Worthwhile French Beers: Britt

29 04 2009

Thanks to Nick’s skill at sniffing out beer shops, and my diligence in reading labels, we found some beer from Bretagne!

Britt's Blonde and Blanche Beers (try saying that three times fast!)

We were eager to try it when we got home, so into the freezer it went for a short spell.  Malheureusement, they got left in a little too long and started to freeze.  It was very nearly a disaster.  But we kept our cool, and more importantly, kept the caps on the bottles to maintain the internal atmosphere.  Or something. 

At long last, we opened the bottle of Britt Blonde.  An unpasteurized ale, it had a slightly cloudy appearance and a very light floral/fruity aroma.  Upon sipping, it exhibited a distinct cidery tang – this beer definitely has character!

The Blanche was cloudy and yellow, as white beers tend to be.  It tasted remarkably similar to the Blonde, only slightly sweeter.  Nowhere near as highly perfumed as a typical blanche, we were less impressed by this one.

The brewery, Brasserie de Bretagne, produces six lines of beers.  The Britt line contains three standards: Blonde, Blanche, and Rousse.  There also appears to be a rotating seasonal brew or two.

And I thought they only made cider in Bretagne!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Regional French Cuisine: Bretagne: Soupe au Sarrasin et au Lard

27 04 2009

I’ll get back to my coverage of Grande Bretagne in a few days, but now it’s time for the end-of-the-month outpouring of regional France posts, Bretagne-style.  Wondering what I could cook from Brittany that wasn’t crêpes, I turned once again to Le Tout Robuchon.  There is a section near the back of the book with regional recipes, and sure enough, there was a Breton recipe for buckwheat and bacon soup!

Mise en Place for Breton Buckwheat soup

Luckily, I still have a stockpile (ha!) in my freezer, from the stock-making extravaganza of several weeks ago.  The only “specialty” ingredient I had to seek out was the buckwheat flour, farine de sarrasin en français.  And it wasn’t hard to find.  It’s funny, now that I’m looking for them, I see Breton products everywhere!  Apple juice and cider, butter, buttermilk, sea salt, and my favorite, salted butter caramels.  It seems that many basic, everyday ingredients hail from this sometimes remote-seeming region of The France.  (Nick and I have started referring to this country with a direct translation of its name in the native tongue.)  Now that I think about it, even the majority of the shallots I buy come from Bretagne!

[I was going to put in yet another gratuitous photo of lardons and shallots sweating in a pan, but stupid WordPress doesn't seem to want to upload it right now, so I'm moving on.  Besides, if you've read this blog before, you probably have some idea what that looks like.]

Once the lardons had cooked a bit and given up some of their delicious fat, I covered them in chicken stock and added bouquet garni ingredients: a stalk of celery, a few stems of parsley, sprigs of thyme, and a bay leaf.  I seasoned with a twist of black pepper and a quick grating of nutmeg, and brought the pot up to a simmer.

Simmering away...

While that was going on, I took Robuchon’s serving suggestion of croutons browned in lard to heart.  In another fortunate coincidence, Nick had just brought home that very afternoon a loaf of what he dubbed “possibly the worst bread I’ve had in Paris.”  We decided that cubing it up and frying it in lard could only improve matters (though really, when does it not?).  Of course I have lard on hand at all times.  Doesn’t everyone?

lardcroutons-a

Meanwhile, the soup was bubbling away.  I fished out the now soggy herbs and prepared to stir in the slurry composed of buckwheat flour and more stock.

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Why English Food Doesn’t Suck, part 1: What I Had For Lunch In London

23 04 2009

Blue skies in London!

I spent last weekend in London (and by weekend, I mean Sunday to Tuesday), and it defied stereotype right and left.  The weather was gorgeous and the food was delicious!  Seriously.  Upon arrival, we were directed to a restaurant near our hotel for the best fish and chips in the neighborhood (and arguably, all of London, so they claimed at the hotel).

Fish... 

