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.
With its proximity to Italy and Provençe, Niçoise cuisine shares many of the sunny and colorful flavors, but retains an identity all its own — not surprising given that for more than 400 years it was an independent country (the Comté de Nice), only later becoming part of France. For this summer dinner, Chantal showcases some of the unique and wonderful dishes from the heart of the Côte d’Azur.
A thin chickpea flour polenta akin to Sicilian panelle, Socca is a popular street food found almost exclusively in the old city of Nice; burning your fingers on hot slivers just out of the wood oven is a quintessentially Niçoise experience.
Pitchoun pots of tapenade and eggplant butter
In Nice, « Pitchoun » is a term of endearment for anything small, like Nice’s famous tiny, black and very flavorful very ripe olives.. Here we have tiny pots of tapenade — from « tapeno », the Provençal word for « caper » — a very traditional condiment from south of France, made with olives and capers finely chopped and blended with olive oil. There will also be a smooth roasted eggplant purée to go along with this.
Perhaps only Niçoise ladies are patient enough to prepare the labour-intensive crespéou, a beautiful layered dish of several thin omelets, each one given a unique colour from the addition of spinach, tomato, onions, etc.
Veal Petits Farcis
Variations of stuffed vegetables are found all around the Mediterranean. Here, small Southern vegetables such as eggplants, peppers and zucchinis are stuffed with delicate mix of ground veal and herbs, topped with breadcrumbs and gently broiled.
Another rustic Provençal dish that showcase the luscious summer vegetables of the region, this time as a gently baked gratin. Colourful layers of tomatoes, eggplants, onions, and zucchini are garnished with parmesan, basil and olive oil.
Monte Carlo Salad
Fresh salad greens and spinach are topped with roasted pine nuts and an olive oil vinaigrette, and served with Oeufs Mimosa – similar to a deviled egg, but garnished with a beautiful sprinkling of grated egg yolk said to evoke the brilliant yellow mimosa flowers that abound in Provençe.
Pain au Pistou
Home made French bread with a slathering of pistou, the Niçoise version of pesto.
Sorbet Citron et Lavande
Provençe is well known for its lavender, but lemons are also something of a celebrity in the city of Menton. For centuries, the microclimate of the area has made it the perfect place for exquisite lemons — there is even an annual culinary festival held there every year celebrating them.
Tuiles Vielha Villa
Tuiles are thin and crunchy almond cookies — once upon a time, local bakers used the local curved terra cotta roof tiles as the mold for these, giving them their signature gently curved shape. The tradition and the almonds remain a part of the region, even if the molds have changed.
Figs Gratin with White Wine Sabayon and Thyme Honey
Figs are one of the jewels of the Mediterranean. Sabayon, a classic French emulsion of sweetened wine and egg yolks gives a decidedly decadent and elegant end to this lovely summer meal.
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.
Every weekend The Depanneur invites an amateur or professional guest chef to host a fun, informal dinner party.