French Food Roadtrip 9 - En passant par la Lorraine

My grandma’s signature risotto @ Lorraine, France

En passant par la Lorraine, / Avec mes sabots,
En passant par la Lorraine, / Avec mes sabots,
Rencontrai trois capitaines, / Avec mes sabots,
Dondaine, oh ! oh ! oh ! / Avec mes sabots.
Rencontrai trois capitaines, / Avec mes sabots,
Rencontrai trois capitaines, / Avec mes sabots,
Ils m’ont appelée : Vilaine ! / Avec mes sabots,
Dondaine, oh ! oh ! oh ! / Avec mes sabots.
Ils m’ont appelée : Vilaine ! / Avec mes sabots
Je ne suis pas si vilaine, / Avec mes sabots
Puisque le fils du roi m’aime, / Avec mes sabots
Il m’a donné pour étrenne, / Avec mes sabots
Un bouquet de marjolaine, / Avec mes sabots
Je l’ai planté sur la plaine, / Avec mes sabots
S’il fleurit, je serai reine, / Avec mes sabots
S’il y meurt, je perds ma peine, / Avec mes sabots,
Dondaine, oh ! oh ! oh ! / Avec mes sabots.

The (mostly) French Food Roadtrip 9 – En passant par la Lorraine

There is something about going down memory lane and actually stepping back to where you were born and raised. I do not consider myself a rooted person, I am pretty much equally happy (or unhappy, depending on how one wants to consider it) wherever I am located at the time. However, childhood memories are childhood memories. In my case a lot of them are related to food, my grandmother’s mostly…

Because Grandma is one of my main inspiration for cooking. She rocks, as Heso Magazine readers already know from her lesson about gnocchi.

When we arrived at her place, meaning to stay over for the weekend, I had in mind to maybe cook a meal for her and bring her to a restaurant one day. There is a mighty good couscous place not far from where she lives. She is fairly old by now and I wanted to spend a lot of time with her without burdening her too much. However, when I mentioned my plans she said something along the line of: “Dude [she speaks like that, well, almost, that what she meant though…] there is no way on Earth I am not going to cook you stuff… Just shoot what you want and I’ll make it, and if I do not have the ingredients in the house you’ll just have to move your arse to the supermarket and get it! Silly young man…” Did I mention she is 92? So I did. Speak up my mind. And she did. Cook us some stuff.

We settled on two of her trademark dishes: the risotto (which she pronounces “risotte…” alla French…) and some stuff called pizette which is some sort of nan that is eaten with cabbage and sausages. It is beside the point of this series of articles for this particular roadtrip to give full recipes and whatnot but maybe at one point I’ll get myself to do a write up on the art of risotto. Grandma does hers with tomato sauce and some meat pieces in it, a mix of beef and pork. She is renowned to go to the butcher and ask him to mince some real good pieces of beef that one usually eats only grilled. Once she was, er, challenged by a butcher and she told him that if one wants to have a good tomato sauce one needs to put good stuff into it. Period. The poor man probably still has nightmares about it…

The pizettes are small blank pizzas, very similar as I said to the Indian nans… They are cooked in a pan, unlike the pizza and used as bread when eating the cabbage and sausage. After my Strasbourg choucroute frenzy it was a lot of cabbage and sausage.

Memory lane and childhood melancholy always sort of bring one back to the golden age of high school. Ah ah. Golden… Yeah right… High school was pretty dreadful actually. We were all perfect idiots at that time. I remember thinking that the USA was the land of the Free for real, while playing basketball with my Nike Air Jordan outfit, the whole thing, from T-Shirt to shorts to shoes (albeit the good ones, the all black ones from 1990). Quite amazingly I still have some friends who talk to me from that era, believe it or not. So one evening we went to visit some of those high school friends in a small village close to the border of Luxembourg. I mentioned to them we were doing this weird food roadtrip thingy and I was fairly certain we’d be treated with local stuff… I did not expect my friends to go to such extremes though! They indeed cooked a full Lorraine meal from the start to the dessert, including wine.

