My French Heaven

FOOD, PHOTOGRAPHY & JOIE DE VIVRE IN BORDEAUX, FRANCE

Category: Recipes

The best Foodie Day ever!

Friends and Foodie DaysOysters

I call days I spend touring Bordeaux and cooking with my guests: Foodie Days. A few weeks back, Nancy and Emerson spent two Foodie Days with me. One was centered around local history; the other one, on Sunday, was all about food. That Sunday, I picked the couple at their hotel in Bordeaux and we headed for my home town of Libourne to go to the farmers’ market. We picked-up some seafood, artichokes, lots of cheese and lots of cakes and then went to my favorite bakery to get fresh bread. The bread just came out of the oven and was so hot I could barely hold it…

Cheese from Pierre's

We then went to my house and started cooking together. We spent almost 4 hours cooking one dish after the other and drinking wine. While the artichokes were being steamed, Nancy had a dozen oysters on the half shell; and while the scallops were cooking, Emerson devoured his artichokes. Emerson was also very excited to learn a new French word: Hummmm, which means Yummmm (foodies like us don’t need that many words to make ourselves understood) :0)

ArtichokesFresh langoustinesscallops

I particularly liked the warm langoustine salad we made: just steam or sauté your langoustines (or prawns) in olive oil, place them on mixed greens while they are still warm and add a vinaigrette made of extra virgin (always) olive oil and raspberry vinegar. Delish!

Warm langoustine salad

All of my guests are such interesting characters. I always learn something from them and it makes me so happy to share my love for food and France with them.

Next to visit is my darling Mimi (from Chef Mimi’s Blog) with her daughter Emma. They fly in on Wednesday and will stay 4 days with me. I have put together an itinerary I trust they’ll enjoy. It includes farmers’ markets in the mornings, brocantes and antique shopping, food photography and lots (LOTS) of cooking. I know Mimi wants to try frog legs, one of my absolute favorites! I cannot wait for Wednesday!!

 

When a clan of foodies means business!

Intox the dog and Geoffrey's BBQ

The whole clan drove up to Poitiers last Sunday for Victor’s 8th birthday. Victor is the eldest of my grand nephews. He loves food just as much as the next guy in the family. Oysters are his favorites… I bought him a gold fish he decided to name Oascar. Oscar is very small but very red. But then again, evrerything about that day was bright and colorful. The garden, the food, the people…

Oysters from île d'OleronChampagne

My niece Aurélie, Victor’s mom, has the “Ialwaysbuytoomuchcheese” syndrome. The syndrome runs in the family as both my sister and I have it. Her husband Geoffrey has the “Ibuywaytoomuchmeat” syndrome… A match made in heaven really :0)

Their dog – her name is Intox – is very young. This was one of her first big family gatherings with us. The smell of the BBQ really got to her. She thought she’d died and gone to heaven.

SaucissonBeeeeeef!gk,dg,dg

Besides the oyster and the best wines and Champagne we could find, the menu included rillettes, patés, kilos and kilos of the most amazing beef (with shallots of course), my very own gratin Dauphinois, then the cheese, tarte tatin (apple pie) and a chocolate cake we’d made with Belgium chocolate and salted butter from Guérande. Needless to say that we were all pretty full when we left the table around 5pm. Hanna, my cousin’s Texan girlfriend, could not believe we all, including the kids, could stay seated at the same table for so long… Of course, we all swore that we wouldn’t have dinner that evening… Of course we eventually did! Cold cuts with mayo will be the end of me I swear!

ChampagneOscar and the cake

This was yet another incredible family affair bursting with color, fragrances and love in what I’ll always call my French heaven…

BeefBBQBBQGratin DauphinoisCheese and wine

I used a new recipe for the Gratin Dauphinois (potato gratin). By new recipe, I mean using a different technique. The ingredients are always the exact same!! Everyone absolutely loved it and had several helpings (even the one claiming she was on a diet):

For 6 foodies:

  1. Get 4 pounds of potatoes. Try to get them from the farm and make sure they are the kind that hold together when cooked. The ones you’d use for stews or raclette or salads are perfect.
  2. Peal and clean the potatoes.
  3. Slice them thin (1 or 2mm). Do not put them in water!!! The starch they contain will contribute greatly to the texture and taste of your gratin.
  4. Rub an oven dish with quite a bit of soften butter and sprinkle nutmeg, black pepper and salt all over the dish (half a teaspoon of each). Add half a glass of milk.
  5. Lay down a first layer of  potatoes. Each layer will be about half an inch thick.
  6. Sprinkle salt, black pepper and nutmeg again. This time, also add a big clove of garlic (chopped) as well as 5 tablespoons of heavy cream (the thick kind).
  7. Repeat the  layer process until you run out of potatoes (use two large cloves of garlic total).
  8. Spread a big cup (250g) of cream over the last layer
  9. Put your dish in the oven at 400°F for 45 minutes to an hour. Your gratin is ready when the top is golden brown and the potatoes are really REALLY soft (use a knife to check) all the way through.

