It appears S2theT is turning Japanese into an International wine/spirits blog.
I kid. However, today I am honored to have a International food/wine post from my friend Holly @ Je Mange Toute la France. She has been living in France for the past few years.
Yes, I am green with envy.
Her experiences and recipes inspire me everyday – since I’m traveling abroad (different country, but whatever), I thought it was perfect timing to ask her to guest post here. I was so excited that she agreed. This is something of a milestone for this blog – it is the FIRST seafood recipe to ever be posted here. I’ve only recently started eating the stuff… but it’s not half bad! 🙂 Thanks Holly, for helping me to further expand my palate.
A little background on my ex-pat friend:
Holly has been living in Provence since 2009 and every day she discovers something new about food. Just the other day she had cade for the first time and it was entirely different from its socca cousin. She likes to ramble on about food, wine, writing and the discoveries she makes about this often crazy region of France.
Je Mange Toute la France started as a collection of things she liked to eat and places she enjoyed so that she could remember them and has blossomed into an actual “food blog.” Holly is a published author with dreams of finishing her second novel and sometimes blogs about the trials of that too. She’s also got an obsession with cookies. (Editor’s note: join the club, my friend.)
In parts of Provence, Sunday lunch is still a big deal. Families and friends sit down at the table together with only a meal to dominate their thoughts. This is followed by a long, quiet sieste lasting into mid-afternoon. In my apartment building there’s even a restriction on making noise after 12pm on Sundays. Sundays are serious. You eat, you rest. Anything more strenuous is blasphemy.
The menus themselves are varied and can be in many courses or just one big plate. Though it’s usually two of us, Sunday lunches are meals I always look forward to each week to explore new recipes and old favorites.
This week, I made aioli. Perhaps you’ve heard of it; the garlicky mayonnaise that is traditional to Provence. You may be surprised however, to know that there is a whole meal dedicated to this dipping sauce and is a favorite of brasseries, restaurants, and family meals.
The plate itself is colorful, fresh, and surprisingly cheap. It starts with fresh or boiled vegetables: carrots, beets, cauliflower, radish. Regular and sweet potatoes and a hard boiled egg.
And poached morue: a type of cod popular in the south of France. This cod was purchased for only 4 Euros at the local fish market. I asked the seller for a filet of cod for aioli for two people and he gave me this huge piece. I don’t know how much fish he thought two people could eat, but we had plenty left over.
Mussels are another traditional fish that is served with the aioli plate. But alas, I’m allergic to shellfish and crustaceans.
Aioli gets it’s name from the word ail – garlic in French. I’d never made my own mayonnaise before, but everyone told me how easy it is. Nevertheless, I was still nervous. I read the directions from the bible: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking over and over again, showing the recipe to the husband in disbelief at the amount of olive oil for one egg.
Like many things cooking, aioli or any mayo is not difficult if you have three hands and a lot of elbow grease. The most important thing is to keep whisking.
Lay out your plate with a dollop of the ailoi in the center, just a tablespoon to dip your vegetables, fish, and egg in, but always keep plenty in a bowl on the side. There are simple flavors here, everything to compliment the heavy, thick and very garlic-flavored aioli.
To drink, rosé is a must. Though Provence is home to the famous town and wine of Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Editor’s note: my favorite French wine!) as well as several good Côtes du Rhone, it’s the rosé that the region is known for.
This rosé is from a vineyard near Aix-en-Provence and includes Grenache (the grape of Chateauneuf), Syrah, and Cabernet. It is light and fruity and I think what makes rosé so popular in Provence is that it’s refreshing, easy to drink and goes well with almost every summer plate. Aioli and rosé are no exception.
Lunch doesn’t stop there. Petit-fours must be served with espresso. This is a very well-loved Sunday tradition. The rest of the week operas, meillfeuiles, tarts, cream filled cakes are rare or at least in smaller numbers at your local bakery. On Sunday and Saturday they are out in force, lined up along side one another, inviting you to indulge your sweet tooth.
What I love about these cakes is that they are never overpoweringly sweet. Where there is light, fluffy butter cream, there is less sugar and so you don’t find yourself drowning in richness and instead can take the time to enjoy each bite down to the last crumb.
One last word about the aioli mayonnaise. Though traditionally, the recipe calls for only olive oil to be used, this can often leave the sauce with a very powerful and unpleasant flavor. The trick many people use is to combine the olive oil with something milder in taste like vegetable or canola oil. Ratio of about 2:1.
For the platter:
Cauliflower (or any vegetable of your choice)
Cod (about 250 grams for two)
For the aioli
4-8 cloves garlic (I used 6)
1 large egg yolk
pinch of salt
¾ cup olive oil*
3 tbsp lemon
*or two parts olive oil, one part vegetable oil
First, if the cod is fresh it needs to be desalted. This should be done the night before. Fill up a large bowl with water and place the cod inside to soak. Before going to bed, dump out and replace the water. Do it again when you wake up the next morning and then once more before you actually prepare the cod. Keep the fish in the refrigerator while soaking so that it doesn’t spoil.
Wash and peel and trim all vegetables. In a large pot boil the potatoes until they are soft enough to pierce with a fork – about 10-15 minutes depending on the size. Hardboil your eggs.
For the cod, you will wash it off once more and then poach it. Make sure the water is just under boiling point otherwise the fish will be rubbery. This takes about 15 minutes or until the fish is flaky and falling apart.
As for the vegetables, some people (like the husband) like them boiled. I prefer mine raw. It’s up to you. Traditionally, everything is boiled together in one large pot.
For the aioli:
In a large bowl crush your garlic with a pestle until it’s a fine paste. You can do this while you are cooking everything else, but I recommend making the actual sauce after everything else has finished so that you can concentrate on whisking – once you start DONT stop.
Add the egg yolk and a pinch of salt to the garlic and whisk until the yolk has thickened. The very, very slowly begin to add the oil. Keep whisking vigerously all the while and if the egg and oil are going to make a mayo you’ll see it start to expand and combine almost immediately. Once you see the sauce start to come together, add 1 tbsp of lemon juice. Go back to the oil, slowly add more. Remember to ALWAYS be whisking. Add another tbsp lemon juice. Add oil. Always whisk.
You may not need to use all the oil. It depends on how much mayonnaise you actually want. For two people I ended up using just over ½ a cup.
Plate everything. Serve. Enjoy. Take a sieste after. I did.
I’m crashing Holly’s place in France on my next international trip! Who’s with me? 😉
Have you ever made your own mayo/aioli? How about a VEGAN version?
What is your favorite French dish?