…holds a great appeal to me for a variety of reasons. Say what you will of the French nation and its inhabitants, but one should first consider the debt which modern Western cooking most assuredly owes them - in matters of technique and codification, if nothing else.
Then again, it may be the composite flavors of the culinary tradition; the herbes fines, various ‘mother’ sauces or even the generous application of cheeses, shallots, charcuterie, wine and mushrooms that often characterizes the cuisine. Flavors subtle and bold (sometimes both), with almost any and all of them delightful in their own rights. But, to make no bones about it, any culinary tradition that flings offal, Cognac or duck fat around so willfully (and skillfully) certainly deserves a major vote of confidence!
And indeed, more often than not the very best examples of the French cuisine on which I wax so fondly are the oft-simple preparations; the “peasant fare” or regionally-diverse preparations which crop up all about the country. The oft-bewildering entirety of haute cuisine which one so rarely encounters these days (Escoffier anyone?) is, broadly-speaking, derived part & parcel from the “elevation” of such dishes.
While each section of France certainly has its own signature dishes, I think some of my favorite examples hail from disparate ends of the country. Normandy in the far north and Gascony to the south – both of these encompass culinary traditions which, particularly in the colder months, bring about immense gustatory pleasures.
Right about now you’re probably asking yourself where I’m going with this particular ramble – is it an altogether too-lengthy introduction to a discussion on some tidbit of cookery (admittedly something unseen here for quite a time). Sort of…
It just so happens that one of my favorite holidays has just gone by; an affair filled with delights both culinary and social in nature. Better than Thanksgiving, my longstanding tradition of hosting a dinner party for friends which eschews the classic ‘turkey with trimmings’ has finally come - and as of this posting, gone. Previous incarnations of this event (ironically-entitled “Turkey Day”) have seen every kind of fare from Turkish to English/Irish pub ‘grub.
But now - finally - we’ve made it round to French, which, from my musings above you may note I am rather fond of. To best honor the culinary traditions featured this year, the menu is composed of tasting portions, so that each might be conveyed in a few delightful bites to the guests. Hell, we even had a Green Hour...
So, without further ado, I should like to present the menu from this gloriously Armagnac-soaked event for your perusal good reader. If you should find yourself curious as to the exact composition of anything you see, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to pass along a recipe or three…once the gout dies down…
† LES BOISSONS †
Cheers & Happy Thanksgiving everyone!