Travels and Discoveries

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A long overdue newsletter, at last! If it is any excuse, my first grandchild, Alixe, daughter of my son Nicolas, was born Friday, February 13, which in France is good luck! Since then I have been spending a lot of my free time with her. I am now a grand-mère “gâteuse” and can’t wait to teach her the Caillat family crust.

FALL : PARIS

gérard depardieuSpeaking of babies, September of last year I took Edmund S and his wife Susan, who was eight months pregnant, to Dehillerin, the famous cooking equipment store, after our class. We were in the basement looking at the cocottes, when when my friend Gérard, my personal “assistant” and staff member there, said to go upstairs if we wanted to see Gérard the movie star. Skeptically, we walked upstairs. The usually packed floor was as empty as a stage, and standing there, was none other than the tanned, trim Gérard… Depardieu! Edmund was able to photograph Susan with the only French actor known to all of America, great exposure for Lowell Harland, born a few weeks later.

The reason for the star’s visit to Dehillerin? He was accompanying the chef of his new restaurant, LA FONTAINE GAILLON, opened in partnership with his latest ex, french actress Carole Bouquet. It is located in Place Gaillon, a stone’s throw from avenue de l’Opera. The place has history, a very “clubby” feeling, with wooden paneling, and private salons. This past June, I enjoyed the large terrace, where I tested their signature recipe, Merlan en Colère , which literally translates as “angry whiting.” Rather than provide you with this restaurant recipe, which you will probably never reproduce, here are two typical modern bistrot style recipes that chef Laurent Audiot (ex Marius & Janette) shares with us :

Vinaigrette tiède de légumes à l’huile d’olive vierge
Lukewarm vegetables in a olive oil vinaigrette

(serves 4)

  • A bunch of baby carrots, a bunch of baby artichokes, a bunch of green asparagus, a pound of haricots verts, a pound of fingerling potatoes, a pound of jerusalem artichokes
  • 12 tomatoes, “confit”
  • A bunch of chervil or italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil of your choice, but of course extra virgin
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt, fleur de sel, fresh ground pepper

Peel and wash all the vegetables, cook separately in salted boiling water or steam until al dente, drain
Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing the olive oil and the balsamic
Arrange the vegetables in a serving plate while still tepid, drizzle the vinaigrette, add fleur de sel, the chopped herbs, pepper and serve with toasted sour dough bread

Ravioles de gambas au persil plat
Shrimp ravioli with italian parsley

(serves 4)

  • 16 large shrimp in their shells (the original recipe calls for langoustines, unique to France)
  • 32 sheets of chinese eggroll
  • Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 whole egg, beaten
  • Salt, pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 leek
  • 3 tomatoes, 4 garlic cloves, sprout removed
  • 1 bouquet garni (my students will know)
  • 100 g butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 oz olive oil
  • Water
  • Salt, pepper

Peel, wash and dice finely all the vegetables.
Shell the shrimp Place the shells in a bowl and using a pestle, crush them coarsely.
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan, when warm add the shells, the diced vegetables and the bouquet garni. Stir, after a few minutes add the white wine and if necessary enough water to cover slightly the shells.
Season with salt and pepper and cook at a simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Strain through a fine sieve, place in a saucepan, reduce by half over medium heat, then gradually whisk in the cold butter, one teaspoon at the time.
Meanwhile, prepare the ravioles: place one large shrimp in the center of each of 16 sheets, add parsley leaves, brush the sides of the sheet with some egg, place a second sheet on top and seal by pressing down (the egg will act as a “glue”).
Poach the ravioles in boiling salted water for a minute.
Drain and serve in hollow dishes, coated with the sauce.

A VISIT IN THE LANGUEDOC

SLOW FOOD France is getting organized. Last year, their first food fair AUX ORIGINES DU GOUT (“the origin of flavors”) took place just outside of Montpellier on a late October weekend, and I just had to go. The scale was modest compared to the gigantic Salone del Gusto in Torino, but the quality was there. Some 40 exhibitors were generously offering tastings, lots of cheeses but also an almost extinct and now revived breed of black pig, called NOIR DE BIGORRE. This ham from the Pyrenees, almost as good as its Spanish cousin, the extraordinary Pata Negra, is something worth trying on your next trip….

I attended a tasting lab on COMTE cheese, that very flavorful hard cow cheese from the Jura which I use in my cheese souffles. Aged a minimum of 12 months, preferably 18, and 24 when I can find it, it is produced artisanally from raw milk, of course. It is great at apéritif, simply diced, served on a toothpick with a grape or a prune. It can be found in the US, especially at Whole Foods, since it is definitely aged more than the required 60 days making raw milk cheeses acceptable for import to the US.

The wines of Languedoc, which had a so-so reputation until 30 years ago, have undergone a severe rehabilitation. Many vines were simply pulled out, and new winemakers with a concern for quality over quantity have turned this region into one of the most desirable. One of my favorites is the velvety red Pic Saint Loup, a Coteaux du Languedoc appellation whose territory is just outside of Montpellier. A visit with my friends Chantal Lecouty and Jean-Claude Lebrun, who own the Saint Jean de Bebian near Pezenas, convinced me that this area is a good alternative to the overcrowded Provence.

I will give you more details in a next newsletter, promise.

A bientôt !
Paule

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