The French and What They Eat

By Friday, August 28, 2015 Permalink 0

You might wonder how a country girl from Kentucky who grew up on fried chicken, creamed corn, biscuits, cornbread, and church supper fruit pies could be qualified to tell others about boeuf à la bourguignonnecassouletchoucroute or coq au vin. Yes, I’m writing a book we’ll call The French and What They Eat, since the title hasn’t yet been finalized. I’ll tell you the story in the book — from a general store/cream station/feedstore in a spot in the road in Kentucky where the loafers discussed whether it was better to put a bag of peanuts into a Coca Cola or an RC to the City of Light called Paris and Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School, eventually cooking, eating and drinking my way around France.

“What to Eat in France,” a series of regional French recipes with a story and a bit of history, is laying the groundwork for this book. If you’d like to follow the series on a regular basis, sign up for the newsletter in the right-hand column.

What to Eat in France: Soupe de Légumes

By Thursday, September 24, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Soupe de Légumes, or French Vegetable Soup

French children hate soup because most of the soup they get looks like the one below. You’ll not find any tiny pasta alphabets swimming around in French soup. It looks like mush or worse, children say. And it does. It’s anything but the bright, primary colors that would attract a child.

soupe de légumes lyonnaise










Adults see it differently. In fall and winter, soup often replaces salad as a starter. It has a high vegetable content, therefore providing all the vegetables one needs for a day, and it always uses seasonal, mainly root, vegetables. Every region has their own version, as does every cook, and any day’s version depends on what is available at the market and in the larder.

Most French soup uses a classic potato and leek purée as a base, the same one used to make vichyssoise, no matter what the region.

In the country, there is a longstanding tradition of pouring a little red wine into the last few spoonfuls of soup, and drinking it straight from the bowl. This is referred to as “faire chabrot” (or “faire chabrol” or “fà chabroù” in other regions). All these variations come from the Latin capreolus. It means literally “to drink like a goat.” The tradition exists mainly south of the Loire. Today, it is mainly older people in the country who still practice it.

faire chabrot












This recipe is from the Lyon region, where they add a bit of cabbage to the otherwise classic base.



1 leek
1 carrot
1 turnip
1 stick of celery
2 onions
2 potatoes
Chunk of cabbage
4 1/2 cups veal or chicken broth, hot
1 T. butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Slices of country bread
Parsley, chopped
Glass of red wine for each diner


  1. Chop vegetables into small cubes and place in saucepan or soup pot. (I leave on the skin for added fibre.)
  2. Cover with hot broth.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cook over medium-low heat for about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Toast bread.
  5. Purée in a food processor or with a potato masher.
  6. Add butter and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Lay slices of toast in soup bowls.
  8. Pour soup over toast.
  9. Sprinkle with parsley.
  10. Serve immediately.
  11. When there are just a few spoonfuls of soup left in the bowl, add a little red wine and drink the rest of your soup straight from the bowl (if you dare).


What to Eat in France: Mentchikoffs

By Tuesday, September 22, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Mentchikoffs, Chocolate Specialty of Chartres

by Jonell Galloway

Despite the Russian name, Mentchikoffs are a specialty of Chartres. There are only four or five chocolatiers who still make them because the process is time-consuming. You won’t find them in restaurants, only in chocolate shops.

Mentchikoffs have a praline and chocolate center and a crunchy dried Swiss-style meringue coating. They are almond-shaped and usually weigh from 10 to 12 grams.

This candy is said to have been invented by a famous confectioner named Dausmenil in 1893 in the rue de la Pie in Chartres. This was a period when everything Russian was the rage, from Russian salad to Russian jewels, after the signing of the Franco-Russian military alliance of 1894. Mentchikov, the son of a pastry chef and an apprentice bread baker, had been the aide-de-camp of Czar Peter the Great in the early eighteenth century. Dausmenil almost certainly named his chocolates in honor of the Russian of the same name.

mentchikoffs from Loos pastry shop






In 1900, Dausmenil sold his shop, along with the recipe, to a confectioner called Genet. There are records mentioning his mentchikoffs in 1930, along with the mintchikoffs of Mme Nessler in the rue Marceau.

