The French have contributed much to the eating pleasures we enjoy today, even if it is considered one the “unfriendly cuisines,” meaning complicated and hard to master. However, today’s impressive salad recipe couldn’t be easier.
This week, our culinary class took us to the regions of France, where we studied how the geography, climate and neighboring countries have shaped French cuisine. Below are a few that I found to have culinary significance.
This central region is considered the gastronomic region. The land is some of the agriculturally richest in France. Famous dishes from this area are Boeuf Bourguignon, and Coq au Vin. Another well-known product is Dijon mustard.
Fun Trivia: It is documented that 66 gallons of mustard was consumed at a banquet given for the King of France, Phillip VI in 1336.
Camembert, cider and cows… oh my. This northwestern hill-covered countryside has a cooler climate, which is perfect for grazing cows and growing apples. It is the home of Camembert cheese and Calvados apple brandy. Most dishes are made with cream or butter.
This northeastern region is influenced by its next-door neighbor Germany. It is the home of ‘chou-croute’ (French for sauerkraut). Lard is the cooking fat of choice here. Other famous foods are Quiche Lorraine, foie gras, sausages and pastries.
This southeastern region on the Mediterranean Sea is influenced by Italy. Provencal cooking uses olive oil instead of butter. Ratatouille, Bouillabaisse, Salade Niçoise and “Herbes de Provence” (an assortment of herbs grown locally) are just a few well-known dishes here.
After our whirlwind trip of the regions, we sampled quite a range of cheeses, salt and oil.
Secrets of Good Cooking
If you want to be a good cook, there are two ingredients you must use.
• High Quality Salt
(from natural sources not iodized grocery store salt which is mostly sodium chloride – for more info click here)
• Good Quality Oil
(Not sure? Opt for imported oil from Spain, Italy, Greece or France, as they have higher standards. Make sure the word “Product of France” is on the label to guarantee they are produced in that country.
Chef Carol is carefully de-boning a duck to make Duck Galantine.
A Galantine is a French dish of de-boned meat, which is stuffed with ground, lean meat emulsified with fat and other assorted ingredients. This elaborate dish is difficult and time consuming, but well worth the effort.
We learned how to make crepes, and the importance of a good-quality, well-seasoned crepe pan. Here are a few of our prized dishes.
Gratin aux Pommes Forestier (Potato Gratin Forestier)
– a potato gratin cooked with mushrooms.
Provencal Roast Tomatoes
Tuna Tapenade and Pear & Watercress Salad
Entrecôte sauce au poivre vert (Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce)
And Moules Mariniere (Mussels with White Wine)
Click here to see the recipe on Rona’s blog.
Vanilla Macaroons with a Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache and
Tarte aux Pruneaux et aux Amandes (Prune and Almond Tart)
I learned a great tip from my fellow student Scott, who suggested I put a match in my mouth while I cut onions to prevent the tears.
This simple salad could be dressed up for the holidays by caramelizing the walnuts. You could also exchange the nuts and oil for pistachio or hazelnut for a fun twist.
I personally prefer to use a teaspoon less lemon juice to bring out the wonderful flavor of the walnut oil. As always, taste as you go.
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon good quality salt
- 3 tablespoons of walnut oil
- 1 pound Belgian endives
- ½ cup toasted walnut pieces (or caramelized)
- 4 ounces Roquefort
- In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and salt and stir to blend. Add the oil and stir to blend. Adjust seasonings and set aside.
- Separate the endive leaves. Wash and pat dry with a towl. Place the whole leaves in a salad bowl and sprinkle on the walnuts and crumbled cheese.
- Pour on just enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves and toss.
Did you know…
There is actually no English translation for the French phrase Bon Appétit?
I love language that is universally understood, especially when it comes to food.
“In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.” ― Julia Child
Kind of like eating a hot dog and peanuts at a museum.
…and then she paused for thought.