Monday, 19 March 2012

Samedi - Une journee francaise

Everyone has their food foibles.  For some, it's midnight KFC, for others its chicken fried rice and chips (I'm looking at you, Joe).  For me, its French.  I'm a huge francophile - I love the cities, the countryside, the people (even the grumpy ones), and most of all I love the food.  Joe and I have been lucky enough to go France roughly once a year since we've been together - benefiting from some very hospitable friends and family around France. 

So this weekend, I went off on one of my food jollies and decided we were having a whole day of French food (bad form, it was Paddy's day and Joe and I were supporting Wales and Scotland/Ireland in the rugby respectively - woops).  Cue an overindulgent spending spree and some serious treats.

First up, a little amuse bouche of anchois marines (aka Waitrose anchovies, yum) and some bieres de France - well we were watching the rugby after all.  We also indulged in some rather tasty extra virgin olive oil (from Andalucia - apologies!) which went rather well with some fresh baguette.

Extra virgin olive oil and baguette
After a petit break, it was on to the entre: fois gras on a light salad with toasted baguette.  I know not everyone is up for the fois gras thing, but as with everything, some is well produced, and some is not.  It's a personal choice, and not one I indulge in very often (it's seriously naughty!), but believe me it was worth it!

So if you thought the starter was rich, wait for the plat du jour!  Having deliberated for some time over what I wanted to make, I ended up falling for a yummy cassoulet (with a twist!).  A proper cassoulet takes at least two days to cook, including confiting the duck, soaking the beans and letting the dish rest.  If I was really keen, I would go through all of that, but a) didn't leave myself the time and b) pah.  For this, I adapted a recipe from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles cook book (if you haven't read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, go and buy it now).

My cassoulet is made with duck legs, Toulouse sausage, pancetta and some vegetables thrown in, which I think are needed to make up for the loss of flavour from not confiting the duck, and to make the whole thing a little lighter.  The last cassoulet I had in France had the added bonus (ahem!) of tripe which also didn't make it in to mine.  Maybe next time....... 

Anyways, it might not have been totally traditional, but it tasted absolutely amazing after three hours in the oven and I will definitely be doing this version again.

The cassoulet (with what looks like a dinosaur duck leg!)
And a petit tribute to Anna Duffy who persuaded me to try making some green beans, which I usually hate.  This was an amalgamation of an Anthony Bourdain and a Jamie Oliver recipe.
And to round the meal off, we also indulged in some particularly filthy French cheeses - the names of which I have forgotten - but which were so ripe I'm sure they would have walked off the table had we turned our backs!
Plus fromage

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