Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Around the World - France

France. Stop 3 on our tour of worldly cuisine. Where to begin? In France, food is held in the highest esteem. The people love quality ingredients, and their cuisine has become classic around the world!

There are two general styles of French cooking: the bourgeoise (middle class) and the haute cuisine (high cuisine). The former is the home style of the average person, prepared by normal, everyday families. Think of it as comfort food. Haute cuisine is the classic and traditional style of the great chefs, with the famous sauces, elaborate rituals, and painstaking attention to detail.

France has so many unique specialties that to list them all would take too much time, but a few are truffles, pate de foie gras, and escargot. Almost 250 varieties of cheese are produced there, mostly local specialties, but some have made their way to food lovers here.

Wine is extremely important to them, beer is hardly consummed.

This week, I only got the information from my recipe book. The menu was comprised of a few dishes I researched online, for variety. Also, slightly cheaper than the book... I admit that I didn't have time to make the bread, but one would only need to read my french bread recipe - listed under breads - and make smaller, narrow loaves for the baguettes.

Our menu this week is Blancs de Poulet au Fromage (Chicken Breasts Covered with Cheese),
Ratatoullie Nicoise (traditional ratatoullie - melted vegetables), thin baguette slices with butter (courtesy of the Walmart bakery), and Crepes, served with raspberries and whipped cream.

4 chicken breasts
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oilive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbsp Herbs de Provence*
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese (swiss would taste about the same in the finished product)

Mix together the salt, pepper, and herbs. Pat on the chicken breasts, both sides. Melt the 4 tbsp butter in a frying pan with the olive oil. Add the chicken and saute to a golden brown and then remove them.

Melt the 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan. Add the flour. Pour in the milk, little by little, stirring evenly. (Gee, couldn't they just say make a white sauce) Add the grated cheese, stir until melted. It should be a little thicker than a cheese sauce you might make for broccoli.

Pour the cheese sauce into a baking dish. Add the chicken, turning to coat all sides. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

*Herbs de Provence is a mixture of herbs. You can purchase a ready-made mix, or do what I did, make it yourself. I did about equal amounts of each herb: basil, fennel, lavender, margoram, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme. ( I didn't add lavendar or savory - didn't have them )

Gruyere can be a little pricey, although it doesn't use much. It tasted a little bit like swiss in the sauce so I might just substitute that next time. It's cheaper by the block...

I don't like eggplant, so it's a good thing that it was traditionally made without that particular ingredient!

1 onion, thinly sliced
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 large can whole peeled tomatoes, mostly drained. I cut into smaller pieces, larger than canned diced.
1/2 each green and red pepper, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
>salt to taste

Fry the onions in the oil, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and garlic. Cook on medium-high for another 5 minutes. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for a while. I think I did it about 10 minutes. Salt to taste.

This was really easy, and really tasty. Mark and I liked it, the boys ate it, and my friend's picky eater wasn't into it. But hey, the cook liked it, therefore it will be made again! Like I said, the boys ate it, they just didn't rave about it. (but with kids, eating is a sign of success)

Now the piece de resistance!

For the batter:
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
4 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well and pour in the eggs, stir well. Slowly pour in milk while stirring. SLOWLY! Keep stirring until small bubbles form on the surface. Stir in the butter and vanilla.

You can let it sit for a couple hours in the fridge, or use right away. If you wait, it might thicken, and if it does just add milk a little at a time until it is as thin as when first made.


Wipe a little oil in a nonstick pan using a paper towel. Pour 2-3 tbsp (or a 3 inch circle) batter into hot pan.

Immediately swirl pan (like making an omelet) to spread the batter into a 6 inch circle. For a bigger crepe, use more batter!

The batter will turn darker and more dry looking from the outside in. When the center looks almost as dry as the edges (about 1 minute), carefully turn over and cook another 30 seconds.

Fill with whatever you want. Savory fillings like leftovers or whatever you want. Or feel free to experiment with sweet stuff! Traditionally they are lightly sprinkled with sugar and folded in half, then in half again, to make a quarter circle. Or you can fold up like a burrito. Maple syrup is good in the morning for breakfast. Or chocolate! Or fruit and whipped cream! The possibilities are endless... Then eat up!

2 Tasty Tidbits:

Stephanie said...

French cooking has the reputation of being difficult and complicated (probably because of the huate cuisine) but these recipes look totally doable! And totally delicious!

Michelle said...

That's why I chose these particulare recipes. I don't have time to be all nitpicky about a complicated bechemal sauce or a stupid double boiler hollandaise. Good grief. I've had those, and I like the cheesy sauce better! I guess it's like here, where we do roasted chickens, but also tuna noodle casserole!