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Classic French Recipes

June 1, 2011 3:58 pm
posted by Rebecca

Think of France and one of the first things to spring to mind will no doubt be delicious dishes full of fresh seafood, beautifully cooked steak and, of course, lashing of cheese.  From instant crowd pleasers like Moules Frites and Croque Monsieur to après ski favourite Raclette (with some more Frites and plenty of Fromage) and then there’s every school child’s nemesis, Escargot.  And of course there are the famous CrêpesTarte Tatin, Gateaux, Eclair, Crème Brûlée… is your mouth watering yet??

Of course there’s much more to traditional French recipes than just Crêpes andFrites…and it’s not all haute cuisine or cordon bleu either. So here are our all time favourite French regional recipes, more rustic than refined in most cases, but guaranteed to get your stomach rumbling!

The Alps…for aprèsski comfort food

When most of us visit The Alps it’s for lashings of fresh air and winter sports, so we can be excused for wanting to sit down at the end of a hard day’s skiing to some truly hearty fare.  It’s little surprise that our favourite Alpine food relies heavily on cheese as the main ingredient! There are, of course, the delicious Fondue and Raclette but one of our favourites is Tartiflette.

Tartiflette is a truly indulgent dish, best appreciated after a strenuous morning on the ski-slopes — or at least a brisk winter’s morning walk. It is important to use a ripe Reblochon, preferably bought a few days in advance and left to reach maturity out of the fridge. Of course, if you have a good cheese monger you will be able to buy one ripe and ready to eat.

Here’s a recipe for the cheese delight, as taken from “The Food of France” by Sarah Woodward:

Tartiflette

Tartiflette

Ingredients:

[Serves 4]

1.5kg medium-sized red potatoes, such as Desirée

1 large white onion, peeled and diced

2 thick rashers of smoked streaky bacon, diced

25g butter

1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ripe Reblochon cheese

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 5.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the potatoes whole, in their skins, for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the onion and bacon in the butter in a heavy frying pan over a medium heat; they should sweat but not brown.

Drain the potatoes and as soon as they are cool enough to handle peel them — the quicker the better. Slice thickly across.

Choose an ovenproof earthenware dish and rub it well with the other halves of garlic. Layer half the sliced potatoes across the base, season, then scatter over the onion and bacon mixture. Add the remaining potatoes and more seasoning.

Place the whole Reblochon on top. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/350’F/gas mark 4 for a further 20—25 minutes. The Reblochon should melt within its skin and the fat drip down while the potatoes crisp.

Tartiflette is a filling dish and all you really need to go with it is a nicely dressed green salad.

Try Tartiflette in the alps when you stay at one of Pierre & Vacances’ resorts in the region, and booking for the 2011/2012 ski season starts on June 15th!

Alsace-Lorraine…for a German twist

The cuisine of this corner of north-eastern France brings together influences from neighbouring Germany such as Sauerkraut and marinated meat and veg stew, Baeckeoffe, with more typically French flavours.  Locals are masters of pickling vegetables, smoking meats, and packing sausages.

The region’s two legendary dishes are Foie gras and Quiche Lorraine: the word quiche is from the German “kuchen”, which means cake.  There is some debate about what constitutes a traditional Quiche Lorraine but we like the following recipe for its simplicity:

Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine

 

Ingredients:

Pie pastry

6-8 slices of bacon, diced

3 eggs

1 1/2 cup of whipping heavy cream

1 or 2 tsp of butter

1/2 tsp of salt

1/4 tsp of pepper

1 pinch of grated nutmeg

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C)

Put bacon dices in boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes. Drain. Put in a pan and heat till brown. Drain again.

Roll out pastry in a pie pan. Pastry should come about 1″ up the sides.

Beat eggs, cream and seasoning. Add bacon.

Pour mixture on the pastry, no more than 3/4 of the pie pan.

Reduce heat to 300° F (150°C). Bake for 30 minutes or until pie is cooked. Put a knife in the middle, if it comes clean the quiche is ready.

Let the quiche cool. Do not remove it from the pan. Goes well with a salad.

Just a suggestion: Although traditional recipes do not include it, you can add Swiss cheese such as 1 Gruyère to the egg, cream and bacon mixture, [around 1 cup is best].

Try Quiche Lorraine in Alsace and Lorraine when you stay at one of Pierre & Vacances’ resorts in the region.

