Fall Flavors in France Thursday, Nov 7 2013
There’s something about cool temperatures, fires in the fireplace and leaves changing color that makes me want to completely ditch summer ingredients and go all out for fall cooking. That first whiff of smoke in the autumn air brings the hardy flavors of mushrooms, root vegetables, nuts, game birds and other fall favorites to mind. All over France, restaurants and home cooks alike make the most of market-fresh fall offerings to prepare French dishes of the season. So in the spirit of celebrating fall, this week’s post is devoted highlighting France’s fall food wardrobe and ideas for putting French fall flavors on your table!
Vegetables ~ Légumes
French onions, shallots and leeks are spectacular in the fall. Pencil-thin and tender, leeks in France – les poireaux – are terrific in soups and also make a great accompaniment to main dishes. All kinds of fall squash are front and center in French autumn cooking as well, including the deep orange potimarron variety of pumpkin. And root vegetables are a dream at this time of year. Celery root in particular is one of my favorites as I adore making a fresh céleri rémoulade salad with it. Or you can braise a variety of root vegetables and serve them as a first course or as a side to meats or poultry.
Fresh celery root and potimarron pumpkins
Braising root vegetables on the stove…
The finished dish – braised vegetables with fall greens
And speaking of greens, those cool temps bring out the best in French lettuces. The gorgeous leaves almost make you want to eat nothing but salad…almost.
Mushrooms ~ Champignons
France has dozens of types of mushrooms and they come into their own in the fall and winter. I am partial to les cèpes (porcini mushrooms) for their earthy, woodsy flavor. Cream of cèpes soup always gets my attention on a French menu. And the bistrot La Fontaine de Mars in Paris serves a wonderful cèpes flan as a starter. When I see it on the menu there, I know for certain that fall has arrived.
Cream of cèpes soup at a little country restaurant in southwest France
Game ~ Gibier
Wild game in France is both a hunter’s and a cook’s delight. French hunters are passionate about shooting game birds, wild boar, deer and rabbits. Game – sometimes wild, though more often farm-raised – makes it way on to French tables in the city and the countryside alike. One December in Bordeaux, I tried the dish of the day at La Tupina, a terrific restaurant specializing in game and the cuisine of southwest France. It was ‘lièvre à la royale,’ or wild hare – get ready for this – in red wine and blood sauce with truffles. It was such an authentic version of the dish that I even managed to bite down on some metal shot a couple of times!
Whole rabbit at an outdoor market in Paris
‘Lièvre à la royale,’ an incredibly rich dish
If you haven’t branched out from chicken to other birds when dining in France, I highly recommend giving them a try. Guinea fowl – la pintade – is outstanding. Other birds such as quail, pigeon and pheasant are also excellent. However, I once had woodcock at a chic, Michelin-starred Parisian restaurant and concluded it was way too gamey tasting to be enjoyed – quel dommage (what a shame).
Braised guinea fowl and endive with mushrooms and walnuts
Nuts ~ Noix
In the fall, market vendors are selling freshly-harvested walnuts and chestnuts for use in both sweet and savory dishes. The region of Périgord in southwest France is known for its amazing walnut groves so many French nut recipes come from this area. One of my favorites is the ‘Gâteau aux noix,’ or Walnut Cake. This walnut vendor has his wooden hammer ready in case you want to try one of his nuts!
To wrap up our French fall flavors tour, we can’t forget to mention desserts which feature seasonal fruits such as apples, pears, quince and plums – whether in cakes, tarts, clafoutis or other tempting sweets. When thinking of a fall French menu, consider the fruits as well. They make a great ending to a hearty fall French meal. I hope you enjoyed some of these French culinary joys of autumn – and as the French would say, Vive l’automne!
French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter
Another fall French flavor not to be missed is the Beaujolais nouveau wine which makes its debut in France the third Thursday of November each year and in the U.S. the day after. The young fruity wine from Burgundy inspires Beaujolais wine festivals around the world every fall. The French-American Chamber of Commerce of Dallas-Ft. Worth hosts the largest Beaujolais festival in the U.S. – this year’s 30th anniversary celebration will be bigger than ever with French wines (Beaujolais and others), French beers and foods in addition to entertainment and a silent auction. Make plans now to come and enjoy these many tastes of France at this festival or one near you!
Beaujolais & Beyond Wine Festival “All for Wine, Wine for All!”
Friday, November 22, 2013
7 to 9:30pm
Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas near Dallas, TX
Tickets are $60 for French Affaires’ readers (regular price is $65) for unlimited food & wine, a commemorative glass & live entertainment. Click here to order your tickets & for more info.