Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I have received a comment about my "gâteau à la crème de marrons." I admit it is a great idea for a cake, so here is the basic recipe. It comes from my favorite French cooking site, Marmiton. I make one little change, though: instead of 350 grams of chestnut cream (crème de marrons), I use 250 grams of chestnut cream and 100 grams of melted baking chocolate. The combination is irresistible!
Monday, March 27, 2006
Sunday, March 26, 2006
I'm all for home cooking, but one attempt at homemade aligot was enough for me. I see that some American cooks have been hardy enough to cook aligot at home and I respect them for that. Then again, they may not be able to buy aligot manufactured by the Jeune Montagne cheese cooperative in Laguiole. In Aveyron, I can purchase this specialty in any supermarket, and I find it compares quite favorably with the homemade version. It sure is less tiring on my arm, at any rate.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
However, I have frequently been disappointed by the salades vertes served in all but the very best French restaurants. More often than not, they are topped -- I kid you not -- with slimy, off-white bottled dressing! Even slightly upscale restaurants have been known to commit this offense.
So, believe it or not, I actually look forward to American green salads with their creative dressings, toasted nuts and ground pepper!
I do live in la France Profonde, though, so perhaps my experience isn't typical.
What do you think?
Thursday, March 23, 2006
I will never forget tasting chestnuts for the first time at a Thanksgiving celebration in Tours, France in 1980. I thought things couldn’t get much better than that; I hadn’t tasted “crème de marrons vanillée.” This specialty of the Ardèche department is made by the Clement Faugier company. Imitations may exist, but I would never buy them. The firm also makes marrons glacés, or glazed chestnuts, which are a popular treat at Christmastime.
Crème de marrons is packaged in jars, cans or tubes. Delicious on fresh crêpes, it can also be used in baking, as in this chocolate chestnut cake .
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
A basic tarte aux pommes is such a simple creation that I usually don't consult a recipe. Sunday, though, I found three new versions in an Elle à table that I had cut out some time back. They were part of the "Menus propos autour de..." series, where the magazine presents variations on the theme of a standard French dish.
I tried the recipe by famous French baker Jean-Luc Poujauran. What made this tart special was sautéing the apples in butter, brown sugar and honey before putting them in the pie crust (pâte brisée.) The final touch was a light, crumble-like topping of ground almonds and a bit more brown sugar.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Another weekend, another food festival. This time the Côte d’Azur celebrated with the Fête de l’Olivier at Cagnes-sur-Mer. Saturday’s festivities included an olive oil tasting bar, a farmer’s market, “workshops” for children, and a déjeuner gastronomique (scroll down this link for photos and the menu.)
Dream job: travelling around France every weekend to report on these festivals!
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Over the past few years, I have taken on more teaching work, which means getting home later in the evening -- often around 6:30pm. By the time I unwind and touch base with my family, that doesn't leave much cooking time, nor any time to pore through cookbooks. If I try to launch into new recipes, our dinner time gets way too late.
This year I have been rediscovering very simple things, like these Choux de Bruxelles à la crème from one of my favorite cookbooks. The recipe's little secret is to slowly sauté five juniper berries in butter before adding coooked Brussels sprouts and, finally, a bit of crème fraîche.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
We don’t have a bakery in the village, but we can buy high-quality, locally-baked bread at the épicerie and tabac. Most people we know continue to buy fresh bread every day or two, but some stock it up in their freezer to avoid frequent trips to the baker’s, and a few use industrial pain de mie on a daily basis. Eating this type of bread with cheese is a sad state of affairs, but I do keep it on hand to make toast on the mornings when we have run out of fresh bread.
True pain de mie, however, has nothing to do with the above loaf. It is a light, slightly sweet bread made with flour, yeast, sugar, and milk and tastes something like a brioche.
Monday, March 13, 2006
The media frenzy over bird flu in France has been partly responsible for the significant drop in poultry sales over the last few weeks. A few days ago, radio station France Inter’s journalists admitted their role in the panic, and announced that to avoid any confusion, they would no longer be using the term grippe aviaire – grippe meaning flu – but would start using the correct veterinary term, peste aviaire. The first translation of peste is “plague”, so I’m not so sure how reassuring this move will be. Let’s just say it’s the thought that counts.
In the meantime, I did my patriotic part to support local poultry farmers by buying and cooking a five-pound farm chicken for Sunday lunch.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
With increasing globalisation in the food world, it is harder and harder to identify French foods that are not sold in the USA. Belgian endives are an example: when I moved to France in 1990, I had never seen one. Now I notice them in certain supermarkets when I go back to the USA. I imagine, though, that they are an upscale, somewhat obscure veggy -- correct me if I'm wrong.
In France, endives are a winter staple; there is nothing chic about them. Simply called endives in French -- and chicons in Belgium -- they are on the market stands from October to May. Generally unpopular with children, families nonetheless serve them frequently, especially in the dead of winter when many other vegetables are out of season.
Endives have a double personality: as a salad vegetable, they are quick and easy to prepare, but they are slow to cook. So endive salads make their way onto my table several times a week, whereas cooked dishes, such as the classic gratin d'endives au jambon, are more of a weekend treat.
I usually buy the "endives de pleine terre" which are cultivated in real soil rather than sand -- a bit more expensive, but also more flavorful. Red Belgian endives exist, but are difficult to find. My Larousse Gastronomique claims that they are unattractive to consumers, although it's hard to imagine why. Personally, I serve Belgian endives so often that I would love to vary their pale appearance from time to time.
Friday, March 10, 2006
The Internet is such a frustrating place: witness the fact that after spending about an hour writing an in-depth ode to the endive, the Blogger server went down and I somehow lost my post.
More about the Belgian endive at a later date!
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
How true it is! Among our French friends, I don't know a single family where the man cooks more than an occasional meal, often only when the woman is out and he has no other choice.
So when I say this blog is about how French working "women" cook and manage their kitchens, I'm perfectly aware of my choice of words. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, cooking is still seen as the woman's role here.
Monday, March 06, 2006
There is no single, perfect wine to go with a given food. Even if there were, it would be nowhere to be found within 30 miles of my kitchen! That's where Quel Vin Servir comes in. This unpretentious little volume lists over 1,000 French dishes and suggests three to ten different wines that can be served with them. No analysis, no proselytizing -- no text, really -- just an alphabetical guide to the different foods and the list of wine suggestions underneath.
I have a number of books on "marrying" wine and food, as the French put it, but this is the one that gets pulled out of the bookshelf every weekend.