, Muskogee, OK

January 29, 2013

Parisian history comes to life

By Melony Carey
Food by the Book

— Having lived in the same house for the last 35 years, “The House I Loved” by Tatiana de Rosnay (St. Martins Press, 2012) immediately caught my eye. Set in Paris in the 1860s, the novel explores the great rebuilding project spearheaded by Baron Haussmann under Napoleon III that shook the City of Lights out of its medievalism and into the sophistication and progressiveness of the modern world.

The novel is told in first person through a series of letters and reflections written by Rose Bazelet, a 60-year-old widow who owns a house on the rue Childebert, a street that has been in existence since the Merovingian king himself in the ninth century. This ancient and narrow rue is scheduled for demolition to make way for the broad boulevards so characteristic of Paris today.

Rose’s home is the last link to her beloved husband, Armand, and the life they shared. The house, with its shops on the ground floor, also represents her only means of income. Faced with extinction of all she loves, Rose makes a decision; she will send everyone else in the house away and wait for the bombardment of shouting men and equipment advancing in the name of progress. When the house goes, a secret Rose has kept locked away for decades will go with it.

De Rosnay has woven a fine story whose themes are as diverse as the individual versus the state or the importance of memorializing history on both a personal and a civic level. Other works by de Rosnay include “Sarah’s Key” and “A Secret Kept.”

The renowned French chef, Auguste Escoffier, first went to work in Paris at Le Petit Moulin Rouge in 1865, the year the houses on rue Childebert were destroyed. While his definitive “Le Guide Culinaire” encompasses more than 1,000 recipes, he is best known today for his perfection of tomato sauce and inventing Peach Melba. Here are a couple of recipes based on his originals.

Sausage Ragout

1 pound sweet Italian sausage links

1 pound spicy Italian links or hot link sausage

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 green peppers, coarsely chopped

2 red peppers, coarsely chopped

1 can Italian seasoned stewed tomatoes

1 can whole plum tomatoes

1 small can Italian seasoned tomato sauce

3/4 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut sausages into 1/2 inch slices. Heat olive oil in a skillet and cook sausage until browned on all sides. Add onion and garlic and cook approximately 5 minutes. Transfer to crock pot. Add peppers to skillet and cook, stirring, until peppers begin to wilt. Add wine, tomatoes and tomato sauce to the skillet and bring to a boil. Carefully pour the tomato mixture into the crock pot. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve over mashed potatoes or pasta with a green salad and crusty French bread.

Peach Melba Bars


1/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup chopped almonds


3 peaches

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour


3/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch square baking pan. For topping, blend flour, brown sugar and cinnamon with fork or whisk. Add butter in small pieces and blend with fork or fingers until mixture is crumbly. Stir in almonds and set aside.

To make the filling, peel and cut peaches into bite-sized pieces. Put in bowl and toss with raspberries and vanilla extract. Sprinkle sugar and flour over mixture and toss gently until everything is well blended. Pour and spread evenly in prepared pan.

Make the batter by blending flour, sugar, baking soda and salt with whisk. Add buttermilk and melted butter and gently stir with large wooden spoon or spatula until flour mixture just disappears. Pour and spread over fruit. Sprinkle topping over batter.

Bake at 25-30 minutes or until filling is bubbly and top is light golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.