Category Archives: Favorite Recipes

Everybody Clafoutis!

This weekend the cherries on my sister-in-law’s two cherry trees – one black and one sour – were ripe for picking. The weekend was also the date of our annual pantagruelesque picnic on Les Chaumes, and one of my jobs was to bring dessert. Put these two events together, and what do you get? A delicious homemade clafoutis.

Steph lent me her favorite recipe, and besides being as easy as falling off a log (if you click on my “favorite recipies” tag, you will note this is a common denominator!) it consists of ingredients you can find just as easily in North America or Britain as in France. 

So…êtes-vous prêts de Clafoutis aussi?

For 6-8 people

Ingredients

– 500 grams of black or sour cherries (freshly picked is best)

– 4 eggs

– 125 grams of white sugar

– a pinch of salt

– 80 grams of white flour 

– 1/4 of a litre of milk

– 60 grams of butter

– 1 small package or one soup spoon of vanilla sugar (optional)

Instructions

–  Melt 30 grams of the butter in microwave or small casserole.  Set aside.  

–   Mix eggs together in medium sized bowl with fork.  Add the salt, sugar and mix well.

–  Pour in flour and mix again until there are no “lumps’ left.

–  Add the 30 grams of melted butter and the milk.  Mix again until smooth. 

– Wash and remove the pits from the cherries (I do this, although Franck’s gradmother was firmly rooted in the “do not remove the pits’ camp – just be careful of your fillings!) and spread evenly on a well-buttered 9 x 13 baking dish (glass or porcelein preferable).

– Pour the liquid mixture over the cherries and then dot with the rest of the butter. 

– Put in a 220 degree Celsius oven for around 35-45 minutes, keeping an eye on it that it doesn’t start to burn. 

– When you remove it from oven, sprinkle with package of vanilla sugar if available.  Serve at room temperature. 

Dégustez!

What Is Left To Do, Except Make Boeuf Bourgignon?

As you saw from Allison’s video of a snowy Beaune winter is really giving a coup de blues to Burgundians this year. What is there to do except make up some truly soul-satisfying winter recipes that provide a balm for the spirit?

The most traditional of these in Burgundy is, of course, the famed Boeuf Bourgignon. Marjorie Taylor just posted her recipe for this French classic on her blog.

All of Marjorie’s recipes are delicious, so I do urge you to try this one if you need some spiritual healing to make it through to Spring.

And you can also dream about taking part in one of her amazing cooking classes, market tours, or dinner parties in Beaune. That doesn’t hurt either…nor does a 1991 bottle of Vougeot, either in or alongside your dish.

Frenchitude Lesson #51 : Make This Lemon Tart

A few posts ago I mentioned my homemade recipe for Crème Fraiche which mentioned Lemon Tarts, and I promised to post the recipe for my fabulous French Lemon tarte.

Here she be.

This is one of those stalwart, life-saving recipes. It really isn’t that difficult, but gets absolutely rave reviews every time. The first time I tried it it was at my friend Charlotte’s house. She had made it for dessert one day when just her, Franck, and I were having lunch together. Between the three of us we ate almost the ENTIRE tarte.

Now, perhaps such gorging isnt a very Frenchitude thing to do, but this tarte is so much the quintessence of Frenchitudeness in its beautiful lemony simplicity, that you simply have to surrender to the pleasure of eating it.

Make it, and you too will understand the paradox.

First you have to make the shortbread pastry:

Ingredients:
– 125 grams of butter (unsalted or salted – either works)
– 125 grams of white sugar
– 250 grams of flour
– 1 egg

Instructions:

-Mix all the ingredients up with “S” blade in food processor until it becomes a ball. Just for the record I am a HUGE fan of food-processor homemade pastry.

– Wrap it in Saran Wrap and flatten into disc shape. Let sit in fridge for an hour or more.

– When you are ready to make the tarte, roll out the pastry and then press in into a buttered and floured quiche pan. It is normal that the pastry is a bit crumbly and you have to sort of press it together like pieces of a puzzle. Poke it all over with fork after you have assembled it in the pan.

– Slide the pastry in the quiche pan into a 180 Celsius (360 Fahrenheit) degree oven for 10 minutes. You can use those bean thingies to keep your pastry from puffing up, but I never have them at hand and it turns out fine.

