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September 18, 2007



Mrs P.,

Too bad about the limoge boxes. They are awfully nice.

That pork loin sounds scrummy. With the approach of cool weather, I am irresistibly drawn to recipes for butternut squash soup, risotto, rosemary and garlic roast beef and pumpkin pancakes. Here is one of my favorite autumn dishes:

Normandy Sausage

3 or 4 links (about 1 pound) fresh French white sausage (boudin blanc) or bockwurst, cut into 3/4-inch slices

4 small Granny Smith or other firm, tart apples, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/4-inch crosswise slices

Ground cinnamon

1/4 cup Calvados(apple brandy), applejack or good apple cider

1/4 cup heavy cream

Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large cold skillet, arrange the sausage slices in 1 layer. Set over medium-high heat, and cook, turning the slices once or twice until they are crisp and nicely browned on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a 2-quart casserole, arrange a layer of about 1/4 of the sausage slices. Cover the sausage with a layer of about 1/4 of the apple slices. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Continue in this manner to make 4 layers, ending with the apple slices.

Stir the Calvados into the skillet in which the sausage was browned, scraping up any crusty, brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan. Stir in the cream until well blended, Pour this mixture evenly over the casserole.

Cover, and bake for 1 hour until the apples have cooked down and the mixture is bubbling. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Basil Seal

Although the Countess and I have met Jean-Paul Guerlain, we did not mention to him that the Countess has worn Houbigant's Quelques Fleurs since she was born (still wears it exclusively today)...My own snuff box is of tortoise shell with silver mounts...For you young ladies, the Countess recommends that you select a signature scent,that will attract the gentlemen, one that is still natural and not synthetic, and this narrows your selections down to a choice of three or four...Although she does note that in America, the most effective way to attract men is to buy a bottle of spirits instead of a bottle of parfum...It's much cheaper as well.

Mrs. Peperium

Lorraine, ignore Basil's advice and stay on your course. I have found that a cooking, epsecially with things like sausages or with aromatics like rosemary is a far more effective way to attract men. Baking is too. Why, I've had grown millionaires chase me around at parties for a slice of one of my cakes. And I'm married. They were too but that didn't seem to stop them.

You see perfume as nice as it is doesn't last long. And no matter how expensive the scent, perfume has never mastered hanging in the air the way a perfectly roasted Beef Wellington or joint of beef does. And then there is something a simple as a perfect Apple Croustada. Men will faint over a good whiff of one of those baking. I have to bake them two at a time as we've had male dinner guests who will happily tuck into half of one.. themselves....

Then if you can not only discuss cheese but allow the men in your life to eat them, well...the world is your oyster as they say... Stilton with pears, walnuts and biscuits is a perfect ending to a Fall repast...and if you allow a man to smoke his favorite cigar or pipe while enjoying his Stilton and port, then you really do begin to learn firsthand what true appreciation is...

Basil Seal

Don't fall for it Lorraine...Listen to your Uncle Basil...Men are shallow and stupid, most think "Beef" was the first name of the guy who helped Napoleon build Waterloo Bridge. And they think Apple Croustada is an erotic dancer...And of course the millionaires were not chasing Mrs. P around for her cooking, they can hire cooks, I guess P stands for Pollyanna?...She has been reading far too much Jane Austen...Parfum, décolletage and wicked wiles are the key (free drinks don't hurt either)...Trust me...And serving up squash and other such mushy things is a sure way to dampen the ardor, unless you are shooting for the Birkenstock, Bunny Funkhauser crowd...

Mrs. Peperium

Millionaires like Basil may be able to hire his own cooks, but he can't sleep with them. Or he's deader than the carnard I use in my Caneton Roti a la Alsacienne (roast duck with sausage and apple stuffing) And if you can't sleep with your cook Basil, then what's the use of having one?

Even Gussie Finknottle, the newt fancier, had the good sense to dump Madeline and run off with the cook. She made him nice plump pork pies...and he was so happy...

Keep cooking Lorraine...

Meg Q

I'm so sorry about the Limoges boxes. I loved them when I first saw them as a girl, but as I grew older they became (as you've noted) so much more "common" - relatively a *bit* less expensive, but a bit less interesting, too. At least your anniversaries are nice in other ways!

