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Cooking with Anne Willan’s "The Country Cooking of France"


FrogPrincesse
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As mentioned in my eG foodblog, Anne Willan’s The Country Cooking of France is one of my favorite cookbooks (together with Les Halles, Lucques, and a few others). It’s very complete and covers regional specialties as well as a wide variety of techniques. I like the fact that the recipes are authentic and contain detailed instructions. Every time I think of a French specialty that I miss, I can find a recipe for it in this book. It won a James Beard award in 2008 in the international cookbook category.

Here is some additional information from the publisher:

Renowned for her cooking school in France and her many best-selling cookbooks, Anne Willan combines years of hands-on experience with extensive research to create a brand new classic. More than 250 recipes range from the time-honored La Truffade, with its crispy potatoes and melted cheese, to the Languedoc specialty Cassoulet de Toulouse, a bean casserole of duck confit, sausage, and lamb. And the desserts! Crêpes au Caramel et Beurre Salé (crêpes with a luscious caramel filling) and Galette Landaise (a rustic apple tart) are magnifique. Sprinkled with intriguing historical tidbits and filled with more than 270 enchanting photos of food markets, villages, harbors, fields, and country kitchens, this cookbook is an irresistible celebration of French culinary culture.

As I was using this book few days ago, I thought that I should start a thread about it. I’ve been cooking from it regularly since I bought it a couple of years ago. Hopefully other people will join me.

Pumpkin and leek soup with foie gras

This is a simple but flavorful soup. The pumpkin is boiled with leeks and potatoes until soft, and then pureed in a blender. The soup goes from a simple and comforting dish to a great course that could be served in a dinner party thanks to the addition of a slice of seared foie gras. I used a cast iron skillet and it only took a minute or two per side to cook the foie gras. D’Artagnan sells frozen foie gras slices that work great in this application.

Lastly, the soup is topped with thinly sliced chives.

There is no cream in the soup, but the foie gras more than compensates for it!

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FrogPrincesse, thanks for starting this topic, your recommendation says a lot. I have dozens of French cookbooks but none by Anne Willans. I'm not sure why. Her reputation is impeccable but her previous cookbooks have never tempted me. I'll take a look at this one for sure. In the meantime, I'll look forward to your posts.


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  • 3 months later...

A little late, here is the traditional Pithiviers, aka Galette des Rois, which is traditionally eaten to celebrate Epiphany in France.

It is made of two disks of puff pastry which are filled with frangipane, a filling made from ground almonds and little bit of rum. The galette is egg-washed and decorated by scoring the top with a knife and crimping the edges with a fork. At the end of baking, the galette is brushed with a sugar solution for shine.

Of course, to qualify as Galette des Rois, you have to remember to hide "la fève", a bean or a little trinket, inside the galette.

Spiral pattern

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Ear of wheat pattern

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The galette is best eaten warm (and goes very well with champagne!).

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thanks for this thread. Ill follow it but there is little chance of me making things from here, as for some reason i no longer get involved in 'complicated' stuff.

I did request this from my Lib. and look forward to studying it.

I was fortunate to live in La France for two years growing up and L.F. and esSpain are dear to my heart and my eGullet.

a long time ago I actually made some pretty good ( Great !!!! ) pate, country I liked etc.

thanks for reviving an interest in one of the finest of few finest cuisines!

Happy Cooking!

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Thanks rotuts, I am glad that you enjoy reading this. The Galette des Rois is actually pretty simple to make if you use purchased puff pastry, which I did.

Maybe not quite as photogenic as the Galette, here is a dish I made a couple of days ago with the Sauce Bordelaise à la Crème (shallot sauce with white wine and cream) from page 217.

I was looking for a twist on the classic beurre blanc that I enjoy with fish a lot. With Sauce Bordelaise, red wine is what first comes to mind. This version is made with cream and white wine. Compared to beurre blanc, it's much more robust since it contains flour. A big advantage is its stability. It may not be as refined as beurre blanc, but it is a very good option for a winter meal. The fish was black rock cod served with pencil asparagus from my CSA.

