By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist
Last week, I packaged up all the goodies I’ve been baking and made my annual sojourn to the Ponderay Post Office, ahead of the rush. This year I mailed more than 20 care packages to my collection of single friends and relatives. While I watch Gail the postmistress weigh and slap metered postage stickers on each package, part of the routine is to display my displeasure with the rising cost of postage. And butter. As the total cost climbs towards two hundred dollars, I whine aloud, “This is the last year I’m mailing so many packages.” Gail reminds me that I say that every year. She’s right, I love this ritual—probably even more than the recipients.
My Christmas bags are stuffed with homemade treats, too. Along with some clothes and a teensy bit of contraband (shh!), I’m Paris bound! It should be quite an adventure, spending Christmas in the city of romance with a very headstrong (though quite adorable) toddler and her two equally adorable brothers. My carry-on is filled with myriad snacks, crafts and toys to entertain the young ones for 16 hours of air travel. My last and best purchase was a toy pig to join the donkey, cow and sheep in the small nativity set that I’m bringing along. Last week Fern had a major 3-year-old melt down when she learned there’s no pig in the nativity scene to look after baby Jesus. It’s a long flight, and it was the very least that I could do.
Since I’ll be gone, I didn’t bother to decorate the house this year, but I’m still feeling mighty festive. There’ve been so many fun events happening downtown lately, and plenty of new eateries to sample. Yes, I’ve already sampled quite a few. Just last week, I had lunch at Fiesta Bonita’s recently opened second location (their chile relleno is equally delicious at both locations), appetizers in a cozy corner at The Back Door (I loved the lobster roll) and a pub-style dinner at The Fat Pig (their burger is amazing). For a town this size, the range of available cuisines is mighty impressive. The time, money and effort that have gone into revitalizing these spaces is impressive too, so let’s show our appreciation and support these local start-ups, which could include picking up some last-minute stocking-stuffer gift cards.
I’ll be searching for some local eats in my Paris neighborhood too, and can barely wait to see (and taste) all the typical favorites. Lucky for me, many of the traditional foods the French enjoy at Christmas are among my favorites too, like oysters, foie gras, pates and terrines. And lobster. And cheese. Shopping for these foods in the little specialty shops is half the pleasure, and it’s a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
If you’re a foodie, a trip to the La Grande Epicerie de Paris is an experience not to be missed. It’s a proverbial food mecca where you can spend an entire day roaming through one delicious department after another. I’ve already been planning (scheming) my shopping experience, which necessitates a 10-year-old accomplice, capable of helping me get a few extra bags on the metro and back to our apartment. Lucky for me, I’ve taught this kid well, and he already has a sophisticated palate, so he can be bribed with Pain au chocolat or another equally delicious pastry.
For starters, I’ll choose a savory terrine and an assortment of hand-sliced and cured meats for my charcuterie tray. A bûche de Noël is on my shopping list, too—the classic French Christmas dessert, shaped and decorated as a yule log, also happens to be our family favorite right here in Idaho. No trip through La Grand Epicerie would be complete without a tour of the confectionare, a sugar lover’s paradise of beautiful displays filled with chocolate truffles, macarons and crispy meringues (I’m beginning to think a taxi ride home may be in order).
For our Christmas’ grand finale, I’ll serve up the rich chocolate sponge cake, paired with French Champagne, and, far from home, we’ll toast our host, Père Noël (Father Christmas) and his city of love.
You don’t have to go to France to enjoy your own first course of salmon terrine, which is perfect plated as a salad or served as an appetizer for your holiday spread.
Salmon Terrine Recipe
Serves four as a first course or makes a delicious appetizer for a dozen or so guests. “This classic terrine can be made 1-2 days ahead. Keep chilled and wrapped until you’re ready to serve. It also freezes beautifully, well wrapped, for up to a month. Our access to delicious Pacific salmon makes this a perfect regional dish – it’s equally (almost) delicious with Atlantic salmon.”
•1 oz butter
•4 tbs water
•2 leeks, washed and chopped
•1 ½ pound fresh salmon,
skinned and boned
•7 oz smoked salmon, skinned
•4 oz heavy cream
•1 tbs fresh parsley
•1 tbs fresh chives
•Salt and pepper
•Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
•Line a 9” loaf pan with cling wrap. Leave plenty to cover the terrine for baking.
•Put the butter and water in a pan and fry the leeks, don’t allow to brown. Season with salt and pepper and cover loosely with lid. When the leeks are soft, drain them in a sieve and leave to one side.
Dice the fresh raw salmon and coarsely chop the smoked salmon.
•Put 1/3 of the fresh diced salmon into a food processor, along with the eggs and cream and mix until smooth. Pout into a bowl and add the remaining fresh salmon and the smoked salmon. Mix and add the salt, freshly ground pepper and herbs and leeks.
•Pour into the cling wrap-lined pan pressing the mixture and giving it a couple good raps on the counter to remove any air pockets.
•Place loaf pan in a roasting tin filled a quarter of the way with boiling water.
•Cook in oven for about 40-50 minutes until the terrine is nicely set. Uncover from the cling wrap and brown on top for a few minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. When semi-cool, place in the fridge overnight.
•Turn out gently onto a serving tray, garnish with chives and serve with cucumber slices and small rye bread squares.
•For plated salads, with a sharp knife, cut into 2” slices and serve on a bed of arugula. Garnish with lemon zest and red pepper strips