Fun fact: this is actually not my first foray into blogging. When I was studying in France, I kept an online chronicle of my time there (because my 20 year old self thought everyone was just going to be soooo interested in everything I was doing in Paris). And while I read it back now and cringe at some of the things I said and the way I wrote, it’s nice to go back and read about such a formative time in my life.
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When I was studying abroad in Paris, I was still getting my feet wet with traveling and living in another culture. I was not very far removed from being a home sick, doe eyed, brand new college student. I was beginning to appreciate food as a way of connecting us and reforming my picky eating ways (yep, I used to be a very picky eater).
So it’s really interesting to go back with the lens of hindsight and see myself going through all of these changes, see myself fall in love with traveling, watch myself settle into my own skin.
When I was studying abroad I was living with a host family – a host mom, her son, and my fellow American roommate, Gabi. Our host mom was a character, and a lot of my first blog chronicled the things she made for dinner and the anecdotes of conversations around the table.
She was an extremely good cook, though there were certainly some interesting meals.
A few of the most memorable meals with Madame Dugan include:
The time she cooked pasta with pesto. We had to report our food allergies before starting the program, and I had disclosed I was allergic to nuts. However, the word for nuts in French is noix and that happens to also translate to the word walnut specifically. So she thought I was allergic to only walnuts and thought nothing of using pesto with cashews in it (to which I’m very allergic).
I asked her if there were noix in the pesto because I was having an allergic reaction. She argued with me vehemently that no there were not noix in the pesto to the point where she actually pulled out the bottle of pesto to show me the ingredient list. I pointed out the noix de cajou in the list, to which she STILL argued that no, noix de cajou are not noix and I was only allergic to noix.
The time we learned about tant pis. If we were going to miss dinner for any reason, we were supposed to write her a message on the chalkboard in the entryway of the apartment. Gabi and I made plans one night and were going to miss dinner, so we wrote her a note to let her know. We left our room to leave the apartment right around the time dinner was normally served. Mme Dugan had already started preparing dinner for us and hadn’t seen the note.
When she realized we were leaving, she said but you didn’t leave a note! We showed her the note, and her tone became irritated. She kept repeating beh tant pis which is an expression I wasn’t familiar with at the time, but I could tell it was NOT a happy phrase.
I asked Gabi (who was much better at French than I was) when we left what tant pis meant. Its inverse is tant mieux which translates to “all the better” so tant pis could be translated to “all the worse.” It more appropriately translates to the English expression “too bad.”
But I actually think the BEST translation of tant pis pour toi is “welp, sucks to be you.” It communicates a certain attitude of “that’s too bad for you, and I really don’t care.” It’s a phrase I would become much more familiar with during my second stint in Paris when I was truly living there and had to deal with all kinds of immigration bureaucracy.
I now have a habit of saying tant pis to my husband with a casual shrug when I’m trying to be a smart ass. He’s now VERY familiar with the phrase as well and flips it right back to me. And we owe it all the Mme Dugan for making the introduction 🙂
The time we ate cow’s tongue. We didn’t always know what we were eating when we sat down for dinner. And sometimes I think Mme Dugan liked to see if she could get a rise out of us. She liked to gauge our reactions and test some of our American stereotypes. Gabi and I both had strong suspicions what we were eating was cow’s tongue, but we were determined not to prove the picky American eater stereotype correct and ate it anyway.
The time Alexander McQueen died. Wine in France is served with pretty much every meal. I remember having lunchtime staff meetings at the school I taught and having wine and hard cider served in the teacher’s lounge like it was perfectly normal. But Mme Dugan never served us wine with dinner – I think because we were under the legal drinking age still in the US. The one exception was when Alexander McQueen died. For some reason that event was wine worthy, and I always think back on it as curious.
And one time, Mme Dugan made a delicious rice salad. It was simple but satisfying, so much so that I actually wrote about it in one of my blog entries at the time as at “the top of the list of things I want to recreate when I get home.”
And recreate it I have it. Many times actually. It’s one recipe that I’ve never really tweaked since I started making it. It’s still just rice + tomatoes + corn + olives + ham + cheese + hard boiled eggs.
But the thing that makes this rice salad so, so good is the homemade lemon dijon vinaigrette. Now this part of the recipe I have tweaked, and it did take me a few tries to get it right. The ingredients here are also very simple: lemon juice, dijon mustard, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper.
The dijon mustard has to be the Maille brand traditional Dijon mustard. Now is not the time to use whole grain mustard or any other brand. I’m a French mustard purist in this scenario, and I make no apologies.
For this recipe, I continued my immersion blender obsession and emulsified the dressing using the whisk attachment on the immersion blender. I did the same thing with homemade whipped cream earlier this week and it was life changing! It whipped it so much faster than using my electric hand mixer.
Once the vinaigrette is blended, you add it to the rice salad so everything gets nice and coated in it. No doubt about it, the dressing makes the salad.
And what is the French-est thing you can think to serve with this salad?
If you said serve it with French baguette and extra cheese, you’re absolutely right. Does French baguette go with rice salad normally? Probably not, but this is how Mme Dugan served it, and I’m not deviating.
So get yourself some crispy baguette to go with this rice salad. Make extra and take it in for lunch leftovers. It keeps really, really well.
P.S. If you’re interested (and promise not to judge me too hard) you can see my Parisian adventure blog attempt here.
Rice Salad with Homemade Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
This rice salad is simple and comforting – the stars are emmentaler cheese and hard boiled eggs all coated in a homemade lemon Dijon vinaigrette dressing that’s to die for
For the rice salad:
- 2 ½ cups cooked rice 1 cup uncooked
- ½ cup green olives halved
- 1 ½ cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup corn kernels
- 1 cup cubed Emmentaler or Jarlsberg cheese
- 4 oz diced ham
- 4 large hard boiled eggs chopped
- Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
For the lemon dijon vinaigrette:
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp pepper
Begin by hard boiling the eggs and cooking the rice according to the package instructions
While the eggs and rice cook, halve the olives and cherry tomatoes, and dice the cheese and ham
To make the lemon Dijon vinaigrette combine the lemon juice, dijon mustard, and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Whisk to combine
Using the whisk attachment on an immersion blender whisk the lemon juice and dijon mustard, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil whisking continuously
Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust any seasonings as necessary
After the rice is cooked and the hard boiled eggs are cooked and peeled, combine the rest of the ingredients for the rice salad
Mix rice, olives, tomatoes, corn, ham, cheese, and hard boiled eggs in a large bowl. Drizzle most of the vinaigrette over top and stir to coat.
Add more of the vinaigrette as necessary. I find the vinaigrette recipe above produces just slightly more than I need for this amount of rice salad.
For extra flavor, cook your rice in chicken or vegetable broth instead of water