After an apéritif of Picon-bière –that’s actually sort of an heresy: the beer was a Leffe, hardly something you usually mix with stuff, and the Picon was a new kind with lime flavour or some other blasphemy… strangely enjoyable, probably the level of profanity involved is part of it– and some peanuts, we had an amazing starter. It was a pretty nice little dish made with local cheese and a fresh grape, in a cup. The cup is called “une casollette” and it is sort of cute. It was totally appropriate as an amuse-gueule but also introducing the rest of the meal on a fancy but still traditional way. The combination of savoury with the Munster cheese and sweet flavour of that one grape was pretty nice. It made us very eager to continue the meal…

Of course we had a quiche Lorraine as the main dish. Would it have been possible to do it otherwise? I mean, really, it would be like going to Strasbourg and not eating a choucroute. It needs to be stated that a real quiche Lorraine only includes lardons and certainly not either ham dices or pieces of cheese. Nope. Nothing but eggs, crème fraîche (or milk or both), lardons and a touch of nutmeg. And my friend would not be very happy if I were not to mention that the flour and the butter she used was actually also local products of Lorraine! Now, that’s dedication to the food roadtrip! We were served some local wine as well, from Moselle (one of the four counties that are bundled in the Lorraine region, there is a lot of History in there as some of the counties became German during all the mess around the world wars, etc.) I was not really aware that there was some wine around here and was pretty surprised. To summarize it let me quote my friend: “OK, so we tried it, can we have some real wine now, with the cheese, you know, it would be a crime…” Enough said.

We finished the evening with a clafouti aux mirabelles and some Mirabelle! Ok, so I need to explain this. La Mirabelle (capitalized!) is the king of liquor in my book, probably the queen as liquor is female in French. It is a 51% alcohol content white liquor made out of these nice small yellow prunes. I’d sell my mom for a bottle. Well, almost, you get the point. A clafoutis is a special cake originating from Limousin (another French region) and usually baked with black cherries. Of course in Lorraine cherries have to be replaced by mirabelles… So: clafoutis with mirabelles, fresh mirabelles and some Mirabelle. You cannot get more Lorraine-y than that.

Clafouti aux mirabelles @ Lorraine, France

Clafouti aux mirabelles @ Lorraine, France

That is actually the last post in France. After that memorable weekend we took off to Belgium. Little did I know what was to come. Little was I prepared for the grandeur of the Belgian beers… And I already have had my fair share of Belgian beers let me tell you… But that’s for the next posts in the mostly French 2013 food roadtrip.

Read the Entire French Food Roadtrip

After a couple of train rides we will arrive at our second stop: Txot Sidreria in Figueras, city of Salvator Dalí for the ones amongst you readership with a fancy for psychedelic painting. To be noted that this rather small Catalan town sports the world famous Dalí museum (yes, the one with the bathroom sculpted on the ceiling of some room, go figure…) However we were there to catch a car ride to the South of France but not before stopping for some new-school tapas and Basque Cider! Basque Country cider in Catalunya, you got to be kidding me!

After dragging ourselves out of the Cider-induced madhouse of Dali’s Figueres,we venture to the third stop on the French Food Roadtrip: a small house in the Pyrénées.

What could be better than that – A small house in the mountains? Oh yes, stop 4 on the French Food Roadtrip: Roussillon and the Sea.

After refreshing ourselves at Roussillon and the seaside, now it is time to move on and jump in the mix of French Food Roadtrip 5 – Center of la France!

Once you have a taste of the city, nothing but the best will do. This is where we take the French Food Roadtrip 6 – to Lyon & Grenoble.

This is getting intense people & I think you can feel it. Now that we survived Lyon by protecting ourselves with some of the best local cuisine, wine and beer we venture to French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget and Montbéliard in le Jura.

What is Choucroute? Come with us and find out on the French Food Roadtrip 8 – La Maison de la Choucroute in Strasbourg