I have been in a Christmas state of mind since the beginning of December. I can’t believe today is actually Christmas eve, how I wish I had a magic wand to make time stand still – I don’t want this day to be over. I have enjoyed going to Bordeaux and to the markets around Médoc to get specific ingredients on my Christmas cooking list. Unpasteurized delights from the Deruelle cheese store, Drappier champagne from Badie, foie gras and truffles from my local épicerie fine, quails and partridge from my farmer. I have mentioned it once before in one of my posts, but I want to be like Babette in her kitchen (from the movie ‘Babette’s feast’). She chooses all the most exquisite delicacies in French cuisine, cooking wih love in her rustic nordic kitchen. This is the time of year to feast on your favourite food, watch heartwarming family movies like Elf, Miracle on 34th street, Everyone says I love you to name a few… Every Christmas I read Ibsen’s A doll’s house – I get such pleasure reading this play over and over again (and those macaroons!). As for the chocolates, we indulge in the lingots from Leonidas. Milk chocolate with a vanilla-flavoured butter cream filling and praliné – oh yes. It’s been a family favourite ever since I can remember. And let’s not forget the marrons glacés. These little sugar glazed chestnuts are Christmas.
Today, I wanted to share two recipes I always make for Christmas. One is a savoury ‘pâté en croûte’. It’s my Christmas comfort food, so rewarding to make and perfect with a potato salad with mâche. As it requires some time in advance, I always make two so we can enjoy a slice at any time of the day. It’s a lovely starter for a Christmas lunch. The other one is the ‘bûche de Noël’, the Christmas log. In France, it is the traditional Christmas dessert. There are so many versions, and our family’s is the chestnut cream one. It looks fantastic, covered in whipped cream just like snow. I serve it with marrons glacés, and the kids love decorating it with our little collection of log figurines.
Merry Christmas to all of you! Enjoy this precious time with your family and loved one.
Pâté en croûte recipe
450 g/ 1 pound veal filet (sliced into finger-sized strips)
300 g/ 2/3 pounds pork filet (sliced into finger-sized strips)
1 small onion (coarsely chopped)
1 garlic clove (sliced)
450 ml/ 2 cups white wine
1 star anis
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
Salt & black pepper for seasoning
For the farce filling:
250 g/ 1/2 pound good quality sausage meat
150 g/ 1/3 pound thick ham diced into cubes
3 tbsp cognac
For the shortcrust pastry:
500 g/ 4 cups plain flour
250 g/ 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 glass of water
1 tsp salt
For the gelatin:
240 ml/ 1 cup of chicken broth
1 sheet of gelatin
Two handfuls of unsalted pistachios (shells removed)
I used a rectangular mould (which can open on all sides), 6 cm in depth, 9 cm width and 22 cm in length.
For the meat filling:
Mix the sausage meat, cognac and diced ham together. Leave to marinate 2 hours in the refrigerator.
For the marinade:
Prepare the marinade for the veal and pork. Slice finger size strips of both meats, place in a bowl. Season with salt and black pepper, add sliced onions, garlic, star anis, nutmeg, bay leaf and cloves. Pour the white wine, give it a good stir, cover with cling film and leave in the refrigerator overnight. Stir the ingredients twice a day.
Prepare the shortcrust pastry:
Mix all the ingredients together, start kneading until you get a good soft dough. Make into a ball, cover with cling film and store in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Bring the broth to a soft boil, remove from heat. A dd gelatin sheet and 1 tsp Madera wine (optional).
1) Drain the veal/ pork and discard the marinade. Set aside.
2) Roll out dough into a large rectangle. With a knife, try to cut out 2 strips to line the sides of the mould (one width side and one lenth side x 2) and allow a 2 cm overhang. Press the side trips firmly together. Now cut out a base rectangle for the bottom of the mould. Press dough firmly at the bottom together to seal properly.
3) Fill in the bottom with a 1 cm layer of the sausage meat/ham. Sprinkle a few pistachios. Press with a fork to even out the meat and nuts. Add 2 cm layer of the veal/pork meat. Sprinkle with pistachios and press with a fork to even out the meat. Repeat the operation until the paté en croûte is filled. Cut out a cover (with a 2 cm overhang) for the paté en croûte and seal the edges firmly. With the tip of a knife, gently draw leaf-style figures on top of cover. Roll a small piece of aluminium foil and create a little pipe (like a cigarette). Make a small hole in the center of the pâté en croûte, large enough to slide in the aluminium ‘pipe’ (you will be using this ‘pipe’ later on to pour in the gelatin). Brush with egg wash. Bake in pre-heated oven 180°C/ 350°F for 1 hour. Allow to cool.
4) When completely cool, pour gelatin through the ‘pipe’. Take it slow until you feel the pâté en croûte is filled. Set aside till cool and place in refrigerator overnight before serving.
Bûche de Noël à la crème de marrons (Christmas log with chestnut cream)
For the génoise:
3 eggs (separated)
100 g/ 1 cup plain flour (sifted)
100 g/ 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch fine salt
Separated the eggs. Whisk egg yolks with sugar until fluffy, add sifted flour and baking powder, mix well. Whisk egg whites till stiff (not too stiff), and gently fold into batter.
Pour batter (about 1.5 cm thick) onto a parchment paper lined (paper should be buttered) baking tray. Bake on 180°C/ 350°F preheated oven for 8 minutes. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and place a moist cloth on top of the génoise to keep it soft. Leave to cool and transfer on a large piece of cling film.
For the filling:
500 g/ 2 cups crème de marrons/chestnut cream (vanilla flavoured – I use Augier)
250 g/ 1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
4-5 chopped marrons glacés/ glazed chestnuts
Mix chestnut cream with butter. You can use electric whisks at a medium speed to create a smooth cream.
For the cream frosting: (just enough to cove rthe log, like snow!)
160 ml/ 2/3 cupWhipping cream (I use double cream)
30 g/ 1/3 cup icing sugar (sifted)
Whisk cream gradually adding icing sugar until stiff.
The génoise should be on a cling film on a flat surface. Trim off the ends so it looks like an even rectangle. Evenly spread the chestnut cream filling all over the génoise. Gently roll the génoise. Slice off gently each end of the roll. Spread the Chantilly whipped cream all over the bûche/log, create small ‘back & forth’ waves with your spatula. Decorate with marrons glacés (glazed chestnuts) – optional.