I wear "Spring Flower" by Creed, and I hope they never never never get bought out by a multinational. BTW, why has no one ever remarked (at least, that I've seen) that "Polo" cologne is basically a rip-off of Creed's "Green Irish Tweed"?

Mrs. Peperium

Meg, thank you. I had forgotten about Creed. and yes, you are quite right about Ralph Lipshultz's Polo being a rip-off of Green Irish Tweed...too funny, huh?

I only like the faintest scent on a man...lemon, lime, or Bay Rum...Polo was never faint...

I like very much what Mr. P chose for my new scent, I'm just not sure if it's the right scent yet --it's Italian. Only my shoes have been Italian.....and as I've aged, I've come to appreciate depth and smokiness more that smelling like a florist shop. The scent he has picked out has a lot of depth and smokiness. He likes that and I agree with him.


Since I have met Sir Basil, I can tell you that he wears Creed's Green Irish Tweed. I mentioned it to him and he told me that he has worn it for years, long before the great unwashed even knew it existed. I was standing quite close to him for a few seconds before the Countess saw me. It was a very wonderful experience. The standing close, not the Countess seeing me... He told me he would soon have to stop wearing it, now that the nouveau riche have discovered it...

Mrs. Peperium

Dorothy, standing in the presence of Sir Basil is indeed a heady experience for any mere woman. And as the years pass, the more heady the experience becomes as there seems to be more head and less hair.

Sir Basil hasn't told me he's been meeting with readers. Particularly female ones who sleep with his emails under his pillow.

I do hope he liked your perfume.


Mrs. P.,

You have failed to mention the sovereign importance of the Apron. Men flock to an apron with food, even when the tray holds only oatmeal raisin cookies.


Uncle Basil,

Please thank the Countess for her advise concerning bottled goods. If you pass round the free spirits often enough beforehand, I expect even the sartorial types will gladly tuck into Acorn squash with maple pecans and goat cheese.


Mrs. P.,

By the by, do you know of a recipe for perfect Apple Croustada? If so, could we persuade you to divulge it?

Mrs. Peperium

Oh dear Lorraine. It looks as if Uncle Basil was right when he said Apple Croustada was an exotic dancer.

I just got out my recipe and it's Apple Crostata.


I hate it when he's right.

That Basil knew the difference between the free-form Apple Crostata tart and the dancing tart, Apple Croustada is a clear indication Basil really does move in different social circles than the rest of us.

Apple Crostata -makes two tarts

(for the pastry)
2 cups all-purpose 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sel de mer
1/2 lb very cold unsalted butter, diced

(for the filling)
1 1/2 pounds Mcintosh, Macoun, or Empire apples
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sel de mer
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick), diced

For the pastry, place flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour. Be careful, the blades are sharp. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the 1/4 cup of ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine before it comes together (this keeps the pastry texture flakey) Turn dough out on to floured pastry board or slab of marble and form into 2 disks. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour. (dough freezes beautifully-so you can freeze one if you like)

Preheat oven to 450. Roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

For the filling, peel, core, and quarter the apples. Cut each quarter into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Let the tart cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer to a wire rack.


Now I form mine ahead of time and pop them in the oven about 10 minutes before our guests are slated to arrive. That way they are greeted with the very fragrant scent of baking apples and pure butter pastry. Then the scent only intensifies as they relax over their first adult beverage...and when I have to excuse myself to remove the tarts from the oven almost always someone will ask if I need any help...

About the sovereign importance of the apron and why men flock to it. First, these would have to be men in the know, which Sir Basil is clearly not. Men flock to a woman in an apron for more than her cookies. A properly cut apron allows the most natural opportunity for décolletage that today's fashions posess. Here, most educated and sophisticated working girls think an apron is a throwback to old days when women were kept barefoot in the kitchen. They have tossed it into the dustbin and order take out. Or they leave it to those poor slobs, like us, who have to do their own cooking.

Not so I say. Aprons are décolletage all the way. It's what one wears underneath the apron that separates the girls from the women. And if you place the the platter containing the roast joint of beef and it's attractively arranged trimings the right way on the dining room table --in front of your husband naturally-- then the slight intake you hear among the men seated around the table is for far more than just your acute understanding of the noble steer...


Thanks for the trade secrets, Mrs. P.

Mrs. Peperium

You're very welcome. It's my pleasure. And my duty according to Jane Austen...

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