I might actually make a video soon to show you the exact process… I always think a recipe is simple, but then I write it down and it sounds complicated…

Mom and cheeseTarte tatin

 

Of meaningful lives, important people… and wild leeks

Wild leeks salad - Eggs mimosa

As I was watching Letterman interviewing President Jimmy Carter who is 92 years old and is still fighting the good fight – he’s publishing a book on abuse to women, modern slavery and human trafficking – I couldn’t help but wonder: what the hell will my legacy be? What am I doing every day that actually makes a difference. We can’t all find a cure to cancer, but still… Then I had lunch and I got into thinking…  I had made wild leeks with a simple vinaigrette and eggs mimosa. That made me think of my grand mother and HER significance in my life.

Wild leeks

You see, wild leeks (we call them baraganes) used to grow in the vineyard around Saint-Emilion and you’d always find some at the Farmers’ Market on Sundays. In the Spring, my grand mother served them often in salads or like here with eggs mimosa. But then, about 30 years ago, because of all the chemicals used in the vineyards, wild leeks completely disappeared. Wild leek

As I was walking through an abandoned vineyard taking pictures the other day, I saw a plant that looked like a leek. The memories rushed back to me and I cannot explain the joy I felt… I was convinced I’d never see a wild leek in the vineyard again, let alone taste them again. They have a strong smell of green garlic and taste like young leeks. I found the owners of the property up on the hill. They were cutting the old vines down. First I asked them if the vineyard was organic. They said yes. Then I asked if I could take some of the leeks home. Again, they said yes. I rushed home to get a spade and got to work.

Château de RauzanVineyardWild leeks

If you can’t find “baraganes”, just use young leeks (about half an inch in diameter). Steam them and serve them with a red wine vinaigrette. I like leeks well done. It is one of the very few vegetables I don’t like al dente. Just steam them for 15 minutes. As for eggs mimosa, take the yolks of hard boiled eggs, add mayo (1 teaspoon worth for two egg yolks), salt and pepper and crush everything with a fork (you can add Tabasco or paprika if you want). Then carefully put the mixture back in the empty holes.

Wild leek salad

The sweet taste of wild leeks is one of the many little things that remind me of my grand mother; of what she meant and still means to me. She did not invent the home computer. She wasn’t the richest woman in France. She didn’t dedicate her life to medicine or world peace… she simply dedicated her life to her family. In that, she found meaning and we found significance and later solace…

Wild leeksWild leeks - Mimosa eggs

When we cook for others, we simply show we care. I believe that the thing people want most in this world is to know for sure that they matter… that at least one other person genuinely cares about them. Kind people who actually give a shit about others are ALWAYS significant and remembered. They are truly important… President Carter with his new cause, Mother Theresa with hers and yes, my grand mother with her wild leeks salads :0)

Mamie and me

Of cured duck, vineyards and haunted mansions…

Cured duck breast - Wine tours in Bordeaux - Food and photography workshops - Food photography - Food and lifestyle photography The great thing (and the worst thing?) about growing up in St Emilion is that everyone knew everyone. As kids we were allowed to go play from vineyard to vineyard when school was out. Almost every château was owned by family or friends of the family and there was nowhere for us to really get lost. Parents could keep an eye on us from afar and if they couldn’t, the neighbors would take over. Cured duck breast - Wine tours in Bordeaux - Food and photography workshops - Food photography - Food and lifestyle photography My cousin Bruno and I were raised as brothers. On weekends, my aunt Nicole would send us on the most amazing scavenger hunts she had prepared for us. We had our swiss army knives and were given clues and maps that would usually lead us back home by the end of the day. My grand mother would give us a lunch bag with baguette, cheese, juice and some kind of cured meat. The meat would be ham or duck. Cured duck breast - Wine tours in Bordeaux - Food and photography workshops - Food photography - Food and lifestyle photography Picture64 13-56-08 Cured duck breast - Wine tours in Bordeaux - Food and photography workshops - Food photography - Food and lifestyle photography To this day, the taste and texture of cured duck triggers memories of our adventures in the vineyard. We never told our parents, but one of our favorite places to stop and hide for lunch was the old house in the picture here. At the time, the front door and bottom windows had not yet been sealed up. We thought the house was haunted of course and that made our play dates all the more exciting… Cured duck breast - Wine tours in Bordeaux - Food and photography workshops - Food photography - Food and lifestyle photography Here is the proper recipe for cured duck breast. You can serve it thinly sliced at the apéritif or like here on bread, as antipasti. It has a very delicate taste and an amazing silky texture you will love!

  1. Get a thick fresh duck breast (with the fat) from a trusted butcher. Ours are almost two inches thick because they come from ducks that were fed to produce foie gras. The South West of France is were the best foie gras comes from.
  2. Lay the breast on a layer of rock salt in a deep dish or tupperware. Then pour an other thick layer of salt on top.
  3. Leave the breast in the salt in the fridge for 24 hours.
  4. After 24 hours, take the breast out of the salt and remove all the salt left on the meat with a dry cloth.
  5. Rub black pepper all over the meat and put it in a dry cloth with lots of fresh rosemary, thyme and bay leaves.
  6. Leave your little package in the fridge for 3 to 4 weeks.
  7. When you take it out, make sure you rub off as much of the pepper as possible.

 

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