Welcome to The Aix-Files

Thanks for checking out The Aix-Files, my

blog postings inspired by my time in and around

Aix-en-Provence and the Vaucluse. The spot includes travel tips,

discoveries of local food and wine, recipes,

cultural events, interviews and historical

tidbits about Southern France. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Le Facteur

Our mailman (facteur)

"Don’t expect any mail to be delivered,” Monique said at her house on the night of our arrival at La Roque-sur-Pernes. But we were expecting important documents pertaining to our long-term visas.

“Even if we have indicated the address, our names and the names of the owners of the house?” I asked.

The next morning I happened to meet the mailman (le facteur) on the square in his little golden truck. I explained our situation, and asked if he wouldn’t mind delivering our mail. “But your house doesn’t actually have a mailbox,” he pointed out. Oh. We then agreed that if the shutters to our front door were open, he would deliver the mail;  if not, he would drop it off at Monique and Jacques' house. He noted our names and all of the pertinent information on a piece of paper on his dashboard.

In the days following, during my morning runs, we played tag, him darting in and out of driveways while I slogged up the big long hill, both of us waving back and forth.

Finally, one morning, when I heard his truck idling outside the window, I looked down and he saw me, waving a letter – our first. I rushed down to receive it. It was a bill (facture) from the hospital in Aix where Jim had had some treatments. As Jacques later said, “C’est toujours le facteur qui distribue les factures” (sounds better in French).

Recently Monique brought over yet another bill. “Yes, the days of receiving love letters in the mail are finished,” she said. We also received my (previously lost) driver’s license, then all of the paperwork for income taxes, which unfortunately don’t take a year’s sabbatical.
Yes, I think we have enjoyed our final truffles. The season ends in the middle of March. We found our own personal rabassier (truffle picker) Georges Reymond and his family. We met them on several occasions – the first time under the cover of darkness. We agreed to meet in front of the mairie (town hall) in Mazan at 7 pm -- very suspicious, I know. But it was already dark when we arrived in this new town, so we drove around and around, asking people along the way, then finally found the building at 7:30. They had already gone home.

We tried again the day after and spent an enjoyable, but intense, hour with them in their cozy home as Jim decided whether to buy one huge truffle or three small ones.

M. & Mme. Reymond and their truffles

Waiter at Chez Serge

-Enjoyed our last truffle meal at Chez Serge.
-Strolled down the back roads with flowering almond trees.
-Sneaked into fields of flowering apricots trees. I even changed my running route in the morning. Why run a distance up a hill, when I could just do “laps” in and around the apricot trees, sniffing and admiring each one along the way?

-NOTE: I have only met one runner on my uphill route in all these months. I guess everyone else knows better. I do encounter cyclists from time to time. As they whiz by me they always call out “Bon courage!”

"My secret place" on my running route

One more hill to climb, back into town

This is an elaboration of a recipe we observed at a cooking demonstration at the truffle festival in Carpentras. The presentation is spectacular. When we tried it at home we didn’t actually have any more truffes, but it was still excellent. So do as you wish.

Almonds don’t actually ripen until August, but you can still do this dish with almond products already available.

You will need one saddle of rabbit (rable de lapin) for two people. Debone it, revealing two large flat pieces (or ask your butcher to do this for you). 

On a small plate, mix about 100 g of almond powder together with some olive oil and herbes de provence. (I had almond flakes, which I crushed to make a rough powder.)  Spread this almond paste over the rabbit. Place a thin slice of jambon cru (or prosciutto), cut to fit, along the thick edge, then a couple of sage leaves to cover the length. Then place two or three sun-dried tomatoes, preserved in oil, on top in a row. Season with salt and pepper. Roll the meat up tightly and wrap very snugly in foil, twisting the ends, like a Christmas cracker. You don’t want it to leak. Bake in the oven at 180 celsius or 375 fahrenheit for 20 – 25 minutes, depending on the size of your meat.

Meanwhile, chop 2 medium onions finely and brown them in a sauté pan in a mixture of butter and olive oil.  If you have the kidyneys or liver, chop them up and add them to the pan. Pour in a splash of wine (white or red, your choice), scraping up any browned bits and reduce it slightly. Mix some cornstarch with a little veal broth (or chicken broth) and stir it into the mixture. Add more veal broth to the pan and simmer until it is reduced somewhat and thickened, but still sauce-y. If you have some truffle butter (butter mashed with chopped up truffles), add a spoonful, off-heat, until incorporated.

Unroll each package of rabbit, cut it in half, arranging it decoratively on the plate. Spoon the sauce on and around. If you wish, add some fresh parsley and toss on a couple of salted, roasted and chopped almonds as garnish. We enjoyed this with warm petite épautre (like wheatberries). It would also be good with grilled polenta or mashed (puréed) potatoes. Enjoy!

Saddle of rabbit preparation

A la prochaine,


More sauce, please

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