We first met Pascal Wagner in front of his small wine cave on a quiet street in sleepy Puligny Montrachet. He was anxiously pacing back and forth, chatting 200 miles an hour on a cell phone, in three different languages, with a client from some far off country. I didn’t want to disturb him but I had just begun braising an AOP Bresse chicken and needed an older white wine worthy of the celebrated bird. With a lit cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of his mouth, he motioned for us to be patient while he disappeared inside. He returned a moment later, still talking on the phone, clutching two fantastic bottles of an older white Meursault (chardonnay)….
One of the most endearing and favorite of all Provencal dishes is Petits Farcis or stuffed vegetables, also known as lu farçum in the Niçard (Nice) dialect. They are the perfect and easy family meal that can be served hot, cold or warm and everyone loves to eat them. Petits Farcis are best made in the summertime when so many great vegetables, like sun-ripened tomatoes, round zucchini, and thin eggplants start to appear in the farmers’ markets but really can be made any time of year….
Perfect for making a weeknight meal feel like a feast, try this one-pan recipe for pork chops with artichokes, ready in under 45 minutes!
Are you getting tired of the same old pork dish and looking for something new? Try my one pan pork chops with artichokes and have your palate revived. I was nosing around an old book on Nicoise cooking and came across this interesting title ‘Poor Man’s Pork Chop with Artichokes’. I was intrigued, what one country defines as poor man’s food, another calls a gourmet delicacy.
Upon deeper inspection, I noticed something else peculiar in the recipe, the addition of cornichon, or small French pickles. I had a hard time visualizing the combination; pork with cornichon is classic, pork with artichokes sounds feasible, but the two mixed together almost sounds like when Reese’s peanut butter cups were invented. It reminded me of my recent pork and pastis post when I combined two different things you would never see in the same pan together to spectacular results.
Trouchia or Omelet?
My garden is now producing more zucchini than I can possibly consume. Each day I walk out to tend to my plants and notice that five more zucchini grew overnight. I have tried disguising them on the dinner table to avoid the inevitable incredulous look of horror from my seven-year-old son Beau who long passed zucchini saturation a few weeks back. Thankfully I remembered Trouchia, this old Nice favorite usually made with Swiss chard.
To properly celebrate the world’s best king salmon and spring, I decided to make a time honored classic from the world’s great cooking duo of all time, the Troisgros brothers. Over fifty years ago, they created escalopes of salmon in a sorrel sauce that revolutionized French cuisine and ushered in a new era of cooking. There is no better dish to honor Columbia River spring run king salmon than this classic….
‘The salty, quivering oysters and the hot sausages work sensationally, both in flavour and texture.’ – Nigel Slater
I readily admit that I grew up a bit of an oyster snob. I never liked anything served with raw oysters other than possibly lemon, and even that was generally frowned upon. I was taught by my mother to savour the purity and simplicity, and taste the ocean in all its unadorned briny splendor.
Then one day I was reading an old French text that mentioned the Bordeaux habit of eating fatty pork sausages with salty oysters, washed down with a big glass of white Bordeaux and I had to give it a go. Lisa, Beau and I drove up to the nearest oyster beds along the Hood Canal in Washington, bought a few dozen blue pool oysters from Hama Hama and a pack of store bought sausages and went to town. The combination of rich, juicy sausages with briny oysters and crisp, fruity wine was a dining revelation. I wondered why I hadn’t tried this before?
People want to reclaim what’s real. Mass tourism is no longer sufficient. ~ Jamie Wong
Culinary Adventures are the new way for travellers to experience a country and connect directly with locals and their culture through the plate. It’s an immersive way to “travel better, on a deeper emotional and more personal level”, explains The Rise of Experiential Travel Report by Skift + Peak.
For years, Lisa and I have brought friends on incredible trips to France to directly experience the real French culture by eating in regular people’s homes, touring food markets and travelling to far off small villages to taste the dishes that made them famous. What we have found is: people want to escape the homogenized trips and experience more adventurous and experiential travel. Mass tourism is dead.
This dish is the result of an unexpected collaboration between two chefs who never met, David Everitt-Matthias and my sous chef Keith Schneider. The flavors and scents spoke of Provence; freshly salted cod, wisps of the citrus, chickpeas and roasted red peppers. Each dish a reflection of a single moment, an edible photograph capturing a mere twinkling of time, locked forever.
I bought Chef Everitt-Matthias’s book ‘Essence’ years before, and had fawned and drooled over the lush photography and original inspiring recipes within. I couldn’t afford a trip to England to eat at his restaurant, so I started reproducing some of the dishes in my own restaurant. I cooked a verbatim copy of one of my favorites, home-salted cod with roasted tomatoes, chickpeas and anchovy dressing, for so long, I began thinking it was my own creation.
Keith Schneider was my last Sous Chef in the professional world who looked remarkably like a young Michael Douglas. He learned to make the best liquid center croquettes on the planet after spending five years sweating in Iron Chef Jose Garces’ kitchens. The first dish he ever cooked for me was a croqueta served with a saffron aioli, I loved it so much I immediately put it on the menu, eventually adding it to the cured cod set.
