A Love Suprême


Guineafowl 6 | Infinite bellySpilt wine | Infinite belly

I never thought I’d live in a stone house. In California, tradition (and earthquake codes) requires supple wood, whether it was used to build a Reconstruction era Victorian house in Haight-Ashbury, a rustic cabin in Big Sur, or a McMansion in Orange County. Many were built en masse, tract homes covering entire neighborhoods that over decades gained new wings, stories, and windows that today engulf the original. But here in rural France as I drive through any given road I pass by stone houses with crooked walls and slanted roofs.

Leaf | Infinite bellyRaw carrots & pears | Infinite bellyA Christmas meal | Infinite belly

A large red truck can be seen at the entrance of a barn, chickens and ducks roam freely and I have to slow the car down to a crawl. The earth is anything but flat; bumps and slopes abound, and yet human dwellings and farms are well adapted to this tumultuous landscape. Not all stone houses are equal, but it takes a while to tell them apart. Gradually, I develop a preference for stones of certain colors and sizes, old wooden blinds painted to match the front door, and a montée de grange or barn ramp that is so typical of houses in this part of Auvergne.

Village door | Infinite belly

Wooden spoon | Infinite bellyRaw pears for roasting | Infinite bellyStatue in Clermont-Ferrand | Infinite belly

In the Loire Valley further up north, the very light pierre calcaire reigns and paints the charming local hue. Conservationists scratch their heads to find ways to preserve the buildings as this material easily erodes and has become difficult to replace. Two weeks ago we saw something completely different and equally impressive when we drove to Clermont-Ferrand, the capital of the Auvergne region, a city whose buildings were made using pitch-black volcanic stones. Clermont-Ferrand's cathedral | Infinite bellyClermont-Ferrand's cathedral & vintage carafe | Infinite belly

Caldron | Infinite belly

I will never forget parking in front of the Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption cathedral and facing the stare of this imposing gothic building. Even more impressive is the inside: the dark stone produces a contrasted relationship with light, which in turn reflects ethereally on stained-glass windows, engulfed by silence. 

A Christmas feast 7 | Infinite bellyA Christmas feast 11 | Infinite bellyVintage silver & garlic | Infinite belly

In the area near our home, stones come in shades ranging from light beige to dark gray, with a reddish-brown type thrown in once in a while. Some of the older walls combine small and large stones to produce a heterogenous but sturdy whole. On our walks we notice how some houses were altered by tearing a wall down and replacing it with a large glass panel window, juxtaposing transparent and solid. Once in a while, usually in the higher altitude areas close to the ski lodges, a Swiss-style wooden chalet appears and surprises us.

Glass | Infinite bellyAuvergne village | Infinite bellyA Christmas feast 8 | Infinite belly

I spend so much time in these thick stone walls, safe from the cold air and in a way cut off from the rest of the world. I’m certainly not the first to say that food is intimately connected with memory, but the process of cooking is an excellent vehicle for mental time travel.
Boris the cat | Infinite bellyAndré at the feast & handmade bowl | Infinite belly
I first had a pintade (Guineafowl) for lunch at a brasserie on Rue du Bac, back when we were living in Paris. (This vein of the 7th arrondissement begins by the Bon Marché department store and flows down to the Seine, bringing with it the choicest of papeteries or stationary stores, conceptual pastry shops, boutiques full of delicate objects for the aesthetically sensitive and of good fortune).
Guineafowl & frost | infinite belly
Ribbon | Infinite belly
Vintage embroidered cloth & pears | Infinite belly
At the time we walked to work together almost every morning, weather permitting. We started by Hotel de Ville, passing through the lock-laden Pont des Arts where this symbol of love carried so much weight that it threatened to bring a centuries-old bridge down. Dropping off Adélaïde by her office in a publishing house I would then reach my final destination in the 8th arrondissement. I was certainly aware of how lucky we were; I made sure to walk as much as possible even though it took me about an hour, avoiding at all costs the convenient but crowded metro commute on Line 1, reeking of Chanel nº5 on the way to La Défense.
Roasted pears 3 | Infinite belly
Time permitting, I would hop across the Seine at lunchtime and meet up with Adélaïde on rue du Bac. While I was usually happy ordering a steak frites, the menu proposed a suprême de pintade with mustard and potatoes.
A Christmas feast 2 | Infinite belly
“Suprême” sounded intriguing, like some special sauce that is only rarely served because it is so good people don’t want to spoil it. It turns out that it just means the “upper” or superior part of the bird, that is, thigh and breast. But the guinea fowl was a succulent discovery, and I think any festive occasion is a good excuse to try something special like this, in a warm place with four walls, be it wood or stone.
Egg basket | Infinite belly
A Christmas feast 5 | Infinite belly

