Crepes and Galettes originated in Brittany but have gone all over the world. A friend started one in Mexico City and had to came back here to look after her mother.
It takes skill to make the pancakes thin enough but help is at hand with these creperie secrets.
Its got to be galettes, the savoury version of crepes, made with buckwheat flour, which is also known as “Sarrazin” and was presumably brought back from the Crusades. You can buy the galettes in packets in the supermarkets, folded in quarters or else loose, unfolded and often from near the meat counter. To cook them you need a frying pan or wok. You need to find the uncooked side and place that face down in the frying pan. When it shows sign of being warmed through add the fillings. “jambon oeuf, fromage” is a favourite and you can cook the egg on top of the ham before adding grated cheese. If the egg is not fully cooked with the yolk shining through the uncooked white, it is called “oeuf miroir”. Chopped mushrooms, smoked salmon (with a cream sauce on top) are good but you can get loads of ideas from your local creperies.
To serve the crepe fold the sides to the middle, making a square and slide it onto the plate. The picture show how it is done.
Its got to be crepes which are made with wheat flour, or froment. Same method as galettes but there is usually no obligation to cook the filling, simply heat it up. The simplest filling is butter, and sugar with lemon juice squirted over them. In this case melt the butter on the crepe, sprinkle on the sugar, squirt the lemon, fold and serve. The second of the creperie secrets is about the large range of prepared sauces – Cassis (=blackcurrant), framboise (raspberry), and fraise (strawberry) coulis available at supermarkets. And there’s chocolate, caramel sauce (“au sel de Guerande” – caramel made with the local sea salt), and others. You may not need to have crepes more than once, but the sauces and coulis are excellent additions to fromage frais (which is like Greek yogurt) or plain yogurt.
The traditional drinks to go with crepes would be cider, or else a fermented milk called “le Lait Ribot”, which is almost fizzy, and very refreshing, Both served in bowls.
Perhaps I’m just showing my ignorance, but I only learned about this dish from a friend (long after our arrival in France). Like many French dishes it was invented for commercial reasons, namely to boost the sales of a cheese called Reblochon.from the Savoy region cf France.
Tartiflette is a very hearty and filling dish which consists of pre cooked slices of potato, which are layered alternately with slices of Reblochon cheese, and then baked in the oven. The potato slices will become softer as the cheese is melted round them in the oven. You will need twice as much potato by weight as cheese. You can add onion (which I would soften first like the potato) and small pieces of bacon (either the prepacked sort called “lardons” or poitrine fume, which I referred to before).
Click on the picture for detailed cooking instructions.
I saw a whole cauldron of it once at Le Mans 24hrs. 4 feet x 2 feet deep. No bacon, just volume !
Chocolate fondant (=melting chocolate) would go well with Tartiflette. It is usually sold by boulangeries, as a kind of cupcake in little white paper cases. The outside is cake-like and the inside is liquid chocolate. You should heat the Chocolate fondants in the oven or the microwave, and serve it with crème Anglaise (= custard). The brand that we see most often is called “Babette” and is yellow and sweet like English custard, but unlike English custard its made with real eggs.
With such robust accompaniments anything goes – red wine, or white, or beer. If you like Kir white wine sweetened with a little Cassis (the blackcurrant liqueur) that would go well too, and maintains the commercial link that I mentioned above in connection with the Tartiflette: Kir is named after Felix Kir, the mayor of Dijon who promoted this mixture to boost the sales of burgundy white wine in the poor years after 1945.
My most impressing lesson in French cooking was to visit our next door neighbour. I interrupted her as she was eating a salad for lunch. The table was laid, even though she was on her own, her salad was beautifully laid out and as I came through the door she quickly slid her plate into the drawer of her dining table.
Presentation matters !
French cooking also has a host of ingredients, and traditions to which this little series is some kind of introduction.
The series covers seven days. It reflects what we actually eat and drink in Brittany. It covers evening meals only. Breakfast is what you get at the boulangerie, and lunch is either a picnic, or a menu ouvrier.
In deference to the English breakfast and before we set off on the seven day menu I would like to recommend France’s version of streaky bacon. Its called “poitrine fumee” and the butcher will slice it for you (in tranches fines). Beautiful stuff because its normally not wet, unlike English bacon which so often leaves a sticky residue of dried-up wetness in the bottom of the frying pan.
If you haven’t been to France before I should also explain about “menu ouvrier”. You will see if travelling at lunchtime the occasional swarm of lorries and white vans all parked
together. This signals the presence of a restaurant has a workmen’s lunch menu – the menu ouvrier. Its an institution because workmen’s lunches are subsidised by the State. Prices normally 10 – 12 euros. The more lorries and vans the better the restaurant.
So, that’s the first day of seven. When I’ve finished I’ll reissue all seven post in booklet form – a pdf guide available for download on the front page of our Brittany Holidays website.