Paris: Settling In

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By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

This year, we considered going on vacation to somewhere new, but we decided on Paris instead. There’s a lot to be said for a place where you’ve already been to the great museums, seen most of the major sites, are familiar with the food, and can navigate the transportation system.

Then you can go out or not. Eat out or not. There’s no pressure to DO; you can just relax.

Of course there’s more to the appeal of Paris than familiarity. Each time we visit, I fall in love with the place, all over again. And you can never have been to the museums enough times to pass them by on each succeeding visit.

So here we are, settled in an apartment near the Arc de Triomphe, having a real vacation. Dave is house sitting and looking after Nana, so we can leave our San Francisco cares behind.

The boulangerie is down the street for our morning croissants. There’s a wonderful outdoor market on Rue Poncelet where we can shop for food. And all of Paris is at our fingertips from the Charles de Gaulle-Etoille metro stop.

We’re not rushing around looking to try all the best restaurants. First of all, we can’t afford it and secondly, it’s not the focus of our trip. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to eat well.

The other day, we had dinner at the renowned Bistrot Paul Bert, one of three establishments of Bertrand Auboyneau . I have a book at home called French Bistro, Seasonal Recipes, by the restaurateur and Francois Simon, revered food critic of Le Figaro. Published by Flammarion, the book is filled with evocative photos of bistros and a glimpse at some of the most mouthwatering dishes, along with recipes for making them.

The text demystifies the bistro, organized by Ten Bistro Essentials. It begins with the owner, the maestro who sets the tone and orchestrates the total experience; to the chalkboard menu; the wine; the servers; the table; the décor; the clients; the ambiance; and finally, the aromas.

The bistro was as inviting as the photos in the book. At 7:30, it’s not crowded so I had a chance to take some photos. By 8:30, the place was jam-packed and bustling. The food lived up to its promise. While I wish I could share our three courses with you (I tweeted pics afterwards), the next best thing is to give you a recipe.

To get the recipe and shopping list on your smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android device) or PC, click here.

Sole Meunière with Lemon-Buttered Steamed Potatoes
Serves 4

Four 10-14-ounce very fresh, line-caught soles
1-3/4 pound new potatoes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
15 sprigs parsley
3 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon

Peel and steam the potatoes. Chop the parsley.

Peel the skin off the soles, or ask your fish seller to do so.

Spread the flour out in a dish, and dip both sides of the soles into it.

Heat the salted butter in a pan over high heat, and cook the soles for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until they are a lovely golden color. Transfer the soles to a dish or onto plates.

Melt the unsalted butter, and add the lemon juice to it. Leave for 1 minute before pouring into a sauceboat. Sprinkle the potatoes with the chopped parsley, and spoon the lemon butter over them. Serve the potatoes with the soles.

Recipe from the Bistrot Paul Bert, from the book, The French Bistro, Seasonal Recipes, by Bertrand Auboyneau and Francois Simon.

Special Fork Note: There is no recipe for the potatoes. If you’ve never steamed new potatoes: put them in a metal steamer basket in a pot with 1 or 2 inches of simmering water. Do not allow the water to touch the potatoes. Steam about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. When done, you should be able to pierce potatoes easily with a knife or fork.

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Posted: Apr 14th by Sandy_Hu