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[Not] Cooking Off the Cuff: Two New Flavors

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Jackie and I are away for a couple of weeks in Paris and (mostly) in London, so there's been no home cooking to report on. As usual, though, there have been plenty of new, sometimes exciting, flavors, two of which were particularly unexpected.

The first was a salami-like sausage that sounds kind of gimmicky but that is irresistible: The saucisse sèche au fromage de Laguiole: Dry sausage with cheese from Laguiole, made as best I can tell by only one producer (it is, after all, a "creation" more than a tradition). We were served some as an aperitif at a nice informal restaurant-cum-takeout-shop in Montmartre: Jeanne B. It is made by combining pork, seasonings and 18-month-old cheese from that district (famous for its cutlery and for Restaurant Bras). Jeanne B's owner, Frédéric Hubig, told us that the cheese is quite a sharp one at a year and a half of age, but that once it mates with the pork and once the mixture undergoes the slow fermentation that turns it into salami, it somehow softens. It softens, but it doesn't fade: The outcome is a delicious, well-balanced slicing sausage that really tastes of both its principal ingredients and that doesn't seem goofy at all. Obviously, we're not able to buy it in the U.S. and maybe not in the UK either, but it's something I'll keep my eyes open for next time we travel to France.

The other eye-opener, by contrast, can indeed be found in the States: The finger lime, or as the French call it, citron-caviare. At the amazing (no other word will do) restaurant l'Arpège a dish of Brittany sole was lent sparkle and laughter-inducing texture by the spherical juice sacs of this gherkin-shaped citrus fruit. These can simply be spooned out of the skin to form something that really does look quite a lot like fish roe and that pops in the mouth almost violently (the membrane is more tenacious than that of a typical citrus), releasing an intensely lemon-limey juice. Such fun. If you find some (though native to Australia they are grown in California and elsewhere in the world), you won't have much trouble finding uses for them. Right now, I'm imagining a summer squash risotto with a sprinkling of this "caviar." But taste before you use: A friend of mine who cooks for a living notes that they have recently been on the bitter side and "oddly floral, not in a good way."

There was lots more, of course, and plenty that will get incorporated into our dinners once we get home. Isn't travel grand?

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