It takes several days to make a mentchikoff — anywhere from 3 to 7 — because each step is followed by a period of drying. The almonds and hazelnuts are crushed and oven-dried. The water and sugar is then heated to 121°C. Off the burner, the nuts are added to the sugar mixture and then put back on the burner to caramelize. This mixture is then crushed into a fine powder to make the praline.

The praline is then mixed with melted butter and the chocolate added. This mixture is left to dry in a special drying frame and later cut into 7- to 8-gram candies which are shaped by hand.

One side of the chocolates is then soaked in the meringue, then removed and dried. This procedure is repeated for the other side. The finished mentchikoffs are then dried one last time and packaged in cardboard boxes.

Mentchikoffs are eaten after a meal with coffee.




Taste Unlocked Equinox 2015

By Monday, September 21, 2015 Permalink 0

Taste Unlocked Autumn Equinox 2015 in Chartres, France

Taste Unlocked 2015 was a great success. Our guests have returned to England, but the house reverberates with the still-fresh memories of their presence and the joys of good food, fine wine and the excellent company we shared. Happy souvenirs of their visit, a few unfinished bottles we tasted will be emptied in coming days, but we shall toast our special guests each time we partake.

I prepared traditional dishes from the Beauce region, using the recipes I’ve researched over the years and the best products from local farmers and producers. These were accompanied by what we consider our local wine, that of the Loire Valley, which starts less than 50 miles down the road from here.













We kicked off the weekend on Thursday over a dinner of locally farmed duck cooked in Eure-et-Loire apple cider and served with Beauce turnips and carrots and apples. This was followed by a curried green gauge plum sautée with Financier almond cake.

Nonna Violante and Taste Unlocked

By Monday, September 14, 2015 Permalink 0

I’ve spent the last week with a wonderful group of journalists and chefs in Bellaria Igea Marina on the Adriatic Coast of Italy on a press trip called #LovingRomagna, learning the cuisine of Romagna with Nonna Violante at the Hotel Eliseo. I’ll be posting soon about the incredible hospitality, wonderful food, and history of this region.

In the meantime, James Flewellen and I are busy preparing our Taste Unlocked food and wine tasting workshop, which starts on Thursday. Bon appétit et bonne semaine!

What to Eat in France: Morue à la marseillaise

By Saturday, September 5, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Morue à la marseillaise, Marseille-style Salt Cod

by Jonell Galloway

One might ask why the Mediterranean countries — and locations such as Marseille — which have their own fishing waters, would dry a cold water fish such as cod.  Fish are not always plentiful enough, for one thing, and when bad harvests arrived, it was handy to fall back on salted fish, which keeps for years. Traditionally, Catholics had to have fish on hand for Fridays, when they were not allowed to eat meat. During the Norwegian famine in 1315-17, Clifford A. Wright says that the Norwegians allowed export of their stockfish and butter in exchange for import of malt, flour, salt, and other commodities they were lacking — things that were readily available in the south. In addition, most salt at that time came from the Mediterranean, so the Nordic countries needed it to make their salt cod.

The term morue is generally thought to mean “salt cod,” but technically speaking, it’s simply dried, salted fish of the Gadiformes family. The word stockfish, probably from the Dutch stokvis, is used in many other countries. In contemporary cuisine, one sees the term morue fraîche, which has come to mean “fresh cod,” even though there’s a perfectly good word for fresh cod in French: cabillaud.

What to Eat in France: Crème

By Tuesday, September 1, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Cream: crème fraîche, crème brûlée, crème caramel, crème chantilly…

The Normans put cream in almost all their sauces: for example, with salt cod and prunes.–La Varenne, Le Cuisinier François, 1651

C’est de la crème. / It’s easy.–French saying

Ce n’est pas de la crème. / It’s difficult.–French saying

No one loves cream or creaminess more than the French. They love it so much that they call all sorts of things other than cream “crème“: cream soups, pudding, sauces, custard filling, pastry cream, coffee with hot milk, puréed chestnuts, almond cream, cream horns, and even certain liqueurs. Just about anything creamy is likely to be called cream in French.

