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Archive for the ‘French recipes’ Category

Thanks to ThePolskiBlog’s blogroll, I have today found a fantastic French food blog based in Austin, Texas of all places! Called The French Fork, it’s the blog-child of Laetitia Bertrand, a French native with a no-nonsense approach to French gastronomy. Because I can’t say it any better myself, here’s Laetitia’s blog profile:

Laetitia Bertrand was born in Bourgoin-Jallieu, France, and was raised in the small village of Bouvesse, just outside of France’s gastronomical capital, Lyon. Passionate about food, she was influenced by both her grandparents’ cooking from an early age. Today, she aspires to take the mystery out of French cooking – believing that French cooking does not have to be hard, or complicated. She currently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, where they pursue a French lifestyle and split time between Texas and France.

Laetitia’s latest posts include gratin dauphinois and a recipe for zucchini soup made with La Vache Qui Rit. It would seem we share a love of those cheese triangles. Believe it or not (and remember, I’m a Pacific-born kid) the first time I ever had La Vache Qui Rit was in Honolulu. We were there on a family holiday, staying at a self-catering apartment with a fantastic pool complex. We shopped for provisions at a local corner store, and that’s where we first bought La Vache Qui Rit cheese. It was called Laughing Cow there, for obvious reasons, but I loved the happy cow face on the packaging and it’s one of those brands which is so strong that it hasn’t needed changing since. In fact, bearing in mind that my Honolulu introduction to the happy vache was just less than thirty years ago, that has to be a superb example of brand survival.

I digress. Visit Laetitia at The French Fork for practical culinary inspiration but I’d suggest you eat something first. This is the sort of site that makes you hungry.

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I may have mentioned here that I love duck. French duck. All parts of the duck, except maybe the beak and feet. To my utter horror, I recently found that I have been particularly enjoying duck gizzards, or gésiers de canard. Mon Dieu. Gizzards? Really? Luckily for me, instead of rushing to the nearest loo to um, well, say goodbye to those less attractive bits of the bird, I latched onto the affirmative, choosing instead to take this opportunity to add them to our store cupboard. They’re simply too tasty not to, as long as you don’t think about what they are in terms of ducky parts.

Picture this: Monsieur and I are in a French supermarket, our grown-up equivalent of Hamley’s for kids. He finds his favourite French treats and I find mine. On the way to the check-out, I remember what I forgot:

“Quick, we have to find gésiers de canard,” I tell Monsieur,

“What?” he looks at me like I’ve gone mad. After all, I’ve never bought them before, or cooked them.

Gésiers de canard!” I tell him again. “We have to find some. They cost the earth in London and we can make great salads with them.”

Monsieur’s now convinced because anything that tastes good in a salad is a tick on his menu. He quickly steers me to the right aisle.

At home, we decide to try out my as yet untested salade de gésiers. I take a tin from the cupboard and read the back, checking with Monsieur that I didn’t misunderstand anything.

Les Romains, deux siècles avant Jésus-Christ, ont commencé à conserver dans des jarres leurs viandes de canard recouvertes de graisse chaude. Depuis, ce mode de conservation s’est perpétué. Cuisinés selon une recette traditionelle, ces gésiers de canard sont préalablement salés, puis cuits lentement dans la graisse pour développer leur onctuosité et leur goût.”

And in the language of the Anglo-chick:

“The Romans, two centuries before Christ, began preserving their duck meats, covered with hot fat, in earthenware jars.”

(Sounds calorific so far. Ho hum.)

“…This preserving method has been in use ever since. Cooked according to a traditional recipe, these duck gizzards are first salted, then cooked slowly in fat in order to develop their smoothness and their taste.”

Interesting blurb but there’s that word again: gizzards. Ick.

I opened the can, confronted by an opaque fatty gloop containing brown bits and pieces. It looked horrifyingly like pet food, but smelled fantastic. Following the instructions, I put the whole lot into a frying pan over a low heat. The gloop melted immediately, leaving the ducky bits to swim in spitting, hot, clear fat. I poured this off, but continued to heat the gésiers for several more minutes. Then I tried one ducky piece in the interests of not feeding dog food to Monsieur. It was delicious, melting in the mouth. Ah, sweet culinary success. We’re onto a winner.

The only downside was a couple of crunchy bits grinding against my teeth. Ah. That would be the by-product of gésiers, then. The fact that a gizzard is

A modified muscular pouch behind the stomach in the alimentary canal of birds, having a thick lining and often containing ingested grit that aids in the breakdown of seeds before digestion.

Mmmm. Nice. The word and the ingested grit still won’t put me off, after all, it was only a couple of pieces.

To prepare the gésiers (much better word than ‘gizzard’), see above. Toss the warm gésiers over salad leaves, asparagus, chopped spring onions and ripe avocado pieces. Ideal for lunch or a light dinner.

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I’ll never forget the day I first tried a Salade Périgourdine. Monsieur and I were in Toulouse on the way to a wedding in Lot. We had stopped for lunch at a terrace restaurant on Wilson Square and I was struggling to decide what to eat. In the end, I decided to try a the salade terroir (no, it’s not a salad of terror, but a salad of the terre, or region) which, in this case, was a Salade Périgourdine, named for a region of France where it’s simply impossible to avoid eating duck: Périgord.

That was the day that duck took on a new meaning for me. Until then, my experience of duck had been restricted to crispy Peking style, hanging in Chinese restaurant windows or listed on a takeaway menu. I liked Chinese duck. Would I like its French cousin? It was time to find out.

The salad appeared, a mound of lettuce leaves covered in different sorts of duck. There were slices of smoked duck (magret de canard fumé), little irregular pieces of duck (I didn’t want to know which part but later learned that these are gésiers, or giblets) and cresting the lot was a perfect round of foie gras. It seemed incredibly decadent to be eating foie gras in a salad but now, I blush to say that I am getting used to it and for the rest of that trip, I ate duck in all its forms at every opportunity.

Here is a basic salad recipe so you can make the Périgourdine at home:

  • Salad leaves – I like lamb’s lettuce for this one.
  • Duck giblets – you will need a good butcher or deli owner to get these for you if you want to cook them from fresh. Otherwise, you may like to stock up on tinned duck ‘gésiers’ when you are in France. In London, we get ours from Borough Market.
  • Slices of magret de canard fumé. This is smoked duck breast. You can buy them in packs from delicatessans. My local deli orders this in fresh for me. It works out tastier and a bit cheaper.
  • A small pot of foie gras. You don’t need very much per person, just a small slice each.
  • Green beans
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Optional additions might be a few stalks of asparagus when in season or an artichoke or two, but do note that these are not traditional ingredients of a Périgourdine. You can also add tomato segments and sliced boiled egg as extras.

Start with a mound of lettuce on each plate, then sprinkle the walnuts, gesiers and green beans evenly on top. Place the slices of smoked duck breast at even intervals around the plate. Crown with a slice of foie gras.

Serve with a slice of toast for the foie gras and a chilled glass of Sauternes. You may like to have a bowl of fig chutney on the table for people who enjoy the taste of fig with their foie gras.

Bon appétit!

 

 

 

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