What to Eat in France: Buckwheat Crêpes

By Sunday, August 2, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Galettes de Blé Noir, or Breton-style Buckwheat Pancakes

The buckwheat crêpes of Brittany are unique in the context of French cuisine. They go by many names: galettes de sarrasin, crêpe bretonne, galette de blé noir.

Crusaders brought back buckwheat from Asia in the twelfth century, but it proved to be hard to grow until they took it to Brittany, where there is always plenty of rain, yet the climate is not harsh and the soil is acidic: all the right conditions for growing blé noir, meaning literally “black wheat,” even though it’s not technically of the wheat family.

It was Anne of Brittany who had it planted it all over Brittany and made it part of the Breton diet at the beginning of the fifteenth century. It grows fast and is ready to eat in 100 days, so it helped feed Bretons for centuries, and is often referred to as “poor people’s wheat,” since wheat was only affordable for the rich in those days. It was probably used for gruel or very thick griddle cakes at the beginning.

It still took centuries before the buckwheat pancake as we know it to became popular. The original recipe, which dates from some one thousand years ago, contained only buckwheat, salt and water and was much thicker than the crêpes we know today, which also contain milk, eggs and regular wheat flour, giving a thinner crêpe.

On February 2, Catholics celebrate Candlemas by eating buckwheat crêpes together. For farmers, this date concurs with the end of winter and the beginning of the new farming year, so superstitious farmers keep the candles from this celebration lit to protect their future harvests.

Traditionally, buckwheat galettes are reserved for savory dishes, and are not used for dessert. The Bretons drink apple cider with them.

Recipe

Ingredients

2.2 lbs. or 5 8/10 cups buckwheat flour
1 egg
Pinch of coarse salt
5-inch crêpe pan or iron or other heavy frying pan

Instructions

  1. Put flour in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle, and add egg. Stir.
  2. Gradually add water and mix for about 10 minutes or until batter is the consistency of mayonnaise. It should be fluid and smooth pour easily from a ladle.
  3. Lightly lard the pan and heat until the lard starts to smoke.
  4. Pour in a small ladle of batter, tilting and rotating pan in all directions or using a scraper to spread the batter evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  5. Cook over medium high heat until bottom browns, about 30 seconds.
  6. Use a small metal spatula to turn over crêpe, then cook for 15 seconds more on second side. When cooked, slide it out of the pan onto a plate.
  7. Repeat these steps until the batter is used up, stacking pancakes as you remove them from the pan.
  8. Serve hot.

Note:

Like with regular pancakes, the first few crêpes won’t be pretty. Don’t worry.

Galettes can be served with any savory fillings. The most common ones consist of ham, cheese and egg. If you plan to fill the pancakes, simply add the filling as soon as you turn them, and fold the edges over into the shape of a triangle, as shown in the photo.

 

What to Eat in France: Truffade

By Saturday, August 1, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Truffade, or Potato, Bacon and Cheese Melt

by Jonell Galloway

I don’t want to disappoint you, but truffade doesn’t contain truffles. It’s a specialty of Auvergne, and “truffade” which simply means “a potato dish” in the local dialect.

This dish was traditionally prepared by shepherds, who went into the mountains for months at a time to live in cheesemaking chalets called burons. It is traditionally made with fresh (i.e. not aged) Cantal cheese, but different cheeses are used in different villages, depending on the local cheese available.

Truffade is usually eaten with a green salad and sometimes with local country ham.

Recipe

Ingredients

These are U.S. measurements. Click here for metric and British conversions.

2 lbs. firm potatoes
7 oz. smoked bacon, diced
2 T. cooking oil
14 oz. fresh Cantal cheese, cut into small cubes

2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley, chopped finely
Green salad

Instructions

  1. Wash and peel potatoes. Slice thinly.
  2. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add bacon bits, stirring for 2 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes and sautée on low heat, stirring from time to time. Salt and pepper. They should take about 15 minutes to cook.
  4. In the meantime, prepare a vinaigrette for the green salad, mixing the garlic into the vinaigrette.
  5. When potatoes are cooked, add cheese. Mix until cheese melts and forms strings. This will take about 5 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
  7. Flatten the potato and cheese mixture into the shape of an omelet. Turn up heat and continue cooking until the edges are golden all around.
  8. Flip truffade onto a plate with golden side upwards, like you do for a pancake.
  9. Toss the salad and serve with the hot truffade.