Now while your tart shell is cooking, here is how you mix up the lemony-lemon filling:

Ingredients:
– 150 grams of cream or Laura’s Crème Fraiche
– 2 eggs
-100 grams of sugar
– 1 soup spoon of flour
– 2 lemons

Instructions:

– In a saucepan boil the cream. Let it cool.

– Zest and juice the 2 lemons.

– In a bowl, mix together eggs, sugar, cooled cream, lemon zest, and 50 ml of the lemon juice.

– Pour this mixture on to your pastry (it’s normal that the mixture just barely covers the pastry), and leaving oven at the same temperature cook for an additional 15 minutes or until it doesn’t jiggle in the middle anymore.

– Put in fridge to cool.

– Eat a dainty piece, and then another, and then another…

Frenchitude Lesson #47: Homemade Crème Fraiche

During my five years in France, I realized that Crème Fraiche that delectable French cream that goes perfectly in your quiche batter or dolloped on top of a bowl of freshly picked strawberries – is one of those precious things that, like reading your children’sphonetically spelled notes, makes life worth living.

There is Crème Fraiche in the huge majority of French refrigerators, but although I have searched high and low, I haven’t been able to locate this essential kitchen item since arriving in Victoria.

So I trolled the Internet, which I am increasingly finding is one of the best cooking tools Out There and found out how to make my own homemade Crème Fraiche.

Now, before your eyes glaze over and you jump to another post, please keep in mind that if a recipe isn’t as easy as falling off a log, I just don’t do it more than once.

And I make up a mason jar-full of Crème Fraiche pretty much every week and keep it in my fridge. Oui, it is THAT easy.

Tempted? Of course you are, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog, n’estce pas? 😉

Here are the required ingredients & equipment:

Ingredients:

– 1 cup of sour cream (I use full-fat, as I think you probably know by now that I believe full fat things are essential to a happy, satisfied existence, but let me know how it turns if you try low-fat sour cream – I must say though, I’m not holding my breath)

– 1 cup of cream, anywhere from 10% to 18% (I highly recommend the 18%)

Equipment:

– Bowl or Jar;

– A humble dishtowel;

– A whisk or, if you are like me and can never remember where you put the whisk after unloading the dishwasher, a fork.

(Overwhelmed yet? I thought not.)

Instructions:

– Stir together sour cream and cream in bowl or jar with whisk (or fork). Cover with dishtowel and leave out for 7-8 hours or overnight;

– Next morning give it another few stirs;

– Put jar or bowl in fridge;

– Enjoy!

Here chez Germain we enjoy Crème Fraiche on our pasta, in our quiches, and I will be using it to make a lemon tarte to take to my sister’s for dinner on Friday night. Voilà! From now on, not living in France is no excuse for denying yourself one of life’s great pleasures.

Fête du Cassis – 5&6th September, 2009

Newsflash!

For all you cassis (blackcurrant) lovers out there, there is a big cassis festival going on in our neck of the Burgundian woods this weekend – September 5th and 6th. It all happens in the gorgeous little hamlet of Conceour just above Nuits-Saint-Georges, and minutes away from Magny-les-Villers and Villers-la-Faye.

For 4 Euros and 50 centimes you can buy an emblazoned kir tasting glass and join in the fun. Visits to the cassis fields, tastings, pressings, and of course wonderful local food will round out the festivities.

For more details (though because I am no longer there to translate tourist documents, not in English) just click here.

And just in case you’ve forgotten how to make a kir – THE most Burgundian of apéritifs and a drink I love so profoundly that my French friends had the cheek to suggest that it would be easier to simply hook me up and administer it to me intravenously – here’s the Germain recipe…

Laura’s Kir:

1/3 Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant) liquor – Vedrenne is a very good brand, and in the Hautes-Côtes around where we are do check out the local producers such as the Ferme Fruirouge in Concoeur itself and the Jouannet family in Meuilley.

+

2/3 Bourgogne Aligoté – We *heart* the aligoté from Domaine Naudin-Ferrand in Magny but in a pinch any dry white wine can suffice.

Step #1: Pour the cassis and then the aligoté into a short wine glass (NEVER pour in the wine first, then add the cassis, or stir for that matter).

Step #2: Sip

Step #3: Contemplate the wisdom of the following quote from Victor Hugo, “God made only water, but man made wine.”

