My French Heaven

ALL ABOUT FOOD, FRANCE AND JOIE DE VIVRE

My Legendary French Onion Soup

French-onion-soup

Here is a dish that is a true pillar of the French culinary tradition! One would even say an icon of traditional French cuisine. I had posted about this years ago, but I thought we were due for a refresher post. Plus it’s so darn cold outside :0)

Try the recipe and tell me how it was. For the anecdote, the onion soup was called the soup of the drunks, because it hides very well the smell of red wine: 0) My recipe seems so simple that you could be tempted to add beer, wine or beef/chicken broth. DO NOT DO IT! I myself was tempted the first time and I did well to resist!

best recipe French-onion-soupFrench-onion-soup-recipe

For 3 bowls:

- Cut 9 small yellow onions into thin strips (small onions have more flavor and less water) and sauté them in butter. This is the most important step and it took me about 30 minutes over medium heat. The goal is to sauté the onions until you get a uniform caramel color. If you burn them, you will have to start all over again as it will make your soup bitter. YOU WILL REMAIN BY YOUR STOVE AT ALL TIMES. The taste of your soup will depend on this step (The photos here will show you the exact color you need to get).

- Sprinkle a small tablespoon of flour and mix well

- Add 1.5 liters of water and let simmer for about 15mn. Salt, pepper and voila! Taste and add water or salt as necessary.

- Put the soup into ovenproof bowls up to half a centimeter from the top (the pictures show that I was about a quarter of an inch too low)

- Place a slice of toasted baguette on top and then a layer of grated Comté 

- Place under the grill for a few minutes. Take it out and sprinkle chopped parsley for color. Serve very hot.

A great thing about this dish is that everything can be done the day before, except for the last 3 steps which you’ll have to follow on the day. It is less stressful if you have guests: 0)

French-onion-soup-recipebest-French-onion-soup-recipebest-French-onion-soup-recipe

 

Of crêpes, Brittany and tiny Vikings

bretagne-mont-saint-michel

Let’s get back to France for a post or two, and let’s start with one of the most iconic French regions: Brittany.

Back in October, I  went to visit my nephew François and his son in Brittany. I also took this opportunity to go see Mont Saint-Michel. Believe it or not, this was my first trip to Brittany. Surprising I know since it is such a lovely and as I said, iconic, part of the country. What a revelation that was! I spend the first three days of my trip in the northern part of the region: Mont Saint Michel (technically located in Normandy), Saint Malo and Dinard. Mont Saint-Michel dates wayyyyyyy back, but it was mostly key in defending us against the Viking invasions, which is kind of funny since my little nephew is from Norway… I did not expect to like Mont Saint Michel so much to be honest. It is such an iconic place and I expected it to be so crowded with tourists. But I must say that it really is the magical place that people talk about despite the tourists. I wouldn’t mind visiting again. That huge monastery on that tiny island out in the ocean and all the natural life surrounding it (swamps, sheep, birds…). Truly special indeed! . This whole area really feels like Normandy. Southern England even… You know they even play the back pipes there.

mont-saint-michel

 

After a day there, I drove West to Saint Malo which was mostly known for being THE corsair (pirates) hideout back in the day. Then West again to Dinard and finally down to the Vannes area where François’ new raceboat is being built (I think I mentioned before he’s like the best sailor in France – I know I’m bragging, but I’m so damn proud of the little shit!). I ended up in the village of Port la Forêt near Concarneau where he lives. We sailed and ate tons of crêpes and pizza and took long walks on the beach. The fat guy eating the crêpe in the picture is my brother who joined us that weekend.

brittany

 

François just bought the tiny boat you see here to be used as a floating apartment when he visits his son in Norway. He and tiny Viking’s mother are separated unfortunately…

francois-gabart

 

With salt grass lamb and seafood, the culinary specialty of Brittany is crêpes and “galettes”. Galettes are savory crêpes made with sarrasin (black flour). We eat them with apple cider of course. The area is covered with apple trees. I like crêpes better than galettes (with loads of butter and sugar of course). I made it my mission to find the best ones in the region! And I did (you know how dedicated I can be when it comes to my food research). I probably gained 5 pounds in 5 days, but damn it! Mission accomplished! I will post about crêpes when we come closer to the “Chandeleur”. Although the Britons eat crêpes all the time, Chandeleur is when we eat them most crêpes in other parts of the country.