 

Quintessential France: Le Touquet-Paris-Plage

By Friday, July 31, 2015 Permalink 0

The domain of Le Touquet was purchased by Alphonse Jean-Baptiste Daloz, a notary, in 1837. It consisted of large sand dunes at the mouth of the Canche River. He planted pines and other species of trees, making the site an ideal junction between sea and forest. The head of Le Figaro newspaper, Hypolite de Villemessant, was a friend of Daloz. It is he who gave the site the chic-sounding name Paris-Plage.

An English businessman, Sir John Whitley, jumped on the opportunity, and Le Touquet-Paris-Plage was soon developed as a seaside town complete with everything English tourists dreamed of. It is known for the diversity of its buildings, which sought to achieve a perfect harmony between the architecture and nature. Between the two World Wars, it became cosmopolitan and known worldwide.

 

What to Eat in France: Ficelles Picardes

By Thursday, July 30, 2015 Permalink 0

French Recipe: Ficelles Picardes, or Mushroom and Ham Crêpes

by Jonell Galloway

Ficelle Picarde, meaning literally “long thin baguette from Picardy,” is not an ancient dish. Marcel Lefèvre invented it for a dinner for dignitaries of the region during an exposition in Amiens in the fifties, and Picardy soon adopted it as its own. The name most likely comes from its long, thin shape, since it’s a crêpe, not a baguette. Its importance in the region is confirmed by the fact that an entire professional fraternity devoted to it was created in 1997, Les compagnons de la ficelle picarde et les compagnes de la rabotte picarde.

In Picardy, this is eaten as a starter.

Recipe

Ingredients

These are U.S. measurements. Click here for metric and British conversions.

Crêpe Batter

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
2 eggs
1/3 t salt
2 cups milk or beer
3 T. butter, melted
6-7″ crêpe pan

Filling

14 oz. mushrooms
1 large or 2 small shallots
3 T. butter
4 slices of ham
1 pint crème fraîche
7 fluid oz. dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
3.5 oz Swiss cheese, grated
Individual oblong baking dishes for each crêpe or large baking dish to hold all

Instructions

Crêpe Batter

  1. Mix ingredients for crêpes and let batter stand for 20 or 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.
  2. Pour a few drops of oil into crêpe pan and heat over medium heat.
  3. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into pan, turning pan from side to side so that batter spreads evenly.
  4. When brown, flip and cook just enough for the other side to set.
  5. Repeat this operation until all the batter is used.

Filling

  1. Chop mushrooms and shallots finely into a duxelle.
  2. Melt butter in frying pan. Add mushrooms and shallots and sautée for 10 minutes over medium low heat.
  3. Add white wine. Continue cooking for 10 more minutes or until the mushrooms and shallots are transparent and the taste is concentrated.
  4. Add crème fraîche, salt and pepper. Stir well. When cream is melted, remove from heat.

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Put a half slice of ham in each crêpe. Add 2 T. of filling and roll.
  3. Place each crêpe in an individual baking dish or in a family-size baking dish.
  4. Coat with crême fraîche.
  5. Sprinkle with grated cheese.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Serve piping hot.

__________________________

I grew up on Wendell Berry and food straight from a backyard Kentucky garden. I live in France and Switzerland, and am a freelance writer specializing in French cuisine. I attended Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris and the Académie du Vin, worked for the GaultMillau restaurant guide and CityGuides in France and Paris and for Gannett Company in the U.S., and collaborated on Le tour du monde en 80 pains / Around the World with 80 Breads with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac in France; André Raboud, Sculptures 2002-2009 in Switzerland; Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne with Christophe Certain in France; At the Table: Food and Family around the World with Ken Albala, and a biography of French chef Pierre Gagnaire. I ran a cooking school in France, and owned a farm-to-table restaurant, The Three Sisters’ Café, with my two sisters in the U.S. I organize the Taste Unlocked bespoke food and wine tasting awareness workshops with James Flewellen, am an active member of Slow Food, and run the food writing website The Rambling Epicure. My work has been published in numerous international publications and I have been interviewed on international public radio in France, Switzerland, and the U.S. I just signed on at In Search of Taste, a British print publication, and am now working on two books, The French and What They Eat and What to Eat in Venice.

