Potato, Red Onion and Gruyère Packets; Summer Nights in France

Summer has arrived here in the Lot et Garonne.

I packed away my sweatshirts and winter jacket – for the third, and I hope last time until next winter.

It was hot yesterday.

Very hot.

So we hauled firewood.

It’s a hard dirty job anytime but in hot, humid weather – well, it’s good exercise…..

It took us 3 trips with the trailer to get it all; loading, hauling, unloading and stacking.  But we now have half the wood we’ll need for winter neatly stacked out by my potager (vegetable garden).  It’s split but a meter long so each piece will have to be cut in thirds to fit into our stove.

Gives mon mari some quality time with his chain saw.

Now our snakes will have a proper wood pile to live in….. and raise all their little snakes happily ever after.

We saw them mating on Saturday.They look something like this.

They’re about 3 feet long and a mottled gray/green.  They wrapped tightly around each other and came straight up off the ground, perfectly vertical, about 18 inches.

It was absolutely fascinating, and, no, I did not run back to the house to get my camera.  I would have missed the fun.

Sometimes one must just be there.

I also didn’t have my camera last night.

After we finished hauling and stacking firewood we joined our French conversation class for dinner (after a seriously long shower).

Art fairs are very popular in the US in summer: artisans set up booths where they demonstrate their work and sell their wares.

In France the summer is filled with music, dancing and theatre.  Every little village and grand city has an arts festival of some sort. Often there’s a market as well, selling food, drink and a featuring some of the local artisans, but the thrust is the entertainment, not the shopping.

In our region of France, night markets are very popular in July and August.  Think of the local farmer’s market, at night, with the addition of an equal number of food purveyors.  All the restaurants move their tables into the streets and there are more set up randomly for those who want to eat ‘a la carte’.

One can pick up a plate of fresh oysters here, a slab of rare beef there, a baguette (bien sûr), a bit of cheese, a carafe of chilled rosé and wander off to a table.

No onion blossoms or mini-donuts…. sorry.

We opted for table service at one of the restaurants on the square.

We didn’t know that entertainment was included.

The people watching was excellent, of course, from the old men, smoking cigars, drinking dark red wine and arguing politics (or, more likely, ‘futbol’, aka World Cup) to the teenagers frantically texting and tweeting on their iPhones.

But every 15 minutes or so there was a parade of tiny tots on even tinier ponies (I’ve never seen them so small!) being led past our table, parents straggling behind, struggling to balance their cameras and their glass of wine.

We didn’t know that the village is hosting it’s 20th Jazz Festival this weekend.

There was a Jazz Quartet, looking like they just arrived from Bourbon Street, New Orleans, wandering the square, with tuba, banjo, trombone and saxophone.

They were very good – and they loved entertaining the ‘Yanks’.

Embarrassing to say, some of our French classmates were true aficionados and knew much more about ‘American Jazz’ than we did.

After dinner we strolled the market, eying the booths and enjoying the balmy air.

Not a bad end to hauling wood.

Big picnic weekend coming up in the US… In honor, let me share our very favorite way of preparing potatoes on the barbecue.  It’s not a recipe so much as a method.  We just call them Potato Packets.

The recipe, Potato, Red Onion and Gruyere Packets, has been updated, nutrition information added, and re-posted here: Potato & Onion Gratin, Barbecue Grill.

Mon mari’s hint to making perfect ‘Potato Packets’:  Listen to them – when they stop sizzling, they’re done.  Remove immediately


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9 thoughts on “Potato, Red Onion and Gruyère Packets; Summer Nights in France”

  1. What a lovely sounding evening! Glad you finally have summer…still has not arrived here, and today, more rain. Potatoes, herbs, and cheese? Yum…Ina

  2. I don’t know how I feel about snakes mating. I think that’s one thing I could live without seeing.
    That night market sounds fantastic! What a great way to spend the evening. And the potatoes look great…perfect for this weekend’s festivities.

  3. The potatoes look delicious! Yum! Good job with the fire wood and now you are all set for winter. Makes me want to have a fireplace. It must be a “man” thing with the chain saw. It makes me shudder. And I bet that was fascinating with the snakes. Good that they have a place to raise their young now. Fresh oysters; that is a fabulous thing! Lucky you! It all sounds great!

  4. Woah! Those snakes are scary! Are those dangerous? Can’t imagine myself passing on snakes. Anyway, your potato packet looks delightful. As I browse your recipe, I think it’s easy to follow. I just wish I could have the same perfect outcome as yours.
    – Tera

  5. You had me at Gruyère Packets…:) Add potatoes and yummo!
    That pic of the snakes is so interesting! Snakes need love too….lol

  6. These potatoes look fantastic, Katie. (How embarrassing; I’m drooling on the keyboard….)
    But I hate the idea of losing any of the cheese. Maybe there’s a way to avoid using the foil at all. I wonder if you could use a cast-iron pan with an old cake tin as a lid. (Or does the lid have to be tight?)
    (How cool to see the snakes!!)

  7. Yes sometimes you just have to be there.
    Night market, what an incredible dream of an idea.
    Haven’t I seen non-stick foil? I have to do the potatoes … holey moley those look fabulous! I’ll listen carefully. I should be able to do them in the oven.

  8. Ina, I’m so gald it finally arrived! (summer). So is my garden!
    Joanne, it wasn’t on my list of ‘must see’s’ but it was rather fascinating. They were so graceful!
    Pam, I always loved having a fireplace. Now that we rely on the wood stove for heat…. not so much!
    Val, summer is short here – July and August, officially, but busy
    HealthyFoods, no, not dangerous… just grass snakes.
    Chris, anything with cheese ;-))
    Elizabeth, it’s easier getting it out of the alu pan, but there’s not the crisp crust. I don’t lose any – just carefully pick the foil off with fingernails.
    Tanna, I use lots of oil…. Then I pick off the stuck bits. Oven is good, but no crispy bottom.

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