Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Culinary surprise

When we leave on our annual trip to the Loire Valley we set out at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, in order the get to Paris around 8 a.m. That way we avoid the heavy traffic on the circular road around the French capital. We have breakfast at the first rest stop south of Paris and usually reach Amboise by 11 o’clock. Just in time to drink our aperitif at the ‘Château’, the little bar across the road from the castle.

The return journey is a different matter though. As we leave on Friday morning around 10 a.m. we would arrive in Paris around 1 p.m. … a hellish moment to be on the ‘périhérique’. We therefore have made it a habit of avoiding the capital by driving through Pithiviers, Milly-la-Forêt and Melun, east of Paris. This brings us to the Champagne region (Epernay – Reims) where we stay overnight till Saturday morning. This way, we have less than 300 km to cover the next day and we get home in the early afternoon.

During the first part of our return trip we usually stop at a ‘routier’ or village restaurant to have a light lunch. Over the years we’ve tried several places. Some were great, some really disappointing. Twice we stopped at a little place called ‘Auberge de Rigny’ in the village by the same name. The entrance door leads into a little bar, where the landlord is serving the customers who are sitting on high stools at the counter. Locals pop in for a beer or a glass of wine as an aperitif. It’s also a ‘point de vente’ (point of sale) for fishing permits, although I haven’t actually seen a lake or river in the area.

In the bar you can also have a sandwich, a piece of baguette with Brie cheese or rillettes. In the next room there are several tables and the blackboard on the wall announces the ‘Plat du jour’ (Today’s special). On our first visit we had the choice between a slice of pâté or mackerel in mustard sauce as a starter. The main dish was ‘Faux filet’ (steak) or ‘grilled andouillette’ (meat offal sausage). My friend had the pâté and I had the mackerel. We both chose the steak, as ‘andouillette’ is something I like to call ‘an acquired taste’.

The meal was very pleasant and I particularly enjoyed the mackerel. The filets were completely boneless and the mustard sauce creamy and tangy. As I was curious about the recipe, my friend asked the landlady if she would explain how it was made. “Oh, c’est très simple” (It’s very simple), she replied and disappeared into the kitchen.

I bought this tin last Friday at our local supermarket.
I wonder whether it will taste just as good as the
mackerel I had in Rigny all those years ago?

Two minutes later she came back carrying a tin. “Voilà”, she said handing me the tin! I didn’t recognize the brand, but it was just a tin of … ready made ‘Maquereaux à la Dijonaise’, an industrially made and common tin of canned fish in mustard sauce!

The landlady considered this as completely normal and saw no harm in showing us that all she did was opening a tin of fish. We had some trouble keeping a straight face, though.

The next year we stopped at the ‘Auberge’ again, hoping that Friday’s special hadn’t changed. Unfortunately, they had run out of tinned mackerel …



Jean said...

What a star !! She could easily have fibbed and said it had taken hours of marinading and complicated preparation.

Nadege said...


ladybird said...

Jean, At the time we couldn't believe our eyes/ears, but I guess French country people are just 'too' honest :). Which in some way is very refreshing!

Nadege, You're right, it was very funny and we still get a good laugh everytime we think of it.

Ken Broadhurst said...

We often drive to Paris through Pithiviers, Malesherbes, and Milly-la-Forêt too. But I don't know Rigny.

I guess the mackeral incident was the proof that little restaurants like that Auberge don't have professionally trained chefs in the kithen. It's what we call down-home food.

ladybird said...

Ken, Rigny isn't on the Paris road that leads from Melun to
Meaux, which you probably take. It's on the D402, two thirds of the way between Melun and Coulommiers. I wouldn't say it's worth the detour ... but great fun if you happen to be passing through :).