 

What to Eat in France: Flamiche aux Poireaux

By Thursday, July 30, 2015 Permalink 0

French Recipe: Flamiche aux Poireaux, or Leek and Cheese Pie

by Jonell Galloway

Flamiche is a tart or pie or tourte or quiche from Picardy, depending on who you’re talking to. In Picardy, it is traditionally made with leeks or onions, and sometimes with pumpkin, which is eaten as a savory dish in much of the north of France. It is one of the main traditional starters offered in the region, along with Ficelle Picarde, a crêpe stuffed with ham and mushrooms and served with a cream sauce; Tarte Au Maroillles, a cheese tart, and Rissoles Laonnoises, meat or fish fritters.

Recipe

Ingredients

These are U.S. measurements. Click here for metric and British conversions.

2 9-inch pie crusts
1 1/2 lbs leeks, white only
2 oz. butter
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. crème fraîche
Nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Egg yolk for pie crust

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Cut whites of leeks into 1-inch long pieces.
  3. Blanch for 5 minutes in boiling salt water.
  4. Carefully drain.
  5. Melt butter. Add leeks. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and sautée for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove leeks from burner and let cool.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and cream.
  8. Add room temperature leeks.
  9. Line pie pan with one of the crusts.
  10. Prick with fork.
  11. Pour in leek mixture.
  12. Place second pie crust on top of this mixture.
  13. Use water to seal edges.
  14. Make a well in the middle of the flamiche.
  15. Mix an egg yolk with a little water and brush surface of flamiche so it will brown.
  16. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  17. Serve hot with pickles and pickled onions or a green salad.

 

__________________________

I grew up on Wendell Berry and food straight from a backyard Kentucky garden. I live in France and Switzerland, and am a freelance writer specializing in French cuisine. I attended Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris and the Académie du Vin, worked for the GaultMillau restaurant guide and CityGuides in France and Paris and for Gannett Company in the U.S., and collaborated on Le tour du monde en 80 pains / Around the World with 80 Breads with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac in France; André Raboud, Sculptures 2002-2009 in Switzerland; Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne with Christophe Certain in France; At the Table: Food and Family around the World with Ken Albala, and a biography of French chef Pierre Gagnaire. I ran a cooking school in France, and owned a farm-to-table restaurant, The Three Sisters’ Café, with my two sisters in the U.S. I organize the Taste Unlocked bespoke food and wine tasting awareness workshops with James Flewellen, am an active member of Slow Food, and run the food writing website The Rambling Epicure. My work has been published in numerous international publications and I have been interviewed on international public radio in France, Switzerland, and the U.S. I just signed on at In Search of Taste, a British print publication, and am now working on two books, The French and What They Eat and What to Eat in Venice.

 

Quintessential France: Lunch by the River Seine

By Thursday, July 30, 2015 Permalink 0

The painter Gaston Balande, 1880-1971, was born in Saujon, France, and took part in numerous Beaux-Arts salons during his lifetime. This painting is in the tradition of Edouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe painted in 1862 and 1863, without the brazenness of the nude woman.

What to Eat in France: Saffron Mussel Soup

By Wednesday, July 29, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Soupe de moules safranée, or Saffron Mussel Soup

by Jonell Galloway

Saffron mussel soup is from the Loire region. The particularity of the Loire version of this soup is that it has leeks, which are not commonly used with mussels. The Loire Valley produces more than 24% of all leeks in France, more than any other region.

The proportions of the ingredients can vary, although the fumet needs a bit more precision than the mussels and soup. The general rule is to make as much fumet as you need for the amount of mussels you’ve cooked.

