I woke up this morning to find a snow meringue on the table in my courtyard. It is a foot thick and slightly crisp on top, just like a good meringue should be!

Meringue of Snow

I’ve lived in Normandy for seventeen years and never seen snow like this. It began more than a week ago, and is still blanketing fields and prairies, untouched except for rabbit paws and bird feet The skies are blue, except when they turn gun-metal grey and start to blow flakes down upon us. This is a true, Christmasy winter, the like of which we just don’t expect.

I think the cold has made everyone warm. As parties are cancelled because of icy roads, friends who live nearby are gathering to cook and eat together, around a blazing fire. No one is leaving town to shop, and local shopkeepers are ecstatic with the business. Maybe this winter will usher in the beginning of an era where the outlying supermarket and shopping mall become less important, in favor of the quality and service one finds right here at home.

In my home we’ve certainly surrounded ourselves with warmth, music, Christmas cookies, oysters, duck, foie gras, champagne and gorgeous Cuvée Armand from Peyres Roses, in Gaillac. We’ve walked and bicycled, swum in our neighbors’ heated outdoor pool through cushions of steam, sipped mulled wine with slivered almonds floating on top. It has been, and will be for the next few days, a glorious season.

Tomorrow, we head to Vienna for the opera and more. Meanwhile, Merry Season to you all, and stay tuned in 2011.

I leave you with a quick recipe for Cinnamon Pecans (Nuts in the Kitchen page 26), just in case you need inspiration for New Years’ Day brunch!

 

CINNAMON PECANS

1/3 cup (65g) vanilla sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably from Vietnam

1 large egg white

Pinch fine sea salt

3 cups (350g) pecans

1 cup (150g) almonds, coarsely chopped

¼ cup (30g) sesame seeds

¼ teaspoon fleur de sel

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and the cinnamon, so they are mixed.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg white with a pinch of salt just until it foams. Add the nuts and the sesame seeds, and stir to coat. Add the cinnamon sugar mixture and toss with the nuts so that they are thoroughly coated. Sprinkle with the fleur de sel. Turn the nuts out onto a jelly roll pan and place them on the center rack of the oven. Toast until they are golden and smell like heaven, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Remove the nuts from the oven and let them cool on the pan. They will cool into clumps. To serve, break up the clumps. These nuts will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks. They can also be frozen, and they will keep in the freezer for 2 months.

Yield: about 4 cups (500g) nuts

 

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