Frenchitude Lesson #21: When The Going Gets Tough, Make Crêpes


February gets me every time. As my sister Jayne pointed out, February is like the Tuesday of the winter. It’s not the beginning like Monday, which is never as bad as you imagine, but it’s not anywhere near the end either.

I want warmth and sunshine and Spring, but like any French person for now I’ll just have to settle with crêpes.

Crêpes are French comfort food, and in our family we try to make them on most Sunday nights for dinner during the winter – and they are never more needed that when we are stuck in the dirge-like depths of February.

Here is our family crêpes recipe; a balm for our souls, especially in February.

Ingredients

500 grams of white flour
6 eggs
8 centilitres of vegetable oil (not olive or anything strong tasting)
1 litre of milk (2% or up best)
1 pinch of salt

Tools
whisk
fine-meshed sieve
crêpe pan or if not a small Teflon frying pan

Instructions

How to Make Batter

– Mix flour and salt together with whisk in bowl.

– Make a hole in the centre of the flour mixture with your fingers.

– Add eggs and oil into hole (doesn’t matter if it runs over).

– Mix gently with whisk – batter will be stiff and lumpy – this is perfectly normal, while mixing wet the batter with a quarter of the milk, mix milk in…

– When you more or less have a homogeneous mass of batter, pour the rest of milk in all at once.

– Keep mixing delicately with whisk until you have smoothed out as many of the lumps as possible.

– ***THIS IS A CRUCIAL STEP*** We always, at this point, pour the batter through a fine-meshed sieve (called a chinoise here in France) into an empty water bottle (also using a funnel), although you can always pour it into any sort of bowl and / or pitcher. This step eliminates the lumps without toughing the batter. We have found an empty water bottle the perfect device for pouring the batter into the crêpe pan, and then storing any leftover batter in the fridge.

– You must then leave the batter to “rest” for at least one hour before using.

How to Cook Crêpes

– When the batter is sufficiently rested up, you oil a crêpe pan – while a regular Teflon style frying pan will do in a punch, a real crêpe pan makes a huge difference; they are actually concave which allows for better cooking – with a piece of paper towel (wiping off any visible traces of oil) and then heat up the pan so it is very hot.

– Pour your first crêpe, using just enough batter to cover the pan, tilt the pan this way and that to get maximum coverage. When you see bubbles popping in the middle of the crêpe, very similar to when you make pancakes, loosen the edges of the crêpe with a plastic or wooden spatlula and using your fingers flip it over to cook other side briefly (only about 30 seconds).


– Just for the record the first crêpe is usually very weird looking – this is normal. The following ones will always be better. I haven’t gotten to the bottom of this particular mystery yet.

– We usually do a round (or three) of savory crêpes filled with ham, grated cheese, and a few dabs of crème fraiche – these are all added in the pan on the flipped crepe so that they heat up and melt, fold the crêpe over in half on top of ingredients and serve.

Here I have prepared the savory ingredients, along with a nice little glass of Claire Naudin’s wonderful local red for the chef (this also helps with the February blues, by the way, though watch out as it would be all too easy to become an alcoholic in February).


– Then we do a round (or three) or dessert crêpes that we either fill with jams of any variety, sugar, or Nutella is you are in particular need of a mood boost.

I am very proud that I can now expertly flip crêpes just like any good French passport holder. However, as Charlotte informed me amidst gales of laughter “Maman, you have such a double menton when you do that!”

Sadly, she was not making reference to the lovely town of Menton on the French Riviera but rather pointing out how flipping crêpes gives me a whopper of a double chin. So go ahead and try to flip, but be warned that a blow to your vanity is the price you will have to pay for such culinary razzmatazz.

Maybe I do have a double menton, but I make damn good crêpes

Frenchitude Lesson #15: Make Tarte Tatin

About a month ago I decided that the fact that I live in France, love baking, love apples, and had never yet attempted a Tarte Tatin – the uniquitous French apple upside-down cake – was simply too ridiculous. It had to change.

So off I embarked on an attempt to fine-tune the perfect tarte tatin recipe. Truth be told all the attempts were pretty darn delicious – how bad can the combination of apples, butter, sugar, and vanilla possibly be? – and were gobbled up by myself and my family before I could even snap a photo.

