Who doesn't overeat on Thanksgiving? If you are anything like me, you usually go for seconds (maybe even thirds) at Thanksgiving dinner--and that before digging into the pumpkin pie (and maybe the pecan pie...and just a sliver of the apple pie...with a dollop of ice cream, etc). This year, instead of descending into sense-numbing gluttony, I plan to pour my energy (and a little love) into preparing a few special dishes to share with others. Quality--not quantity. Giving, first and foremost--not getting. And, by means of introducing some unfamiliar French recipes to the Thanksgiving table, I may perhaps defamiliarize the experience of feasting itself. Instead of inducing sluggishness and stupor, perhaps it can awaken an unfamiliar sensation: Satisfaction--even gratitude.
Lofty goals perhaps, but I invite you to do the same. To that end, I want to suggest three French recipes that we have piloted for you here in our test kitchen chez Ceci:
- Far Breton, a custard-like pastry from Brittany,
- Citrouille Farcie, a stuffed pumpkin fondue or soup, and
- Gâteau Basque a rustic cream-filled cake from the region of Gascony.
This custard-like cake is a traditional Breton pastry. The recipe below is based on one shared by Ann Mah (author of Mastering the Art of French Eating). Her recipe was in turn shared with her by Madame de Brommer at Le Manoir de Lanroz a bed and breakfast in Brittany. We tried it at breakfast, and it makes a nice, light main dish--perhaps paired with some slice fruit and coffee or tea. If you are hosting this Thanksgiving, you might consider serving it for breakfast to any overnight guests.
100 grams of sugar
150 grams of flour
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of pitted prunes, diced into large chunks
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Beat eggs, mix in sugar, flour and milk. Butter 9 inch cake pan. Scatter the diced prunes across the bottom of the dish. Pour batter over top of prunes. Cook 40-45 minutes. (The cooking time will depend on the depth of your mixture in the pan; the thicker the mixture, the longer it takes for the middle to be cooked).
Le Potiron Tout Rond
Pumpkin pie is an essential part of Thanksgiving for most Americans. If you really want to shake things up this week, you might consider turning your pumpkin into a savory dish instead of the traditional custard dessert pie that we all find so familiar. The French more often use the citrouille (pumpkin) as an ingredient in savory dishes than in sweets. It is used similarly to winter squash--in stews, casseroles, gratins salads and soups. We tested Le Potiron Tout Rond, Julia Child's recipe for a stuffed pumpkin soup or stew but found we had to alter it in order to make it more of a soup than a fondue. Below is a variation of her recipe. (We had to change some of the proportions based on the size of our pumpkin and are omitting her suggestion of including chopped carrots; we found they didn't cook at the same rate as our pumpkin).
1 cooking pumpkin
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 cups vegetable broth
1 can pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sherry
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 oz of a sharp hard cheese, grated (preferably Gruyère)
Sage leaves (a few for flavor)
handful seasoned croutons
Preheat oven to 425 °F. Cut top "lid" off pumpkin. Remove seeds. Sprinkle salt and a layer of croutons into the bottom of the pumpkin. In a large bowl, mix the broth, pumpkin puree, sherry, crème fraîche and herbs/spices. Pour the mixture into the pumpkin in layers alternating with the grated cheese and croutons. Replace "lid" on pumpkin and place in a roasting pan. Cook for 1 1/2 hours at 425 °F. (By the end of this first 1 1/2 hours, the pumpkin should begin to soften and filling to bubble). Lower heat to 350 °F and cook another 1/2 hour. Pumpkin should be tender but not collapsing! You can cover the pumpkin with foil if it starts to brown.
Le Gâteau Basque
We made a Gâteau Basque from a regional recipe shared by David McAninch in Duck Season. He credits his Gascogne landlord Henri de Rességuier with sharing the original version.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and allowed to cool
For the cream filling
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon Armagnac or dark rum
Preheat oven to 350 F. For the dough, mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk in egg. Add melted, cooled butter and mix until dough has formed. Form dough into ball, flatten, and divide in half. Flatten one half of the dough evenly into the bottom of a greased 9 inch round cake pan. Set aside the second half to top the pastry after making the cream filling.
For the cream filling: Heat milk in saucepan until steaming. In a seperate bowl, whisk the sugar with the egg yolks, then whisk in the cornstarch. Slowly add half of the hot milk to this bowl in order to temper the eggs, then stir the mixture back into the saucepan and heat, while stirring, until it boils and thickens. Let cool before stirring in the Armagnac or rum.
Assemble and bake the cake: Pour cooled cream evenly over dough in cake pan. Cut off small pieces of second dough ball, flattening them, and laying the pieces on top of cream layer until all dough is used up and cream layer is covered. Bake until golden, 45 minutes.
To explore more from the authors of these recipes, pick up one of their books in our collection: