What to Eat in France: Pain du Moulin

By Thursday, June 2, 2016 Permalink 0

What to Eat in France: Pain du Moulin, or “bread from the mill”

by Jonell Galloway

My adopted hometown of Chartres is in the Beauce region, the breadbasket of France. Large, flat wheat fields surround the single hill of Chartres, topped with the most beautiful Gothic Cathedral in the world. You can see the cathedral for miles when driving across the fields, and a quite magical view it is, its spires dominating the flat farmlands. No wonder people have been making pilgrimages here for at least 5,000 years.

Chartrains, as we call the people from here, come from the land. Everyone in the region has a farm or has family who owns one, and because of the abundance of grains of every kind — wheat, barley, corn, rye and many more — grains are an integral part of the local diet.

This traditional recipe is referred to as “bread from the mill,” but no one knows the exact origin of that name. In the past, the Beaucerons (the inhabitants of the Beauce region), of Celtic and Druidic origins, ate this on the Jour des Morts, the day of the dead, which fell on November 2 after All Saint’s Day, when the living were said to communicate with the dead, when tombs and graves were said to open so that the world of the visible and invisible could intermingle for a short period.

 

Pain du moulin / bread from the mill, French recipe from Chartres/Beauce, France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early in the morning of November 2, local bakers made pain aux morts, or “bread to the dead” (this could even be translated in a more ghoulish manner, “bread (made from) the dead”), out of flour and milk, for a traditional 10 a.m. breakfast before going to the cemetery.

In the nineteenth century, the church decided that All Saints Day sufficed and such pagan customs were more or less done away with. Beaucerons continue to eat this bread during the All Saints celebrations, however, calling it “bread from the mill” instead of “bread to the dead.”

I often serve this recipe with apéritif, but it can also make a vegetarian dinner, and can, of course, be eaten year round.

Recipe

Ingredients

Pain au lait, French milk bread, Chartres/Beauce, France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pains au lait or 3-4″-long milk breads
6 cups milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese or similar, grated
Cooking oil
Kitchen string

Instructions

  1. Cut the bread in half lengthwise.
  2. Use a spoon to scrape the crumbs out of the crust, taking care to leave the crust intact, and put the crumbs in a bowl.
  3. Pour milk over crumbs and mix.
  4. Add the eggs and the grated cheese and mix well.
  5. Fill the crusts with the bread crumb mixture.
  6. Use kitchen string to tie the bread halves together.
  7. Heat cooking oil in a deep pan or fryer. When the oil starts to bubble, drop in the bread and cheese preparations.
  8. Cook until golden brown.
  9. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately while hot.

 

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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.

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Rosa’s Musings: There is more to a sandwich than two slices of bread, a brief history of the sandwich

By Sunday, September 22, 2013 Permalink 0

by Rosa Mayland

A Brief History of the Sandwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this brief history of the sandwich, you’ll learn that a sandwich is an extremely versatile and universal food item consisting of two slices of bread in the middle of which is encased a filling, or of a single slice of bread garnished with a topping (tartines/bruschetta, smørrebrød, canapés, etc.). In both cases they come in an infinite number of varieties that differ in flavour, style, texture and size.

The origin of the term dates back to 1762 and saw the light of day in East Kent, England. According to legend, John Montagu aka the Fourth Earl of Sandwich was so busy gambling that he did not want to stop his activities in order to dine, so he ordered the waiter to bring him slices of roast beef enclosed in two wedges of bread. In this way, he could continue playing while eating and would in no manner dirty his fingers. That is how this quick and improvised snack became known as “sandwich”.

Even if the Earl gave his name to this popular “speciality,” it is to be said that bread has been served with meat and/or vegetables for centuries before this “invention” and that its forefather probably already existed in Neolithic times with the advent of the domestication of wheat. The first form of sandwich is attributed to the ancient Jewish wise man Hillel the Elder (~1st century B.C.) from Babylon who apparently put meat from the lamb sacrificed for Passover and bitter herbs (horseradish, chicory, sow thistle, eryngo, and lettuce) between pieces of matzo (kosher cracker-like, unleavened bread). Another genre of sandwich was common during the Middle Ages: thick slabs of stale bread called “trenchers” were used as plates and can be regarded as the precursors to the open-faced sandwich.

At the beginning, sandwiches represented a humble and simple lower-class meal, but by the middle of the 18th century, the aristocracy started serving them as a late-night collation, and they were considered very chic. Then with the breakthrough of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and its hordes of restless workers slaving away in factories, sandwiches became a working-class luncheon, since they were practical, easily accessible, nourishing (calorific), inexpensive, portable and could be eaten in a rush.

After having first appeared in England as well as Spain, the sandwich rapidly spread through the rest of Europe and the United States, where it was first promoted as an elaborate main dish. The 20th century saw the rise of the sandwich in the U.S. and the Mediterranean when bread became an indispensable component of people’s diet and started being consumed in much larger quantities than in the past.

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Best Fondue Restaurants in French Savoie as per Michelin Restaurant Guide

By Tuesday, March 19, 2013 Permalink 0


 Best Fondue Restaurants in French Savoie as per Michelin Restaurant Guide

by Jonell Galloway

For reference: here is a list of the Michelin guide’s favorite fondue restaurants in the Geneva/French Savoie area.

A magnificent collection

A magnificent collection of the Michelin “red guides”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Switzerland: A Geneva Christmas: Cardoon Gratin Recipe

By Wednesday, December 19, 2012 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

From the archives

Cardoon gratin is a classic Geneva Christmas dish, but only brave souls should to try to prepare them because they are prickly, and the preparation can be long and tedious. Many farmers markets in Switzerland now sell them prepared sous vide, in plastic vacuum-packed packages, which is probably the best option for those who don’t get a thrill out of getting a few pricks. In any case, it is important to schedule it carefully into your meal preparations, because it is time-consuming any way you go about it.

Cardoon Gratin Recipe

Preparation of Cardoons for Gratin

  1. Throw out any hard stems and any that are wilted.
  2. Peel the cardoons by removing leaves, spines and stringy parts. The exterior will then be covered with a fuzzy layer. Use a cloth to rub stalks gently to remove fuzz.
  3. Cut stems into 8 cm (3 cm) slices. Rub with lemon, or if you intend to use them later, put slices into lemon water so they won’t turn dark.
  4. You now have two choices: you can either cook them in a white vegetable broth you’ve made ahead of time, or you can cook them in the lemon water you soaked them in.
  5. Bring to a boil and boil until tender. It should take about 30 minutes for them to become tender, but if they are larger in diameter it can take up to 2 hours, so allow plenty of time.

Recipe

 

All these steps can be carried out while the cardoons are cooking. There are actually several ways of doing this. You can either make a Béchamel (white) sauce and sprinkle cheese on the cardoons before you put them in the oven, or you can make a Mornay (cheese) sauce and pour it on the cooked cardoons before putting in oven to brown. I think it’s tastier to make a Mornay sauce, and then sprinkle a bit of cheese on the top before putting it in the oven. Here’s my recipe.

Ingredients

Click here for British/American/metric recipe converter

Approximately 1 kg of cardoons
30 g of butter
1 tablespoon of flour
2.5 dl of whole milk
1 dl of cream
50 g of cheese, type Gruyère or Swiss (see photo below), grated
Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Salt and pepper to taste
 

Emmentaler (also known as Swiss Cheese), while...

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Make a Béchamel sauce, using the proportions of ingredients above.
  2. When finished and seasoned, add cream and cheese, setting aside a tablespoon of cheese. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 250° C.
  4. Once cardoons are tender, drain, making sure all water is drained off.
  5. In a large bowl, mix cooked cardoons and Mornay sauce.
  6. Pour into a baking dish of the appropriate size, so that there is a layer of about 3 cm high.
  7. Sprinkle evenly with remaining grated cheese and a few knobs of butter.
  8. Put in hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Notes: It is important to use a hard, Swiss-type cheese. Cheddar cheese would have too strong of a taste. If you can’t find cardoons, the same recipe can be made with Swiss chard, thus eliminating the long, meticulous preparation. Simply cut them as for the cardoons and cook in chicken broth until tender, then follow the other steps in the recipe for making the gratin. Its texture is quite similar to that of cardoons.

Switzerland: Tasting Week (La Semaine du Goût) Program

By Thursday, September 20, 2012 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

Click to see the Tasting Week program for the entire country. Tasting week runs from 13 to 23 September 2012.

This year many of the events are sponsored by Savoring a week of ‘slow food’ across the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Food Art: The Other Side of the Matterhorn: Gornergrat Rösti, food photography by Jenn Oliver

By Monday, March 26, 2012 Permalink 0
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Is Focaccia Pizza’s Rival?

By Thursday, February 16, 2012 Permalink 0

by Diana Zahuranic

“It’s the most dangerous competitor of pizza,” said the president of Recco’s Consorzio near Genova. What could possibly pose a risk to the hallowed Italian dish? The risk lies in a similar bread known as focaccia, an olive-oily, salt-crunchy, inch-thick fluffy white dough often cut into squares in the piazza’s panetteria, or bakery. Tomato sauce and ciliegini cherry tomatoes, may be dropped on top, as well as anchovies, thin potato slices with rosemary sprigs, zucchini, eggplant, olives and tomato – basically any ingredient that goes on a pizza sits comfortably on its fluffy focaccia pillow, too. And like pizza, mozzarella cheese is basically a given.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If focaccia is pizza’s most serious contender, then Focaccia di Recco is the Achilles of this battle – but Recco’s focaccia has no weak spot.

I went with my class from the University of Gastronomic Sciences, a Slow Food-founded school based in Piemonte, Italy, to the 150-year old Ristorante Vitturin. The owner applied for the IGP label for his focaccia, and is now waiting for it to pass. If the bread earns this Indicazione di Geografica Protetta, or Protected Geographic Indication, that will make it the first restaurant product with that label. Naples’ pizza likely regrets not applying for one every time a new “Napoletano style” pizzeria erects its greasy walls in small suburbs and big cities. If it gains the IGP label, then that’s Point One for Focaccia di Recco.

We walked down a flight of steps into a moodier section of the restaurant and the kitchen, open with a line of windows framing the working chefs who flip paper-thin focaccia dough in the air and mix potions of ingredients to create pestos and sauces. The bustle of a restaurant kitchen was unapparent, non-existent, at 2:30 in the afternoon. The chef had time to show us how to make Focaccia di Recco.

Three long tables were set up in a U at the end of the room, set with dough, flour and long, thin rolling pins that were more like sticks. The chef was cheerful and energetic and even a bit cheeky to the very sincere Consorzio leader/ restaurant owner, who explained to us why the Focaccia di Recco deserved the IGP label.

“We use a farina di forza,” he explained. This “flour of strength” is 100% Manitoba flour, its forza derived from the high gluten content. The chef let us feel the fine, fine flour. He began to roll out soft, warm piles of dough very quickly into a thin layer on the table.

“The cheese must be this kind,” he said, showing us the Formaggio fresco latte ligurie tracciato. It was a big, white, squishy brick. The chef laid out the first layer over the tray, and then pinched off chunks with his hands of this fresh goat’s cheese from Liguria and plopped them evenly onto the pie.

“We’ve used the same recipe since 1800,” said the owner. The recipe is also written on the brochure of the restaurant (although the cheese is described as crescenza, an Italian-style Philadelphia cream cheese, because few people will ever get their hands on the crucial ligurie tracciato cheese). We were pinching off moist bits of this rich, creamy cheese and popping them into our mouths as we watched the chef toss his next piece of dough high into the air until it was so thin it was transparent.

Formaggio fresco di latte ligurie tracciato

The chef gently laid the fragile dough over the cheesy bottom layer. Some cheese chunks broke through, which would burst through in an exquisite, oily sizzle when in the oven. He drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil, cut off the excess dough in one deft motion using the rolling pin, and smashed the leftovers into another dough ball. “We don’t waste anything,” he said. In fact, we ate hand-rolled corkscrew-shaped pasta later, called trofie or trofiette, made out of that very dough ball.

The focaccia was carefully cooked on hot coals, the traditional method, especially for us. When it was ready, it was sent up to the ground level by a veritable focaccia carousel – a large wheel with level platforms where focaccia was placed, sent up, up, up and lifted off by the waiter to be served, pizza-style, at the table. The place is known as the “restaurant of the wheel.”

The cheesy Focaccia di Recco was crunchy in all the right places, soft and gooey where you wanted it, and underlined by the wholesome nuttiness and vegetal taste of the extra virgin olive oil. My preference was the Focaccia di Recco covered in zesty, herby, house-made pesto. Interestingly, they proudly deemed this una ricetta nuova, a new recipe. Tradition runs strong in Italy, where changes are tested slowly and considered seriously.

The pesto version of focaccia

Perhaps this answers the questionable “difference” between a focaccia and pizza. Focaccia is often thicker, and it is sometimes sold as “pizza a taglio,” “pizza by the slice,” even though everyone knows it is focaccia. In Italy, pizza is never one slice – it is a pie per person. And in Recco, the focaccia is thin and served on a round dish, one per person. These qualifications bring it dangerously close to pizza. When I asked the question, I was told that the ingredients in the dough are different than that of pizza dough.

And so it seems that pizza will remain pizza, focaccia will remain focaccia, and they will continue to be sold alongside one another for a long, long time as they always have. Don’t worry, pizza. Focaccia isn’t out to get you. Just don’t set up shop in Recco.

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Jonell eats her way through Paris: a photo documentary

By Wednesday, February 15, 2012 Permalink 0
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Say Cheese!

By Monday, December 19, 2011 Permalink 0

by Alice DeLuca

Many years ago, on a train traveling slowly through the French countryside – I don’t remember exactly where and I refuse to invent a location for the sake of a story — I met a man whose job it was to sell cheese mold. This friendly man was sitting in the same compartment with me. I was naturally apprehensive when he started to speak. Sometimes men traveling on trains want to share stories and sometimes they want to show young women other things whether the women are interested or not, but that is another story.

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