week 16: christmas in luxembourg

At first I avoided Auchan, which is a breed of store called, fantastically, a hypermarket. I was intimidated and somewhat revolted by the Wal-Mart-esque proportions of the place, its associations with economy-size bins of Doritos and the economy-size people who consume same. Plus, I was confused about the parking situation, worried that what I was driving into would turn out to be the private garage of an accounting firm. And it's in a mall

But then I discovered that at Auchan's terrine counter there are 30 choices; it might be the only store in this country that stocks passionfruit puree; they sell Bresse chickens. I still don't much like shopping there--too big, too much of a production, too distracting. But when I need something at all specialty--a turkey, prosecco, whatever--I head to the centre commercial, park on the -2 parking level, and bite the bullet. As I did on the morning of Christmas Eve, to ensure that I could find (a) the proper accompaniments for foie gras, and (b) frozen corn and baking powder, both to make corn pudding, to serve with a standing rib roast instead of Yorkshire pudding, which is too last-minute-y and I think somewhat pointless.

Boy what a mistake. I sensed trouble when I could barely find a spot in the garage, but I assumed these were last-minute gift-shoppers, madly grabbing toys and electronics on Auchan's second floor; I was headed to the food, on the first. But I was wrong: it was a goddamned feeding frenzy. In Seafood, the staff were handing out freshly shucked oysters; dozens of men were gathered round, slurping away, while their wives waited at the counter to buy crates full of French coast oysters. In Wines--the size of a large Manhattan shop--the crowd was three deep in Champagnes. It was impossible to get your cart into Produce, so people left their carts around the perimeter, much like a park-and-ride commuter situation. There were three different sections in the store with large displays of foie gras and its accessories, including special knives, toasts, jams, salts, and dozens of choices of the engorged livers; people were grabbing half-pounds hunks willy-nilly. It was like a whole country desperately laying in supplies for Martha Stewart's house arrest. Hypermarket indeed.

But none of these people was Martha Stewart. Rather, there's a certain type of woman in Luxembourg who at any given moment seems to constitute an impossibly large percentage of the overall supermarket crowd: she's sixty years old, grim-faced, bespectacled, and built like a linebacker. She's got her elbows out and her dander up, and this battle ax looks like she will happily ram you with her shopping cart filled with 100 pounds worth of pork and potatoes. Wherever I turned, there she was, daring me to try to navigate around her. 

Back at home, I found little boys chomping at the bit for tomorrow. I never before realized how much Christmas Day is nirvana for little boys; I certainly don't remember feeling the way they clearly do. But it was still the eve, grownup time, so I preheated the oven for the giant hunk of roast beast, and put the foie gras and its wine in the fridge, modulating temperatures all over the place. 

a recipe-assemblage: foie gras

Of course, foie gras is not for everyone. Our dinner guests had never had it before, and one of them, I suspect, will not have it again. But I love it, and served it thusly: 
  • The foie gras: chilled, then removed from the fridge 30 minutes before eating. Sliced 1/4 inch thick with a sharp knife that's wiped clean in between slices.
  • The bread: rounds of brioche, toasted. 
  • The sweet: a wine jelly such as confit de Monbazillac, spread on the toast before topping with foie gras.
  • The garnish: a few grains of coarse sea salt. 
  • The wine: Sauternes, chilled and thawed on the same schedule as the liver. 
Et voilĂ !

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