France: From the source

Baguettes ready to accompany any French dish
Photographer: River Thompson

A new Lonely Planet cookbook, France From the Source, collects together authentic recipes from the very birthplace of the word ‘cuisine’ and brings the know-how and passion of generations to your table. Bon appétit!

WORDS: CAROLYN BOYD
PHOTOGRAPHS: RIVER THOMPSON

Allow us to showcase a variety of signature dishes from across the French regions. From the sumptuous, tarragon-infused chicken enjoyed in the heart of Normandy to the simple conviviality of a parsley-scented pot of moules (mussels) on the Atlantic coast, these meals are rich – both in the delicate balance of their ingredients as well as their proud heritage, perfected by families over centuries. And who knows – perhaps these recipes will lead you on a journey to discover, and savour, the places from which they originate.

NORTHERN FRANCE

BAGUETTE
(French bread)
If you had to sum up the whole of French cuisine in one item, the humble baguette would surely be it. With its golden crust hiding a tender white dough inside, all it needs is a hunk of cheese or some butter and it’s a meal in itself.

The baguette voted the best in Paris is that of Mickaël Reydellet. With seven outlets of his La Parisienne bakery, the first of which he opened aged 22, he has spent the past 10 years perfecting his formula and now sells 10,000 baguettes every day. “It’s something with a life of its own; you have to respect the temperature, the yeast, the flour. The ideal is that it has a dark golden crust, so that it has all the aromas,” he says, squeezing the loaf so that it gently cracks or, as he says, “sings”.

BAGUETTE
SERVES 6 – 8 PREP & COOK 1 hour (not including 5½ hour waiting time)
1kg flour, plus extra for sprinkling
18g salt
720ml water
10g yeast

1. Place all the ingredients in a food mixer with a dough hook and knead for 10 minutes until it’s a smooth and well-combined paste.
2. Leave to stand for five hours.
3. Divide the dough into three 350g pieces and into three long baguettes.
4. Let stand for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 250°C (480°F).
6. Sprinkle with flour and make five diagonal scores with a knife down the length of each baguette.
7. Bake the baguettes in the oven for 20 minutes. Best served within three hours of baking.”

POULET DE VALLÉE DE L’AUGE
(Auge Valley chicken)
Just south of the Norman coast, the rustic heart of the region offers up a delicious bounty. Local cheeses, cream and butter are rich in temptation, while the apples that grow in abundance are at the heart of many of the dishes served in the Pays d’Auge.

This recipe uses a whole chicken rather than just the legs of the traditional version and the juicy, sticky chicken is further enhanced by the caramelised apples. The recipe is a simple yet decadent treat, even without the Calvados that many cooks use to flambé it at the end.

POULET DE VALLÉE DE L’AUGE
SERVES
4 PREP & COOK 1 hour 20 minutes
Selection of garden herbs (such as bay, thyme, tarragon)
1 x 1.8kg free-range chicken
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter, plus 1 tbsp

For caramelising apples:
250ml – 500ml dry cider (less for smaller chickens)
4 firm-fleshed apples Fleur de sel1 tbsp demerara sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of ginger
2 sprigs tarragon
2 tbsp crème fraiche

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
2. Put the herbs inside the chicken’s carcass and add salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a roasting dish and massage it with the olive oil and butter. Roast in the oven until golden (approx 30 – 45 minutes).
3. Pour the cider over the chicken and put back in the oven for another 30 minutes. Cook until the juices run clear.
4. Core the apples and cut them into quarters.
5. Put 1 tbsp of butter on the apples, add the fleur de sel and pepper to taste, then fry them until golden. Then add 1 tbsp sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of ginger to the pan and caramelise the apples.
6. Remove the chicken from the oven and reserve the roasting juices in the pan. Place the chicken in a shallow dish with the apples and sprinkle with the tarragon leaves.
7. Add 2 tbsp crème fraiche to the warm juices in the roasting pan. Mix together and pour into a gravy boat. Pour some of the sauce over the chicken and serve.

CENTRAL FRANCE

SALADE DE TOMATES AVEC SOUPE FROIDE DE TOMATES
(Tomato salad & chilled tomato soup)

There can be no better taste than that of a tomato you’ve grown yourself; it’s the taste of sunshine, with a sweetness not often achieved by the shop-bought varieties. Imagine, then, the bounty of flavours that come with growing some 650 varieties, in all manner of shapes, sizes and colours. Each one brings something different to the open kitchen of the Bar à Tomates in the Château de la Bourdaisière’s garden.

Here, chef Yacinthe de Geyer cooks simple dishes that let the fruit’s flavours shine through, using them for the salad and then the leftovers for a gazpacho-style soup. Ask him to name his favourites and it’s like asking him to name a favourite child, but he admits to a few. “I like the Coeur de Boeuf: it has very thin skin and very few seeds and it just melts in the mouth,” he says. “Then there are some that are like tiny yellow pears and they are so tasty. The tiny ones are the tastiest.”

SALADE DE TOMATES AVEC SOUPE FROIDE DE TOMATES
SERVES
4 PREP & COOK 30 minutes

FOR THE SALAD:
12 garden tomatoes, sliced (get a mix of varieties)
32 fresh basil leaves
dash of olive oilsea salt flakes, to tasteblack pepper, to taste

FOR THE COLD TOMATO SOUP:
1.4kg tomatoes
4 – 5 garlic cloves
150g white onion, finely chopped100ml extra virgin olive oil
20ml sherry vinegar
6 good pinches of black pepper
4 good pinches of salt250ml water

TO SERVE:
drizzle of olive oil
16 croutons
4 basil leaves

1. For the salad, slice the tomatoes and arrange on the plate. Decorate with torn basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
2. To make the cold tomato soup, put all ingredients except the water in a blender and blitz until smooth.
3. Add the water and blend again.
4. Push the liquid through a conical sieve to eliminate the seeds.
5. Serve the soup in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, croutons and a basil leaf. Serve the salad on the side.

 

To know more about the French cuisines across French regions, check out LPMI’s July  2018 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.