The Dutch dinner

We made the shopping list and shopped, organized how to transport the frozen stuff, rented a car, and on Monday June 1, we set off for France.

Herrings, poffertjes and bitterballen were still frozen solid when we arrived and stored in the freezers, the meat for the beef stew taken out of the freezer, and after a cosy, informal meal with the Aster family we retired for a night’s sleep, to be fresh and rested for the first day of our big task.

On Tuesday, we moved ourselves, our luggage and all the food to be prepared ahead, to Chevannay, where we were going to stay for the rest of the week and, very important, would have a kitchen all to ourselves. 

Cooking started with a truly daunting prep: over 14 kilograms of onions had to be peeled and quartered, over 14 kilograms of deep-frozen large chunks of boeuf bourguignon defrosted and cut to smaller pieces.
Marjon and Monique positioned themselves outside and bravely attacked the mountain of onions, while I tried to figure out a workable way to dislodge chunks of meat from the solid cube of bloody ice. Perseverance, patience and lots and lots of hot water eventually yielded both success and aching upper arm muscles. But at least the cooking could get underway for real.

The chopped-up onions were fried off in the oven, until they were translucent and lightly caramellized. Browning the meat in skillets on the available 4 electric plates didn’t work at all: defrosted meat contains an helluva lot of water, and the browned edges just didn’t happen. The solution proved the oven, once again: fan + high temperature and nicely spread out, the chunks finally began to look like something that might end up as the hachée we were going to serve as a main course.

Once all the meat was done, we put layers of onions and meat in the big pressure cookers, put in cloves, pepper corns, bayleaves (freshly picked from the garden of Yvette, our host), mace and beef stock cubes, added hot water and brought the lot to the boil. After a thorough cleaning of the kitchen and ourselves and a change of clothing for the opening party at the farm, it was almost 6 pm. We poured the stewing liquid into another pot, loaded the pots with the meat into the trunk of the car. Marjon kept the pot with the sauce firmly between her feet and so we arrived at the farm, after 10 kilometers of curvy up- and downhill roads. 

At the farm, we unloaded and got the second kitchen (the farm has 2) organized for the next day. Two days gone already, and the real cooking had yet to begin…

Wednesday was a busy day for us: set the meat to cook a few more hours, prepare the entrée (thank you, Jason, for adding your proficient hands to ours!), clean several kilos of strawberries to go with dessert, decide how to cook 10 kilos of unpeeled floury potatoes without destroying them - again, the oven proved the best solution! - and make the deep-frozen green beans look presentable and tasty.

Inside, everything was under control, but outside, the weather had turned: a high wind made deep-frying the bitterballen impossible. This meant that there was to be no apérono pre-dinner snack, and dinner was to be served sooner than we expected. 

I don’t think anyone has noticed the hectic situation in the kitchen. Once the starter had been set out on the buffet, the Dutch dinner was on its way!