American flags still dot the house and garden, happy little reminders of a great July 4 party, great values, great burgers. Now there’s a French flag in the mix, for two reasons this year. First LES BLEUS made it into the finals of the World Cup! Yay! (It is impossible not to get involved in the hysteria when the café across from the house literally closed the main street as it filled with hundreds of screaming fans and there was yelling, honking, and dancing in the streets until midnight!). And Bastille Day is around the corner.
Bastille Day is an anomaly, culinarily speaking. There is no traditional dish, no set menu, no gastronomic protocol. If there were, I’d know it because every year I take a poll of whomever is around me, and the answer is always the same. No menu. No dish. Bastille Day isn’t about the food. It’s about the fireworks, the drink, the singing, the revelry, and lots, and lots of noise. As if there were a revolution going on.
Through observation, however, I have determined that there actually is a tradition which is, as yet, undocumented by my French compatriots. It involves côte de boeuf. My neighbor Stephan, the best butcher in town, is run ragged this year and cote de boeuf tops his sales. Sausages of every kind are right up there too, but we’re not concerned with those here.
As you plan your menu, I highly recommend you center it around côtes de boeuf. It’s elegant, it’s simple, it’s fast to grill, and it makes everyone happy and tolerant, because they’re happy it’s summer and there is a big côte de boeuf on the grill. All you have to do to grill q perfect version is let the meat come to room temperature while your coals heat up. Once they’re ready, lightly oil the meat and put it on the grill. Sear it, turn it, sear it and you’re done. If you want to cook it longer you may, but the true French style is to serve it juicy and rare.
Once it’s off the grill, season it with a hailstorm of coarse grey salt and pepper. After 10 minutes it’s relaxed and ready to be thinly sliced. It will be vivid red, so juicy, bursting with flavor. (page 127 FRENCH GRILL for details) Miam, miam!
Theoretically, one côte de boeuf feeds eight (my butcher says four, but he’s got a vested interest). What to serve with it? Follow my suggestions and you’ll have the most successful Bastille Day party ever. And if you want to be very, very French, plan fireworks, and then a “bal”for afterwards. That’s what everyone here will be involved in. Watching the incredible fireworks then dancing the night away in town squares throughout the country.
For amuse-bouches, along with the very typical chips and peanuts, I suggest Sweet and Salty Almonds (page 31 FRENCH GRILLl)
Tomates Provençale because beef heart tomatoes are so good now they make you want to cry, and when you season them with herbes de Provence and bread crumbs you will cry (page 52-53 FRENCH GRILL)
Grilled new potatoes (page 196-197 FRENCH GRILL) will accompany the côte de boeuf, which will be followed by a big green salad and a big plateau de fromage, cheese platter.
As for dessert? It might be ice cream, it could be chocolate mousse, it is often a seasonal fruit tart. For me this year, it will be all-American s’mores. I know. I know. It’s a French fête. But when you’re an expat and a cook and have lived with your kids in a French town for a long time, you have a lot of leeway about what you can bring to a party. And since I have a freshly made batch of marshmallows (thanks to David Lebovitz who gave me the recipe) and some chocolate chip cookies I baked entirely on the grill to see if it could be done (it can!), I decided to make my version of s’mores.
I know it’s not traditional. And if anyone asks I’ll mention that it isn’t. But no one will, because they’ll be too busy enjoying this strange and wonderful Franco/American dessert after a luscious French meal.
Tips: to bake the cookies on a gas grill, turn on two burners and heat the grill to 400F. Put the cookies in the grill, making sure the burner under them is turned OFF, and bake for 12 minutes. Easy.
To make s’mores: place baked cookies on a baking sheet, top each with a piece of marshmallow, place in the grill which is still at 400F, and bake for 5 minutes OR until the marshmallows are golden and soft. They won’t dribble like a commercial marshmallow. they just get gorgeous and sticky and soft and yummy.
I will be teaching you, among other things, the finer points of the FRENCH GRILL in my Louviers class in September.
Happy Bastille Day! Happy Independence from Oppression! Happy Grilling to you all!
- 3 cups (about 460g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 18 tablespoons (9 oz;270g) unsalted butter at room temperature
- ¾ cup (140g) dark muscovado sugar
- ¾ cup (125g) light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 12 ounces (400g) semi-sweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona, Lindt, or Scharffenberger coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together all the dry ingredients onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper.
In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter until it is light and pale yellow. Add the sugars and mix until thoroughly combined and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, just until thoroughly combined. With the mixer running slowly, add the vanilla, then the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Finally, with the mixer running slowly, add the chocolate. You may need to finish mixing in the chocolate by hand so that it is thoroughly mixed throughout the dough.
Scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough, and place the mounds 1-1/2 inches (2.75cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the center of the oven 12 to 15 minutes, depending on whether you like your cookeess soft, or fully baked!
- 1/2 cups (60 g) confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 cups (60g) cornstarch
- 2-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (500g) granulated vanilla sugar
- 2/3 cup (150ml) water
- 1/3 cup (80g) glucose or inverted sugar such as Karo syrup
- 12 sheets - one scant ounce; 24g gelatin leaves
- 6 large 9 oz; 240g egg whites
- Pincht fine sea sal
- 3 teaspoons of vanilla, orange flower water, raspberry puree, mint extract, rose water,
Mix the confectioner=s sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl until combined. Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper, and sprinkle it with half the cornstarch mixture. Alternatively, sprinkle half the cornstarch mixture directly onto a marble, granite, or other even, flat work surface in a 17 x 9-inch (42.5x22.5cm) rectangle.
Place the 2-1/2 cups sugar, glucose or inverted sugar, and water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir, using a stainless steel spoon, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cook the sugar until it reaches a temperature of 2651F (1301C), which will take about 15 minutes.
While the sugar is cooking, place the gelatin leaves, one by one, into a bowl of cold water. Reserve.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. When the sugar has reached 2651F (1301C), remove it from the heat immediately. Add the pinch of salt to the whites, and begin whisking on medium high speed. When the whites turn frothy, after about 30 seconds, add the 2 tablespoons sugar, and continue to whisk until the whites are smooth and very creamy, and form stiff peaks.
Using a sturdy kitchen towel or a hot pad to hold the saucepan handle, pour the cooked sugar mixture very slowly into the whites while the whisk attachment is still running, being very careful to avoid pouring onto the whisk itself, as the extremely hot sugar could splatter. Once all of the sugar and syrup are incorporated, keep the mixer whisking the egg whites and squeeze the water from the gelatin leaves one by one, adding them once you’ve removed as much of the water as possible. Once all of the gelatin is added to the egg white mixture, continue whisking it until the egg white mixture is elastic and has cooled to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
With the whisk still running, add any chosen flavoring or extract, if using, to the marshmallow mixture. Pour out the mixture onto the prepared pan or surface, then using a long spatula or offset spatula, evenly spread it over the prepared surface. The marshmallow mixture should be about 2-inches thick. Sift the remaining sugar-cornstarch mixture over the top and sides to completely cover the surface. Let the marshmallow mixture sit at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours so it has a chance to set
Using a pastry brush, dust the cornstarch mixture off the marshmallow. Reserve the cornstarch mixture. Cut the marshmallow into long strips, and roll the strips into the reserved cornstarch mixture, then roll the strips into a spiral, to serve or store. Alternatively, cut the marshmallow into the shape of your choice. Dust the shapes in the cornstarch mixture to keep the pieces from sticking together, dusting off any excess. The marshmallows keep well for one two weeks in an airtight container, stored in a cool, dry place. Reserve the cornstarch mixture. Store any excess cornstarch mixture in an air-tight container for a future use.