Brittany and Normandy…for the sweeter things in life

Famed for Crêpes, apples, Normandy cider and Calvados, the north-western tip of France is the best place to head if you have a sweet tooth.  Apple and Calvados sorbet make a welcome appearances on many menus but our heads were turned by this recipe for Bretton Butter Cake, a classic version from Brittany.

Bretton Butter Cake

Brittany Bretton Butter Cake

Ingredients:

[Serves 6-8]

1 ounce instant dry yeast

1 teaspoon plus 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided

3/4 cup lukewarm water

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cold salted butter

1 egg yolk, beaten

Instructions:

Sprinkle the yeast and one teaspoon of sugar over the warm water and allow the yeast to dissolve for 5 minutes. Stir the flour into the yeast mixture until it forms a smooth, thick dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll and stretch the dough into a large rectangle, about 9-inches by 13-inches. Dot the surface with 1/4 cup of the cold butter and sprinkle it with 1/4 cup of sugar. Fold the dough into quarters. Repeat the rolling and folding process again, three times.

Preheat an oven to 350F. Once the dough is folded into quarters the last time, fit it into a greased 9-inch round baking pan. Brush the surface of the dough with the egg yolk, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, until it turns golden brown.

Allow the butter cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, run a thin, offset spatula or knife around the edges of the cake, and remove the cake from the baking pan. Serve the cake warm with berries or cream.

Try Bretton Butter Cake in Brittany when you stay at one of Pierre & Vacances’ resorts.

 

Central France…for heart-warming stews

It’s here in the heart of France that you’re most likely to find traditional dishes such asBoeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin.  A good French stew is not something to be rushed – and of course, the crucial ingredient is wine.

One of the most famous recipes from Burgundy is the one that includes its name, Boeuf Bourguignon. This version is adapted from that used by the chef at The Hotel Dieu, Monsieur Vernet:

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon

Ingredients:

[Serves 4]

1.5 kg/3 1/2 lbs stew beef preferably taken from the shoulder or shin

50G/3 1/2 tbsp butter

5 tbsp olive oil

2 carrots

2 onions

small round onions

button mushrooms

100g/1/4 lb fresh bacon

20g/1/4 cup flour

2 cloves garlic (optional)

1 1/2 bottles red burgundy wine

castor sugar

1 bouquet garni

salt and pepper

Instructions:

Marinade the beef, together with a ‘garniture aromatique’ (bouquet garni, onions and carrots,) in the wine and leave to marinade overnight.

Brown thoroughly in oil the drained pieces of meat. Skim off the fat and then sprinkle them with flour.

Add the marinade, the bouquet garni, carrots and onions and cook on a low heat for two hours. During the cooking time glaze until brown some small, round onions, button mushrooms and bacon (cook them in just enough water to cover them and some butter), sprinkle with sugar, cover with tin-foil and cook until the water boils away. Stir from time to time to ensure an even glazing.

Mix with the beef mixture, check the thickness of the sauce and, if necessary, add some beurre manié (butter and flour.) The cooking can be finished in the oven, in a covered casserole, or even covered with flour.

Try Boeuf Bourguignon in Central France when you stay at one of Pierre & Vacances’ resorts in the region.

Charentes…for seafood

From eel stew to steaming mussels, the gastronomy of the Poitou-Charentes is heavily based on seafood.   The mussel, an inexpensive mollusk, is prepared in many different ways in France, depending on the region.  The most spectacular is certainly L’éclade, a recipe from Charente Maritime. For this, the mussels are arranged on a bed of dry pine needles and set ablaze. After a minute or two they are cooked and ready to be eaten sizzling hot.

But this recipe is the simplest way to prepare mussels, and a perfect occasion to gather plenty of friends around the table for a huge steaming stock pot fragrant with white wine and shallots.

Mussels with White Wine and Shallots

Mussels with White Wine and Shallots / L’éclade

Ingredients:

5 to 6 pounds mussels, preferably the small bouchots

4 shallots

6 sprigs parsley

10 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup dry white wine

Freshly ground pepper

1 sprig thyme

Salt

Instructions:

Wash the mussels, scraping to remove their grassy “”beards””.

Peel and chop the shallots.

Remove the parsley leaves and chop them finely.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large heavy skillet or saucepan.

Add the shallots and cook until wilted.

Add the wine, a sprinkling of pepper, and thyme.

Let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the mussels, cover and cook over high heat, shaking the pan often so that all the mussels open at about the same time.

Take off the cover, remove the mussels as they open, and place them on a warmed serving platter.