However, I was still not satisfaite. There was a bit too much caramel and I didn’t taste the apple flavour distinctly enough. Also my pastry was a bit bland – I figured using salted butter would help with that, and as you will see below, j’avais bien raison.

I kept fiddling around until this Sunday I hit on tarte tatin nirvana. Here is my recipe, that I have now included in the oeuvre in progress that is my recipe binder;

Ingredients:
– half of Charlotte’s Pâte Brisée recipe made with salted or half-salted butter

– 5 to 7 cooking apples, I swear by “Goldens

– 1/4 of a cup of salted or half-salted butter

– 1/2 of a cup of regular white sugar with a package of vanilla sugar OR teaspoon of vanilla extract

Instructions:

– Peel and cut up apples into quarters, remove core

– In a skillet on element, or in proper tarte tatin dish is you have one (but I don’t, I never seem to have the right equipment as I go through life), melt butter over medium to medium-high heat.

– When butter is bubbling nicely, sprinkle sugar, vanilla sugar OR vanilla extract over butter. Using a wooden spoon or spatula stir together (still over medium to medium – high heat) until they start to become golden – about 3 minutes.

-Place apple chunks on caramel mixture. Careful for splatters – caramel is VERY hot.

-Turn heat down to medium / medium-low so that it is just bubbling. Let bubble away for about 15-20 minutes, turning apples occasionally so that caramel coverage is maximized.

-During this time on floured surface roll out pastry in a circle about half an inch in diameter bigger than the round cake pan where you are going to transfer apple caramel mixture and cook tarte tatin, OR half an inch in diameter bigger than your bona fide tarte tatin pan if you are using one (pssst…is your name Martha by any chance?).

– If not using a tarte tatin pan (i.e. me) using wooden spoon or spatula transfer bubbling caramel and apple mixture (again, carefully) to buttered round cake pan. With spoon arrange apples in the closest fit possible. Leave five to ten minutes to cool, then lie pastry circle over the apple mixture and tuck in firmly underneath apples around the edges. It will look something like this;

– If your name is Martha and you are using a tarte tatin pan just do the same thing with the pastry directly in the pan.

– Pop confection into preheated oven at about 400-425 degrees (205-215 Celsius) and let cook for 25 minutes or so until pastry on top is golden brown (but not dark brown).

– Take it out, and on to flat wooden board or largish plate FLIP your cake on it so apple side is now looking up.

Voilà! You have now made the Frenchest of French desserts, the divine tarte tatin – the delicious french upside down apple cake. It tastes the best, as with so many things in life, served with really good quality vanilla ice cream.

This is what mine looked like when I brought it back in the kitchen after serving it. YUM!


**Frenchitude Fridays (French + Attitude = Frenchitude) give ideas for injecting a bit of frenchness into your life, whether you live in Dawson City or Dole.

The Germain Reunion Salad


I have been delaying posting this recipe because I still don’t have a “food porn” photo of it to get you salivating. However, the reason for this is that this salad is so very, very refreshing and delicious that it is always gobbled up before I can take one.

I tasted it for the first time at a big family reunion we had for Franck’s Dad’s side of the family (The Germains) just after we returned from Canada. Franck’s cousin Sylvie had made it and I demanded the recipe after only three forkfuls – it’s that good. Better yet, making it is as easy as falling off a log.

So I’m posting it along with photos of our French family reunion, including the ubiquitous game of pétanque, to get you in the mood.


Ingredients

1 English cucumber – seeds removed
4 large tomatoes or 6 medium – seeds removed
1 cantaloupe or Cavaillon style melon – seeds removed
1 block of feta (about 200g) that is NOT marinated in oil and / or herbs
few sprigs of fresh mint (optional)

My dead easy French vinaigrette made preferably with a lighter tasting oil (i.e. vegetable rather than olive oil) and a white wine vinegar rather than a red or balsamic. This makes a lighter tasting vinaigrette that goes better with this salad.

Instructions

– Once you have removed seeds from the cucumber, tomatoes, and melon, cut all three ingredients into smallish cubes. Size isn’t as important as the fact that the cubes should all be more or less the same size.

– Make vinaigrette.

– Thoroughly toss cubed fruit and veg with vinaigrette in big bowl until well mixed.

