Thursday, December 10, 2020

Lockdown diaries day forty-two, Advent day ten, moules et huîtres

French Village Lockdown Diaries day forty-two France Trivia Advent day ten moules huîtres
Advent day ten, sparking rosé and biere triple

Day forty-two, Thursday 10th December 2020


Advent day ten


It was much milder today and I even managed to get the washing dried outside, but I think the sparkling pale rosé I pulled from the advent calendar will be another one to sit in the fridge until I feel the need for a bit of sparkle in my life. The mulled wine was lovely yesterday and the longer it sits mulling, the better it becomes, so although it might not be the ideal apéro for moules frites, that’s what I’ll be pouring myself later.


We knew this day would come, but it was still quite sad when the moules lady weighed out our kilo of mussels and said this would be the last week she’d have them. It will probably be late spring before we get to enjoy them again, so tonight’s meal, served with homemade oven chips, will need to be savoured. 


Moules night is a pretty easy night for the chef as there is very little to prepare; sauté an onion and some garlic, add thyme and when softened throw in a glass of white wine. Once there is plenty of heat, add the moules and they are done in minutes. The oven takes care of the chips and the preparation of cutting the potatoes, seasoning and oiling them, isn’t too hard either. I’ll certainly miss them, but last night’s mushroom stroganoff was pretty easy and quick to prepare too, and it was deemed a success. 


French Village Lockdown Diaries day forty-two France Trivia Advent day ten moules huîtres
#DecemberChallenge mushroom stroganoff

Adrian and Ed might be easy to please, but Ed ranked it as top meal of the week, even though it was only Wednesday and he almost swooned at the cottage pie (with meat) I’d served on Tuesday. I almost didn’t want to admit that this morning I noticed the jar of cornichons in the fridge, and remembered I was supposed to have added 50g of them to the finished stroganoff just before serving. Oh, well, I will be making it again (it might even become our new Thursday regular) and next time I will try to remember all the ingredients. For some, following a recipe is easy, for me it really is a challenge.


French Village Lockdown Diaries day forty-two France Trivia Advent day ten moules huîtres
This week's veggie pannier

While Adrian worked outside on some of the pots that need a bit of protection over winter, I had fun in the kitchen cake baking and soup making. The soup used up some of last week’s veggies, making sure there was plenty of room for the contents of this week’s veggie pannier. There is something quite satisfying and reassuring to know the cupboards are well-stocked heading into the weekend. One thing we are running low on are mincepies as I have just noticed there is only one left, so I guess tomorrow I will be making another batch of them.


French Village Lockdown Diaries day forty-two France Trivia Advent day ten moules huîtres
A typical French seafood platter for Christmas or New Year

France Trivia advent calendar, day ten, oysters (huîtres)

The moules might be over for the season, but our seafood lady will still visit the village each week selling her oysters. Most French family Christmas Eve and/or New Year’s Eve celebrations will include oysters and to ensure she has enough, she has been encouraging us to place our end of year orders already. Our local Atlantic coast oyster beds, from the area around La Rochelle, Ile de Ré, Ile d’Oléron and Marennes are renowned in France. They get their own special mention in my Larousse guide and when I accompanied Ed’s class on a school trip in 2006, they might only have been aged six, but a visit to an oyster farm (ostréicole) was one of the highlights and most of them were already accustomed to eating them.


The baby oysters spend many years in the oyster beds at sea before being brought in for their final ‘refining’ (claire) process. This is done in the old salt marshes along the coast and it’s here they come into contact with a microscopic algae that gives them their characteristic green colour. The oysters are classified as ‘fines de claire’ or ‘spéciales claires’ depending on the conditions of the refining process and how long they spent there. 

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