List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: France
When I write my little introductory passages about most countries, I end up talking about them as being one in a group of countries within a overarching cuisine. With France, it is a juggernaut of their very own – much like China. There are so many different food traditions within France that it really is difficult to talk about all of them here in any sort of detail – like there’s Provencal, Corsican and Brittany alone are distinct enough that I am SO tempted to one day expand this into a regional cooking challenge… but that though is quickly conquered.
Being from the UK, you are never too far from elements of French cuisine. I mean, the moment I step into my local supermarket, there are baguettes and croissants on view. You have French cheeses like brie and camembert next to French style garlic sausage and pre-made quiches. The history between the UK and France is so intertwined with food, words and traditions being passed from between them for well over 1000 years. Hell, we count the current royal line as going back to when the French Normans took the throne in 1066.
Deciding what to make for France was hard. Like really hard. I quickly eliminated the idea of making French bread because I made bread for Chile not too long ago and this weekend comes after a week where I was regularly going 10-11 hour days. I still wanted to do a main and a dessert though – preferably from different regions of the country. Many dishes were considered like cassoulet, salade niçoise, dauphinois potatoes and flammekueche – but I ended up going with something from Burgundy and another from the Central region.
Main: Beef Bourguignon
Before watching Meryl Streep take on the role of Julia Child in Julie & Julia, I read Child’s autobiography My Life in France and fell for her hard. You could just hear her talking through the book and it felt like you made a new friend, if only for the time you were making your way through her life. As such, I knew that I wanted to make one recipe of her’s – especially one where I saw it being referenced in the Nora Ephron movie. This is how, thanks also to Cafe Delites, I ended up making her take on beef bourguignon.
I actually bought a dutch oven in order to make this. It has been a long time coming, but I finally got around to buying one. However, given that this recipe is for 6-8 servings and therefore calls for 1.5 kilograms of beef, I quickly realized that I probably should have pared down the recipe. I managed to get there in the end – and now I have two more dinners sorted for the next few days.
The delight of this recipe is two-fold. Firstly there are the garlic-butter mushrooms you add at the end. However, that is nothing compared to the beautifully rich sauce which I can only imagine will be even better tomorrow when I reheat it and the flavours have had even more opportunity to get to know each other. I am sure that with better beef, better wine and streaky bacon rather than back bacon – there are a number of ways where this could be made even better.
Dessert: Tarte Tatin
Okay, so this didn’t end up exactly as I had hoped. Maybe I should have gone for a different recipe other than the Tasty one. However, I think the bigger problem was my utensils. Other than a general frying pan, I am not sure I had a suitable vessel to caramelize the apples. I went for a big saucepan, like in the recipe, but that got overstuffed very quickly. Instead of the apples being covered in the caramel I created, they started to steam and soften – not ideal.
Still though, I wasn’t going to buy another 1.5 kilos of apples and I definitely wasn’t going to peel, core and quarter another bushel of apples. So I continued on with the recipe and still managed to make something really tasty and, when warm, was delicious with some vanilla ice cream. However, this is by no means a great example of the dessert – then again I have has some other disasters and this was at least a delicious eat. Just not a great example of a tarte tatin. Oh well, I tried and that’s the point of this challenge.
Well, next time I make something for this challenge it should be with something Asian. I have some idea, but I am also still not able to find curry leaves – so may have to skip over those recipes until things open up enough for me to go out to try and find some. Guess we’ll see where I end up by the time I make my next post.