Coq au Vin

We just finished a meal that was surprisingly good.  I mean, really good. Surprising for at least two reasons.  First, we had made coq au vin a few years ago in Michigan with a slow-cooker recipe and it was notably underwhelming.  Second, when I decided to try again tonight, based on the stuff in our fridge, I just read a couple recipes online, and then winged it for somewhere in the middle.  That kind of thing doesn't usually go so well for me.  

But this was delicious, and so I wanted to write down the recipe and thought I might as well post it here, for my own reference, and anyone else that is curious.

1.  Saute in a big saucepan with olive oil:  1-2 chicken breasts (cubed) and 4-5 fresh mushrooms (sliced) for a few minutes until browned.  Also with 3 medium cloves of garlic, some salt and pepper, and some "Herbs de Provence".  (I would guess Italian seasoning would also do the trick, but I'm sure French food people would kill me for saying so.)

2.  After a few minutes, add:  2 carrots (sliced and peeled) and 1.5-2 fresh tomatoes (diced).  Simmer for about 5 minutes.

3.  Add 1/2 cup red wine.  We had a Cote du Rhone on hand.  I also added about 5 fresh basil leaves, torn into smallish pieces.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

4.  Add 1 cup of chicken stock or bullion equivalent.  I also added about 1-2 tablespoons of flour to thicken it.  I have no idea if that did anything.  Simmer for 15 more minutes, then serve.  It was really yummy.


I happened to match it really nicely with an ad hoc bread.  It was an herb focaccia.  I made it using the 5-minute artisan bread recipe (boule recipe with herbs mixed into the dough) that we have posted on before.   I pressed it flat and after 30-minutes of rising, I used my fingers to press divots in it, basted some olive oil over the top, and sprinkled Herbs de Provence, garlic powder, and salt.  Also yummy.

Bon Appetit.


Un Petit Voyage a Chambery

We're a bit behind on our little excursions, but a few weeks ago, we took the train to the closest biggish city to our own, namely Chambery, capital of the Savoie department, which is where we live (akin to a small state, or maybe a big county).  Two of our friends from our training this past spring in Colorado are studying French there, in preparation for work in Burkina Faso, and we were glad for a chance to visit them.

Mostly, the kids were glad to get to ride the train, as seen below.

 We have had an uncanny number of rainy days on the days that we are not in school and this was one of them.  However, after a lovely lunch at Don and Janet's apartment, we took a little tour of the city.  The old town is very cool and here is some of the towers and the chapel of the old castle of the Duke of Savoie.

The small walking spaces of old Europe are probably my favorite feature, because they speak of a time before cars and highways.  However, they are notoriously difficulty to photograph with any satisfaction.  Maggie is in this picture to give a little feel for how narrow the street is.

This little timbered "covered bridge" crosses the walking street.  I guess Chambery used to have a lot of these, but they were largely removed as a fire hazard, but this one has remained.  The city is an odd mix of old juxtaposed with new, and it sounds like much of this is due to damage from WWII, with new buildings built where old ones were bombed.

A well-known feature of the town is this fountain with four elephants.  When it's on, water comes out the trunks of the elephants.  Apparently, it commemorates Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants, but I don't know more of the story than that.  There was a carousel adjacent on which Maggie took a ride with great delight.

Maggie with Don and Janet.  Thankfully, Ben napped right up until the time for our return trip.

And lastly, a bit of graffiti as a brief commentary on modern french religious belief:


"Hiking the Mountain" with the Kids

On Wednesdays, there is no school in France.  I guess this is nationwide.  Maggie doesn't go to school, and as our Centre follows the public system (so as to allow us to take care of our kids), we don't have class.  So we generally split the day, with one of us taking the kids in the morning while the other studies, and vice versa in the afternoon.

This past Wednesday, the first activity of the morning was taking a "hike up the mountain".  About 5-10 minutes behind our house, there is a hill with a shrine of Mary and Jesus at the top.  It's called "Chapelle Notre Dame de Vignes," which I love.  Our Lady of the Vines.  How appropriate.  You have to walk through the adjacent nursing home parking lot to get to the top, but it is just high enough to have a great view of the city.  You can see the statue from our house, and so Maggie was excited to get up to it.  She did great and walked the whole way.  Ben walked until the steepest part at the end.  Here are some picture from the top.
This is a view looking over our house toward the opposite valley we see out our window.  In the bottom left, a little up the hill is the old medieval town of Conflans, and you can see it's chateau just below it (maybe, if you click on it to enlarge it).
I texted Rachel from the top, and she leaned out the window and waved, and Maggie could see her, which was fun.

 Coming back down, Ben graciously allowed a moment sans pacifier for a photo.


A bit of fun with French

Every language has their fun points, and most speakers of said language are probably unaware of them.  Here's a few from French thus far:

1.  Pourboire:  I don't know the etymology of this word, but it is the word for "a tip", i.e. what you leave a server (if you leave one at all here in Europe).  It's a compound word:  For-drink.  I can imagine two possibilities:  The first is that you are leaving a pourboire as a thanks "for your drink".  The second is that you are leaving a little something for the server to have a drink later on.

2.  Pain Perdu:  I had actually seen this at Mimi's, the yummy breakfast place near Rachel's mom's in Arizona.  It's the french word for French toast.  I mean, it can't be "french toast" to the french, right?  It literally means "the lost bread", meaning that you usually make pain perdu out of the old stale bread that has been otherwise lost.  A nice little redemption picture, really.
3.  Love, as in the tennis score:  During Wimbledon, I was reading a bit on the origins of tennis.  It's actually an old game, and is thought to have originated in France.  The scoring of "love-15-30-40" is a bit lost in legend, but the most feasible explanation for "love" (i.e. a score of zero) is the french word l'oeuf. (which actually sounds quite similar...)  It means "the egg", or as we might say, "a big goose-egg."



It's funny how some life goals come about.  These days people talk about a bucket list.  I wonder if they just choose things at random for their list, or if there is meaning behind each item.  I'm sure if I had made a list at age 20 it would have looked much different than a potential list I would make today.  For example, 50 states.  I got to accomplish that lovely goal last May, but before meeting Eric I doubt it was much on my radar.  Seven continents are probably on the list, too, but not every single country in the world.  Too many countries, not enough time, other things I'd rather do.

Anyways, after we had Ben in Kenya in 2011, Eric and I started joking about how we could have each of our children in different countries...no wait, different continents!  The more we talked about it, the more realistic it seemed, since about 2 yrs after Ben's birth would put us in France, around the right time to have baby #3.  I hate to say it was our good planning, because I really think instead it's God's good providence, but ....

April 9, 2013.  Goal (soon to be) attained.  Probably no more kids after this because really, when are we going to find ourselves in Asia/South America/Australia/Antarctica?