A Taste of France: Basque Country
Do a deep dive into French cuisine with Paul Young as we survey all the deliciousness that France has to offer, region by region. We'll start in Basque country where savory garlic-infused stews of neighboring Spain are an influence and a comforting braised lamb dish is on the menu.
Arguably, French gastronomy is the most influential of European culinary traditions. The French invented haute cuisine, then turned everything upside-down and re-invented itself with nouvelle cuisine - a simple, lighter approach with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and presentation. All of this tradition and innovation was supported and promoted by another French invention: the highly influential Michelin Guide and its star rating system. Even in our everyday language, French words like cuisine, gourmet, recipe, and bon appetit are universally understood and associated with good food.
France and Spain share both a border and a world-renowned cuisine where grilled meats and stews are featured, often cooked with tomatoes and peppers. This is also the region known for its hams and sausages and where the concept of tapas (small plates) was invented. This menu is a mix of traditional and nouvelle cuisine that will tickle your taste buds:
- Regional Charcuterie Board
- Pintxos (Basque tapas)
- Braised Lamb Shank
- Creme Brulee (baked custard)
|Cheeses:||Ossau-Iraty (sheep milk), Roquefort, Bleu cheese||Chevre (goat milk), Camembert||Brie (or D'affinois), Epoisses de Bourgogne|
|Fruit (seasonal):||Blackberries, raspberries||Red grapes, cherries||Blueberries, strawberries|
|Sweets:||Cherry preserves||Fig preserves||Black currant preserves|
|Marinated/brined:||Mushrooms, onions, peppers, cauliflower, olives, artichokes, pickles (cornichons or gherkins)|
|Meats:||Ham, salami, sausage, terrine, pate, rillette|
|Other:||Baguette, artisan crackers, dried fruits, nuts, fresh veggies (radishes, cherry tomatoes, etc)|
- Slice baguette; brush with olive oil and toast (broiling on one side is fine).
- Prep fruit and veggies; wash, cut or slice (if needed).
- Prep meats; slice (if needed).
- Arrange all ingredients on a wood board or large platter; make use of smaller dishes for preserves and pickled things.
- Provide toothpicks, butter knives, and small plates for self service.
Possible stacking order of goodies (from top to bottom)
|Top Layer||Peppadew peppers||Sweet pickled garlic, ham||Sausage (chorizo), cherry tomatoes|
|Main Layer||Shrimp||Scallops||Mushroom caps|
|Bottom Layer||Sun-dried tomatoes||Roasted pepper||Hard boiled egg|
|Dressing Options||Roasted garlic, garlic butter, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mayonnaise|
|Bread||Crostini (toasted baguette)|
- Prep ingredients and arrange on a wood board or large platter.
- Make the crostini; slice and brush baguette with olive oil, then toast (or broil on one side in oven).
- Spread dressing of choice on crostini (optional: sprinkle with grated cheese or chopped parsley).
- Poke a long toothpick or short bamboo skewer through the crostini (tip: make a small hole with a toothpick first to avoid breaking the toast).
- Add layers of goodies as desired (combine different flavors, textures, and colors).
- Provide small plates for self service.
- Combine lamb shanks, water and salt in a soup pot, bring to boil then let simmer for 4 hours (or until meat almost falls off the bone).
- Remove the meat and refrigerate overnight.
- Transfer stock to smaller container and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove the solidified grease on top of the stock and set aside.
- Start the stew in a soup pot: saute onion and garlic in a little grease from the stock.
- Return the stock to the pot; then add potatoes, carrots, celery hearts, beef base and vegetable base.
- Bring pot to boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Increase the heat and cook for another 20 minutes while adding the rest of the veggies one item at at time in the following order: tomatoes, celery stalks, zucchini (bring the stew to a boil after adding each item).
- Add the seasonings: soy sauce, rosemary, brown sugar, red wine.
- Thicken stew with mashed potato flakes.
- Adjust for salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a bowl, combine half-and-half, salt, and sugar.
- Microwave until warm (about 2 minutes), whisk until sugar is dissolved.
- Slowly whisk in egg yolks.
- Divide custard base evenly among the 4 bowls, filling them no higher than about 1/4 inch from the top of the rim.
- Transfer the filled bowls to a deep baking dish (9x9 inches preferred).
- Pour boiling water into baking dish until it comes to 2/3 of the way up the bowls.
- Bake until custards are just set (about 45 minutes).
- Remove bowls from oven, transfer to a cooling rack, allow to cook for at least 15 minutes.
- Transfer bowls to freezer until tops are hard (no more than 30 minutes maximum).
- Right before serving, top the surface of each custard with an even layer of sugar (about 2 teaspoons per bowl).
- Working in a circular motion, use a butane blowtorch to pass a flame over the top of each creme brulee until the sugar has caramelized and turned golden brown (or use the "hot spoon" method).
- Cool slightly for 1 to 2 minutes, then serve immediately.