Saturday, December 22, 2007

Adventures in Cooking

A French diplomat once remarked to my husband that he found living in Washington, DC more difficult than living in Tokyo. How so? Well he knew that Tokyo would be completely different from France. He was not so well prepared for the many differences between the U.S. and France.

I felt his pain today as I cooked what should have been a simple dinner to share with two families: jambalaya for the main course and lime mousse for dessert. I've made both of these recipes many times but never in France. The sticking point for the jambalaya? The sausage. After a trip to the open-air market and the supermarché, I came home with three alternatives: a smoked sausage with no particular name, a thick slice of bacon (which is more like ham than the thin and crispy variety you find in the States), and a package of sausages marked "andouillette." The smoked sausage and the ham cooked fine. The andouillette fell completely apart in the pan and had a funny taste that did not say jambalaya. I put that one aside.

The lime mousse presented a different challenge: whipping cream. I knew that the French call it "Chantilly" but there was nothing on the shelves indicating which cream was for whipping. Asking the lady stocking the shelves did nothing to dispel the mystery. I asked a neighbor who has been here for awhile and she said to buy the "crème entière" with the red cap. Well that cream came out of the carton as thick and as sour as sour cream. I whipped it anyway and folded it into the mousse. Everything worked out fine in the end; the red wine and chocolates brought by our guests didn't hurt either.

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