So here’s how you want to spend your New Year’s Eve. You want to go to Paris, and you want friends of yours to coincidentally be there at the same time. You want these very glamorous friends to be close friends, in turn, with Traci des Jardins ( jardinière.com)
That’s what happened to my husband and me, and I’m not sure what karmic lotto we won, but on Dec. 31st at 8pm we found ourselves headed from our Left Bank hotel over to the Marais, where our friends had rented an old, lofty apartment. When we arrived, the iPods were docked, the Champagne was flowing, and Traci was at the stove—a notoriously outdated electric “smooth top” model, to boot.
Traci put everyone to work cutting up salami, various cheeses, crusty baguettes and wild parsley, which she whipped into a killer salad garnished with tiny fresh currants. She had peeled potatoes into smooth rounds and parboiled them, and was steaming several pounds of string beans. At intervals she checked on three big chickens, moving them around by the leg to get an even brown on them. All told, it seemed no different than any basic weekday dinner. But when the chickens emerged from the oven drenched in jus, and she carved them and plated them on top of the potatoes, I could sense magic was in the air. The chicken was perfectly seasoned, crispy outside, steaming inside. The potatoes held the critters’ juices like they were created for that very reason. And I don’t know what she did to the green beans — some voodoo involving lemon and a bit of garlic, no doubt — but I kid you not, they were the best green beans that have ever graced my mouth. The meal was transformative—that is, I began to see the inevitable wisdom in becoming close friends with a truly great chef.