03 March 2007

Hertzmann in the kitchen

So Peter Hertzmann and I were both bothered by the oysters we ate at the Cheval Blanc. Oysters contaminated with Vibrio bacteria look, smell, and taste perfectly good. You just never know. It's the same with salad greens, cheeses, pâtés, and many other foods. Hamburgers. Chicken. Oh well. Such is life. Eating only well-done foods is kind of boring.

Peter Hertzmann cooking in our kitchen at La Renaudière

Do take a look at Peter's A la carte web site. It's a veritable compendium of French food history, esoterica, cooking techniques, and recipes. His latest entry is about fromage de tête, or head cheese. You won't find that on many web sites.

Last Sunday, Peter cooked chicken breasts with a sauce Robert for lunch, accompanied by green beans cooked with a little diced tomato, onion, and garlic. He started the chicken in a pan on top of the stove and after it had browned on one side he finished the cooking in a hot oven for five or six minutes.

Blancs de poulet, sauce Robert

Sauce Robert is a classic French preparation made with onions, reduced stock, white wine, vinegar, and mustard. It's perfect with viandes blanches, white meats. Here is Peter's article on sauce Robert.

Cooking green beans — in this case flat green beans, which looked so good at the supermarket I had to buy them — with tomato and onion is one of my favorite ways to do them. The recipe I use calls them haricots verts à l'italienne — Italian style.

Green beans with tomatoes, onion, and garlic, ready to be cooked

At the Saturday market in Saint-Aignan, I had found some crosnes, which Walt had been wanting to try for a while. Peter found some nice Brussels sprouts. Then we bought some of Mme Doudouille's good saucisses aveyronnaises -- pork sausages from the area called l'Aveyron in south-central France. That was dinner.

Crosnes, choux de Bruxelles, et saucisses aveyronnaises

Peter shredded the sprouts before cooking them in a pan with butter. He did the shredding with a knife, not a mandolin or food processor, and it was a time-consuming process but the result was very good.

Look at Betty Carlson's La France Profonde blog for more information about Aveyron and its main town, Rodez.

Peter and Walt at their laptops on a stay-at-home Sunday


  1. This all looks absolutely delicious! Except for the crosnes ;) They look positively like Klingon food. It all looks like you all had a great time, except for the oysters incident.
    I have been lucky till now and will keep my fingers crossed.
    Julie and I are celebrating her birthday on Wednesday (it's today but she's away for the week) at a seafood and fish restaurant. Hope we'll survive ;)
    We'd better, because I'm leaving for London the next day...

  2. I would add that the chicken breasts rested, covered with foil and a couple of towels, for about 5 minutes after coming out of the oven. They were not fully cooked when the resting started. During the resting period, the heat from the outside of the breasts moved to the center, finishing the cooking process. This keeps them from being over cooked and dry. The same technique was used a couple of nights earlier for the duck breasts.

    To prepare the mijotée de gros haricots plats, oil is heated in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Thinly sliced garlic and minced onion are then sweated until soft. A peeled and chopped tomato, the beans, a large sprig of thyme, and a few tablespoons of water are added to the saucepan; which is covered. The contents are cooked until beans are almost tender. The cover is then removed and the heat turned to high. When the water is mostly gone, the thyme is removed and discarded, and the remainder seasoned with salt and pepper before serving.

  3. Claude, happy eating and hope you have a good trip to London.

    Peter, thanks for the précisions. The duck and chicken and flat beans were all just excellent, as was your weekend visit. Sorry about the kitchens at the château de Valençay being closed. Next time...

  4. The food looks great (although I have to agree with Claude about the crosnes) and I love Peter's treatises on food. He brings food blogging to a higher level, in my opinion.

    But what really entices me is that photo! What a great house you must have.

    I will go read BC's post now..

  5. Thanks for the reference, Ken! Although I'm not sure what would really constitute a "saucisse aveyronnaise" -- here sausage is just sausage, or it's classic chipos, merguez, etc. You should ask your butcher what makes her sausage "aveyronnais"! I'd be most interested!


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