I have prepared the following dish many times at the Château d’Amondans in France where the dish’s creator, Frédéric Médique, was the chef. There we started with whole quail weighing about 200 grams. After the breast was boned and the legs removed, the remaining meat and carcass were used to prepare the glace used for the sauce. The breasts were pounded with a cutlet hammer to produce thin pieces of meat that were almost twice as big around as before the pounding. To simplify the coating process, three cooks would work in an assembly line manner—the first dipping the breasts in flour, shaking off the excess, and dropping the coated breast in the egg; the second lifting the breasts from the egg, draining off the excess, and dropping them into the nuts; and the last pressing the nuts into the breasts and then arranging them on baking sheets for cooking later in the day.
Although originally prepared in a restaurant setting, this dish can easily be prepared in a home kitchen. It took me a couple of years before I was able to find a source of adequate quail. I could easily find quail, but they were not large enough for this preparation. I eventually located a vendor that specialized in supplying game to restaurants. They were able to provide me with boned-out quail that were sufficiently large, but because they were already boned, I had to find a different source of the bones for preparing the glace required for the sauce. (Chicken works just fine.) I had to become my own assembly line for coating the breasts. I use my left hand for dipping in the flour and my right for the egg. After a quick wash, I use both hands for coating the breasts with the nuts. I usually do the pounding and coating early in the afternoon so the breasts are ready to cook just before serving. The glace is prepared well in advance so the sauce can be prepared at the last minute.
To prepare the dried orange peel required for the breading, remove the zest from an unwaxed orange using a vegetable peeler. Carefully remove any white pith attached to the skin. Mince the skin extremely fine. Place the minced peel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and dry in a 75 °C (170 °F) oven for about an hour.
In Amondans the dish was served with chips de lard—very crisp, very thin strips of bacon. The accompanying vegetable varied, but it was always something that allowed the quail to easily sit flat on top of it. The preparation pictured below is with purée mousse de chou-fleur, pureed cauliflower.
caille croustillante aux amandes et pistaches
Yield: 4 servings.
Ref: Frédéric Médigue, L’Château d’Amondans, October 2001.
In November 1997, I had the pleasure and honor of studying with Jean-Pierre Silva at the Hostellerie de Vieux Moulin in Bouilland, France. It was my first stage at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I learned many things from Chef Silva, including how to remove the intestines from live crayfish. After my visit, when I was window shopping at the magazine store in the Dijon train station, I saw the book that this recipe came from on sale. As I scanned its pages on the train ride back to Paris, I was delighted to see that 11 pages were devoted to the cooking of Chef Silva. The following recipe was the first one in the section, but it wasn’t one that I had learned from during my visit.
When I first read the recipe, I had little expectation that I would ever be able to make it, let alone have the opportunity to eviscerate a handful of crayfish back home. Then about 18 months later, I noticed that one of the meat and fish stores I frequent had a bowl of live crayfish in the display case. I hurried home to find the recipe and to get an idea of how many I would need. I then rushed back to the store—they only had a few crayfish left when I was first there—and purchased enough to make the dish. That night I prepared the recipe for the first time.
There are over 500 species of crayfish worldwide so I doubt that the ones I used to prepare this recipe were the same as what I worked on in Bouilland. Nonetheless, removing the intestine worked just the same as I had learned. The process is very simple. At the end of the abdomen—the part we generally call the tail—is the tail fan. The fan consists of five fin-like appendages. The two outer pairs are called uropods. The center appendage on the tail fan is called the telson. To remove the crayfish’s intestine, which Chef Silva informed me has to be done before the crayfish is cooked, you hold the telson between your thumb and index finger and gently twist 90 degrees until you feel the telson crack away from the fan. Then you pull the telson gently to extract the intestine. That’s all there is to it! Très facile!
gâteau d’écrevisses et fromage blanc
Yield: 2 servings.
Ref: Jean-Pierre Silva in Philippe Lamboley, Saveurs & Terroirs de Bourgogne, 1997, page 100.
The first time I had dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant in France was on a cold night in the fall of 1996. The restaurant was the two-star establishment of Guy Savoy in Paris. (It has since been elevated to three stars.) It was an amazing meal of about 24 courses with multiple wines. The only dish I remember from the meal was a lentil puree that tasted like mushrooms. All this has nothing to do with the following recipe, except that it came from an article about Guy Savoy.
I should have included this recipe in my article about purees, but I hadn’t tried it yet when I wrote that article. So I am including it now.
gratin de potiron
Yield: 4 servings.
Ref: ELLE à table, February-March 2004, page 34.
Cancoillote is not really a cheese. It is a preparation made from a cheese. But it is common to find it as part of the cheese selection at fine restaurants in Eastern France. I’ve even occasionally seen the preparation in plastic tubs in French supermarkets.
Cancoillote starts life as metton, an almost inedible hard cheese sold in quarter and half kilogram paper sacks. I’ve only seen one brand and that only at professional food stores. Once the metton is transformed into the unctuous mass called cancoillote, it becomes highly edible and very desirable.
The other important ingredient in cancoillote is the vin jaune—yellow wine. This is a unique wine made from a grape variety called savagnin grown in the Jura. The grapes are harvested late in the year so their sugar is fully developed. Once the fermentation is terminated, the new wine is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 61/4 years without being opened and topped off. As the wine in the barrel slowly evaporates, a veil of yeast is formed on its surface that transforms it slowly into vin jaune while protecting it from oxidation. The color becomes bright yellow, like rich straw or gold with tinges of amber. The bouquet develops a surprising strength and, despite its high alcohol level of 13 or 14%, the taste of walnut continues to develop.
I learned the following recipe from David, the head waiter at Le Château d’Amondans in France. He said that he prepared the cancoillote in the manner that he learned from the the chef, Frédéric Médigue. When I was preparing cancoillote a year later at the restaurant where both David and Frédéric were now working, the Chef said that this wasn’t the way he prepared cancoillote. The ingredients were the same, but the proportions were different. But, I still prefer the recipe I learned from David. (It’s also different from the recipe shown on the metton package.)
Yield: about 225 grams.
Ref: Frédéric Médigue, Le Château d’Amondans, May, 2003.
This is one of those dishes that’s both very simple to make and very satisfying to eat—especially on a cold winter’s night. Choose a young brie to make cutting easier.
ragoût gratiné d’oignons et échalotes
Yield: 2 servings.
Ref: Emmanuel Laporte, Cuisiner!, April 2000, page 59.
The preparation of many types of French sausages have previously been described on this web site. (For a refresher on basic techniques, see saucisse.) The following recipe is the first smoked sausage to be described in these pages. This one is made of simple ingredients and is one of my favorites.
Although these sausages require four days to complete, the total time required is only a little on each day. The three-day long curing is required to fully develop the subtle flavors of this sausage. The drying is required so that the smoke is properly absorbed by the sausage. Maintain the temperature of the smoker so that it is below 45 °C (115 °F) for the entire smoking process. Use a hardwood to generate the smoke. I prefer hickory or pecan. After smoking, these sausages are still essentially raw. I usually simply poach the sausages in simmering water for 10 minutes before serving.
saucisse de Montbeliard
Yield: 1.8 kilograms.
Ref: Marcel Cottenceau, Jean-François Deport, Jean-Pierre Odeau, The Professional Charcuterie Series, Volume I, page 148.