Carl Sagan once said: "If you want to make an apple pie from scratch you must first create the universe."
I'm either going to quit cooking completely….
Or start cooking everything absolutely from scratch – chicken Noodle soup starting with a fertilized egg.
It was an interesting day doing the weekly shopping.
First we went to the frozen food store, Thiriet.
We've been driving past it for months and finally decided to check it out.
Since I cook with fresh ingredients my forays into the frozen food section are rare, usually in search of frozen spinach (very handy to have…. It comes in big bags of little balls that get tossed into lots of stuff) or frozen berries (can't get fresh). What I've seen while there didn't encourage me to linger.
Not so at this store.
It's frozen food paradise.
First off, it's strange to be in any store where all the merchandise is waist high. One has to walk up and down every aisle and peer in to see what's available for purchase.
I did…. Every aisle….
If I did all my shopping here I could have a different, 3 course, fancy-ass gourmet dinner every day for the rest of my life and never do more than slit the cellophane and put it in a toaster oven.
The section of foods 'en croute' (wrapped in puff pastry) alone could have kept me happy for the next decade.
Well, that should probably be 'fat and happy'…. Living on puff pastry does have it's drawbacks.
Beef Wellington, whole salmon, seafood in cream sauces, little nibbles, big roasts…. All 'en croute'.
In the élaboré (fancy) section there were quail stuffed with mushrooms, whole stuffed pheasants, venison roasts…
One can buy lobster tails, stuffed squid and giant prawns in the seafood section; as well as plain frozen fish and seafood.
Without going into detail, let me just add that there was a significant selection of pizzas, pies, quiches and tarts…. And breads. Lots and lots of breads.
What did I buy? Things I've never seen anywhere else: a bag of frozen artichoke bottoms, a bag of frozen, peeled, fresh fava beans, a bag of lemon sole fillets, and the reason for stopping: a bag of frozen, peeled shrimp.
From there we went to the regular supermarket where they were having a 'duck and fat' fair.
Naturally, one could buy duck: whole duck (inc. heads and feet), duck breasts, duck legs and foie gras.
One could buy duck carcasses, duck feet and duck wings.
One could also buy duck fat. Vast quantities of duck fat. Which one needs if one is making confit: duck preserved in fat.
And any practical French housewife would be stocking up on duck and goose fat so as not to run out over the holidays.
(I find I get a more than adequate supply the few times a year we have duck confit.)
From a perfect Beef Wellington to a bucket of duck fat in less the 15 minutes.
But I had other things on my mind…. My tagine!
14oz (400gr) lamb, shoulder or leg, cut into large pieces
2 medium potatoes, (10oz, 300gr), cut into quarters
1 red onion, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chickpeas (15oz (400gr), rinsed
1/3 cup green olives
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 cup chicken stock
pinch of saffron threads, crushed
2 tbs parsley
1 tbs olive oil
Heat oil in tagine. Add lamb and brown well. Remove to a plate. Add onion, garlic, spices, and sauté until onion is tender and starting to brown. Return lamb to tagine, add stock, reduce heat and braise for 30 minutes.
Stir in saffron. Tuck potatoes in, cover and braise 20 minutes longer.
Add chickpeas, olives, parsley and braise 10 minutes longer.
Uncover, admire for a few moments, inhale the aroma, serve.