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 it’s unique specialities. 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 rich tastes of the mountains of the French Alps.
When we conjure up images of the Alps, we tend to think of majestic landscapes that extend through Italy, France, Switzerland, and Austria, or perhaps of the stories of famous exploits at Mont Blanc, the highest Alps’ peak. But this striking geography has also produce a unique cuisine worth noting (and salivating over!). It features unique products like dried salted beef (Viande des Grisons, also known as Bündnerfleisch), tasty cheeses from the high pastures such as Reblochon and Fontina, and delectable pastas. Tonight’s dinner showcases a range of these regional specialties.
Imagine the taste of a cheese made with the milk of cows grazing in pastures over 2000 m high, at the Val d’Aoste, between France and Italy. This appetizer features this unique Fontina cheese, baked with white wine and poured in little crusts
Crozets are a unique pasta found in Savoie: little squares of whole wheat (or sometimes mixed with buckwheat), cooked in a light broth and topped with grilled speck, the smoky bacon of the German Alps.
This iconic dish of the Savoie country is made with Reblochon cheese. This traditional tartiflette features a bed of potatoes, onions and lardons topped with Reblochon cheese, melted and grilled in the oven. Not a light dish but the harsh Alpine winter calls for something to warm your bones!
Reblochon derives from the word “reblocher” which when literally translated means “to pinch a cow’s udder again”. This refers to the practice of holding back some of the milk from the first milking. During the 14th century, the landowners would tax the mountain farmers according to the amount of milk their herds produced. The farmers would therefore not fully milk the cows until after the landowner had measured the yield. The milk that remains is much richer, and was traditionally used by the dairymaids to make their own cheese.
Grisons Meat Salad
Arugula, apple and delicately shaved Viande des Grisons, a Swiss air-dried cured beef similar to Italian bresaola.
Austrian Glühwein Sorbet
In France, ‘le trou Normand‘ refers to a strong alcohol (often Calvados apple brandy), sometime served with a sorbet, used to clear the palate and prepare the stomach towards the end of a rich meal. This one is inspired by a traditional Austrian winter beverage often enjoyed at their outdoor Christmas markets, features mulled red wine with honey, star anise and cloves.
Mont Blanc Dessert
A classic Alpine dessert featuring a ‘snow-capped mountain’ of sweetened chestnut pureé, topped with light cream and meringue, with pieces of candied chestnuts.
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.