France is home to the concept of terroir – the taste of a specific place – the combination of geography and season, history and culture, tradition and food that give each region its unique specialties. Chef Chantal Véchambre combines her study of the history of French cuisine with decades of experience in the kitchen to offer us a glimpse into the diverse flavours of France.
For this meal, Chantal focuses on Lyon, a region very much at the heart of French gastronomic history. In the sixteenth century Catherine de Medici brought cooks from Florence to her court and they prepared dishes from the agricultural products from the regions of France. This was revolutionary, as it combined the fresh, diverse, and indigenous nature of regional produce with the know-how of Florentine cooks.
The result was that regional specialities became elevated in status among royalty and nobility. Lyonnaise cuisine became a crossroads of many regional culinary traditions. A surprising variety of ingredients from many nearby places emerged: summer vegetables from farms in Bresse and Charolais, game from the Dombes, lake fish from Savoy, spring fruits and vegetables from Drôme and Ardèche, and wines from Beaujolais and the Rhone Valley.
In the nineteenth century, middle-class women, nicknamed the “Lyonnaise mothers,” left their homes to work as cooks and created brand new culinary traditions incorporating their regional roots. In 1935, the famed food critic Curnonsky did not hesitate to describe the city of Lyon as the “world capital of gastronomy.” In the twenty-first century, Lyon’s cuisine is defined by simplicity and quality, and is exported to other parts of France and abroad. With more than a thousand eateries, the city of Lyon has one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per capita in France.
The Depanneur would like to dedicated this dinner to the late Chef Paul Bocuse who passed away last week. One of the greatest chefs of 20th Century, and a renowned ambassador of French cuisine, whose restaurant in Lyon was an exemplar of the fine art of French dining and culture.
Cervelle de Canut
The Canuts were an important family of silk traders in the Lyon; their exact connection to this dish is mysterious, but the recipe is inescapable in Lyon, as starter or on a cheese board. A delicate spread of soft cheese, garlic and shallots with lot of fresh herbs and a touch of vinegar.
The numerous sausages of Lyon are the result of a long tradition of artisanal butchery focusing on sophisticated and flavored blends of meats. For this dish, Lyonnaise ‘Saucisson à Cuire’, made from finely minced pork and often either truffles or pistachios, (and traditionally sold uncooked, so the sausage has to boiled before it is eaten; hence its name) is baked into a delicate brioche crust and sliced.
Soupe Gratinée Lyonnaise aux Oignons
The nearly mandatory inclusion of onions as an ingredient in Lyonnaise cuisine is at the heart of this onion soup with melted cheese and croutons, one of the most iconic of all French dishes.
Quenelles de Brochet Sauce Nantua
A very traditional regional dish, quenelles are a delicate forcemeat somewhere between a meatball and a dumpling. Traditionally made from pike (aka pickerel) and served with a rich, creamy Sauce Nantua (originally made from crayfish from the region of Nantua), but can be made with other shellfish such as crab or lobster.
Gratin de Cardons à la Moelle
This very regional and ancient dish traditionally features cardoon, a very large relative of chard. The ribs are cooked until meltingly tender and then set in a in a light marrow bone sauce before broiling to a golden gratinée finish.
This hearty and traditional salad can be prepared using different ingredients from fish to meat. This evening’s salad will include roasted chicken livers, lettuce, garlic croutons, soft boiled eggs, and fresh herbs with a Dijon mustard and olive oil vinaigrette.
A treat you can find in every grandmother kitchen’s, or at the annual « Fête des Lumières » carnival in Lyon. A kind of flattened doughnut with an irregular shape and delicate orange-blossom flavour, just lightly dusted with sugar… Certainly a highlight in the memories of the local « gones » (“kids”, in the Lyonnais dialect)
Chantal Véchambre, originally from Paris, is a chef certified in both French cuisine and pastry-chocolate. In 2005 she moved to New Brunswick where she began her own business as caterer. Her independent research in culinary history led her to the Fortress of Louisbourg (Nova Scotia), a National Historic Site of Canada, where she developed new recipes for the site’s restaurant, and culinary workshops to the public, inspired by the 18th century recipes. She wrote the award-winning book French Taste in Atlantic Canada, 1604-1758, A Gastronomic History (CBU Press), featuring ingredients and recipes of the colonial period. Now established in Toronto, she pursues food writing and cooking ventures about French cuisine: supper clubs, events, private and corporate catering, as well as ongoing research into Canadian and French culinary history. www.chantalvechambre.com
Every weekend The Depanneur invites an amateur or professional guest chef to host a fun, informal dinner party.