I do not speak French. I dearly wish I did, but the extent of my Franco-linguistic abilities max out at “Oui, chef!” “Baguettes!” and “Ooh-la-la,” which isn’t even technically French, though does sound pretty good when said in an exaggerated accent.
But I do love French things. I have a soft spot for raw milk cheeses, burlap satchels of herbes de Provence and the lazy-romantic music that crops up at every American depiction of French life. But most of all, I love the way French people talk, weaving in and out of metaphor, speaking in simplistic, short, real sentences that, when thought about, actually mean so much more. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful, I think, largely because while I understand and yearn for that type of communication, it remains unattainable to me. When I speak, I am loud and my thoughts jerk around, as if being yanked in opposite directions. I am not eloquent, nor do I have a charming accent.
And still, Stu, bless his good heart, has taken to singing this song every time I mention something remotely Alsatian, Parisian or Burgundian. “La vie Française” has become somewhat of a warm-hearted joke between us, and we do look forward to sharing a slice of French life together every so often stateside.
Last Friday, when Stu arrived home he carried with him an armful of French wine – nothing extravagant, mostly vins de table, but I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I insisted immediately on securing a baguette and he suggested watching a French film as we ate. You might suggest we intended on bastardizing an already-trite notion, but it sure was fun.
Anyway, even the French would admit that wine and bread do not a dinner make (though I won’t pretend I haven’t tried, on occasion). We began to toss around ideas for more sustenance. I remembered a recipe I’d recently read, an intriguing take on beets by a charming cook. The creator’s notion of French culture seemed so similar to mine that I felt it not only appropriate but imperative that I give her recipe a go.
And oh, it was lovely. The beets cooked so slowly that their edges crisped and caramelized, the butter around them first foaming then turning a nutty brown. A last-minute addition of chard and beet greens gave the whole thing some punch – or at least a bit of virtue – and the quick pan sauce I threw together from an opened bottle of Riesling and vegetable stock simmered down to a sticky, rich consistency. It’s a fantastic, show-stopping number, one that I wish I could take credit for, but I must applaud the creator for her delightful pluck and ingenuity.
Although we originally intended this dish to be a part of a grand, celebration-type night, it really does fall into the “make this now and make this often” category. Bon Appetít.
French Peasant Beets
Adapted from this recipe by user Amy_N-B on Food52
- 1 medium shallot, diced finely
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 4 medium-sized beets, tops and bottoms
- 1 bunch Swiss chard
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 1/4 cup stock (vegetable or chicken)
- Salt, pepper
Using a large frying pan, cook the shallots over medium-low heat in 1 tablespoon of butter, until soft and fragrant.
Meanwhile, peel the beets (reserve the tops) and slice them into 1/4″ thick rounds. Once the shallots are soft, add the second tablespoon of butter and the beets, face-down in the pan. Cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Flip them over and repeat the process on the other side.
Meanwhile remove the ribs from the chard and rinse it, along with the beet greens. Chop them up into bite-size pieces and set aside.
When the beets are almost fully cooked, increase the heat to medium-high and cook them on 3 minutes more on each side, caramelizing the edges.
At this point, add the wine and let it almost evaporate. Add the greens and stock and cook until the greens have wilted and the liquid has thickened.
Season well, and serve the beets and greens drizzled with the sauce.