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.

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Worthwhile French Beers: Thomas Beckett Bière de Noël

24 12 2009

As Calvin’s Dad once said, “I think Santa would rather have a cold beer.”  (Enjoy that link, by the way.  Terribly distracting.)

Bière de Noël

According to the brewer, the Thomas Beckett Brewery, which is based in Bourgogne, this Christmas brew is part of a tradition born in the north of France.  The master brewers of the region got into the habit of concocting beers enriched with spices such as coriander, cardamom, and cloves.  They shared these special seasonal brews with their best clients and closest neighbors.

Luckily for the rest of us, they eventually decided to start sharing with a broader audience.  This beer pours out in a clear, chestnut/mahogany-colored stream, and settles in the glass with a fluffy, pillowy, tan head.  It smells of dark roasted malt, reminiscent of molasses or chocolate, with hints of chestnut and spice.  In the mouth, the tiny bubbles announce and incredibly smooth and balanced beer, with a roasted, slightly sweet flavor.  Vanilla and tobacco make non-obtrusive guest appearances, and an ideally subtle warm spiciness (notably clove and nutmeg) imbues the whole without ever becoming overpowering.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





A Triumph

21 10 2009

It’s actually been pretty fun at work this week.  I haven’t said that in a year and a half, and I was afraid I never would.  We’ve been trying out new recipes for the bûches de Noël for this holiday season.  Not only do I like experimenting in the kitchen for the way it breaks up the general work routine, but this year I have been included in the proceedings.  As in, asked for my opinions and for any ideas I might have in the way of new bûche flavor combinations.

I really wanted to do a chocolate/banana/peanut butter thing, but I know better than to get too wacky (i.e. American) with this crowd.  So I Frenchified the idea, swapping in praliné mousse for the peanut one.  I ordered some bananas and when they were good and ripe I sliced up a couple and sautéed them with butter, raw sugar, and rum.  The chef found an intriguing recipe for a banana biscuit, so we tried it, and it’s delicious.  I put a sample of the cake together today, and when we tasted it, we knew we had a winner on our hands.  So just like that, my creation is going to be produced and sold this Christmas and New Year’s.  If you live in Paris, I highly recommend you come pick one up when the time rolls around.  (Or better yet, reserve one in advance.  I’ll let you know the details at a later date.)

Oh, and a quick reminder to click over to Foodie Fights and vote for me in Battle Cumin and Pecan!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Joyeux Noël!

25 12 2008

Thanks, Jody, for the great Christmas Eve dinner idea!

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Enjoy!

Cognac Hot Chocolate

 

In classic chocolaterie, “Champagne truffles” are truffles made with cognac, so I guess you could call this “Champagne hot chocolate,” but I don’t see any reason to confuse the issue.  Either way, this is a sinfully rich, grown-up twist on a winter favorite.  Go on, you’ve been good, right?

 

1 liter / 1 quart milk

60 ml / 2 oz. cream

3 Tbsp. cassonade or turbinado sugar

Pinch sea salt

250 g / 8¾ oz. bittersweet chocolate (I recommend 65-80% cocoa solids)

4 belts of cognac

 

  1. Combine the milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.  Heat until simmering, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, roughly chop the chocolate or break it into small pieces.  Pour some cognac into each of four mugs.  (I trust you to make responsible decisions regarding the strength of your drinks.)
  3. When the milk simmers, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until all is melted and smooth.  Pour the hot chocolate over the cognac in the mugs.  Serve hot.

 Serves 4.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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