There is something so very special about being an expatriate even though, occasionally, I long for the familiarity of the country where I was born.
But just think: here, I am and always will be “the American.” Which gives me the advantage of the renegade. This creates advantages, one of which is that I can serve dinner in the kitchen. Now maybe people think the French eat dinner in their kitchen, images of the huge farm table festooned by pots hanging overhead. This has been true, and may still occasionally be true. But the reality of life in France is that people eat their meals in the dining room.
So, at my house, I transform my kitchen into a dining room, and I do it by popular request. Believe me, I love sitting at a dressed table in my timbered dining room, a fire at my back, the church delicately lit outside my window. But I acquiesce because I also love the theater of welcoming guests into my “laboratory,” the kitchen, where I develop and test recipes, teach my kitchen wisdom, and generally rule my world.
Besides, I’m always running a little on the late side, and when we’re in the kitchen enjoying aperitif and all the little dishes I like to serve with it, no one is bothered and I don’t miss a thing.
I’m a big appetizer person, so I put out a selection of little dishes that I’m either testing, or simply was inspired to make by a visit to the market, or the weather outside. Favorites are grilled shitakes, chicken liver pâté (half liver/half butter/lots of white pepper), and crisp pastry sticks.
The pastry sticks are lagniappe; they are the result of dessert, almost always a fruit tart, and the leftover pastry. Inevitably, however, they steal the show. In fact, as my friend Louis said the other night, a champagne glass in one hand, a pastry stick in the other: “Ces choses la, ce sont une tuerie” (These things, they are a killer).
He’s right, they are, and here is the recipe. Add them to your holiday repertoire. You can make them ahead – roll out the pastry, cut them, freeze them and bake at the last minute. Simple.
Make many. They’re killers.