French-Style Caesar Salad with Creamy Dressing and Duck Cracklings

French-Style Caesar Salad:

This salad is a traditional appetizer in the Auvergne region of France. It closely resembles a classic Caesar salad (actually, it is a precursor of the Caesar salad), but features a different type of dressing. To make the salad, take a large head of very fresh romaine lettuce, remove tough outer leaves, slice off the end, and open up to rinse out any dirt and impurities in cold running water. Pat dry and slice salad leaves across at about 1-inch intervals. Using the large-holed side of a grater, grate 1 once good quality Parmesan cheese, preferably Reggiano or Gran Padrino (do not use supermarket-bought powdered Parmesan). Toss the sliced lettuce leaves with the grated cheese, a handful of warmed crumpled duck cracklings (see below), and a generous amount of creamy dressing (see below). To serve, add on top 1/4 cup salad croutons (see below). Enjoy as an delicious appetizer for lunch or supper.

French Creamy Dressing:

Mix together in a small bowl 1 tsp Dijon-type mustard and 3 tbsp raw wine vinegar. Slowly add 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a fork until the oil is emulsified. Add 1 tbsp expeller-pressed flax oil. Stir in about 1 tsp of finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, basil, thyme, or oregano. As a last touch, blend in with a fork 1/4 cup crème fraîche, and serve immediately with French-Style Caesar Salad.

Duck Cracklings:

In order to render duck fat and make cracklings, cut pieces of duck skin and fat into small chunks and cook them in a heavy-bottomed pan for about 30 – 40 minutes, until the pieces have turned golden and a lot of fat has been rendered. Remove cracklings with a slotted spoon, pat dry with paper towels, and store in a refrigerator. Prior to serving with the salad, cracklings should be gently heated.

Salad croutons:

Take 3 slices whole grain bread (preferably sprouted or sourdough), trim off crusts, and spread on top a mixture of 1 clove mashed garlic, 1 tsp French-style herbs (parsley, tarragon, thyme, etc.), 6 tbsp butter, and a pinch of paprika. Bake the bread slices in an oven at 250 degrees for about 1 hour, until they are crisp. Allow to cool, and cut into small cubes. Salad croutons can be stored in a container with a lid without refrigeration until needed.

Steak Tartare from France

Almost every world cuisine offers recipes that include raw animal protein (fish, meat and unpasteurized dairy products), which seems to be a universal practise. In Italy the most famous raw appetizer is carpaccio, in the Middle East – kibbeh, in Norway – raw marinated fish, and in France it is steak tartare and, of course, a wide selection of world famous raw milk cheeses. Today, I am going to share the recipe of my very favourite gourmet appetizer from France,Steak Tartare:

In order to make authentic steak tartare, you should start with the freshest ingredients of the highest quality you can find. Shop for organic, free-range, grass-fed sirloin or filet of beef and freeze it for at least 14 days. The practise of freezing ensures that the raw meat will be clean from parasites and other contaminants. Thaw the meat and grind it coarsely. Also, you will need the following ingredients (quality matters!):

– 1 finely minced medium onion
– 3 tbsp mustard (Dijon is the best)
– 2 fresh egg yolks from free-range chickens
– 1/4 cup of fresh parsley or coriander leaves, finely chopped
– unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Mix ground beef with onion, mustard, egg yolks and herbs. Season to taste and form into a mound on a big platter. Serve as an appetizer with sourdough bread or round croutons, chopped hard-boiled eggs and onions, capers and softened butter. Caution: raw meat appetizers should be eaten the same day they are made! If you have any leftover steak tartare – the next day you can fry the mounds in a mixture of butter and extra-virgin olive oil until well done and serve them with fresh vegetable salad for lunch.

Bon Appetit!:)

Roquefort the king of French Cheeses

Roquefort is a delectable ewe’s-milk blue cheese from the South of France, and is one of the most famous of all French cheeses. In accordance with the European law, only those cheeses aged in the natural Cambalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon have a right to be named “Roquefort”, this is why when you buy this cheese you can be absolutely sure in its authenticity and the highest quality.

Legend states that Roquefort was first discovered by a young shepherd, who left a piece of fresh ewes’ milk cheese in a cave. When he returned a few months later, the cave mold had transformed his plain cheese into wonderful Roquefort. True or not, but in France, Roquefort was honoured with a royal patent already in the thirteenth century. In the medieval times, this pungent blue cheese was believed to have aphrodisiac qualities, the fact which even was noted by the world’s famous lover – Casanova.

Roquefort is always made from fresh, unpasteurized milk of the Lacaune breed of sheep and has a white, crumbly and slightly moist texture with veins of blue mold (Penicillium roqueforti). Roquefort has no rind. An average head of this cheese is about 5 pounds, which requires 4-5 times the amount of fresh milk (about 13 litres!) in order to produce one head. After 4 to 9 months of aging, all vitamins and enzymes of the milk remain intact in Roquefort – it is very high in fat, protein, fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals, especially calcium. Its odour is strong and has a notable hint of butyric acid, the taste is rich and smooth with a sharp, astringent tang. The overall flavour sensation begins slightly mild, then turns into sweet and smoky, and fades to a prominent salty finish. The cheese fully exhibits its rich flavour if combined with red wine from Burgundy.

More information about Roquefort in English can be found at:

Roquefort Societe
French Cheese Guide
Recipes with Roquefort

Baguette Delicious White French Bread

 

Baguette, with its crunchy, crisp crust and a soft, delectable center, is a traditional white bread served in France, and a staple of French cuisine. French “une baguette” is translated into English as a “stick”, which truly describes the unique form of this most popular French bread – it is shaped as a wand of about 60 cm long, and weighs 500 grammes (about 1 pound).In some areas of France, this bread is still delivered to the customers’ door every morning, together with traditional milk and cream. In big cities, people go to the local “Boulangerie” (hot bread shop) at least once a day themselves, to get a fresh loaf which is eaten at all three meals.

What to do if the nearest to you Boulangerie is as far as France? Do not despair, but try to bake baguette at home! It certainly takes a little time, effort and patience to master baking good baguette by yourself – but only until you become forever addicted to its terrific taste. We recommend the following recipes of this authentic, home-made French bread:

French Bread – Allrecipes
Bakers Yeast Bread
Country sourdough-yeast bread
French Bread
French Bread – baking911.com
Authentic French Bread
French Bread – About.com