When all the mussels have opened, empty the pan, and strain the cooking broth through a fine sieve.

Wipe out the pan and return the broth to it.

Cook briefly over high heat until boiling.

Cut the remaining butter into small pieces.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk the butter into the broth a little at a time.

Correct the seasoning, if necessary.

Pour the sauce over the mussels, sprinkle with the chopped parsley, and serve.

Try Mussels in Charentes when you stay at one of Pierre & Vacances’ resorts in the region.

Paris…for anything your heart desires (as long as it’s Croque Monsieur!)

Of course, all roads lead to Paris when it comes to food, where almost anything from the whole of France is available and where diners can pick and choose from more than 9,000 restaurants.

The immediate environs of Paris provide plentiful game but it’s arguably its pastries that the grande dame is most famed for.  That and its bread, the key ingredient to the legendary Croque Monsieur!

Who knows where the tasty snack originated from (the first recorded appearance on a Parisian café menu was in 1910) but today the city’s cafés have thousands of varieties on offer, each bringing their own unique interpretation to this classic dish.  Regional variations exist, with either tomato, Bleu d’Auvergne cheese, smoked salmon (instead of ham), sliced potatoes and Reblochon cheese or pineapple.

Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur

The classic recipe is hot ham and cheese (typically emmental or gruyère) grilled sandwich. Simple, quick and delicious!  Fast food at its most fabulous.

Try Croque Monsieur in Paris when you stay at one of Pierre & Vacances’ resorts in the city.

Picardy...for tarts and terrine

Picardy is known as the market garden of France with bountiful crops, an abundance of seafood and dishes with a distinct, earthy palate.  There’s an undeniable Spanish influence on the regional dish of Escaveche (escabeche in Spain), which is a cold terrine of sweet water fish in wine and vinegar, and Flemish influence on another terrine, PotjevleschAmiens Duck Pate draws the gourmands as does the Flamiche Leek Pie.

Flamiche aux Poireaux

Flamiche aux Poireaux

Ingredients:

2 round, puff-pastry crusts, uncooked

3 tablespoons butter

2 pounds (or more) leeks, cleaned and cut into 1/4 inch rounds (don’t use the tougher dark green part)

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1/4 cup grated gruyère or similar cheese (optional)

salt and pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 egg yolk

Instructions:

[Serves 6]

Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until soft – about 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour until mixed completely with the leeks. Pour in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes. Stir in nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, line a nine inch tart or pie pan with one of the crusts. Brush the bottom of the crust with the egg yolk mixed with a couple of teaspoons of water. Pour the cooled leek mixture into the crust and top with the second crust. Roll the edges together so that the whole tart is sealed. Make a hole in the centre of the tart so that steam can escape as the tart is cooking and, if you wish, make a design on the top crust with a sharp knife.

Bake for 30 minutes at 375° F. Serve warm.

Try Flamiche aux Poireaux in Picardy when you stay at one of Pierre & Vacances’ resorts in the region.

The Pyrénées…for deep-rooted culinary traditions

From black truffles to Foie Gras and Roquefort cheese, the food of the Midi-Pyrénées has made significant contributions to the wider French dining scene.  The region’s traditions and epicurean culture are deeply rooted and fiercely protected.  One of the dishes most synonymous with the Pyrénées is Cassoulet.

Cassoulet

Cassoulet

For the beans:

1 kg (2.2 lb) dried beans: either white navy beans, kidney beans, mojettes, pamier beans or Soissons beans, but the absolute best would be “tarbais” beans.

2 peeled carrots

1 onion, spiked with 3 cloves

1 bouquet garni (thyme, laurel, parsley)

1 large pork rind, cut into 2 halves

Meat:

8 lamb neck cuts (for taste)

8 lamb shoulder pieces, cut into squares of 100 grams (3 oz) each

8 pork loin pieces, cut into 100 grams (3 oz) cubes

8 mule fat duck thighs cut in half

8 pieces, 5 cm (2 inches) each, of Toulouse sausage (scalded and roasted)

Other ingredients:

200 grams (1/2 lb) of carrots and 200 grams (1/2 lb) of onions cut into small cubes

6 garlic cloves, crushed and degermed

1 bouquet garni

2 tablespoonfuls concentrated tomato paste

150 grams (5 oz) goose fat

150 grams (5 oz) bread crumbs

Instructions:

Soak the dry beans overnight in unsalted water.

