Sunday lunchtime is a serious affair in France. Around noon, the stairwell in my seven-story building starts to smell like garlic, onions, roasting chicken skin. The line from the bakery goes out the door and along the glass wall as people pick up assortments of pastries and tarts for dessert. I learned today that one can call the police if anyone is doing building construction between noon and two on a Sunday, lest it hinder one’s enjoyment of Sunday lunch. It’s serious business.
Around here, Sunday lunch is really more like Sunday breakfast, and since Sunday is pancake day, there is very little room for anything akin to roast chicken, even if that is what I smell when I walk in the front door after church. By the time I get off on the sixth floor, I could kill for a roast garlic clove… but it’s panake day, and so pancakes I make. They’re actually quite delicious. I usually forget about the chicken.
Still, there’s something very satisfying about cooking a whole bird, a whole roast, something large and meaty that has to be carved. I can do it, but I prefer to ask the nearest gentleman, which has the dual purpose of making said gentleman feel useful and allowing me to do other more interesting things like pour glasses of wine.
Roasting large cuts of meat used to fall into my food fears, the things I would never do with the worry that I would kill someone with undercooked chicken or create a tough, chewy, gray roast beef. I’m not sure how I started to feel so normal about pork roasts… it didn’t happen until after I had a toaster oven, which is not the best environment for roasting large cuts of meat, but it gets the job done, and I can do it perfectly every time now.
While my Sunday lunches are, and probably will remain, of the pancake variety, this is something I would make for a Sunday lunch, should my French boyfriend ever decide he wants to stop being so American. The smells are the kind I’d like someone to smell coming up the stairs on Sunday afternoon, hoping that they’re coming from the doorway they plan to stop at. It’s the kind of meal that begs for a walk around the neighborhood afterwards; the Country Boy and I have taken to weekend wandering… late fall in Paris is pretty much begging for it.
I take pictures, an d when we get back, we have Sunday dinner instead. It doesn’t have the same traditional quality, but then again, there’s something to be said for creating one’s own traditions.
Mustard Pork Roast
5 new potatoes, sliced into discs
1 tsp. salt
1 pork roast (~700 g.)
2-3 Tbsp. spicy French mustard (you can also use whole grain mustard, if you have it)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Slice the onions into thin half-moons, about 1/8 inch thick. Toss with the potatoes and salt, and spread over the bottom of a baking dish.
Coat the pork roast in mustard, using a pastry brush if you have one. Place the roast over the potatoes and onions and roast for 30 minutes.
At the 30 minute point, remove the roast and turn it upside down. Add 2-3 tbsp. of very hot water to the bottom of the baking dish and toss the onions and potatoes. Return to the oven and continue roasting for another 30 minutes. Serve with applesauce, cucumber salad and cornbread.
1 English cucumber
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
fresh black pepper
Using a box grater or a mandoline, slice the cucumber into paper-thin slices. Place in a strainer and add the salt. Toss to coat. Allow to drain for about 2 hours in the sink. (You can also drain over a bowl overnight in the fridge.)
Add the sugar, cider vinegar and black pepper. Marinate about an hour in the fridge.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 can (250 g.) corn, drained and puréed
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a medium bowl, combine the corn, eggs, milk and melted butter. Add the qet ingredients to the dry, stirring just enough to combine. Pour into a buttered loaf pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.