A Taste of France
Published: Friday, February 7, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 7, 2014 15:02
While studying abroad in France, I unsurprisingly spent a lot of time thinking about food. Sometimes I was trying to figure out ways I’d be able to bring some of my new French favorites home with me, and at other times I was trying to adapt my American favorites to share with my host family. This meal brings together the best of both worlds, and it’s the perfect way to spend a chilly Sunday night in with friends
APPETIZER: FRENCH COUNTRY BREAD
In France, a meal is simply not a meal without bread. This rustic white loaf is simple to make at home and can be eaten as an appetizer with an assortment of cheeses. When picking cheeses, look for a variety of textures and flavors: something firm, like cheddar; something creamy, like Brie; and something with “oomph,” like a goats cheese or a blue cheese.
1 cup warm water (95-110 F)
1 1/4 tsp. (1/2 packet) active dry yeast
2 3/4 cup (12.4 oz.) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1) In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water and let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes.
2) Add salt and flour, about 1 cup at a time, mixing until well combined.
3) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth, about 8 - 10 minutes.
4) Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
5) Turn risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface, press to deflate,
6) About 20 minutes before you intend to bake the loaves, preheat oven to 425 F.
7) Immediately before baking, sprinkle loaf with flour and slash the letter “x” into the top with a very sharp knife.
8) Bake the loaf at 425 F for 20 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 375 F and bake for another 20-30 minutes. The bread is ready when it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
SIDE DISH: FRENCH VINAIGRETTE SALAD
At every French restaurant I ate at while abroad, this is the dressing that was served on each side salad. With the sharpness of the mustard and the crispness of the lettuce, it’s the perfect counterpoint to a rich main course. A traditional French side salad is composed solely of lettuce, but feel free to get creative with additional toppings — tomatoes and goat cheese would pair particularly well with the mustard in the dressing.
1 head of lettuce
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 to 8 tbsp. olive oil
1) Mix salt, vinegar and minced shallot and let sit for 10 minutes.
2) Add mustard and smaller amount of olive oil and mix well. Adjust to taste.
3) Toss with salad immediately before serving.
Adapted from David Lebovitz
MAIN COURSE: TARTIFLETTE
A classic winter dish from the Savoy region of France, Tartiflette is made from bacon, potatoes and cheese — all of the most important food groups. Traditionally, reblochon, a creamy, rich and very stinky cheese that’s actually illegal in the United States, is used since it’s made with raw milk. Brie and Camembert are good substitutes but something sharp like Gruyere could be a different but also delicious alternative.
2.5 lbs. potatoes
1/2 lb. thick bacon, cut into 1/2 inch wide pieces
1 onion, sliced thinly
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 lb cheese (see note), cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1) Preheat oven to 350 F.
2) Peel potatoes, place in a pot and fill with enough water to just cover them. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork but are not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and set aside until cool enough to handle.
3) While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon in a large sauté pan. Once crispy, remove the bacon and drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Add the onions, and cook until soft and golden, about 5 - 10 minutes. Add the bacon back to the pan, then pour in the wine and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4) Slice the potatoes into rounds about 1/4 inch thick, then arrange half of them on the bottom of the baking dish. Spoon 1/2 of the onion and bacon mixture over the potatoes, then arrange 1/2 of the sliced cheese in a layer on top. Spoon the rest of the onion and bacon mixture over the cheese, then arrange the rest of the potatoes on top. Top with another layer of the remaining cheese.
5) Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and bubbling.
Adapted from Anthony Bourdain
DESSERT: DARK CHOCOLATE-SALTED CARAMEL LAYER CAKE
My mission for this cake was to create a classic American layer cake that my French host family would enjoy. The French in general have much less of a sweet tooth than Americans, meaning sugary icing is a no-go. Instead, I filled an airy cake with salted caramel and iced the it with a simple dark chocolate buttercream. For a taller, more festive cake, double the cake layer recipe and bake two layers in separate pans. You may end up with extra caramel — store it in the fridge and eat it drizzled over absolutely anything (or just with a spoon).