Gui Gedda had become a mythical character in my unrelenting search for pure, unadulterated Provence cooking. I heard his name mentioned in several publications, always spoken with absolute reverence, but could never really find out a lot of details about him. Chefs referred to him as both the Pope and the Marcel Pagnol of Provencal cuisine. Finding Gui Gedda’s book ‘Cooking School Provence’ was a major find; it felt a bit like finding the holy grail.
Here’s a great project to tackle this weekend with your child; make yummy chocolate profiteroles stuffed with ice cream, then drizzle with caramel and hot chocolate sauce. It’s a fun activity with many little steps for a child to participate in, no matter their age.
In the old days of France, wine grapes were traditionally pressed by feet. The winemakers nicknamed ‘bar rosi’, or pink bottomed, due to the pink color of their feet when they were done squishing the grapes. There is a lovely sculpture by sculptor Noël-Jules Girard in the center of Dijon of a bar rosi, or bareuzai in the traditional dialect of Dijon, treading grapes.
Steak Bareuzai is the true product of the Burgundy region; local Charolais beef cut into thick steaks, spicy mustard grown in nearby fields and milled in Beaune, wild mushrooms hunted for in the damp woods and great red wine that seemingly flows from every winepress of the region. I love the fact that this is so quickly prepared, with no advanced planning other than having the ingredients on hand and perhaps a bottle of wine open. The only controversy seems to be whether or not you finish the sauce with a healthy spoonful of Dijon mustard; some recipes add it and others shun it. I personally add a big spoonful and like the creamy punch good mustard provides.
Cervelle de Canut is a Lyonnaise speciality, which literally translates to ‘silk worker’s brain’. The rather insulting name got its start in the 19th century when Lyon was renowned as the silk weaving capital of France; at the time, there were over 100,000 looms in business which accounted for 75% of Lyon’s industry. Silk workers, known as ‘canuts’, were looked down upon as lowly laborers and revolted against the owners over low wages and exhausting work conditions in 1831 then again in 1834, resulting in a six day siege that ended with 300 being killed and 10,000 laborers deported.
I am not sure if it’s my need for a great story, but bizarre dish names like this inhabit a particularly fond place in my heart. When compared to the Italians, who seemingly dominate the field solely with great pasta names like the macabre strozzapreti, or priest chokers, to the brutally honest, maltagliati, which literally translates to badly cut, the French are rank amateurs. Nonetheless, Lyon seems to have some great dish names.
There are many gastronomic paradises in France, but there is a paradise of paradises — Burgundy. – Curnonsky
Boeuf a la Bourguignonne is perhaps Burgundy’s most iconic dish; a rich beef stew made infamous in America by Julia Child, prepared from marinated beef simmered in local red wine with a calves foot, pearl onions, bacon lardons, herbs and button mushrooms. In truth, cooking proteins this way seems much more a regional style than a one off creation, you will find this combination of flavors taking many forms, from the equally iconic Coq au Vin (chicken in wine) to lesser known dishes like Oeufs en Meurette (eggs poached in red wine with bacon, mushrooms and onions) and Pochouse Bourguignonne, a rustic fish stew made with an assortment of river fish and crayfish simmered in Chambertin with onions, bacon and mushrooms. Technically, meurette is the name for highly flavored red wine sauces from Burgundy, though the word is seldom used in that connotation today.
Beef Bourguignon undoubtedly started life as a humble, peasant dish used to cook tougher pieces of beef, long before becoming a seriously tasty way to eat braised beef at regional restaurants and tables around the world. I have seen a few websites claiming the first appearance is in an Escoffier book, but I would argue the recipe is timeless and was been published several times prior without the word ‘bourguignonne’ added to the title. Most of the older French recipes mention larding the beef and adding a calves foot to the pot to provide a certain unctuousness. Larding, or inserting strips of pork fat into cubes of beef, is the proper way to take tough cooks of beef and make them tender. I certainly would advise adding a calf’s foot if you can find one; try looking in ethnic Asian or Mexican markets where they have a better selection of animal parts than typical mainstream grocery stores.
My top ten list of favorite French dishes to eat at home
I usually steer clear from these sorts of posts, but after a recent long walk in the Columbia Gorge rendered me insatiably starving and seriously contemplating eating my family, I decided to post what I do love, and dreadfully miss most about French food, in a vain attempt to save their lives. Earlier in the week, we had cut every single thing I love dearly about life as part of some satanic ritual known as the ‘new year’s resolution’. Foolishly, we thought adding exercise might reduce our surface circumferences quicker; instead visions of the doomed Donner party haunted my mind….
Every New Year’s Eve, I host a gastronomic party to celebrate the passing of one year and the birth of the next. It usually progresses (regresses) into a Bacchanalian celebration. The table laid with the finest china and silver, our stomachs tempted with turbot, black truffles, caviar and foie gras, and too many bottles of Champagne to count.
