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!
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.
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?
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.
For those of you who have never worked with buckwheat flour, it has a weird grayish tint.
The slurry added, the soup thickened to a chowder-like consistency. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder about the provenance of such American classics as the buckwheat pancake (galettes, anyone?) and clam chowder. Topped with the crunchy croutons and some roughly chopped parsley, the soup was hearty enough to stand on its own as a meal. I could just imagine countless Breton peasants in days gone by, stirring the simmering pot of soup and being warmed and fortified against windy, rainy coastal evenings.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.