Since moving to France I’ve mostly switched from editor to free-lance writer, but this week I put my editor’s hat back on to shoot the most beautiful house in Provence. My favorite photography team arrived from the states and off we went to the Luberon with Ron, our newly appointed Chief Transportation Officer, at the wheel (basically along for the food and the wine).
We arrived at Paul and Alix’s home in a chic and spiffy Vaucluse village, the perfectly renovated stone houses dripping with roses and offhand charm. Their house sits right on a narrow village street, but go out the back door you’re in full French country mode (see photo above), in a magical terraced garden with eye-popping views of the valley on one side, and a castle that towers above the house on the other, just up the hill.
For two days we lived the Provençal fantasy with our elegant and attentive hosts. Now I must tell you that magazine photoshoots are normally an intense, exhausting affair; we have a certain number of shots we must complete, and they must be absolutely perfect in every way, and we’re often under the gun to finish in time. The light and weather need to cooperate, and we have to keep the homeowners---whose house we are invading, filling with equipment, and sometimes rearranging---happy and calm. We’re on our feet all day, and maybe there’s time to grab a sandwich for lunch.
This time it was the homeowners who kept US calm. Fabulous lunches were served at noon in the garden by these two great cooks, and in the afternoon a tray of cheeses, olives, and wine suddenly appeared. We are not used to being so spoiled, but we quickly adjusted. (Note to my boss in Des Moines if she's reading this: it's all lies, we slaved away, grabbed a peanut butter sandwich, and turned down the wine). Photo, Alix with photographer Gordon Beall and his assistant Jack Beall.
Paul is a warm and generous Spaniard and Alix is a witty, perky, pistol from New Orleans, chic and bejeweled and sassy. We learned that Paul makes a mean Spanish tortilla, and he promised to make it for us the second day. The key, he says, is to slice the potatoes very thin, a labor of love as he hand cuts them like his Spanish mama used to do, instead of taking the easy way out with a Mandoline ; meanwhile Alix made what we all agreed was the best gazpacho we’ve ever had, with a surprise secret ingredient.
We took our leave of Alix and Paul with great regret, but we took with us un petit souvenir: those two treasured family recipes, to share. Today, we’re featuring Paul’s tortilla, but you’ll have to tune in later for Alix’s gazpacho. And when the magazine article comes out, I’ll be sure to let you know, and you can truly share our Provençal experience.
RECIPE: Paul’s Spanish Tortilla
A tortilla in Spain is a cross between an omelette and a frittata, chock full of sautéed onions and potatoes. Choose potatoes that have a thin skin for this recipe. Serves 2 generously.
- one large potato, peeled and very thinly sliced, as with a Mandoline
- 2 medium onions, white or yellow, sliced
- 4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
- 5 oz. olive oil
- 5 free range eggs, beaten (Paul used SMALL eggs, right from the nest. Try three if using large ones).
Heat the oil in an omelette pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and cook until they're golden brown, turning every minute or so, about 20 minutes. Turn heat to low and pour eggs in all at once. Cook for about a minute until just set. Put a plate over the top of the skillet and carefully flip tortilla onto the plate. Slide it back into the pan to cook the other side for about two minutes more. Slide the tortilla out onto a platter. Tortilla can be served hot or at room temperature. Photo: Paul shows off his tortilla.
In the COMMENTS: Linda and Catherine have ideas on what to do with those brass chicken feet. Mavis and Suzanne remember the mink collars--my aunt had one too! Paula, love the toilet brush, that sums up the vide greniers pretty well!
FAVORITE READS, Foodie Alert: There is a new biography out about Craig Claiborne, The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance, which I cant' wait to read. To get a taste of Claiborne’s food-loving spirit: my friend Gordon told me about a NY Times story from 1975, in which Claiborne sets out to find the most expensive meal on the planet. A fun read if you want to plan your fantasy meal, or you happen to have a few grand to drop on dinner.
Our Reader's Blogs: Check out fellow francophile Christine's musings at Pen at the Ready.