A Taste of France: The Mediterranean Flavors of Provencal Cooking
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 taste the Mediterranean-style Provencal cuisine from the south of France where bouillabaisse and ratatouille were invented.
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.
Provencal cuisine is where France meets the Mediterranean. Where France borders Italy, the dishes of Provence feature fresh seafood, garlic, olive oil, and fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary. Satisfyingly rich and colorful presentations are the key features of tonight's menu:
- Regional Charcuterie Board
- Bouillabaisse (seafood stew)
- Ratatouille (stewed vegetables)
- Lemon Tarte
|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, mousse, terrine, pate, rillette|
|Other:||Baguette, artisan crackers, dried fruits, nuts, fresh veggies (radishes, cherry tomatoes, etc.)|
- Slice baguette; brush with olive oil and broil in oven (only one side is okay).
- 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.
- Soak a few strands of saffron in warm water; set aside.
- Slice baguette, brush with olive oil, and broil until toasted; set aside.
- Peel and devein the shrimp; set aside. Add shrimp shells to a large pot.
- Split salmon head in half; add to pot.
- Add enough water to cover the salmon head and hard boil for 20 minutes.
- While the seafood stock is cooking, make the Sauce Rouille; add all sauce ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth; slowly add 1/2 cup of olive oil while processing to form a paste. Set aside.
- Strain cooked seafood stock and set aside; discard head and shells.
- Make the soup; in a large pot, saute the leeks and fennel in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until wilted (approximately 5 minutes).
- Add the garlic and saute briefly (approximately 1 minute).
- Add the tomatoes, clam juice, seafood stock, saffron water, plus more water to make about 4 cups of broth.
- Season with shrimp bouillon, salt, and pepper (to taste).
- Add the potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf; bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
- Add the seafood in the following order: mussels or clams, squid rings, crab claws, fish, and shrimp (bring soup to a boil after adding each item).
- When all the seafood is cooked, strain broth into a large serving bowl; then carefully transfer seafood to a large platter (discard unopened shells).
- To serve, place a slice of toasted baguette in each bowl and put a dollop of the rouille sauce on top of the bread.
- Ladle broth into each bowl, then carefully arrange seafood on top.
- Garnish with a sprig of dill.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Slice the vegetables; set aside grouped by color.
- Make the vinaigrette dressing: combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, ground black pepper, and salt. Mix thoroughly.
- Combine sliced eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, and dressing in a clear plastic bag. Shake until vegetables are coated with dressing. Set aside.
- Make the sauce: saute yellow onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until soft.
- Add the minced garlic and saute briefly (about 1 minute).
- Add 1/2 cup of red wine and tomato paste; stir (add additional wine as needed for consistency).
- Add the diced tomato ends and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in the dried basil.
- Pour sauce into a large round baking dish; spread evenly.
- Arrange dressed vegetables and tomato slices in alternating patterns (for example: eggplant, tomato, zucchini, squash) on top of the sauce from the outer edge to the middle of the pan.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are softened.
- Garnish with grated parmesan cheese and edible flowers, if desired.
- Thaw frozen pie crust at room temperature (60-90 minutes).
- Transfer thawed pie crust to a tart pan with a removable bottom.
- Line the top of the pie crush with parchment paper, then add some dried beans for weight (helps keep the crust flat while baking).
- "Blind bake" thawed pie crust at 375 degrees F (about 20-25 minutes).
- Remove from oven; discard parchment paper (beans can be reused); "dock" the pie crust by pricking holes in the bottom (helps crust to stay flat while baking).
- Return to oven for another 5 minutes (or until edge is lightly golden); remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- In a bowl, combine eggs and egg yolk, mix well; set aside.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan; then add the rest of the ingredients and heat over medium heat until the liquid just starts bubbling.
- Remove from heat and slowly drizzle into the egg mixture while whisking vigorously.
- Heat over low heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens to a pudding-like consistency (do not allow it to boil).
- Taste the pudding: add additional sugar to taste (if needed).
- Pour curd into your tart shell and smooth the surface with a fork.
- Refrigerate for about 4 hours (or until chilled).
- Serve with berries and garnish with lemon slices (if desired).