Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Shopping for Dinner in Aix-en-Provence

Seasonal Produce

Going to the market is always a delight in France, and it's never that difficult deciding what to cook for dinner.  I often have an idea in mind, but sometimes I just let myself be inspired by the produce on offer.  It's asparagus and strawberry season in the south of France at the moment, so they both had to figure on the menu that evening. As always, I was tempted by the local goat's cheese - I chose a 'mi-sec' cheese  which translates as 'half dry'- it would have been left to mature for 8 - 15 days.  This cheese is delicious  with fresh crusty bread or use it  to make a goat's cheese salad for lunch.

Goat's Cheese

So dinner consisted of; a roast chicken (look for a label  that says 'élevé en plein air' - ie. free-range) with a gratin dauphinoise  served with asparagus and spring carrots; followed by the goat's cheese and then some rather delicious if naughty cakes served with the strawberries.

Just a small selection from Riederer, Aix-en-Provence

Gratin Dauphinoise Allégé

This version uses half stock and half cream, so is less calorific than the traditional version and makes a good summer accompaniment to a barbecue as it is not too rich.  It is also wonderful with roast chicken (you can buy very good roasted chicken from the market in France or buy a chicken to roast at home.
1kg waxy potatoes  
150ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
150ml cream (in France buy the Crème de Fleurette – red carton but otherwise use single cream)
1 clove of garlic
Gruyere cheese 
Salt & pepper

Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
Peel and thinly slice the potatoes ( parboil the slices for 4 minutes and drain).  Butter a gratin dish and make layers of potatoes, seasoning each layer with crushed garlic and salt & pepper.  Pour over the stock and cream.  Dot the top of the gratin with small bits of butter and some gruyere cheese.

Bake in the oven for at least 1 hour.  Test with a knife to make sure the potatoes are cooked.  The top should be a lovely golden colour.

Variation - Use only chicken stock to cook the dish and add half a sliced onion to the layers of potato and garlic

Serves 4.

Gratin Dauphinoise

Bon appétit et à bientôt,