My French Heaven

FOOD, PHOTOGRAPHY & JOIE DE VIVRE IN BORDEAUX, FRANCE

Category: Recipes

Of eggs, black truffles and my family tree…

Eggs with truffles

It seems that with every new recipe, I introduce yet another one of my grandmothers; and so today, I want to dedicate this post to my great-great-grandmother Petronille. She was born in our family farm in Dordogne in 1865. Funny to think that we had had the farm for 2 centuries already when she was born. Petronille and her husband (with her in the photo) had a few cows as well as sheep. The farm was (still is) surrounded by deep woods in which truffles grew below the centennial oaks and the chestnut trees. I don’t know if Petronille used a hog or a dog to find her truffles, that part of the story has been lost, but she was famous for making all sorts of fantastic truffle dishes. My great-grandfather whom I had the chance to know well (he passed when I was 10 at the age of 98), would tell wonderful tales of Petronille’s soft-boiled eggs with truffles. We called my great-grandfather “Papy”. He’s the man with the white hair and the beret in the photo. With him are my great-grandmother Manée who you already know and my grandmother on the right who passed 4 years ago at the tender age of 101…

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Pierre (my cheesemonger) and I were talking about truffles the other day. I was telling him that I wish I had access to fresh truffles year round. Indeed, truffles are harvested in December, January and February. After that, you can only get them in jars. They taste very good, but it is nothing like the fresh stuff. Pierre told me that he keeps a few for himself  every year and freezes them. When he needs some for pasta or eggs or even a home-made paté, he takes one of them out, shaves what he needs off of the mushroom and places it back in the freezer. That’s what I’ll do next year! Pierre will save me some.

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I think this is my favorite way to enjoy eggs: soft-boiled. I don’t always add truffles (I don’t have that kind of money), but once in a while, I treat myself. It reminds me of my roots and of our farm in the woods…

Wherever she is, Petronille is smiling down on me. I am certain of it!

Note: I put my eggs in cold water and set the stove on high heat. 5 minutes and they’re out. I mostly use my induction stove though, which brings water to a boil quite fast. Cooking time depends on so many variables. Only you know your stove well enough…

Note: You don’t need to put a lot of truffle. They are VERY fragrant.

Note: You can put a few truffles (when they are fresh) in your egg basket. Their fragrance is so strong that your egg will pick up the taste of them…

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Of July in Cap Ferret and lick your fingers delicious flambées prawns

Shrimp - Cap Ferret

Each year in July, every individual cell of our large clan rents a house in Cap Ferret. Except me of course because I’m so busy (and so damn poor). So you can imagine how special I feel when my friends or my nephews invite me over for a day at the beach. I am not too excited about the beach part (never could stand it); rather, I am out of my mind excited about seeing the kids… My nephews and grand-nephews are the children I will never have. I have 19 of them and I can honestly say that they are the only good reason I have to keep on keeping on as they say…

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Of course they all know how important good food (and seafood in particular) is to me. So we make it a point to always cook something special when I’m with them. Something light and tasty and lick your fingers delicious… One dish everybody loves to eat on a hot summer day by the pool is grilled or seared prawns flambées with Ricard or Pastis or even Jack Daniels. So I will be driving around Cap Ferret with several bottles of brandy in my car this month :0)

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Every Mediterranean country has its own anise based alcoholic beverage. In Greece it’s Uzo, in France it’s Ricard. We call this type of drink “anisette”… It is very popular everywhere in France, but it is an absolute star in Provence! It is also perfect to flambé seafood. You can find it almost anywhere in the world. You can also look for “Pastis”. I modified my recipe for the marinade recently. Here is the new version:

  1. Marinate prawns in olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zests, salt and black pepper for at least 2 hours.
  2. Grill on a cast iron plate or plancha (2 to 3 minutes on each side) or on the BBQ.
  3. Flambé with Ricard and serve with the left over marinade on the side. You can spread it on toast or put it in your rice or your pasta…

Note: if you BBQ the shrimp, you will obviously need to transfer them into a pan in order to flamber them. Just make sure the pan is hot enough for the alcohol to catch on fire.