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The recipe is visible here on Google books.

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  • 4 months later...

With my daughter I made this super simple recipe from The Country Cooking of France last night. She loves eggs (soft boiled, hard boiled, fried, scrambled, omelettes, you name it). For a change we made Oeufs en Cocotte.

We cooked thinly sliced chives in butter (the recipe calls for scallions but I did not have any). Then we prepared croutons by frying little cubes of stale country bread in more butter. We added chives and croutons to buttered ramekins, then she cracked an egg in each one, and added a spoonful of sour cream (heavy cream or crème fraîche work well too).

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The eggs were cooked in a bain marie in a 350F oven. We forgot about them so they were a little overdone, but still wonderful. This recipe is very easy to modify by adding all sorts of interesting ingredients (cheese, sauteed mushrooms, ham, smoked salmon, fresh herbs, etc).

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....here is a dish I made a couple of days ago with the Sauce Bordelaise à la Crème (shallot sauce with white wine and cream) from page 217.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. It's definitely a "go" next time I want to sauce fish.

In return, but without pics, I'll tout the cotriade recipe: a luscious fish and mussel chowder spiked with sorrel. A crowd pleaser every time.

eGullet member #80.

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In return, but without pics, I'll tout the cotriade recipe: a luscious fish and mussel chowder spiked with sorrel. A crowd pleaser every time.

Margaret,

Thank you so much for reminding me about the cotriade. I LOVE sorrel and have a small plant growing on my patio. I also just bought a couple of white bass fillets that I was going to cook tonight, so I think that I am going to give the recipe a try!

Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)
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As promised, I made the Cotriade Bretonne last Friday (fish stew with sorrel and leek).

The recipe was very straightforward. Sorrel and/or arugula - I used a mix as I did not have a lot of sorrel - are cooked down in butter and set aside. I used a Le Creuset pot to soften some onions, leeks and garlic in butter. Then fish stock, diced potatoes, are added together with a bouquet garni and salt + pepper. I used "ratte" fingerling potatoes, which have the advantage of being firm with a nutty flavor, very nice in a stew. Then the fish is added and cooked for about ~ 5 minutes, and the shellfish is added last (if using). I used white bass fillets but in 2 inches pieces. Having a variety of fish, oily & white, and shellfish, as recommended in the recipe, sounds like a great idea, but the stew was also delicious with just one kind of fish. The sorrel, lemon juice, and a good amount of creme fraiche are added and the stew is cooked a few minutes more. The soup is served with croutes (crusty bread fried in butter and rubbed with garlic).

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Recipe here on Anne Willan's website.

I really loved the flavor of this fish stew and the simplicity. A great option for week-nights which would also work for dinner parties.

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This food is so stunning, this fall and winter Im going to do my best to contribute something here. It cooler then in N.E.

and as ive lived in FR. for two years in a previous century, well Not All is Sous Vide!

Im assuming all have seen the movie Chocolat? it has chocolate involved, but that's the France I lived in in the '50s

bon appetite!

Edited by rotuts (log)
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This is a great, great thread, thanks so much. I love traditional French cooking, and both your choice of dishes and your photography are impeccable. Please continue.

Thanks for the kind words. My husband is responsible for most of the pictures (the nicer ones, obviously).

I have a lot more things to post to this thread once I am able to clear a giant backlog :-)

Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)
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  • 4 weeks later...

The classic Quiche Lorraine recipe from the book has become my favorite, after using the Alton Brown "refrigerator pie" version for years. When some people use heavy cream or half and half (or even milk, as my mother used to - the horror!) for the filling, Anne Willan uses crème fraîche. This is a really traditional version and therefore it does not contain any cheese, but you get some cheesiness from the cream. The filling is just the crème fraîche, a couple of eggs, some nutmeg, and the slightly browned lardons (which would normally be smoked - I used a mixture of homecured "fresh bacon" and store-bought boar bacon).