– Cube feta into cubes same size, mix cubed feta delicately with rest so as to coat with vinaigrette but not to break up feta more than necessary.

– Snip few leaves of fresh mint on top just before serving.

* You can either serve the salad in a big bowl for a potluck style offering, or cute little glass bowls or cups if you want to make it look a bit more elegant. I often serve it in glass bowls as an entrée before the main dish; the combination of colours looks smashing.

* I added a few snips of freshly cut mint on my bowls before serving, and this really brought out the fresh taste of this delightful concoction. However, you can eliminate this if you don’t have any kicking around or don’t like mint.

* My friend Charlotte has also made this recipe a few times with great success. One time she couldn’t find any melons so she substituted nectarines and it was apparently delicious. Once again, use your imagination!


Frenchitude Lesson #8: Salad Dressing Doesn’t Have to Come Out of a Bottle

Frenchitude Lesson #8: Salad Dressing Doesn’t Have to Come Out of a Bottle
The very first recipe I ever learned in France, when I was only 18 and freshly off the plane, was for a basic vinaigrette. It was my first host mother, Mme. Duperret in Nuits-Saint-Georges who taught me how she did it. Her recipe is still one I use once, if not twice, a day.
Although there are certainly many good bottled salad dressings on supermarket shelves these days, in my mind nothing is as versatile, inexpensive, or tastes as good as a home made vinaigrette. Learning how to make it is like riding a bike or learning how to drive a stick shift, once you get the hang of it it becomes second nature.
It is wonderful, of course, in a humble salad, but it is also the base for countless other French recipes, a few of which I’ll be posting on here over the next two weeks.
Trust me and try this recipe. If my 18 year old self who for years before then had practically subsisted on smoothies and burritos, and couldn’t boil and egg could learn it, so can you.
Ingredients:
– 2 tbsp of good quality mustard, preferably Dijon style (definitely NOT French’s mustard)
– 1 tbsp of good quality vinegar (balsamic, wine vinegar, flavoured vinegars, etc. all fine)
– 2-3 tbsp of good quality oil, either vegetable, olive oil, or flavoured oils (i.e. walnut, etc.)

Instructions:

**It is essential that you follow these in the proper order, and not to add a new ingredient until the previous ones are well-mixed and homogeneous** ;

– With a soup-sized spoon or measuring spoon put mustard in the bottom of clean glass bowl

– Add the tbsp of vinegar. With a fork or whisk (I always use the humble IKEA kitchen fork!) mix ingredients together rapidly until they look homogeneous (takes about 30 seconds)

– Add 1 tbsp of oil. Again with fork or whisk mix rapidly until the mixture is homogeneous. Add each additional tbsp of oil ONLY after the previous tbsp is mixed in.

Ta Da! You have just made a proper homemade French vinaigrette. Simple, satisfying, and delicious – that’s what Frenchitude is all about.

Now as to the variations on the basic vinaigrette, your imagination is the limit, and the versatility of this recipe is truly mind-boggling. You can of course vary the quantity upwards or downwards by adjusting the amount of ingredients to use – just keep the basic proportions roughly the same.

You can also;

Vary the type of mustard and use grainy mustard, tarragon flavoured mustard, spicy mustard, mild mustard, etc. etc.

Vary the type of vinegar and use balsamic (white or red), any kind of wine vinegar, cider vinegar, tarragon vinegar, raspberry vinegar (Maille makes a great one) etc. etc.

Vary the type of oil and use walnut oil, olive oil (makes a heavier tasting vinaigrette ideal for salade nicoise and other Mediterranean dishes), vegetable oil, or any other fancy or plain kind of oil you can get your hands on.

Add-ins – Here’s where it gets really fun! However, always remember to make your vinaigrette with the mustard, vinegar, and oil FIRST and then add in your add-ins only after the completed vinaigrette is homogeneous. Otherwise, it won’t mix properly. Experiment and come up with a few versions of your signature vinaigrette.

I love adding in one of more the following things when the inspiration hits me; freshly ground pepper, freshly cut parsley like in the photo below, sliced shallots, minced garlic, Herbes de Provence, toasted pine nuts, sliced almonds…your taste buds are the limit!

Beware! Whenever you whip up vinaigrette with your expert tour de main you may find yourself suddenly talking with a French accent.