French Country Cooking: Authentic Recipes from Every Region, written by Françoise Branget, features 180 recipes submitted by the members of the French National Assembly from throughout France and the overseas departments . The resulting compilation is a variety of dishes representing the diversity of France, from simple comfort food to the more complex and extravagant products meant to impress. The book was originally published in 2011 in France by Le Cherche Midi Editeur. It was translated by Jeannette Seaver in 2012 and was recently released in the paperback form I received. Here is a link to the hardcover edition: French Country Cooking: Authentic Recipes from Every Region.
Françoise Brante represents the Doubs department in the National Assembly of France and is a member of the Union for a Popular Movement political party (recently renamed Les Républicains).
There are no specific chapters, but the recipes are organized based on departments in alphabetical order: Ain, Aisne, Allier, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes, Ardèche, Ardennes, Ariège, Aube, Aude, Aveyron, Bouches-du-Rhône, Calvados, Cantal, Charente, Charente-Maritime, Cher, Corrèze, Corse-du-Sud, Haute-Corse, Côte-d’Or, Côtes-d’Armor, Creuse, Dordogne, Doubs, Drôme, Eure, Eure-et-Loir, Finistère, Gard, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Gironde, Hérault, Ille-et-Vilaine, Indre, Indre-et-Loire, Isère, Jura, Landes, Loir-et-Cher, Loire, Haute-Loire, Loire-Atlantique, Loiret, Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, Lozère, Maine-et-Loire, Manche, Marne, Haute-Marne, Mayenne, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Morbihan, Moselle, Nièvre, Nord, Oise, Orne, Pas-de-Calais, Puy-de-Dôme, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Pyrénées-Orientales, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Rhône, Haute-Saône, Saône-et-Loire, Sarthe, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Paris, Seine-Maritime, Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Deux-Sèvres, Somme, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Var, Vaucluse, Vendée, Vienne, Haute-Vienne, Vosges, Yonne, Territoire de Belfort, Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne, Val-D’oise, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane, Réunion, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Mayotte, Wallis-et-Futuna, Polynésie, and Nouvelle-Calédonie. Each department includes 1-5 recipes.
The contents page at the beginning of the book has a full listing of the recipes for easy searching. The name of the dish is provided in English and French. Every recipe has a headnote with background information on the French department it comes from, a note from the deputy of that department, and tips for the dish. Measurements are provided in US Customary. Most of the recipes include a full page photograph of the finished product.
This cookbook is a great choice for those interested in regional French cooking. Most of the ingredients are easy to find in the average American grocery store. A few of the more difficult to find ingredients include French andouille, certain cheeses, orange blossom water, chickpea flour, boudin blanc sausages, and foie gras. Recipes range from appetizers to desserts, but no beverages. You will find some of the more popular dishes (multiple types of flan, Tomato Tart, Potato Gratin, Hazelnut Cake, Coq au Vin, Sugar Tart, Chicken in Cream Sauce, Beef Stew in Beer, Sweet Yeast Dumplings) mixed in along with more lesser known ones (Curried Pork with Vegetables, Alsatian Stuffed Pasta Rolls, Coconut Jam Cake, Tagliatelle with Truffles and Foie Gras, Melon Tiramisu). Seafood lovers will enjoy a variety including snails, mussels, oysters, squid, cuttlefish, lobster, and fish. There are even dishes from Martinique, French Guiana, Réunion, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Mayotte, Wallis and Futuna, French Polynesia, and New Caledonia.
Gougères (Cheese Puffs) are savory pastry bites from Yonne, Burgundy that are perfect for the holiday table. These little cheesy mounds of dough become light and airy when baked with a hollow center (that some stuff with food such as ham and mushrooms). They are a great accompaniment to wines such as Burgundy wine or Kir, the aperitif of Chablis wine laced with black currant liqueur. They can be made larger to be used as a first course. Hénard, a Parisian pâtissier who moved to Flogny-la-Chapelle, was the first to create the Gougère from the Parisian ramequin.
They can be served warm or cool. I personally preferred warm from the oven. They are best the day they are prepared.
You can mix and match different types of grated cheese, but the most traditional are Gruyère, Comté, or Emmental.
The dough can get a bit sticky. I wet my hands to make it easier to form into balls. The batter can also be transferred to a pastry bag with an extra large round tip and piped onto the prepared baking sheets.
I also made Storzapreti (Quenelles of Swiss Chard and Cheese), Flamiche aux poireaux (Leek Tart), Poulet au curry (Curried Chicken), and Gâteau au chocolat (Chocolate Cake).
Storzapreti (Quenelles of Swiss Chard and Cheese) from Haute-Corse are little dumplings made of swiss chard (or spinach), mint, brocciu (or ricotta), and parmesan. They are served with a tomato sauce. Haute-Corse (Northern Corsica) is known for its use of the soft, fresh whey cheese brocciu. I did not have that cheese available, so I used ricotta. I loved this dish. It was fairly easy to make and the ratios were spot on. I always get nervous about making these kinds of dumplings, because I have had them fall apart in the water in the past. All of these held together, but still had a light texture. They were also easy for my daughter (9 months at the time) to eat.
Flamiche aux poireaux (Leek Tart) is a regional specialty from Somme, Picardy. The recipe comes from Marie-Christine Klopp’s Michelin star restaurant in Roye. Leeks are reduced with butter and water to form a compote, then mixed with cream. They are used as a filling for discs of puff pastry and baked until golden. They are best hot from the oven and are quite addictive.
Gâteau au Chocolat (Chocolate Cake) from Paris is a simple cake made from dark chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs, and a little flour. The egg whites are beaten to add the light texture to the cake. I served the slices with scoops of vanilla ice cream. They can also be topped with powdered sugar.
Poulet au curry (Curried Chicken) comes from the department of Seine-Saint-Denis. Pieces of chicken are simmered in a white wine sauce lightly seasoned with curry powder. The sauce is finished off with the addition of creme fraiche. It is served with an oven-baked rice pilaf. This was particularly good as leftovers the next day.
Disclaimer: I received this copy from Arcade Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
Gougères (French Cheese Puffs)
Adapted from French Country Cooking: Authentic Recipes from Every Region
1 cup water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 cup grated Gruyère or Comté cheese, reserve a couple of tablespoons for topping
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
In a medium saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt, and pepper to a boil. Remove from heat and quickly mix in the flour. Place the saucepan back over medium heat and continue to stir until the mixture starts to detach from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Once cool enough, mix in the eggs one at a time, then the shredded cheese, reserving some for the topping.
Using wet hands, break off a ping-pong sized ball of dough and roll between your hands to make smooth. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, placing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Top with remaining shredded cheese.
Bake in preheated oven until puffed and golden, 25-30 minutes. Serve warm or cool.