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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.

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3-DAY TASTE AWAKENING COURSE IN CHARTRES

By Tuesday, June 30, 2015 Permalink 0

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

Award-winning wine writer James Flewellen and Cordon Bleu-educated cook 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.

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.

moules de bouchot

Mouclade, or Curry and Cream Mussel Stew

The word mouclade comes from the Saintongeais word moucle, which simply means mussel. Saintongeais is the Langue d’Oc dialect spoken in the Charente region.

Recipe

Ingredients

Serves 4

4 1/2 lbs small mussels
3 medium-sized shallots
1 T. chives, chopped
4 1/2 T. salt butter

2 pinches curry
1 cup dry white wine
6/10 cup liquid cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Large cooking pan

Instructions

  1. Scrub mussels with a stiff brush under cold running water, scraping off any “beards.”
  2. Wash shallots. Remove skin and chop.
  3. Chop chives.
  4. In a cooking pan large enough to comfortably hold all the mussels, melt half the butter. Add shallots and curry and sweat.
  5. Pour in white wine. Add mussels. Mix well and cover over medium heat, stirring from time to time.
  6. Cook until all the mussels are open. If a few don’t open, discard them.
  7. Use a slotted spoon to remove mussels from pan. Set aside in a warm place while preparing the sauce.
  8. Pour cooking juice off through a filter, then pour it back into the pan. Bring to a boil until it reduces by half.
  9. Pour in cream. Reduce until it forms a smooth sauce.
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Add the second half of the butter and beat with a whip.
  12. Add chives.
  13. Distribute mussels evenly in four shallow soup dishes.
  14. Pour sauce evenly over the four dishes and serve immediately,

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.”

What to Eat in France: Anchoyade Languedocienne

By Friday, August 21, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Anchoyade Languedocienne or Anchovies from the Ancient Province of Languedoc

by Jonell Galloway

Quand se garnis uno ensalado,
Fau qu’aquéu que met la sau fugue un sage;
Aquéu que met lou vinaigre, un avare;
Aquéu que met l’òli, un proudigue.–Popular minstrel rhyme

“When dressing a salad, the person who adds the salt has to be careful; the person who adds the vinegar wise, and the person who adds the oil generous,” said the wandering minstrels in Langue d’Oc.

Anchoyade is the langue d’oc spelling. In French (and in Provence), it is written anchoïade. In English, anchoiade.

The former province of Languedoc bordered Provence, where anchoïde is king, but in Languedoc, anchovies are mashed into a paste. Anchoïade is to Provence what fondue is to the Savoy. When the anchovy mixture is pounded in a mortar, as it is in Provence, it is actually anchovy paste. Anchoyade Languedocienne differs in that the anchovies are fried and served whole.

Technically, anchoïade is considered a sauce in France, although it is eaten as we would eat dip, called bagna cauda, or banha cauda in Provençal, with fresh raw vegetables into which it is dipped, or as a spread on toast. It is also used to make Fougasse aux Anchois and on salads.

In the region, anchoïade is most often accompanied by a dry white Cassis wine.

This is a traditional recipe and is perfect for topping a salad. Today, it is almost always ground into a paste like in Provence before serving as a dip. If you wish to do this, see the instructions following the traditional recipe.

What to Eat in France: Pouteille

By Tuesday, August 18, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Pouteille, or Pig’s Trotter and Beef Stew from La Canourgue

by Jonell Galloway

Gargantua, épuisé après une longue marche et tenaillé par la faim, décide de s’arrêter avant d’entrer dans le village de La Canourgue. L’immense cuvette de grès située au pied du Sabot retient son attention; il s’assied sur ce curieux rocher, en attendant que les fadarelles (les fées) l’informent de la cuisson d’une étrange préparation composée de bœuf, de pieds de cochons, de pommes de terre et de vin.--Rabelais

After a long walk, dying of hunger, Gargantua decided to go into the village of La Canourgue. His attention was immediately drawn to a large earthenware dish sitting on a stand. Curious, he sat down on a rock, waiting for the fairies to tell him about how this strange preparation of beef, pig’s trotters, potatoes and wine, was prepared. It was pouteille.

Pouteille is not commonly found outside La Canourgue, a small commune located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France.

In the old days, every family put their pouteille stew together and took it to the village communal oven in an earthenware dish referred to as a toupi. It was eaten on special occasions and on Sundays.

Pig’s trotters are commonly used in the cuisine of this region, and are an integral ingredient of this slow-cooked dish.