Recipe

Ingredients

Mussels à la marinière:

Mussels, cleaned
White wine
Shallots, chopped

Fish fumet:

2 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped finely
Bouquet garni
2 lbs fish bones
1 cup white wine
Water

Soup:

Leeks, chopped
Mushrooms, chopped
Butter
Flour
Saffron

Crème fraîche

Instructions

Moules à la marinière

  1. Put cleaned mussels into a stock pot. Cover with white wine and shallots.
  2. Cook on medium high heat until all mussels are open.
  3. Use a wire strainer or slotted spoon to remove all mussels from broth. Save broth and set aside.

Fish Fumet

  1. Melt butter.
  2. Add fish bones. Cook until they start to get rigid.
  3. Add onion, shallots and bouquet garni. Sautée until transparent.
  4. Add white wine. Stir well.
  5. Add enough water to make soup and cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes.

Soup

  1. Melt butter.
  2. Sautée leeks and mushrooms.
  3. Add flour and make a roux, stirring constantly for 2 minutes, until flour is cooked.
  4. Gradually add fumet, stirring non-stop with a wire whip until smooth.
  5. Add mussel broth and continue stirring.
  6. Cook on medium low heat for 30 minutes.
  7. Shell mussels.
  8. Right before serving, add shelled mussels, saffron and crème fraîche.

You’ll be able to read more recipes like this in my book, The French and What They Eat.

__________________________

I grew up on Wendell Berry and food straight from a backyard Kentucky garden. I live in France and Switzerland, and am a freelance writer specializing in French cuisine. I attended Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris and the Académie du Vin, worked for the GaultMillau restaurant guide and CityGuides in France and Paris and for Gannett Company in the U.S., and collaborated on Le tour du monde en 80 pains / Around the World with 80 Breads with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac in France; André Raboud, Sculptures 2002-2009 in Switzerland; Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne with Christophe Certain in France; At the Table: Food and Family around the World with Ken Albala, and a biography of French chef Pierre Gagnaire. I ran a cooking school in France, and owned a farm-to-table restaurant, The Three Sisters’ Café, with my two sisters in the U.S. I organize the Taste Unlocked bespoke food and wine tasting awareness workshops with James Flewellen, am an active member of Slow Food, and run the food writing website The Rambling Epicure. My work has been published in numerous international publications and I have been interviewed on international public radio in France, Switzerland, and the U.S. I just signed on at In Search of Taste, a British print publication, and am now working on two books, The French and What They Eat and What to Eat in Venice.

What to Eat In France: Agneau au Sel, Rack of Lamb in Salt Crust

By Tuesday, July 28, 2015 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

Agneau au sel, or rack of lamb cooked in a coarse salt crust, is a specialty of the Loire region.

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs rack of lamb
3 lbs. coarse salt
2 sprigs thyme

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 464° F.
  2. Pour 1 1/2 lbs. of coarse salt into a baking dish large enough to hold the rack of lamb.
  3. Place the rack of lamb on this salt.
  4. Cover with another 1 1/2 lbs. and with thyme.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  6. Break the salt crust and carefully lift out before cutting.

4-DAY TASTE UNLOCKED COURSE SEPTEMBER 17-20, 2015, FOR AUTUMN EQUINOX & LIGHT FESTIVAL IN CHARTRES

By Tuesday, July 28, 2015 Permalink 0

4-DAY FOOD AND WINE TASTING WORKSHOP

SEPTEMBER 17-20, 2015, AUTUMN EQUINOX AND LIGHT FESTIVAL IN CHARTRES, FRANCE

Award-winning wine writer James Flewellen and Cordon Bleu-educated chef and food journalist Jonell Galloway present food and wine tasting masterclasses in the historic French city of Chartres. Comprising dedicated wine tastings, sumptuous meals made from local ingredients paired with regional Loire Valley wines and a unique, “sense-awakening” taste experience, our food and wine holiday courses will help unlock your taste buds and introduce the richness of aromas, flavours and textures present in food and wine. A music festival, with live music in the streets, restaurants, theatres, churches and bars, is held to celebrate the Autumn Equinox and to mark the end of the Festival of Lights. To sign up, please click here or fill in the contact form below.