Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Frantic French Food Fixin'

This winter break is one of the few times in my teaching career that I have not disappeared to another country at the sound of the final class bell in December. Due to our travel restrictions and local obligations, we are staying in Taichung this holiday. Who would have thought that vacation could be so jam-packed and busy but so far it is shaping up to be a hectic ride.

Monday felt like our first true day of the break and we planned to use part of the day looking at baby schools. We toured a couple and may have settled on Paradise - I just like the idea of sending our little one to paradise each day...Getting home, we remembered that a guest was coming for an early dinner. It was 1:30 and the meal needed to be prepared and the house cleaned. Take a deep breath, let's start racing!

This kind of all over the place activity was much easier when four hands were 100% available to the task at hand, but Xian has the canny ability to require three to six. As I began cooking, Krista worked on cleaning with baby in tow (have we mentioned that Xian absolutely hates being put down during the day and will scream, scream, scream)

I had two and a half hours to bake a loaf of bread, prepare a tarte a l'onion,a salad and a chocolate mousse. In between cleaning spurts, Krista sprinted upstairs to our 4th floor garden space to clip a few herbs (basil, oregano and rosemary) for the bread. Thanks to a birthday gift from my parents, we are slowly attempting to transform an upper level balcony space into a garden.

The garden deck in September - unfortunately several of the plants did not make the winter transition but the herbs are going strong!
Yeast gobbled up sugar in a warm water bath until loads of flour were poured on top with garlic, herbs and a dash of salt. The magic of the bread machine then took over - the timer let me know that the baking would be finished just in time.

The next time sensitive item was the chocolate mousse. Chocolate needed to be broken up, melted, mixed with other ingredients and then chilled to a wonderful, tasty dessert.

Below, I'm frantically chopping garlic for the bread as eggs are prepared to add to the mousse.

Melting chocolate and beating egg whites at the same time. A non-hands-free mixer mixin' it up by itself.

The first impression of most people when asked if they would appreciate a tarte a l'onion, or onion pie, often begins with disgust but moves quickly to a polite response using the word "interesting". It does sound a bit odd. Who would make a pie with onions? But, I am yet to meet someone that later describes the taste of the pie as interesting. The person is usually asking for seconds so quickly that he or she has no time to comment on the fact that they are enjoying a pie full of onions. Labor wise, chopping vast amounts of onions can be brutal but this time I was able to quickly chop without a crying fit (what's your onion chopping trick? The latest I've tried is to hold water in my mouth as I cut. This sometimes works...)

As the clock ticked towards our guest's arrival, all was in good order. The pie was baking, the bread was finishing up and the mousse was chilling.

One of our best purchases in Taiwan - a counter top oven! Here, the tarte a l'onion bakes its final minutes.

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