Cream has existed ever since milk existed. Despite our association with French cuisine, in general, cream is more a specialty of the north of France where it’s cooler, of the land of butter, than of the south, the land of olive oil and duck fat.

Normandy might well be called the cream capital of the world, or at least of France. The Vikings brought what we now call Normande cows to Normandy a thousand years ago. They, along with Jersey cows, are known for the quality of their fatty, high-protein milk, which makes excellent cream, butter and cheese. Half of all French milk and cream now comes from Normandy.

What to Eat in France: Mouclade de l’île de Ré

By Friday, August 28, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Mouclade de l’île de Ré, Curry and Cream Mussels from the Island of Ré

Moules de Bouchot, or Farmed Mussels

Humans have been eating mussels forever. Even the South American Indians left behind piles of millions of shells, and there is evidence that some prehistoric people used the shells as spoons.

Moules de bouchot are a specialty of this region, the Poitou-Charentes, where they are farmed. They are smaller than mussels brought in from the sea.

poitou-charentes map

Poitou-Charentes region showing Ile de Ré.

The story has it that this method of farming mussels was started by a shipwrecked Scotsman (or Irishman?), Patrick Walton, in 1235. Although the locals took him in, he was stranded and without money, so he decided to take up his usual occupation of hunting sea birds. He strung his nets along the coast, holding them in place with wooden posts stuck into the ground. To his great surprise he discovered that his posts were “invaded” by tiny mussels that multiplied at a phenomenal rate. He soon changed professions, and started trapping mussels and fattening them — they were a lot faster to fatten than birds — and in so doing invented the first mussel farms using young tree trunks (bouchot means young tree trunk). It is now common practice on the Atlantic Coast of France.

What to Eat in France: Poulet Vallée d’Auge

By Tuesday, August 25, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Poulet Vallée d’Auge, Normandy Chicken in the Style of the Auge Valley

by Jonell Galloway

Apples and cream are a quintessentially Norman flavor combination. This is a festive dish made on Sundays and holidays.

In Normandy, they would traditionally drink it with dry cider or Pommeau, but a fruity white wine such as a Riesling goes well, or even dry white Burgundies. If you prefer red, try a light one, such as Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil or another Loire red.

What to Eat in France: Soufflé au Comté

By Monday, August 24, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Soufflé au Comté, or Comté Cheese Soufflé

by Jonell Galloway

Comté cheese is a jewel born of Franco-Swiss history. By today’s boundaries, it is in the Jura Mountains in France, so it is technically considered a French cheese, although it’s made in a manner similar to that of the hard “cooked” Swiss cheeses we know as “holey Swiss cheese.”

Cara De Silva waxed poetic about Comté several years ago in Saveur magazine. I can’t describe it any better:

…that semifirm Comté is born of the distinctive milk of the region’s Montbeliarde cows, whose diet includes wild orchids, daisies, dandelions, and more than 400 other plant varieties; that it’s produced in the fruitières, or cooperative dairies, that have dotted the landscape of the Franche-Comté region for centuries; that the Montbeliardes’ milk is partly skimmed and heated gently in copper-lined vats before being combined with rennet; that the resulting curds are broken into fine grains, put into molds for pressing, and set on spruce boards for a few weeks of aging before being entrusted to an affineur, who oversees the further maturing of the cheese.

The Ancient Romans were already enjoying cheeses from this Franche-Comté region, and the cheese production in the villages of Deservillers and Levier were mentioned as early as 1264-1280. In 1380, there was mention of a cheese of such a large size that it could only be produced by a cooperative. After 1678, when Franche-Comté became part of France, there was an exodus of native Helvetics. It was then that other Swiss from the Gruyère region moved to the region, bringing the method of making Gruyère cheese — the cheese we often call “Swiss cheese” — with them. It is for this reason that the original name was Gruyère de Comté, now the AOC “Comté.”

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