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When in France; A How-To on dinner and dessert

By Jessi Singson

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Sundays in the South of France. Cannes to be more precise. The shops are closed, shutters drawn. The terriers and shihtzus that I seem to come across every few metres are nowhere to be found. Even the sun seems to be having a rest behind the clouds; “Go home! It’s a Sunday!” he almost says.

Back in our apartment, mom and I begin preparing lunch. In Manila, Sunday lunch for us typically means reserving a large table at a restaurant, ordering family style, and sharing all the plates, all at once. But here, with just the two of us, we like to take a different approach – appetiser, main course with salad and potatoes, and dessert. And a lot of bread and wine.

So, how to do it like the French do?

Escargots à la Bourguignonne – snails in parsley garlic butter

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To start, a timeless combination of hot butter, garlic, parsley and snails. With the littlest fork you have, you sit at the table waiting for the special plate that holds the shells so neatly in place. You can smell one of the most alluring aromas wafting through the small kitchen, the butter and her best friends in the oven, mixing and melting. A crusty piece of baguette on the table waits patiently with you, ready to be used for something almost too good to be true.

Once in front of you, you’re eager and almost burn yourself. With your fork you manoeuvre the shell and pull the meat out. That hot butter luxury spills out into the dip in the plate, and you rip a piece of bread in anticipation. The snails are tender and quite light tasting. You take your bread, though, and sop up what’s left on your plate. To almost the last drop, you wipe off anything that remains of that sauce with your crusty, chewy bread. You debate internally if the dish should even be called escargots, momentarily forgetting eating them in favour of the bread and butter – the most important foods to ever exist in your mind right now. “Hot-garlicky-herbed-heaven a.k.a. Liquid Gold a.k.a. I’d-sell-my-terrier-for-this-kind-of-goodness”, you think it should be called.

Saumon au beurre citron avec pommes de terre frites et salade – salmon in lemon butter sauce with twice-fried potato wedges and salad

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Next, the salmon. Your (new, bigger, non-escargot sized) fork almost glides into the fish, and it flakes beautifully. A rich and creamy lemon butter sauce coats it all, and you welcome the perfect match. You savour the light tanginess of the citrus that balances out the buttery body of the sauce. With a crunch, you bite into twice fried potatoes – crunchy and salty on the outside, soft and steamy on the inside.

Soufflé au chocolat et au rhum – chocolate rum soufflé

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And finally, what would a meal be sans dessert? Fresh out of the oven, you can already see the lovely crack at the top of your soufflé. Risen up high, you wish you could dig in at this very second.

With a dusting of confectioners sugar, it is finally ready in all it’s powerful chocolate glory. Your spoon cuts into the delicate crust that’s formed at the top and sinks into the soufflé like a hot knife through butter (you still can’t stop thinking of all that delicious butter!). It is ooey and gooey and every other childlike synonym because your brain has now shut off due to the sensory overload of all that scrum-diddley-umptiousness. Yes, this is scientifically proven to happen. Especially with freshly baked soufflés. You taste the chocolate, you taste the rum, you taste the sweetness and feel the lightness, and you believe you can taste a little bit of fairy dust in there too.

So how can you actually physically experience all of this buttery, garlicky, crunchy, sweet, gooey goodness?

Step 1: Move to France.

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Would you believe that almost all of that was made from all of this? Above is a photo of our grocery haul from that morning. I was so intrigued by the things on offer in the grocery three blocks away from us, that I wanted to see how well I could replicate a real home-cooked meal entirely with packaged goods!

The escargot was amazing, admittedly. The shells are very neatly stuffed with herbed garlic butter, and you just pop it all into the oven and voilà! The baguettes are half-baked, and you finish them off at home as well. We eat freshly baked bread every morning, and I feel little to no guilt in buying this product (as I usually stray far away from packaged pre-cooked/TV-dinner-esque products)! Of course the salmon was not as good as buying a fresh fillet and cooking it all yourself, but good effort on the variety of heat-up meals they had.

But for this how-to, I did ask my mom to teach me how to make soufflés. I’ve always been too afraid to attempt them, and I think this fear traces back to a baking class I took with some friends when I was 11, as well as the stereotype of the temperamental deflation of a soufflé. It had stuck with me that soufflés are inherently difficult to make, and more likely than not, it will deflate in your face and stick it’s tongue out to you, laughing at your failure.

I couldn’t be more wrong! This chocolate rum soufflé is so easy and drop-dead-delicious.

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(2-3 servings)

Unsalted butter and sugar, to line ramekins

1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

2 Tbsp milk

2 tsp dark rum

1/2 tsp instant coffee powder

1/4 tsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp + 1 tsp sugar

1 egg yolk

2 egg whites

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream of tartar, pinch

Salt, pinch

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

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Melt 1 tablespoon of butter, and using a pastry brush, grease ramekins with upward strokes from the bottom. This should help the soufflé rise. Refrigerate for 2-3 minutes, and repeat. Sprinkle the insides with sugar, coating the entire surface and tapping off any excess. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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Melt chocolate chips with milk, rum, coffee powder, cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a double boiler over medium heat. Whisk until smooth, and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Combine egg yolk and vanilla, then temper into the chocolate mixture.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add 2 tablespoons of sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Make sure you don’t overbeat past this point!

