Quail with Pruneaux d’Agen and Bay Leaf

Fond Memories

Many years ago we enjoyed dinner at a restaurant called Auberge des Seigneurs in Vence, France. The menu included classic dishes such as blue trout, chicken, tian and tender lamb cooked on a spit before an open fire. Ah, Madame Rodi, we fondly remember those evenings, Monsieur Tim and your infinite hospitality.
One of the items on the menu was quail with prunes and bay leaf. Since that day we love our quails! They have a delicate taste, with a nice touch of fattiness. For some reason the meat goes very well with strong flavours like bay leaf, black olives, sage et cetera.
Make sure the quail is sufficiently fat and not frozen. We prefer it if the head is still attached because it allows you to use the skin of the neck, after having removed the head and the spine.
Buying Pruneaux d’Agen could be a challenge, but other prunes will be fine too, provided they are moist and tasty.

Wine Pairing

At the Auberge we enjoyed the red Rimauresq Classique, A.O.P. Côtes de Provence – Cru classé. In general a red wine will go very well with the quails, provided it comes with a bit of fruit and it is not too complex. It should balance with the sweetness and nuttiness (prunes, pancetta) of the dish and the beautiful smell of bay leaf.

What You Need

  • 2 Quails
  • 50 grams of Pancetta
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 6 Pruneaux d’Agen
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

What You Do

Clean the inside of the quails with kitchen paper and remove anything that’s left. Check the skin for feathers and hollow shafts. Cut 4 pruneaux and the pancetta in smaller bits and mix together. Now stuff the quail with a bay leaf, then the mixture and finish with a pruneaux. Use kitchen string to close the quail. Pre-heat your oven to 200°-220° Celsius (390°-430° Fahrenheit). Put the quails in a skillet with olive oil. Put some butter on top of the quail. Make sure the breast is downward facing. This way the fat will go towards the breast, making sure these are nice and moist. Put in upper half of oven. After 15 minutes turn the quails, label fat over the breast and after another 10 minutes your quails should be ready and golden. Remove from the oven and let the quails rest for 5-10 minutes.
Remove the kitchen string and serve with seasonal vegetables from the oven.

 

 

Flan with Prawns, Blue Cheese, Spinach and Dill

Something on a Spoon

A glass of white wine, perhaps a glass of Crémant d’Alsace or maybe even a glass of Champagne; such a great way to start dinner (or lunch when you feel like treating yourself). You enjoy some bread with homemade Tapenade, or a few nice olives. All good. And then suddenly the chef presents you her or his Amuse-Bouche. Something very special and an indication of the chef’s talent. But in most cases it’s something on a spoon and not very special.

A bit of background: amuse-bouche is actually not a French term. Restaurateurs made it up because they think amuse-gueule (the correct term) is a bit harsh. ‘Gueule’ can refer to both humans and animals. And ‘ferme ta gueule’ is far from polite. So restaurateurs started using ‘bouche’, to eliminate the impression that they think their guests have a snout.

Some say the concept of the amuse was invented by the Nouvelle Cuisine in the 1960s. Not really. In 1946 Francis Ambrière, in his book Les Grandes vacances, writes … Une côtelette à midi. Quelques amuse-gueule à l’heure du goûter. Et le soir, ô splendeur, un gigot bien saignant, le premier gigot depuis l’an 40!

Today’s amuse-gueule is a dish in its own right that amuses the mouth, fools your appetite and makes you want to start on the first course. Small, tasty, full of flavours and maybe a bit out of the ordinary.

We use a traditional coddler for this amuse-gueule, but you could also use a small ramequin. No spoon, please.

Wine Pairing

Typically the amuse-gueule is combined with your aperitif. We combined this amuse gueule with a glass of German Sekt, to be more precise with a glass of Reichsrat von Buhl – Pfalz – Sekt – Spätburgunder Brut rosé 2016, which is a superb pale pink wine, made from 100% Pinot Noir and produced by one of the leading wineries in Germany. Think red berries, brioche, a delicate texture with a nice mousse, fresh acidity and a long-lasting aftertaste.

What You Need (for 4)

  • One Egg
  • Four Medium Sized Raw Prawns
  • 75 grams Spinach
  • ½ Shallot
  • A Generous Tablespoon of Crème Fraiche
  • Dill
  • Blue Cheese
  • Chives
  • 4 Edible flowers

What You Do

Start by cleaning the prawns, removing the head, the shell and the vein. We used Argentine red shrimps. The meat is fairly soft and they become beautifully red when cooked. Fry the shrimps is some olive oil for 3 minutes. Remove the shrimps from the pan, set aside and let cool. Gently fry the shallot in the same pan for 10 minutes until glazed. Remove from the pan and let cool. In a different pan quickly cook the (dry and clean) spinach in some olive oil. Keep stirring! Drain if so required, set aside and let cool.
Cut the prawns in smaller bits. Chop the spinach using a large knife. Whisk the egg until completely smooth. Now add the (cool) bits of prawn, the spinach and the shallot. Whisk with a spoon. Add the Crème Fraiche. Add some chopped dill (depending on your taste), a bit of blue cheese (not too much, just to add a dimension to the dish) and a generous amount of chives. Mix. Coat the coddlers or ramequins with butter. Add the mixture to the coddlers or ramequins. Heat your oven to 170° Celsius (or 340° Fahrenheit). Place the coddlers or ramequins in a shallow dish. Add boiling water up to 2/3 of the height of the coddler or ramequin. Close the oven and reduce the temperature to 120° Celsius (or 250° Fahrenheit). After 30 minutes au bain marie your amuse-gueule should be ready. Test with a needle. Let cool.
If using a coddler, remove and dry the lid, add the flower and close.

