20 Days of Happiness Part 3 – J’habitais a Paris

There’s a scene in A Muppet Family Christmas where Ernie and Burt (from Sesame Street) have a conversation with Doc (from Fraggles) and Ernie and Burt can’t help pointing out what letter every word begins with.  “Bunk beds: B words!” they say as Ernie chortles.  When Doc looks at them askance they explain, “Where we come from, this is small talk.”  My sister once said that the scene reminded her of our family — except that complaining, not letters, are our family’s small talk.  It’s not that we are unhappy people.  We just like to air our grievances.  But sometimes it’s good to air positive feelings too and that’s just what I plan to do.  For my next 18 posts, I’ll focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.



From as early as I can remember, it was a dream of mine to visit France.  I even listed it as my top life goal on a goal chart I completed during my first cookie sale as a Brownie Girl Scout.  No one I knew had been to France — or traveled overseas at all — so I have no idea what inspired this desire.  Wherever my inspiration came from, it was enough to motivate me through 8 years of French classes.  All of my verb conjugating paid off when, as a junior in college, I had my first opportunity to visit France as part of my university’s study abroad program.

Before arriving in Paris, I had it in my head that the Eiffel Tower was nothing special — just an over-rated tourist trap.  My first glimpse of the monument, reflecting the orange glow of my first Paris sunrise, showed me otherwise.  Not only was the tower surprisingly beautiful, it also brought home for me the fact that I really and truly got to live in Paris!

To commemorate my many happy memories of France, I cooked a meal from the Classic French Food feature in the September/October issue of VegNews.  Pictured above is Mushroom (almost) Vol Au Vent with a side of roasted summer squash seasoned with Herbes de Provence (a spice blend from the Provence region of France, Herbes de Provence always reminds me of Paris because it was the only seasoning I kept in my Parisian dorm room).

Vol au vent is a puff pastry shell with a savory filling.  I remember seeing seafood versions on the menu at many Parisian restaurants.  The VegNews recipe, created by Miyoko Schinner, is filled with mushrooms and asparagus in a white wine cream sauce.  My version is more of a deconstructed pot pie because I used up a package of puff pastry sheets instead of purchasing the puff pastry cups the recipe called for.  The vol au vent was time-consuming to make because it required that the sauce reduce for at least an hour.  However, the active cooking time was minimal.  The end result was tasty — creamy and mushroomy with just a touch of the herb flavor from the seasoning coming through.  My husband, who loves creamy sauces, really enjoyed it.



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