What to Eat in France: Matafans

By Monday, August 17, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Matafans, or Thick Pancakes from the Franche-Comté

by Jonell Galloway

Matafans are a specialty of the rugged region of Franche-Comté in eastern France; the word is Franco-Provençal. They are sometimes called mata fame, meaning in Spanish “to kill hunger.” It’s not surprising that the word originally comes from Spanish, since they controlled this region in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Matafans are also found in the Savoy and Lyon under the Francicized name matefaim.

They are fairly ancient, and Rabelais mentioned them in his third book in 1546 .

Matafans were originally eaten by peasants for breakfast. Today, they are often eaten as a starter, accompanied by a green salad.

They are essentially very thick pancakes, and in the old days were made with leftover mashed potatoes, but can also be made with apples and eaten as a dessert. Lucy Vanel gives a recipe for the historical potato recipe on her website. Today, most people make them from wheat flour.

They are eaten at Candlemas, washed down with Génépi, an absinthe liqueur. The dessert version is accompanied by a sparkling rosé or a fortified wine.

Quintessential France: Beach in Saint-Tropez

By Friday, August 14, 2015 Permalink 0

Quintessential France: Beach in Saint-Tropez, by Igor Marceau

Igor Marceau is a self-taught painter from Marseille, France. His world is an enchanting one, full of color and dreams. He describes his work as Expressionist, German Expressionist, Naive and Fauve, all in one. Some call it Neo-Naive. He works from his studio in Valbonne.

 

What to Eat in France: Bourride à la Sétoise

By Thursday, August 13, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Bourride, or Provençal Fish Soup with Aioli in the Style of Sète

by Jonell Galloway

Bourride is the specialty of Sète, a town on the coast of the Languedoc in Provence. Sète is one of the largest fishing ports in the region. Native poet Paul Valéry called it l’île singulaire, the singular island, because it is nestled in between two salt water lakes and the sea.

Bourride is said to date back to the Phocaeans, the ancient inhabitants of Marseilles, then called Massilia.

In Provençal, it is called boulido, meaning “boiled.” It is not unlike bouillabaisse, a specialty of nearby Marseilles, the difference being that bourride is made with only white fish — monkfish tails in particular, and that it is accompanied by aioli instead of the traditional rouille served with bouillabaisse. Shellfish are never added.

My recipe is very traditional. There are many variants, but the aim of this series of articles “What to Eat in France” is to seek original or traditional recipes for traditional, regional dishes.

This dish is a sure pleaser for parties and is easy enough to cook ahead, doing everything but poaching the fish, which should be done before serving.

In the region, many locals drink rosé wine such as Coteaux-d’Aix-en-Provence with bourride, but one might just as easily pair it with a perfumed Languedoc white. There are a world of them to be discovered, but since they are not, for the most part. A.O.C., it’s difficult to recommend one in particular. It’s a matter of producer as much as place.

What to Eat in France: Pâte de Coings

By Tuesday, August 11, 2015 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Cotignac ou Pâte de Coings, or Quince Cheese or Paste

by Jonell Galloway

Before having the best Cotignac sent from Orléans, because you were yearning for the tastes of  your childhood…Avant de faire venir d’Orléans le meilleur cotignac, puisque vous vouliez redevenir enfant et goûter au cotignac…—Balzac, Lettres à l’Étrangère

Quince is my husband’s favorite word. Annoying situations or people are quinces in his lexicon. But quinces can be most agreeable, as in the case of quince paste, a cherished confection in France. Although the fruit must be cooked to be digestible, rather like annoying situations have to be cogitated over to be digested, it is worth the effort. They are, after all, a member of the Rosaceae family, like apples and pears.

Quince paste, often called quince cheese or in Spanish membrillo, is not specific to France. In fact, it dates as far back as the Ancient Greeks, who made a similar preparation using honey instead of sugar.

Cotignac d’Orléans, quince cheese from the region of Orléans, has a special place in the history of France. In the Middle Ages, a pastry chef from the village of Cotignac in the region of Var in the southeast set up shop in Orléans. He made quince cheese, which came to be known as Cotignac, and which became a favorite of King François I. French kings continued the tradition, and Louis XIV and XV offered Cotignac to ambassadors and other important guests.

There are also historical references to a Cotignac from Mâcon.

How is Cotignac different from other quince cheese? It’s not, really. The name just stuck because of its place in history.