Monday, November 26, 2012

Aperitifs and Hors d' oeuvres

"Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate."
J. R. R. Tolkien

Our French food journey begins in a small village in Southern France. Step inside the door at the end of this street. Imagine you will be greeted warmly by a family who lives simply and enjoys sharing a meal and conversation with their guests.

French cuisine has evolved extensively over the centuries. I would be remiss if I didn't note the contributions of George Auguste Escoffier. He is commonly acknowledged as the central figure in the modernization of haute cuisine and organization of what would become the national cuisine of France. He created a system of “parties” called the brigade system which separated the professional kitchen into 5 separate stations: cold dishes, prepared starches and vegetables, prepared roasts grilled and fried dishes, sauces and soups, pastries. He also simplified and organized the menu and structure of the meal.

A French meal consists of three courses: hors d’ oeuvre or introductory course, sometimes soup or appetizers, plat principal or main course, fromage or cheese course and/or dessert. Sometimes a salad is offered before the cheese plate or dessert.

Traditional French recipes use seasonal and regional ingredients to create wholesome French foods.
Meal Structure:
  • Breakfast: French breads, croissants, coffee tea and hot chocolate served in bowls for children
  • Lunch: It is midday and often lasts two hours. Restaurants are open for lunch but generally close by 2:30.
  • Dinner: It is a 3 course meal accompanied by bread and wine and mineral water. Restaurants open at 7:30PM.
In French cuisine beverages that precede a meal are called aperitifs, which means opens the appetite. Champagne, Kir and some type of red wine or fruit juice would be served. At the end of the meal drinks are called digestifs, They include Cognac and Armagnac.

Traditionally each region has its own distinctive cuisine based on regional foods produced in the area. It was hard to fathom that just in Paris alone there are over 9,000 restaurants. I must say the French do love to eat!

The source of each of the featured recipes on the blog postings will be noted. "Barefoot in Paris" by Ina Garten was one of the wonderful resources I found for down to earth French cooking and recipes that are easy to follow.

Kir is an apertif of white wine with a splash of creme de cassis.
  • Pour 1-2 teaspoons of creme de cassis into each glass and fill with wine. Serve chilled. A crisp fruity wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre from France works well with this drink.
Cassis a l' Eau
  • The French serve cassis mixed with water for a low alcohol twist on a Kir.

Raspberry Royale
  • Pour 1 tsp. raspberry liqueur into each champagne glass. Add 2-3 raspberries. Fill each glass with champagne and serve immediately
Hors d' oeuvres

Cheese Straws
Recipe from "Barefoot in Paris" by Ina Garten
  • 1 box frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge Farm) defrosted overnight in the refrigerator 
  • 1 extra large egg 
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese 
  • 1 tsp. mined thyme leaves 
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt 
  • Fresh ground pepper 
  • Preheat oven to 375 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper 
  • Roll out each sheet on a lightly floured surface until it is 10 x 12 
  • Beat the egg with 1 tsp. of water and brush the surface of the pastry 
  • Sprinkle each sheet evenly with ¼ cup of Parmesan, ½ cup Gruyere. ½ tsp. thyme and ¼ tsp. salt and some pepper 
  • With a floured rolling pin press the flavorings into puff pastry 
  • Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife into 11-12 strips 
  • Twist each strip and lay on a baking sheet 
  • Bake 10-15 until lightly browned and puffed 
  • Turn each straw and bake another two minutes 
  • Cool and serve at room temperature 
  • Options: Brush pastry with pesto, tapenade or sundried tomatoes instead of sprinkling with cheese

Cheese Puffs (Gougeres)
Recipe from "Barefoot in Paris" by Ina Garten, Recipe makes about 40 puffs
  • 1 cup of milk 
  • 1 stick of butter 
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper 
  • 1 cup flour 
  • Pinch of nutmeg 
  • 4 extra large eggs 
  • ½ cup grated Gruyere cheese plus extra for sprinkling 
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. of water for egg wash 
  • Preheat oven to 425 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper 
  • In a saucepan heat milk, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg over medium heat till scalded 
  • Add flour all at once beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture comes together 
  • Cook stirring constantly over low heat for 2 minutes 
  • The flour will begin to coat the pan 
  • Dump the hot mixture into a food processor 
  • Immediately add eggs and cheeses and pulse till eggs are incorporated and the dough is smooth and thick 
  • Spoon mixture into pastry bag and pipe into mounds on cookie sheet or scoop out mixture and shape puffs with damp fingers 
  • Brush each one with an egg wash and sprinkle with Gruyere 
  • Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown outside but still soft inside 

Grilled Crostini with Olive Tapenade
a link to a easy recipe

Meat tray
Both of these trays pictured were served on the ship.

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