. Wow -- or ouaou -- Nadege, thanks for telling me about the collard greens. I'm glad you like them; I sure do. We had oysters for lunch and they were really good.

  6. Craig, thank you for the nice comment. I hope you are doing well. Happy and healthy 2014.

  7. T&P, and HP, thanks for the comments, opinions, and good feelings. Stay with me... I enjoy your blogs too.

  8. Wow -- or ouaou -- Nadege, thanks for telling me about the collard greens. I'm glad you like them; I sure do. We had oysters for lunch and they were really good.

  9. Merci pour tes bons voeux et à vous deux, tous mes souhaits pour une heureuse année nouvelle et une excellente santé :-) !

    J'adore votre blog même si, pendant l'année scolaire, je ne lui rends pas souvent visite, mais je me rattrape pendant les vacances ;-) !!!

    Je vous fais de grosses bises !

    Mary (Marie-Jacques)

  10. Ken, I had tried many times to cook collard greens but they were not very good. This time, I took the advice you gave few days (or weeks) ago how they have to be cooked for a long time and it works. I am hooked. I eat a lot of vegetables, fruits and beans so collard greens are going to become a huge part of my meals.

  11. "A la nouvelle année, il faut manger des lentilles porte bonheur qui vous apporteront plein de sous ! on peut toujours y croire"


    Have learnt a lot from your blog over the years and I do thank you for it. Along the way, we have made some friends :-).

    So keep it up and we do appreciate your daily billets.
    btw we are under a deep freeze and this did not deter Y to cook a bird on the BBQ for New Yr 's lunch .
    Currently it is -26 C

  12. I'm a little late, but I want to wish you, Ken and Walt, and all of your readers a happy new year.

    In Pennsylvania the custom is to eat sauerkraut on New Year's day. I also served Cope's dried corn, another central PA specialty, and BBQ, which now seems to be an international dish.

  13. We don't do any traditional meal for New Year's Day... for a few years, I made split-pea soup with the ham (and its bone) from Christmas Eve, but haven't in a while. I had a good friend who grew up in Pennsylvania, who told me that pork and sauerkraut was traditional for them, so it's fun to read Carolyn's comment. Must be a PA thing? :)

    Loved these photos :)


  14. Hello Carolyn, your sauerkraut and pork sounds very good, of course, but I have to wonder what kind of BBQ you mean. NC-style? I've never had that with sauerkraut. Anne Marie in Phila. said she also cooked sauerkraut with pork (a boneless roast) during the holidays.

  15. Beaver, Y is barbecuing outside when the temperature is below zero degrees F? You Canadians!!! Hope the bird was tasty. Happy New Year to you both.

  16. Pork and sauerkraut had been what I prepared during my married days (husband from Pennsylvania!) and while at a dinner party on 28 December there was that option, but my plate was already full. Hope I still have a chance at a good 2014 even without the kraut!

    I am really anxious to think what new things I will be reading about from you and what new recipes you will entice me to try during the coming year!

    Mary in Oregon

  17. happy new year! that shot of the pates and meats is just slayin' me.... looks so delish! thanks so much for your blog, Ken, i cant wait to see what happens for you all in 2014!
    your pal,

  18. Pork and sauerkraut is also a Baltimore MD holiday tradition.

    Ken, sadly not Eastern NC BBQ, just some BBQ we can get about an hour away. Not bad, though.


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