With a spatula, add 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and gently fold in. Add the remaining egg whites and fold in until no streaks of white remain. Do not over mix; make sure to stop once it is just incorporated.

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Pour the mixture into the ramekins carefully, making sure not to touch the buttered sides.

Put the ramekins on a baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes. You want the soufflés to puff up, and rise about an inch above the rim. The soufflés should be just about ready when a crack forms at the top.

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Dust with powdered sugar, and serve immediately. Bon appétit!

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21 COMMENTS

    1. Judy Perez July 23, 2013 at 10:34 am

      Super magnifico, I can’t believe Jesse can do that but she does, we should do it when you are back in Manila , I want to experience it as if I am also in FRANCE but reality I am in Rockwell,

    Reply
    1. Peachy Manas July 23, 2013 at 11:09 am

      That looks really good, Jessi Singson! It must very delicious and satisfying and enjoyed most when shared with friends

    Reply
    1. Luna N Hernandez July 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Ooh la la Jessi, this makes me long for another visit to Cannes and crave for their kind of food. You and your mom must be having a wonderful time. You have a way of describing a dish and how to prepare it, that I was in full anticipation of what it will taste like as I was reading it. For a while there I thought you have become a culinary expert until you showed the packages at the end. :-) it’s always the end result that counts.

    Reply
    1. Bonito Singson July 24, 2013 at 3:07 am

      JeSSSI !!!! You make me so PROUD!!! Great article! Written like a PRO. From the mouth watering prelude to the great revelation of ALL that FROM all this!

      I’m glad you and mom are enjoying Cannes. Don’t gorget my pasalubong.

      Miss you and see you soon sweetie

    Reply
    1. Bobby Ramirez July 24, 2013 at 5:57 am

      What a special treat! I would love to try all these dishes. Especially the souffles I am now craving for some. You have a special talent to make all of these fine foods and I wish I was there to eat it all up!

    Reply
    1. Bobby Ramirez July 24, 2013 at 5:58 am

      What a special treat! I would love to try all these dishes. Especially the souffles I am now craving for some. You have a special talent to make all of these fine foods and I wish I was there to eat it all up!

    Reply
    1. Alice Reyes July 24, 2013 at 7:27 am

      Jessi, you really have a way with words…very effective and spot-on! Clear expression, proposition and exposition. Reading this is like being right there with you! And reading your recipe is far better than watching a video of Julia Child’s French Cooking hehehe! And the photos are great! Appétissant!

    Reply
    1. Miguel del Rosario July 24, 2013 at 10:48 am

      If I did not recognize the table top and the utensils I was sure you pulled the article and photos out of an expensive coffee table book. Talk about the way you described those dishes… I could almost smell the garlic from the escargots, feel the chewiness of the baguette, and smell the chocolate of the souffle. And the photos… you sure have an eye. I want to be like you when I grow up!
      Seriously, I suggest you compile all your articles and come up with a coffee table book one day.
      Bravo, Jessi!

    Reply
    1. K Manapat July 24, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      What you have written goes beyond a good recipe and a list of ingredients. You have just shared the basics for a great mother/daughter bonding. Also such a wonderful idea to experience a place the “non touristy way”!

    Reply
    1. FiCassidy July 24, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      Bravo! I am just soooo happy with all the supermarkets here in France. I’m here in Paris as an Art Student (I’m from the US) and I’ve been able to stretch my food budget because I’ve been cooking at my place most of the time. My God, I just love everything they sell in their supermarches! The one I shop at most of the time is Carrefour (though Auchan and Franprix have lower prices) I myself was originally anti-frozen pre-packaged food, but I love the ones they’ve got here. I’ve tried the Carrefour paella and their riz et fruits de mer with cream sauce, the pastas, etc. Everything really good! And I’ve been munching on a lot of bouche a la reine, chorizos and tortilla espagnol that they sell. They’ve got so many good things that I’m content with eating a cheaper meal at home and saving my eating out money for more special occassions. Anyways, keep up with the good stuff in your blog; your recipes are sooo delicious.

    Reply
    1. naki July 25, 2013 at 3:56 am

      I sweet tooth i always love dessert specially sweets

    Reply
    1. Binky DeMetre July 26, 2013 at 8:53 am

      Haute cuisine! I’m so impressed with you, Jess! You have truly put it all together perfectly. From the writing, to the photos, and the menu. C’est magnifique! I’m totally a big fan;))

    Reply
    1. Loli August 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      You soooo right about everything you have said about the food in France. When in Rome, do as the Romans do and be fortunate you are in France!! I love your hilarious descriptions about what it is like to sample these dishes. You totally sound like a fat kid!! haha…. :D

    Reply
      1. Erwan August 22, 2013 at 6:02 am

        thanks!

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I gained weight because of a sedentary lifestyle and overly indulging in foods I knew were bad for me, eating out too often, taking the easy route (microwavable dishes) and not caring what went in my body, before I knew it reached 240 lbs. I lost weight through pure dedication, tireless hours of hard work and yes, food. I cooked my way to fitness, making sure to only feed myself tasty well prepared dishes with all the right stuff, the perfect fuel, taking me down to 150lbs. Of course I indulge from time to time, as the fat kid still lurks inside of me; here you will find a little bit of everything for the sole purpose of sharing my passion for food and life.

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