Amuse-Gueule © cadwu
Amuse-Gueule © cadwu

 

 

 

Pissaladière

Pissaladière is a very tasty combination of onions, local French herbs, anchovies and black olives. It originates from the South of France (Côte d’Azur) and many a local boulangerie will offer their home-made, original pissaladière. We compared many recipes, enjoyed lots of slices of Pissaladière when in France and are pleased to present our version. It does not include tomatoes, milk, almonds, sugar, coconut oil and is not made with puff pastry.

Best is to make your own pastry (especially because it’s very simple) and use fresh yeast. Since it’s more and more difficult to buy, we use dried yeast. Key to making pissaladière is time. The onions need an hour, they need to cool and the dough needs to proof twice. But we’re not in a hurry!

We combined our pissaladière with French charcuterie; think Paté en Croûte (recipe to follow), Rossette (from Lyon), Rillettes d´Oie, Jambon persillé and cornichons. You could also combine pissaladière with a nice simple green salad.

We enjoyed our Pissaladière with a glass of Cô­tes de Pro­ven­ce ro­sé made of Cinsault, Grenache and Shiraz grapes. Dry, with a touch of grapefruit and wonderfully pale pink.

Here is what you need

  • 600 grams of White Onions (or a combination of White Onions and Shallots)
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Bay Leaf
  • Anchovies
  • Halved Black Olives
  • Pastry
    • 125 grams of Flour
    • 2 grams of Yeast (depending on the yeast you use)
    • 75 ml of Water
    • Dash of Salt
    • Some Olive Oil
    • Herbes de Provences (or thyme)

Start by caramelizing the onions. Peel the onions, cut in 4 and slice. Not too thin, the onions will shrink. Fry gently in olive oil and butter. When starting to color reduce the heat, add the bay leaf and allow to simmer for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Check the taste, the bay leaf can be overpowering. Let cool and set aside (for instance until the next day).
Mix flour, yeast, salt and herbes de Provences. Add water and olive oil and knead for 10 minutes. Let proof for 2 hours. Transfer to kitchen top and create a thin rectangular pastry. Coat a baking plate with oil and transfer the pastry to the plate. With a fork make small holes in the pastry (not in the edge). This is important given the fact that the onions are cold and moist. Now add the onions and make a nice pattern with the anchovies and the halved olives. Bake in a hot oven (top half, 220˚ Celsius or 430˚ Fahrenheit) for 15 minutes. Serve warm (or cold) but not hot.

Clafoutis: A Summer Classic

Cherries, cherries, cherries! We love them! The rich, sweet taste in combination with the right texture! They just want to be eaten, one after the other. So what better summer dessert than Clafoutis?
Small, black or dark red cherries are the best for Clafoutis. We used very taste Dutch cherries, but these can be a bit oversized (but so tasty!). Don’t use candied cherries, Maraschino or anything canned or jarred.
Clafoutis is made with milk and eggs, so in a way familiar to Crè­me Brûlée and Far Breton. But in case of Clafoutis you only need to whisk and wait for it to bake in the oven. That’s all.
There are many recipes for Clafoutis, some with cold milk, some with hot. Some use milk and cream, others just milk. We use warm milk because you get a better feel for the consistency, but cold milk will also do the job.

Some add Kirsch and others add Vanilla. We can’t see the benefit of adding Kirsch when using tasty cherries. Vanilla is distracting, so not recommended.

Another decision to make: use whole cherries or pitted ones? Not removing the pits is less work (obviously) and it reduces the risk of a soggy Clafoutis. The pits contain amygdalin, a toxic compound that can also be found in almonds, apple seeds and apricot stones. Amygdalin has the taste of almonds. In this recipe we pit the cherries and compensate for the lack of almond taste by using some almond flour.
If you decide to pit the cherries, make sure you remove all of them!

Finally, yes, you can replace the cherries with fresh apricots, berries, peaches or prunes. Then it’s called a Flaugnarde. But nothing as tasty as Clafoutis made with fresh cherries!

Here is what you need:

  • 2,5 dl of regular Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 30 grams of plain Flour
  • 10 grams of Almond Flour
  • 20 grams of Sugar
  • 500 grams of Cherries, pitted
  • 10 grams of Butter

Pre heat the oven to 180° Celsius or 350° Fahrenheit. Whisk together the eggs, plain flour, almond flour and sugar. Bring the milk almost to a boil. Stir the milk into the mixture. Butter a large, shallow baking dish, add cherries to the dish and make sure the bottom is nicely covered with cherries. No need to have two layers of cherries. Pour the mixture over the cherries. Bake (lower third of the oven) for 20 minutes, add a few dots of butter, continue baking for another 20 minutes or until the Clafoutis is golden. Leave to cool for 60 minutes or so, this will enhance the taste. Clafoutis should be served luke-warm. You could decorate the clafoutis with icing sugar, but it’s not essential.