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.
The Lorraine region, in the Northeast of France is blessed with a rich historical heritage. In 1725, the French king, Louis XV, married the beautiful daughter of the King of Poland, Stanislas Leszczynski, and after many historical adventures, he became known as the Duc de Lorraine. Erudite, rich and a notable gourmand, he established many things in the region of Nancy, around the capital of Lorraine. The Place Stanislas in Nancy is one of the most beautiful squares in France, and his castle in Luneville was nicknamed “Versailles lorrain”. The Lorraine has many connections to the dining table, from elegant tableware and Baccarat crystal, to its famous quiches and sweets.
‘En passant par la Lorraine’ is an old 16th C. French song, but saw a patriotic revival at the end of the 19th century when the Lorraine was lost by France in 1870 in it war with Prussia.
Muenster en Brik
One of the most famous cheeses of France is shared between Alsace and Lorraine. Originating in among abbeys and monasteries around the town of Muenster in the Vosgian mountains, the cheese was originally matured in monks’ cellars. The cows of this region still give a unique milk for this flavorful cheese, protected with an appellation since 1969. The cheese is baked in a thin, flaky pastry similar to filo familiarly known as “brik”
Probably one of France’s best known dishes, quiche lorraine is very old dish, dating back to at least the 16th century. Known in the regional dialect as kuchen (meaning “cake”), it was thinner and more frugal than today’s version. A delicate butter pastry crust has since replaced the original bread dough, but the topping is still the traditional smoked pork belly, eggs and cream. Served with a light salad of dandelion greens.
Palette de Porc avec Miel des Vosges
For a long time, almost all pork meat was or salted or smoked (or both) to preserve it; many homes were equipped with a fumoir or smoking room for this purpose. This dish of smoky roast pork shoulder evokes the Vosges region of Lorraine, an area of mountains, fir, spruce and lakes which earned the area the nickname of “French Canada”. It is accented with a caramelized glaze of local honey from the fir forests, along with a green cabbage puree and brimbelles, wild blueberries
Baba au Rhum
The Duc de Lorraine was well known for his sweet tooth. The baba au rhum is said to come from his inspiration to moisten the dry Alsacian Kougelhopf cake with rum. This pastry was promoted by his daughter and the king himself as being very gourmet, and the recipe was later refined by the legendary Patisserie Stohrer, (the oldest pastry shop in Paris), enshrining its place in the canon of French pastries.
Chef Chantal will send guests home with a bag of small Madeleines for your breakfast. This soft cookie has become something of a literary legend through the memoirs of the famous French writer Marcel Proust. The original culinary legend is that this shell-shaped cookie was quickly baked by a young cook girl named Madeleine when the pastry chef in charge of the duke of Lorraine’s kitchen suddenly left.
Chantal Véchambre, originally from Paris, is a chef certified in both French cuisine and Pastry-chocolate. In 2005 she moved to New Brunswick where research in culinary history led her to the Fortress of Louisbourg, where she developed recipes and culinary workshops inspired by the site’s 18th century recipes, culminating in an award-winning book: French Taste in Atlantic Canada, 1604-1758. Now established in Toronto, Chantal pursues food writing and culinary adventures, and professional catering through her company My Creme Caramel Catering.
Every weekend The Depanneur invites a guest chef to host a fun, family-style dinner party.