Périgord’s Greatest Hits

29 12 2009

I’m afraid Périgord is getting the short end of the stick this month.  Like I said before, Périgord is the home of French Christmas staples such as foie gras and chestnuts, which is why I chose it for December.  Unfortunately, my paying job is much more demanding in the winter, particularly in the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s.  So I haven’t had nearly as much time as I would have liked to research (read: taste) my way through Périgord.

Seasoning the foie

I did, however, with the help of Hopie, manage to put together a Christmas dinner très périgord.  Minus the truffles.  When it came down to  spending 23 euros on a 9-gram truffle or spending them on a 500-gram foie gras de canard, the choice was clear.  On Christmas day, I split the lobe in two, did my best to remove the vein without mangling the beautiful foie, then simply seasoned and seared it on both sides.  When the searing was done, I lowered the heat and let it continue cooking, covered, for a few more minutes.

Whole pan-roasted foie gras

After the foie was warmed through, I moved it to a plate and poured off all but a thin layer of fat from the pan.  I quickly sautéed some diced shallots, deglazed with a splash of balsamic vinegar, and stirred in some fig jam for a sauce that was absolutely heavenly spooned over thick slices of warm foie gras.  We washed it down with a glass of Monbazillac, a white dessert wine from (where else?) Périgord.  I’m not ashamed to admit that four of us polished off the entire big lobe (the small one has since become an unphotogenic but quite tasty pâté) before diving into the rest of our meal.

Speaking of the rest of the meal, Hope was enthusiastic about the Périgord theme, and contributed a delicious herbed chestnut soup to the feast.  The richness of the chestnuts was nicely balanced with woodsy rosemary and palate-awakening mint.  Of course I didn’t get any photos.  (Did I mention there was wine at this dinner?)  Nor did I get a single photo of the goose I had to go to eight butchers to find, which we roasted and ate with potatoes cooked in the drippings – a simplified version of the périgueux classic, pommes sarladaises.

All in all, a wonderful Christmas dinner and a great time spent with friends sharing some of our favorite activities: cooking and eating.  Just the way I like to spend my holidays.

In case I don’t get back here before Friday (and it doesn’t look like I will) Happy New Year!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Miel de Corse

24 09 2009

One of Corsica’s largest crops is the chestnut.  As such, they feature prominently in dishes both sweet (cakes, candied chestnuts) and savory (various breads, a type of “polenta”), as well as in the local liqueurs.  Much of the chestnut harvest is dried and ground into flour, which has been granted a.o.c. status.  Another Corsican chestnut-based treat with the privileged status is honey.

Organic chestnut honey from Corsica

The stuff is, quite frankly, wonderful.  It has a rich, nutty aroma with floral undertones, all of which carry through on the palate.  I’ve been using it to sweeten my green tea, but I’m trying to come up with a recipe that will feature it more prominently.  (My first meeting with chestnut honey was years ago, when I used it in an orange pâte de fruits – a sort of jelly candy – for the restaurant where I worked.  It was one of my (and the chef’s) favorite flavors of jelly, so I made a lot of them, though now that I think about it, I haven’t laid so much as a taste bud on it since then.  But the reunion is going well, like when you run into an old friend and discover that nothing has changed – you can still talk for hours with no awkward silences.)

I also love the artwork on the jar.  The bee is dwarfed by the gigantic, hairy chestnut, and it looks as though he is going to have to battle it in order to get to the sweet flower.  A battle that is well worth it, in my book.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





We’ve Got The Beet

3 03 2009

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. 

Remember the last time I cooked beets?  (I know you probably don’t, that’s why I put the link in there.)  Well, I ate them, but the recipe obviously didn’t have me clamoring for more.  And I made no more attempts to cook them until they showed up in my CSA panier a few weeks ago.

Just look at that color!