Note: Obviously, we don’t have huge prawns like these in France. They come from Madagascar (the best ones do). I will have to post again soon on my next Cap Ferret trips and the local specialties we’ll cook. Oysters and turbot anyone?! :0)

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An absolute favorite of mine from the archives of My French Heaven

Stuffed mushrooms

I am soooooooo cheating today. I had already posted this stuffed mushrooms recipe about two years ago. I just didn’t have much time to write something completely new today. Please don’t hate me! ;0)

Stuffed mushrooms are ideal for an aperitif or as a starter and they look really stunning in a plate… The recipe is quite simple and, as such, it is great to introduce younger kids to cooking…

For 8 pieces – 2 to 4 people:

  1. Remove the stems of 8 large Paris (button) mushrooms and keep them (the stems) aside
  2. Peel/clean the hats and boil them in water for about 10 minutes. Take them out and dry them carefully with a paper towel
  3. Sauté the chopped stems with 2 large shallots in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. Then sear 200g of sausage meat to a nice golden brown. Merge the two preparations together and add a whole egg, a handful of chopped parsley, a clove of garlic (chopped), a handful of grated cheese (comté is best), black pepper, salt and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
  4. Fill each cap with the stuffing and place them in a baking dish with a little bit of water and oil at the bottom (not too much). The stuffed side faces up of course. Coat each mushroom with grated cheese.
  5. Place everything in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400°F.

I promise your guests will LOVE this!

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Serve your stuffed mushrooms with a chilled rosé. Or beer, or white wine, or red wine, or bourbon, or milk, or juice, or… ;) Whatever makes you feel good works for me! No food snobs here :0)

OK, we’ll just have to draw the line at foie gras with cheese or sausages dipped in cheap chocolate sauce; but other than that, whatever rocks your boat! Have fun! Enjoy!

Oh, and here are a few flowers to brighten up your day!

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Crème caramel and other old things worth fighting for

Creme caramel

You see, I love my old things, and this morning when Charlotte (my thirty year old VW Golf for those of you who are new to the blog) broke down, I had to decide if she was worth the money and effort to fix her.

The thing about old objects I have owned for so long, is that they constantly bring back memories and special moments like nothing else. Their presence makes me feel safe. Somehow I belong with them and they belong with me. I belong!!! The same goes with people of course. And so it does take a bit of work to keep these things and these special relationships going of course, but I will gladly put up a fight when I need to!

And so yes, my house is more than a century old and its 25 windows and 48 wooden shutters will have to be replaced soon. I’ll just sell a kidney! The stained glass windows are chipped, but I refuse to replace them with just plain glass. The master bedroom took several months to renovate on my own. My friend Ségolène helped me refinish the wooden floors by hand, and so I will keep that old thing too (Ségolène that is). And what about food?! YES I WILL put in the extra effort to prepare my home made crème caramel. It’s tradition! YES, I WILL stand above the stove to color onions in real butter for an hour when my nephews insist that we have onion soup in the middle of Summer when it’s 95° outside. That’s legacy!

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We live in a society where everything and frankly everyone seems to be disposable. If it’s not easy, it’s out…

What’s wrong with making the effort for once to repair grandma’s leather chairs or reproduce one of her old fashioned recipes that takes forever to make? Why not keep the story going for a little while longer?!

Below is my aunt Nicole, who is 73 today, in one of the leather chairs I just mentioned. The next photo is the poor leather chair today.

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And this is my uncle Jean behind old Charlotte’s wheel. The umbrella you say? Don’t ask! We’ll keep uncle Jean a little longer too. He makes me laugh…

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Oh, and I forgot Sirus the cat, who’s soon to be twenty. How many times has my dad asked me why I fought so hard to keep him alive. That cat cost me more in vet bills over the years than it did keeping Charlotte on the road.

My dear Charlotte, here is to your next 300 000 miles!

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By the way, it is a little too hot for onion soup these days, but here is Manée’s recipe for crème caramel. Still though, the soup recipe is here for our Australian friends who are in the middle of Winter ;0): French Onion Soup

Ingredients for crème caramel:

  • 1 pound of sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 sticks of vanilla (or vanilla extract, but it’s really nice to have the little black dots inside the finished product. Looks and feels home-made)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 cups of milk (2% or whole)

Steps:

1. Batter eggs and 5 table-spoons of sugar until mixture gets whiter

2. Make caramel with sugar left (caramel is the easiest thing to make. Just add 4 table-spoons of water to a pound of sugar; but be super careful: first it gets extremely hot, second it turns really dark really fast so keep an eye on it at all times. Your caramel should be the exact color as in my pictures. Too light and it won’t taste like caramel. Too dark and it gets really bitter)

3. Cover the floor of a cake pan with the caramel while it is still in its liquid form. Be careful as caramel hardens really really fast. Make sure the cake pan is made of a glass or glass like material that will withstand extreme heat. Caramel is around 180°C!!

 

4. Boil milk with vanilla and salt

5. Add milk to egg batter while stirring constantly. You don’t want the hot milk to cook the eggs

 

6. Pour mixture into pan

7. Put in bain-marie in the oven at 180°C (360°F) for 30mn (center should not be liquid anymore and jiggle a little). Water of bain-marie should come two third up the pan. You can also use a pressure cooker. In that case, cover the pan with foil and put a plate on top so the steam does not get into the pan. Reduce the flame and cook 9 to 10 minutes after steam comes out off the valve ).

Serve ice-cold!!

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