... and chips

The green stuff on the plate with the fish is called “mushy peas.”  Terrible name, but the stuff was rather tasty.  There was a bit of mint in there with the peas, giving it a fresh, springy flavor that worked really well with the crisp fried fish.

The next day, we lunched at a fantastic little spot called The Modern Pantry.

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Kicking It Old School

18 04 2009

Meatloaf Dinner

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach.

Because meatloaf makes great leftovers.  And sandwiches.  Because it’s easy, comforting, satisfying, and delicious.  Because deep down, I like the meat + veg + starch aesthetic.  Because sometimes, that is what I’m talking about.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Exploring France: Bretagne: Lait Ribot

16 04 2009

Remember the buttermilk problem I was having?  (The one where I couldn’t find it despite the fact that it was right under my nose?)  It seems to be worse than I thought.

Traditional Breton Buttermilk

It turns out that there exists a traditional French product which consists of the fermented liquid left over after churning butter.  Sound familiar?  Lait ribot has been made in Bretagne for thousands of years, and many people drink it straight or to wash down another regional specialty: sweet crèpes or savory buckwheat galettes.

So now I have two buttermilk products from which to choose for my cooking, baking (and apparently drinking) needs.  It’s amazing what you can learn when you start researching something.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Chou-Fleur de Bretagne

13 04 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I got a big, beautiful head of cauliflower in my CSA panier.

Hello, Gorgeous!

The accompanying literature indicated that the cauliflower came from Brittany (Bretagne, en français) which was odd, considering the CSA is called Les Paniers du Val de Loire, and all the participating farms are located in the Loire Valley.  I’m looking at it as a bit of serendipity, though.  I know it’s been hard to tell, but April is Bretagne month here at Croque-Camille.  While Brittany is best known for its crèpes, kouign amann, and shellfish, my preliminary research indicates that modern Breton cuisine focuses on fresh local produce and the bounty of the sea.  So lucky me, a fresh, local ingredient landed right on my doorstep, and all I had to do was figure out what to cook with it!

Fortunately, Mark Bittman had a suggestion for me, referenced in a glowing post about Parisian market-purchased cauliflower (I wonder where his came from originally?) – cauliflower pasta.  It sounded easy, fast, and hence perfect for my cooking-for-one needs while Nick was in the States.

Cauliflower Pasta

Looks a little bland, though, doesn’t it?  Kinda tasted that way, too, even with whole wheat spaghetti and a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes.  I think I can sum up the problem in two words: boiled cauliflower.  We all know that boiling is not the way to coax intense flavor out of anything, except maybe a reduction.  The good news is that I only used half the cauliflower, so I still had the other half to play around with.

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French Easter Chocolates

10 04 2009

While American children content themselves with hunting for dyed eggs and chocolate Easter Bunnies, French children (and probably some adults) have their choice of a myriad of elaborate chocolate sculptures. 

Oeuf Dentelle - Lace Egg

All the chocolateries in town are decked out for the holiday, with  many dozens of chocolate eggs, fish (?), chickens, and whatever other chocolate shapes struck the chocolatier‘s fancy.

Mr. Egg Head here looks a little worried about his future.

At work, we’ve had the chocolate melters (like industrial-strength chafing dishes) going nonstop for weeks now.  The new chocolate walk-in has been loaded up with half-eggs, bird parts, and other bits and pieces to be glued together with more chocolate to produce montage after edible montage.

Yes, those are bunny heads sticking out of phallic carrot cars.

So here are some pictures of the fruits of my labor over the last month or so.  This week has been long, putting the finishing touches on the chocolate sculptures in time for Easter.  (This is the part where I apologize for the crappy pictures – they were taken in haste, at work, while trying not to get too much chocolate on my camera.)  When I was making the Bunny-in-Car pieces, I was roundly criticized for putting the names of cities like Boston and Sydney on the road signs, because you can’t drive to those places.

Remember Les Schtroumpfs?  Here’s what became of them:

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