Festive roasted guineafowl + chestnuts, savory pears & glazed winter carrots
| Serves 4-6

Poultry served with roasted fruits is Adélaïde’s family’s all-time Christmas favorite. You can also use apples (make sure to pick a variety that’s good for cooking otherwise they fall apart).

The guineafowl:

  • 1 whole guineafowl
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 10 or more pearl onions
  • 1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
  • a few rosemary sprigs
  • a few thyme sprigs Guineafowl & flowers | Infinite belly
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 400g pre-cooked chestnuts
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • coarse salt

Guineafowl & peelings | infinite belly copyKitchen knife | Infinite bellyA Christmas feast | Infinite belly

  1. Take the bird out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before roasting. Stuff it with the unpeeled garlic cloves, pearl onions, lemon wedges, rosemary & thyme sprigs. Make sure to also add coarse salt as well as some melted butter into the cavity.
  2. Using a brush or your fingers, coat the guineafowl with melted butter. Massage it thoroughly so that the skin soaks in all the grease. This will prevent the bird from drying when roasting.
  3. Roast in a preheated oven at 190°C for app. 1 and a half hours in total, depending on the size of your bird. After 30 minutes, pour the chicken stock over it. Half an hour before the end, place the pre-cooked chestnuts and pine nuts around the guineafowl. Season to taste and drizzle with brandy. If the bird’s skin turns too dark, cover with foil.
  4. Once the guineafowl has a nice golden color, remove and sprinkle with herbs for presentation. Make sure to keep the sauce to serve in a separate bowl.

A Christmas feast 6 | Infinite belly

Ornament | Infinite belly

Raw pears for roasting | Infinite belly

The savory pears:

  • 3 firm pears, peeled & cored
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • salt & pepper

Roasted pears & vintage carafe | Infinite belly

  1. Peel the pears and cut them in half, keeping the stem for presentation. Core each half with a knife.
  2. Lay out the pear halves on an oven-proof pan and pour stock & lemon juice over them. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with brown sugar. Season to taste.
  3. Roast the pears in a preheated oven at 190°C for app. 25 minutes, turning them around once in a while to make sure they roast evenly. Once cooked, keep the extra liquid to mix with the guineafowl’s sauce.

Raw carrots, pears & Clermont-Ferrand's cathedral | Infinite belly

Cleaver | Infinite belly

The glazed winter carrots:

  • 6 medium-large carrots, peeled
  • 40g butter
  • water
  • nutmeg

Knot & multicolor carrots | Infinite belly

Cutlery | Infinite bellyA Christmas feast 3 | Infinite belly

  1. Cut a small hole (the size of a walnut) in the middle of a sheet of parchment paper, big enough to cover your pot.
  2. In a pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Throw the carrots in right away and cook for app. 3 minutes making sure to coat them evenly. Sprinkle with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  3. Pour water over the carrots so that they are just covered, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Place the parchment paper on the surface so that the steam mainly escapes through the hole in the center and not the sides.
  4. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, checking with the tip of a knife if they are cooked all the way through. If there is still a lot of liquid in the pot, uncover and let it evaporate or drain and serve.

Light in the kitchen & guineafowl | Infinite bellyA Christmas feast 4 | Infinite bellyLogotype medalion

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16 thoughts on “A Love Suprême

  1. 3 stars! It’s so difficult to make appropriate comments, as you take us by the hand to explore your new surroudings and reminisce on past walks in Paris. Your pictures are pure beauty and a delight for the senses. Should you have a moment, please re-visit my blog: in my December 17 post, I “challenged” you to post a quote. I’m sure you could come up with something delightful on the subject of cooking :)

    Liked by 1 person

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