It puffed a lot and deflated after I took it out of the oven.

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I like to think that the tanginess of the crème fraîche cuts through some of the richness of the dish. It's great with a green salad (with a vinegar-heavy dressing). I like prepare a double batch of pastry dough, and keep the second tart pan lined with the dough and ready to go in the freezer, that way I can make quiche again whenever the mood strikes.

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Zewelwai is another quiche worth mentioning. It's a bacon-less version of quiche lorraine, which can sound pretty sad... However the bacon is replaced with plenty of slowly-cooked onions and so it's full of flavor.

Here is the pastry dough (pâte brisée); the recipe is also from the book and I make it by mixing the ingredients first for a short time in my stand mixer, and then finishing by hand with a gentle touch (to preserve the flaky texture).

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It is baked blind before the filling is added. It's baked in the oven for about 30 minutes. This quiche does not puff much.

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Slice

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No Pork? :blink:

:laugh:

many thanks for that tranche. there are many Quiche Voyeurs (probably just me ...) that like to see what going on inside the Q's

Good - slices are hard to photograph but my husband did a good job with that one.

For these desperate cases that require bacon, I am sure you could come up with a hybrid version - onions AND bacon. And if you decide to go crazy, you could even add Gruyère cheese... lot of possibilities!

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You Bet: this fall ( all your fault! :laugh: )

My mother used to work in a cheese shop somewhat high end in the stanford shopping center. she just like to be around people. there were a lot of 'ends' they gave then to her and she send them to us. a few days aging!

those bits and pieces ( now really aged :huh: ) went into Q's with a crispy salad some times Caesar a la Julia Child.

stunning. I like a little 'creamy-ness' in the "money shot"

:hmmm:

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  • 6 months later...

Chicken stewed in wine, aka coq au vin, is a well-known French dish. But why not try something different. Chicken with beer (Coq à la bière), the Flemish twist on this recipe, is a very nice stew that does not take a lot of effort to prepare.

The chicken pieces are sprinkled with flour and browned in a pan. Then the pan is deglazed with genever which is flambéed (it's hard to go wrong with a recipe that calls for genever AND pyrotechnics!). The chicken is removed from the pan to allow the sliced onions and button mushrooms to cook. The chicken pieces are added back, together with brown beer, and braised for about 45 minutes until tender. Cream is added to the cooking liquid at the end to enrich the sauce. I served it with fingerling potatoes.

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  • 1 month later...

Still reminiscing about a quick trip to Lyon last month, last night I was in the mood for Salade Lyonnaise aka Hot bacon and egg salad (Frisée au lard et à l'oeuf). I used Benton's bacon which is a slight twist because bacon (lard in French) in not smoked unlike Benton's which is heavily smoked. The bacon is diced into lardons and cooked until slightly crispy. The rendered fat and bacon are poured over the frisée, which wilts and warms up the salad slightly. Then the salad is seasoned with plenty of black pepper and red wine vinegar. Poached egg on top (I used the Arzak technique). Devour with a slice of crusty bread.

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Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)
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Don't know how I missed this thread before. Kind of shocked I don't have this book (have most in this genre) so great to see it. I make pithiviers all the time (yes, a lot, adore it) so love seeing that, and also the quiche, and the pumpkin soup with fois gras absolutely beautiful. Thanks!

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  • 2 years later...

Going through old pictures while planning my next French dinner party... Here is the Roast butternut squash with herbs. The squash is sliced and brushed with melted butter & olive oil; sprinkled with sugar, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. The squash is roasted under foiled for 30 min at 375F and then without foil, basted regularly with the olive oil/butter until nicely browned.

 

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Simple and pretty basic, but it's very tasty.

 

Recipe here on google books.

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That looks like a good way to get more squash into our diet, now that the season is here. Thanks for posting the photo and recipe.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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