Continuing on with my food adventures in Lyon, France…
On Saturday morning we decided to go shopping at the farmers market along the Saône river in vieux Lyon. My friend Guillaume offered to cook lunch for us, and we were so excited to get a homecooked meal full of fresh seasonal vegetables after our heavy meat-centric dinner at Café des Fédérations the night before. It was a beautiful sunny hot day with clear blue skies, and the walk along the river was breathtaking. The outdoor market was teeming with energy and the vibrant bright colors of vegetables and flowers were bursting with happiness. Here are some photos from the vieux Lyon Saturday farmers market:
We were lucky enough to get fresh morel mushrooms, just at the end of their season. I’ve never had the opportunity to cook with fresh morel mushrooms, so this was a new experience for me. I’m used to the dried store-bought version. These fresh morels were soft and spongy, light and airy, earthy and pungent, and just simply delightful. Guillaume also bought fresh ris d’agneau, or lamb sweetbreads which I was extremely excited about.
Guillaume’s kitchen is tiny. There’s really only enough room for 1 person. It’s barely even tall enough for him to be able to stand fully erect. I offered to help, but there was only 1 1/2 cutting boards (the 1/2 board was the size of a passport) and a few pairing knives. How can this tiny kitchen with hardly any fancy gadgets whip out this fancy meal that Guillaume was describing to me? Frankly, I was a little worried. However, as soon as I saw him clean the sweetbreads, prepare the morels, sauté the fingerling potatoes in butter, cut the artichokes down to the heart, and throw the peas in boiling water all within a 10 minute period, I knew I could sit back and relax. It’s not about the kitchen, or the equipment, or the fancy gadgets, or the space. It’s about the chef, his creativity and his passion.
The deep earthy aroma of morels filled the apartment as he sautéed them with butter. At the same time, he individually and carefully cooked each vegetable before putting them all together in the pot. He knew exactly how each vegetable had to be prepared to enhance their natural sweetness and character, and he was not cutting any corners.
Before we knew it, a beautiful pot of asparagus, artichokes, peas, fingerling potatoes, haricot vert and garlic had been assembled on the tiny stovetop. Meanwhile, he was finishing his morel sauce with cream and white wine from my cousin’s winery that I brought from Burgundy, and cooking it with the sweetbreads in the oven.
The rest of the crew set the table and decanted a bottle of my cousin’s red wine, Simon Bize et Fils Aux Vergelesses. We all proceeded to crowd around the small kitchen to watch the chef in action, all the while drooling and wagging our tails.
This ended up being one of the most memorable and delicious meals of my entire Europe trip. There is just something so special about being invited into someone’s home and having a homecooked meal. Shopping together at the market and seeing all of the fresh seasonal ingredients being transformed in front of my eyes in the kitchen also heightens the experience. Everything was delicious, especially the lamb sweetbreads with morel mushrooms.
Of course we had the obligatory post-dinner cheese plate, again all selected by Guillaume at the cheese stand at the farmers market. It included goat cheese with ashes and pepper, fresh goat cheese from goat’s milk that had just been milked the day before, and a Comté from the North Alps.
Guillaume busted out his espuma gun for fresh whipped cream to complement the juicy strawberries.
What a perfect weekend so far in Lyon, I thought, as I drifted away in a post-prandial snooze on the couch…
Random trivia: Did you know that morel mushrooms, otherwise known as brain mushrooms, honeycomb mushrooms, or sponge mushrooms, are the official state mushrooms of Minnesota?