Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Snacks: The French (Connection) Platter

Yeah, yeah, I know that was a stretch, but this snack is actually quite good. The French are known for good food and fine wines, but you don't have to live like a bohemian and break your bank to get the idea. The ingredients are simple, the set up is idiot proof, and I mean that. You'd have to staple the bread to the ceiling and microwave the fruit to get this wrong. Don't get any ideas!

What you need:
  • crusty loaf of bread
  • fruit – grapes, apple, pear, cherries etc.
  • bottle of wine – red or white
  • cheese
  • knife
  • plate
  • glass

Step 1: Bread, the staff of life
Since this meal is so easy to put together, we're gonna concentrate on quality of ingredients. Do NOT use Wonder bread. I have nothing against it. Wonder makes great PB & J's but you already know how to make those. Go to the bakery. You know, that little store that smells so good, with all the cakes in the window? The one you always pass by because Atkins and Hollywood have you terrified if you go in and buy something....like a cookie. OH GOD NO NOT THAT! Get over yourself. You probably scarf down more potato chips than fresh bread and guess what's better for you? Now where were we?
Get a long crusty loaf like a baguette or a good Italian style bread. As long as it has a good crust you'll be fine. You can also get these at the supermarket but the loaves won't be as crusty and not a tasty. However if you are hungry on a budget I understand. Rip off a chunk or slice a few slices and set it on your plate.
Step 2: Cut the cheese....ew.
Ok I know Cracker Barrel is the first thing that comes to mind but if you can afford it, there are better cheese out there. A good supermarket found cheese is the Vermont Cabot Sharp Cheddar. It's white and wrapped in black wax and has a very sharp taste to it. As supermarket cheese goes, this is my favorite. You can also find it in more mild yellow cheddar. Should you be so lucky as to have access to a Whole Foods and you have the funding, go to the cheese counter and talk to the people there. They are extremely helpful and they know their stuff. You can get a cheese that goes well with any kind of fruit or bread or wine and they can get very specific. Any cheddar will do with any bread and fruit. Blue cheese or Stilton types work well with pears and apples, but it is very strong and VERY stinky. Bries are lightly flavored, so you need to think about what flavor you want to be in the lead, the cheese or the fruit. If you pick a delicate fruit like pears, honeydew melon, or kiwi, then the cheese will be the dominant flavor. With fruits like cherries, peaches and grapes the cheese will take on a more subtle flavor.
Play with it and see what you prefer.
Step 3: “A plant? I thought guys like you were called a fruit.” ~ Lesley Ann Warren (Ms. Scarlet), Clue (1985)
The kind of fruit you pick matters little. The quality is key here. If it's too soft it needs to be composted. If it's too hard it can be left to ripen a bit. No matter what you get remember this: You can buy a used car, bike, clothes, house or pet. You CANNOT buy USED FRUIT! Stop and Shop had fooled a friend of mine into thinking that “returned fruit” was ok to repackage and resell. That is NOT OK! That is freekin' nasty! Read labels, please. Go to a green grocer. Even the Mexican dude with the fruit cart on the corner of 11th and Bleecker can do better and most of the time they do great!
Smell the fruit. Smell like what it's supposed to be? Peaches, melons (not watermelon), apricots, plums, cherries, berries and other fairly soft fruit should smell like what they are. If something smells kinda funky or fermented, pass. Feel it. Is it firm, rock hard or squishy? Firm is good. Rock hard is not so good. This means it needs some time with the bananas in a brown paper bag. Oh grow up. Squishy is bad and has no redeeming qualities, except as compost or juice. And unless you have a juicing machine or a gardening friend, leave it where you found it or throw it away. Apples, pears, peaches, mangoes, apricots, melons (all), plums, kiwi, bananas and fruits like these mostly use the squeeze test.

Now....:::sigh::: I shouldn't have to say this but I will anyway, because I know someone reading this is thinking about going out there and grabbing a pineapple by the neck and throttling it. Do not do this. You will not get anything from squeezing a pineapple, except a bloody hand and a pissed off store manager. Oh yeah, and a round of laughter from people pointing at you. The best way to get a fresh one is to buy one already cut, cored and in a container. Or canned if you're capable of handling a can opener without getting into trouble.
Mold is not ok. No you can't pick around it because it's a spore and it gets everywhere. If it's on or in one, it's in all of it. Toss. Same for grapes. If your grapes look like raisins, then buy raisins not grapes and stop wasting money. The rule for grapes is, unless you intend to freeze them and use them as a cold treat when it's hot, get only what you need and use them in 3 days.
Step 4: Wine not?
I suggest pairing wine with this set up. You can also use fruit juice, sparkling water, champagne, tea (herbal and black) or beer. A word on beer: Unless you're a beer snob and get those fancy beers that they only sell in out of the way places or in bodegas near obscure pubs, do not drink Bud Light, Budweiser, Coors or any of that bathtub brew with this plate, because you'll ruin the taste of everything else. For more on beer with food I will link you to Codex of Yum.
Now then. How to tell if wine is good or not:
  • Does it come in a gallon jug? Bad
  • For five dollars? Very Bad
  • Is there a “dimple” in the bottom of the bottle? Probably Good
  • Is it 15 to 20 dollars? Good
  • Is it more than 20 dollars? Better
  • Is it Spanish, French or Italian? Safe bet it's good
  • Is it American? Maybe....
  • Is it from California? Good (if it's $15 or more)
  • Does it come in a box? ..........................................................................get out.
A word about Arbor Mist. There's a reason this “wine” is advertised in the middle of the day on Lifetime: Television for Women and Gay Men. This is not wine but a wine cooler and the people that drink this are most likely housewives that hate their kids, never see their husbands and have no taste whatsoever. If I offended anyone, then good. This will motivate you to get outside, take a class and get some culture.
Open the wine, pour some into your glass and let it breathe a bit. I don't know why but people seem to think it helps the wine taste better. Fine with me. The kind I use is the Coppola brand. Yes, the director. You can get small bottles of this as well. The regular size runs about $20 and if you re-cork it right it will last a few weeks. You can also talk to someone in a wine and liquor shop and ask them how to save your bottle after it's opened.
Once you get your fruit, cheese, bread and wine together, relax and enjoy it. This can be used at a picnic, in front of the TV or for a take to work lunch. Because it's so simple and quick, it can be made at any time. If you need a midnight snack the bread and fruit will digest more easily in your stomach and help you sleep instead of bloating you and keeping you uncomfortable and awake. Don't eat cheese 3 hours before bed, because the dairy creates gas in your tummy and can keep you up if your system can't handle it. People with IBS should be aware of this. Learn from my mistakes...
If you can't limit yourself to one glass of wine or have to drive home, please don't be an asshole. When drunk people cause accidents, most of the time it's the sober innocent people they hit that get killed, so be responsible and respectful of other life out there.

1 comment:

Yuri said...

i'll take my boxed wine with a dash of sass and an extra helping of verbal threshing :P.