You see, I really want to like beets, especially this time of year.  They are such a sexy shade of deep red, in striking contrast to the whites and browns of most of Winter’s root vegetables.  So what can I do to make them taste as sexy as they look?  In a word: bacon.  Oh, I threw some chestnuts in there for good measure, and drizzled it all with a little Balsamic vinegar, all of which I’m sure helps the cause, but we all know it’s the smoky, meaty bacon that makes the magic happen.

Love the array of warm colors in this dish!

Balsamic Roasted Beets with Bacon and Chestnuts

 

Here it is – the recipe that finally made me like beets.  

 

3½ oz. / 100 g lardons

2 medium beets, peeled and diced into ½ inch (13 mm) cubes

4½ oz. / 130 g roasted, peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped

1 shallot, thinly sliced (optional)

Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Olive oil

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Balsamic vinegar

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C.
  2. Place the lardons in a small saucepan and cover with cold water.  Place over medium heat and bring up to a simmer.  Remove from heat and drain.
  3. Combine the beet cubes, blanched lardons, chestnuts, shallot (if using) and thyme on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper and splash a little olive oil on top.  Stir to coat.
  4. Roast 20 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, drizzle the beets with a little balsamic vinegar, stir to redistribute, and roast for another 20 minutes, or until beets are tender.  Serve hot.

 

Serves 2 as a side dish.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





The Winter Squash Saga, Part I: Lasagna

27 10 2008

Acorn squash, orange, and sage.  These are the ingredients for the November Royal Foodie Joust chez The Leftover Queen.  Luckily for all of us residing outside the United States, it was deemed appropriate to substitute any orange-fleshed winter squash.  I thought I’d use a patidou, but they seem to have disappeared from the markets.  Ah, well.  Potiron is plentiful and cheap, not to mention tasty.

A hunk of potiron

But what to do with it?  The combination of winter squash with orange sounds good, ditto with sage.  All three together, however, pose a bit more of a challenge.  It’s not exactly an intuitive pairing.  After a good amount of brainstorming, I had come up with two good ideas, or so I thought.  I ultimately rejected the homemade pork-sausage-stuffed acorn squash, not only because of my change in squash, but because it seemed a little too obvious.  Sure, it would be delicious, but I wanted something unique.  The other idea, for a dessert, did come to fruition, but that’s tomorrow’s post.

Somehow, while wandering through the market, basking in the glory of the new fall produce, a new dish began to take shape in my head.  We had picked up some Swiss chard, and after getting some preparation tips from Chez Loulou, I was excited to try my hand at some fresh chestnuts.  (A brief aside: I learned this weekend that while chestnuts are most commonly referred to here as “marrons,” the correct word for edible chestnuts is “châtaignes.”) 

Fresh chestnuts, pre-roasting

Nick mentioned lasagna somewhere along the way, in reference to something else entirely, and all of a sudden it fell into place: Orange-roasted squash lasagna with chestnuts and Swiss chard!  A little Béchamel sauce and Gruyère to pull it all together… this is going to be fantastic!

Lasagna is hardly a quick-and-easy dish, and this was a project, for sure.  Roasting and peeling the chestnuts, trying to find the right balance between orange and squash flavor, making the sauce, grating the cheese… you get the idea.  The approach I took was a relaxed one, doing one component at a time, stretching the prep out over the course of the day.  You could go the other way, roasting the squash and chestnuts simultaneously while cooking the chard and Béchamel, but since I cook on schedule all week at work, I prefer a leisurely pace when I’m cooking at home.

the Microplane.

Besides, cooking the slow way leaves plenty of time to take copious notes, not to mention innovate along the way.  While the pumpkin was in the oven, I decided to use the orange zest to make an orange butter with which to baste the squash.  I liked it so much that I ended up using it in the dessert, too.

Mini onion piqué

Béchamel sauce makes not-uncommon appearances in my kitchen, so that was no problem.  Combined with sautéed Swiss chard, fresh sage, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, it made a scrumptious, creamy dish that could easily stand alone.

Read the rest of this entry »








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