Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Lamb With Chestnuts and Carrots

Lamb With Chestnuts and Carrots
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Yesterday, we went to see some friends who live a little over an hour north of us. They're great fun to hang out with. The husband is Italian and the wife French (Actually, as a cultural aside: the French often don't actually marry. They just have children without ever going through with the paperwork. They're still very much committed to the family, though. This couple isn't actually married.). They've got two very sweet little girls. They're oldest is only a few days older than ours, and they get along great.

Any parent can tell you that it's a miracle to spend several hours chatting with parents and not once to hear an argument. That's how well our daughters get along. They've known each other literally from birth, so that may be part of it. Anyway, they set the tone for the little ones, and everyone has fun without the fighting. Wonderful.

So, we parents had time to chat about all sorts of stuff. This couple's great to talk with. She's got a very dry sense humor that is not at all typically French (more British, almost), and she cracks me up. She's also a very talented seamstress, and we went through her pile of handmade bags. I'll be showing you what I brought home in another post. And, he's a vet who doesn't mind having his brain picked by the likes of me (and the husband).

Ooh, and before I forget to mention the picture, I thought I'd share the main course with you. I recently talked about wanting to attempt to capture some of the traditional Christmas-time treats served here. You remember? So I can share them with you. Well, here's one - sort of. This is lamb with carrots and chestnuts. The dish itself is not at all typical. The French often cook chestnuts in a variety of ways around Christmas-time (it's such an important food here that it has two names: châtaigne and marron), though none of them would include lamb. The lamb was the contribution of our Italian friend. Like me, he's not hindered by the traditional recipes, so he experimented a little with the chestnuts. I'm not a chestnut girl, but this wasn't half bad. The flavors did mingle nicely.

If you look back to the right in the pot, you'll see some whole chestnuts. They're peeled and cooked whole. I know what you're thinking - you peel them uncooked? Actually, no. Since the French use them in so many different recipes, both sweet and savory, there are a variety of ways to buy chesnuts here. You can, of course, find them fresh all over the place. Those tend to be reserved for grilling (you know, over an open fire). Then, you can get them whole but dried. Or whole in a can (water-packed, I believe). Or there are the whole, vacuum-packed kind (without the water). These are what our friends used here.

They also make flour from them, since unlike other nuts, they're mostly carbs and have very little oil. This flour can be used to make delicious crepes. You can also find chestnuts ground into a paste. And, if they add a ton and a half of sugar per cup of this paste, you get my husband's favorite treat: creme de marron; a nasty-sweet concoction often spread over bread, mixed in with yogurt or fromage blanc, and if you're really disgusting, you'll even eat it by the spoonful. Definitely an acquired taste (I think you have to grow up with that stuff to appreciate it, but maybe it's just me).

So, even though we didn't leave with the item we actually went to get (oops), we had a great meal with some great company. That pile of clothes we had let them borrow can certainly wait until another day. Besides, we came away with some great hand-made bags and the entire 1st season of Desperate Housewives, which my friend assures me I will love. Should I be offended by the implication there? I am a housewife, after all.