The better the ingredient, the simpler the preparation should be. Simple and pure pairings, like roast chicken and white Burgundy or older Barolos drank with white truffles, are timeless combinations that should never be improved upon. Likewise, a simple caviar preparation is always best and preferred.
Prepare yourselves for the roaring voice of the God of Joy! – Eurides, The Bacchae
A quieter, more contemplative life, one punctuated only by the scraping of chairs after a leisurely lunch and the wind rustling through the lavender fields… Sara Clemence
We have a lot of fun changes coming to our blog in the next few weeks, and we sincerely hope all of you will join us at the table for great conversations, recipes and more. Some of the more astute may have already noticed that our name has evolved from ‘Eat Till You Bleed’ to ‘Pistou and Pastis’. Pistou and Pastis perfectly captures our life at the moment, and reflects the impossible to fight gravitational pull of all things southern France for us. As I grow older, my desire to slow life down, enjoy the simpler moments and sip pastis in the golden sunshine, nibbling on tapenades with good friends is what truly sparks me.
The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden; and like a mirror, they also reflect the person looking into them. – Paulo Coelho
No other dish in the world better captures the soul and spirit of a single region than bouillabaisse. The rich, often colorful history of Marseille floats sublimely with rascasse in its spicy golden hued broth. Some believe bouillabaisse got its start from the Greek mariners who founded Marseille as Massalia in 600 BC, while others claim its origins are strictly Italian because of a few shared ingredients. The absolute truth may be that no one can precisely pinpoint the exact single moment in time, whether on that fabled riverbed encampment of fishermen and their wives or not, that bouillabaisse was born. What really would be the point of trying to figure that out anyway? It won’t make it taste any better, and it certainly won’t change the fact that bouillabaisse is the mirror reflection of the cultural melting pot Marseille has become. And the deeper I look into it, the more I see my own story reflected in it.
‘“My guiding motto for 50 years has been simpleness, the French peasant cuisine is at the basis of the culinary art. By this I mean, it is composed of honest elements that la grande cuisine only embellishes. For example, when I prepare an elaborate dish, say one that takes several days, all the ingredients are basically simple, and the cooking is simple. There are no tricks, no attempt to disguise the true taste by overuse of wines or condiments. What it requires is patience. One must avoid the temptation to hurry, to use substitutes.” – Alexandre Dumaine
During my life time, there have been many chefs I have idolized. I studied their lives trying to comprehend what made them tick, much like a student of music might study a great composer. I read the great chefs’ cookbooks cover to cover like a novel; I devoured any and all articles I could find written about them; I ate in their restaurants if I could afford it; I even cooked their dishes and featured them on my menus; anything, just anything to try to glean one small piece of their culinary perspective and philosophy and incorporate it into my style….
Every trip to France always becomes a holy pilgrimage looking for the perfect croissant and pain au chocolat to start the day. I often hear people stateside whine on about how there are no good ones left, or that the croissant were fabricated elsewhere and only baked on premises. I say hogwash, I find them every trip and completely relish in the ancient alchemy of decadently crispy, buttery croissant still warm from the morning bake off. You know the kind, the ones that make a definite crunch when you break a piece off, sending golden shards of flaky pastry flying into the air.
Lucky France subsidizes boulangeries so every village has at least one, but I will concede, not every one is great. We accidently stumbled into Thierry and Elisabeth Cochard’s boulangerie while searching for the rumored vegetable market in Nolay early one morning. After circling the town several times in vain, we ran into the boulangerie to ask for directions. Elisabeth laughed and said the town’s farmers were lazy and they would never be there on time or ever for that matter. While she talked, I became transfixed by the sweet smell of baking baguettes, chaussons aux pomme and pain au chocolat. Rows and rows of perfectly cooked breads stared at me as I tried in vain to concentrate on her answers. We succumbed to a shameless amount of pastries before returning to Puligny Montrachet empty handed….
Nothing much needs to said about a day that begins with Champagne and caviar in a random Seattle, Washington park more suited to meth use than recreation, a 9 hour flight, a one hour layover, another flight one hour and thirty minutes followed by a two hour drive except thank god it is over. The flight went well with little Beaumont behaving as good as one would expect from a restless six year old.
British Airways temporarily lost one of our bags. Lucky it arrived on the next flight from London an hour later. To add to insult, the conveyor belt broke while bags were being offloaded. I scampered up the ramp and proudly grabbed our last bag and returned to Lisa like a caveman might have after offing a woolly mammoth.
The only real hard part of the day was the last two hour drive from Grenoble to Burgundy. Beau would fall fast asleep in some awkward position, only to be woken by a swerve, followed by a rain of tears till he fell back into a deep slumber. Poor kid was tired beyond belief. During the last ten kilometers, I started seeing double and tried vainly to cram toothpicks in my eye sockets to keep my drooping eyelids from closing completely. I was very relieved to see the Puligny Montrachet sign announcing our arrival….