autumn bounty

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

There are several things to adore about fall. Endless rain, grey skies, strange allergies, new flus, back to school blues, the sky getting dark by 5pm, knowing it's another 9 months before summer.

But, have I mentioned what my favourite thing about autumn is?

autumn bounty
Originally uploaded by nardac.
It's the fact that we have to wear more clothes in fall, which means I can start eating even more than usual, in prudent preparation for the coming winter. Which really couldn't be better planned, because fall is one of the most delicious and rich of all seasons.

At the beginning, there is the harvest of mushrooms. This year, it was damper than usual and we had massive dumps of chanterelles, trompettes de mort, all sorts of delicious fungi.

Then, coming just after the wave of fungus is the squash season. Pumpkins, spaghetti squashes, roasted acorn squash, in soups, purees, stews, in the oven, baked in a pie, turned into jam, thrown with butter and salt, squashes are a delight. Such little work. You only have smash it open, dig out the seeds, smear some butter, sprinkle some salt, wrap it in tin foil, then forget it in a medium oven for an hour.

But this year, I've discovered something new, chestnuts, or, as they are called here in france, marrons. In france, they can be called either marrons or chataignes. I don't understand the distinction but I think it has something to do with raw and cooked.

They make a type of butter out of chestnut puree that beats the heck out of peanut butter, and runs closely to red bean paste in its taste. I smear it all over a fresh crusty baguette or pain de mie and dip it in earl grey in the morning.

Aside: someday I'd like to spawn a little beast that I can raise and torture with all my little food whims until they write a book like Nigel Slater's Toast for me.

But the french also get quite friendly with their chataignes, using them as bed partners for game or blood sausage. You boil your chestnuts, peel them, then simmer them in some caramel (sugar syrup browning) until they are confit. (steeped in the sugar). Then you just broil some rabbit, serve it with green pepper seed cream sauce and the chestnuts.

Making an entrance at the wedding party is a sac of fresh walnuts, from my friend Julie's farm. They are covered in some earthy peaty strands and are fantastic. Of course a little roasting couldn't help, but it's really fun to just crunch on a fresh walnut. I think I'll make a cake out of them.

But, that's the joy of fall. So many great dishes to eat and so many lovely sweaters to cover up one's indulgences!

afternote: I'm baking like a maniac. I think I've passed the stage where I'm afraid of my oven. It's starting to happen that I can make cakes without measuring and they turn out. Made a funny fudgy cake out of bananas and poppyseed, butter, lemon juice, flour, baking powder, and some salt and sugar. It was incredibly good! A cake without eggs. Who would have guessed?


second afternote: my pressure cooker works just fine now. And the soup is still delicious.