So here are some of my pictures:

My Japanese Heaven – Part 2 of 4 – Treasures of the Japanese countryside

19112014-DSC03385

Tourists tend to snub Japan (except maybe for the Chinese). Their reasons? A different language, alphabet, driving habits. The atomic pollution… I also think that people have preconceived ideas such as Japanese people looking so serious all the time, the cost of living that’s supposed to be very high, scary driving conditions and intimidating public transportation and signs…

All of this is bullcrap, let me tell you! Of course, I wouldn’t take a swim in the ponds around Fukushima, but for the rest…

21112014-H92A7346

The best thing I did, against EVERYBODY’S advice was renting a car. They all said it wasn’t practical because I wasn’t used to driving on the left side of the road, the signs would all be in Japanese and parking would be a nightmare… Boy am I glad I didn’t listen to them. Besides the somewhat expensive highways, it was the perfect choice and here is why:

  • Japanese people are as polite on the road as they are in life. The driving experience is very relaxing.
  • Maybe it’s because they don’t own as many cars as we do, but traffic is pretty light everywhere.
  • No cops anywhere
  • Even if you’re not used to drive on the left, don’t worry. You’ll hit the curb once or twice and you’ll learn :0)
  • 2000 Kilometers cost less than the train pass would have. Gas is even cheaper than in the US.
  • Parking is extremely easy to find and use, even in the larger cities. Every hotel offers parking.
  • An Ipad with a mobile connection allowed me to go anywhere, anytime and find my way home easily. Just make sure that you bring a power cable. Using Google Maps or Maps will drain the battery really fast.

I truly think that to get to know a place, you need to let yourself get lost in it. Having a car allows you to see and experience things that public transportation simply never could. Even using a town car and a driver cannot provide the same experience. There is also something to be said about this incredible feeling of “danger”. Not knowing the dos and don’ts, not speaking the language, driving a car that isn’t yours in a country that isn’t yours… Even getting gas feels like an adventure!

20112014-H92A7063

As for lodging, I had not made any reservations (wanted to be as free as possible) and was always able to find very good hotel rooms anywhere I was for less than 60€ a night. Food is quite cheap too. You can always have a very good meal (and you guys know how much I eat) for around 20€. Often less.

Now, the very best travel advice I can give you is this: load photos of the things you want to see and do onto your phone as you are preparing for your trip. Wherever you end up, you’ll be able to make yourself understood when it counts and you won’t miss a thing. Want to find a specific temple or castle? show the photo. You want to eat a particular dish? show the photo. You need a hooker for the night? Show a photo! (just kidding! You know I’d never do that…)

Here are a few pictures of mount Fuji (taken from the lake region) + the mountain villages West of Fuji and the wild monkeys I found swimming in the lakes near Nagano. The lady in the green dress is the owner of the best tempura restaurant on earth. I ate every meal at her place during the three days I stayed in the lake district near Fuji. The guys in the black and white picture are fellow photographers (locals) that I met at 5:30am one morning after it had snowed all night on Fuji. I couldn’t understand them and they could not understand me, but they offered me a cup of hot tea and I used the pics on my phone to make them understand I was from Bordeaux. I could write about this encounter for ever, but all you have to know is that it was probably one of the most beautiful human experiences I have ever had… 4 guys, 1 passion, 1 mountain, a cigarette and some tea… Heaven!

Next Monday, Part 3/4: Kyoto

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,444 other followers