Next day, put the beans in a large pot and cover them with new water, add the two carrots and the onion with the cloves, the bouquet garni and the pork rinds. Season with pepper and DO NOT SALT. Cook at a slow boil and do not forget to progressively skim the froth that forms on the surface.

Using a large ovenproof dish, sweat the vegetables: carrots, garlic, onions and the bouquet garni in some goose fat for 10 minutes, covering on low heat.

During this time use a large frying pan to brown all of the meats in some goose fat (until they are quite brown). Then retrieve and drain the pieces (in order to remove excess fat). Add tomato paste to the large casserole where you cooked the vegetable garnish.

Cook this mixture for two minutes and then add the meats and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place in the oven and cook at 350°F (180°C or th6), covered, for 2 hours.

Check if the beans are cooked. Once they are almost ready add salt and drain the beans (put the carrots in the large casserole that is already in the oven) and set aside.

Use a needle to check if the meats are well cooked. Next, use a fork and a skimmer to retrieve the meat and the bouquet garni. Be careful not to leave any small bones at the bottom of the dish. Remove excess fat from the remaining vegetables using a spoon. Mix these vegetables in a blender and then put through a sieve, pressing strongly in order to obtain a delicious vegetable sauce. Check and adjust the seasoning.

Put the meat, the beans, the sausage and the pork rinds, cut into 8 pieces, in a large terracotta dish (better known as a “cassole” hence the name of this recipe “cassoulet”) and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes at 375°F (210°C ) and serve.

Try Cassoulet in The Pyrénées when you stay at one of Pierre & Vacances’ resorts in the region.

South of France…for a taste of the Med

Whilst regional recipes found simmering in the south of France are still likely to involve stewing, the further you head the south, the more likely you are to encounter seafood or fragrant herbes de Provence in the mix.

The original Bouillabaisse (bouï abaisso in Provençal, meaning boil and press “bout et abaisse”) was from the Calanque coast between Marseille and Toulon , although it is said to be invented at Saint-Raphaël. Although called a soup, this is really a main dish, a full meal in itself.

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse

[Serves 6-8]

Ingredients:

200ml / 1/3 pint of olive oil

2 onions thinly sliced

2 leeks trimmed and thinly sliced

3 tomatoes skinned seeded and chopped

4 garlic cloves crushed

1 sprig of fennel

1 sprig of thyme

1 bay leaf

1 strip of orange peel without pith

750g / 1 ½ lbs shell fish e.g. crab mussels, king prawns

2 litre / 3 ½ pints of boiling water

salt and pepper

2.5kg / 5 lbs of fish e.g. monk fish, sea bass etc.

4 pinches of saffron powder.

Instructions:

Heat the oil in a large pan add the onions, leeks, chopped tomatoes and garlic.

Sauté over a low heat for 2-3 minutes until soft stirring from time to time.

Stir in the fennel. thyme, bay leaf and orange peel.

Add the shell fish, boiling water and some salt and pepper.

Turn up the heat and boil for about 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat and add the fish continue cooking for 12 to 15 mins over a medium heat.

The fish should be opaque and tender but still firm.

When the fish is cooked adjust the seasoning.

Stir in the powdered saffron and serve immediately.

Try Bouillabaisse in the South of France  when you stay at one of Pierre & Vacances’ resorts in the region.

South West…for something a little rich

The emphasis in south-western France is on rich foods – more truffles, more Foie Gras and duck.

Confit de Canard

Confit de Canard

Ingredients:

[Serves 4-6]

What you’ll need is 4-6 duck portions, rub salt into them and leave in a shallow covered dish for 5-6 hours.

Put your oven on low, 150 C/gas mark 2.

Wipe off the salt with kitchen paper and place all the pieces in a flameproof dish quite tightly, slightly brown both sides of the duck pieces very slowly, this can take 15-20 minutes.

Now cover your duck with enough duck fat to cover completely, pop it in your preheated oven for up to 2 hours. Then leave it to cool.

You can keep your duck preserved like that for a few days.

Instructions:

The idea is to warm the duck portions, not to cook again. The best way we found is to pan fry.

Heat a frying pan without any oil, as you already have duck fat around your pieces of duck.

Place the portions skin down and leave on a medium heat, do not move the pieces until they are a little crispy, then turn and do the other side.

‘Voila’ it’s ready!!

Serve with a salad or Potate Saladaise with Haricots Verts.

Try Confit de Canard in the South West of France  when you stay at one of Pierre & Vacances’ resorts in the region.

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