Saturday, December 25, 2010

Shrimp Salad for a Christmas Lunch

When John and I entertain friends for lunch during the Christmas holidays, this is the dish I usually prepare:

The day before it is to be served:

2 lbs of frozen large farm-raised shrimp, shell on (easy peel shrimp)

Thaw shrimp overnight or under running water and boil 3 to 4 minutes in salted water with several tablespoons of Zatarain crab boil

Chill overnight.

3 mirlitons (chayote squash) Cut in quarters and boiled until tender.

Chill overnight

Next day, peel shrimp and put in a large bowl.

Peel mirlitons and cut in bite-sized pieces, and add to bowl.

Also add to bowl:

One can of hearts of palm, chilled, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Two stalks of celery, cut into small pieces

White part of one bunch of green onions, chopped

One bunch of chopped parsley

One can of water chestnuts, halved

Half a dozen Campari tomatoes, quartered, or a dozen grape tomatoes halved and pulp removed.

The tender part of a fennel bulb, cut into small slices

One teaspoon of red curry powder

Salt to taste (try one teaspoon, add more if necessary)

Two tablespoons of Hellmann’s mayonnaise

One tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Combine with large spoon, cover and refrigerate until served in bowls over baby arugula

Serve with hot, crusty French bread and a dry white wine or Champagne or Prosecco.

Serves 6

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Raymonde Duval's Gigot

The fashionistas have taken over the Palais Royal in Paris and Raymonde Duval’s charming gallery which specialized in remarkable early 20th century French artists has been replaced by a shop selling chic and unbelievably expensive gloves. But we have many happy memories of beautiful works of art hanging on the walls of her small gallery, especially the brilliant canvases and works on paper by Augustin Hanicotte, a gifted artist who, celebrated in his lifetime, was almost forgotten after his death. Hanicotte was re-discovered and promoted by Raymonde in the 1990s. The artist, who worked both in Holland and in Collioure in the south of France, was a gifted colorist, very influenced by the Fauves, those early 20th century artists dubbed “wild beasts” because of their strong use of color and vivid imagery.

When Henri Matisse, one of the leading  fauves, who early in the 20th century helped invent the movement in Collioure, left his studio there, Hanicotte moved into it and remained for the next thirty years. The culmination of Raymonde’s efforts to bring Hanicotte’s art back into the public eye was a large retrospective of his work held in 2000 in the Musée d’Art Moderne in Collioure and in the nearby Château Royal which is pictured in so many of his works.

We had the good fortune to spend a day in Collioure seeing the exhibition with Raymonde, and when the exhibition ended, we were able to purchase about sixty of the wonderful works that had been on display. We sold them very quickly, keeping only one extraordinary watercolor and gouache for ourselves.

Raymonde and her elegant and now vanished gallery in the Palais Royal

Raymonde not only has a good eye for discovering art, but also a good nose for finding restaurants, and she is  a superb cook. We have had many wonderful meals with Raymonde, both in restaurants she has discovered and at her own table. Several times in Paris, and once when she visited us in Virginia, she made this succulent leg of lamb for us.

8 pound leg of lamb

10 cloves of garlic, peeled

½ cup of Extra Virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees

Dry the leg of lamb, then rub in the salt and pepper, coat with the olive oil

With the sharp point of a knife, make ten holes in the lamb and stuff in the cloves of garlic.

Place lamb on a rack in a roasting pan in which you have put one cup of water and put in oven.

Every half hour put another cup of water in the roasting pan.

After 45 minutes, turn the lamb.

Turn it again after another 45 minutes.

Let cook for another ½ hour, then remove from the oven and set aside for ten minutes before serving. Serves 8

Augustin Hanicotte (1870-1957) The Goat-herd, watercolor and gouache, 1925

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Tapenade of Jean Nicolas

Our friend Jean Nicolas, a retired Parisian banker, had for many years a very enviable job. As a loan officer of a major French bank, he would take potential clients to Maxim’s five days a week and over lunch decide whether or not the bank should lend them a great deal of money. Jean was then (and is still) very trim. I once asked him how he managed to keep his figure when he was obliged to eat so often in one of the great gastronomic temples of France. “Très simple,” he said. “I always order exactly the same thing: a chop, a green salad, and a bottle of Perrier.” Jean no doubt exercised the same self-discipline when handing out loans, and had more bankers followed his example, the world’s finances probably would be in less turmoil today.

Jean was born in Nyons in Provence. He makes a tasty and very healthful tapenade using this family recipe. He has pointed out that the caper is called “tapé” or “tapeno”in Provençal, thus: “ tapenado” or “tapenade” means a sauce made with capers, even though ripe olives are the principal ingredient.

2 ½ cups of ripe olives, pitted and rinsed

½ cup of capers

4 filets of anchovies

½ tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (2 if you prefer a thinner consistency)

Mix the ingredients and pass through a food mill or grind in a food processor, being careful not to over-process them.

Serve on toast or crackers.

Jean Nicolas on a visit to London, 1971 circa,
Lower Mall, Hammersmith