French Markets

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I don’t profess to be an expert on markets in France. In fact, I’m not at all. In the past, when I visited my family as a child, I don’t remember markets. I do remember walking to shops with my grandmother in her village, getting milk, then cheese, then meat, and so forth. I don’t think I remember seeing a farmers-type market until I was much older. I also remember my mother commenting on how much prettier all of the produce is compared to the U.S.

Fast forward to married life, when my husband and I have, luckily, traveled in France and many other European countries. Because we always wanted to see the countryside, we’re typically on the move. We’ve never rented a home, spent a week, and cooked.

So it wasn’t until I visited Stéphane from the blog My French Heaven, that I really got to see markets and experience them.
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In 2013, when my daughter and I went, the three of us went to a different market on four days in four different towns! But I know that the one Stéphane frequents is on Sunday in Libourne, where he resides. Which is why he refers to it as his church.
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In France, as it is in many European countries, markets aren’t like a visit to a super Wal Mart. It’s about planning what to cook, seeing what’s in season, visiting with friends. It’s almost more of a social institution than just buying groceries.


After three trips to visit Stephane, I’ve been to the Libourne market many times now. I recognize his favorite butcher, who blushed when my girlfriend gave him a hug for a photo. I recognize the old curmudgeon of a foie gras guy. And there are the cute young ladies who sell seafood. And so forth. Can you imagine having such a relationship with a cheesemonger? I have none of that where I live.

If you’ve never been to a French market, please read Stéphane’s post, entitled “My Market is my Church.” It gives you tips on how to navigate a market, how to talk to the vendors, and also what not to do.

I thought this was such important information because if I’d never had guidance from my mother, I could be one of the ugly Americans, touching the beautiful produce, asking for samples, perhaps yelling when a Parisien butted in line in front of me.

That doesn’t happen in France. In fact, you keep your hands to yourself and you remain calm. Farmers are proud, and they’re not selling any strawberry or green bean that isn’t perfectly ripe. There might be dirt on the carrots and potatoes, but that’s the only thing that an American would consider imperfect. You tell the vendor you want a half a kilo of mushrooms, and he/she will place them in a bag for you. Payment is in cash.
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Farmers markets are also not like our food festivals in the US. They’re not giving out food samples to draw you in. They’re too busy doing what they should be doing anyway. If you want one of their cheeses, ask for it, or move on.


There are counterfeit farmers. In Stephane’s post, you’ll read that if you see stamped eggs, for example, or if a “farmer” has baby-bottom soft hands, chances are you’re not dealing with a true farmer. They’ve most likely stopped by the French Costco equivalent and are re-selling at the market.

When my husband and I visited Stephane recently, we spent a couple of days in his home town. This was at my request, because as much as I like traveling and eating out, I can honestly say that there’s nothing quite like spending time with Stephane at his home, shopping with him, sipping the wine he’s chosen for you, and being served perfect food prepared by him.
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For lunch on our first full day in Libourne, he served my husband and I steaks with a green peppercorn cream sauce, and sauteed potatoes. Followed by a platter of cheeses.


We had purchased all of the ingredients that morning at the market.

In the evening, just for me, along with my Lillet, I enjoyed cured duck filled with foie gras.
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Then Stephane made us a dinner of his famous prawns in a Jack Daniels cream sauce.


How nice it must be to have a relationship with people who really understand their food, who have raised it, caught it, cooked it, and are proud of it. It’s wonderful to have trust in these vendors as well, and know their reputations. These people are so knowledgeable that they will tell you how to cook the eel they’re selling, still wiggling, of course, or even how best to prepare a cut of lamb. This is also a part of what makes shopping at farmers markets so meaningful.

Canapé Bread

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Many years ago in the United States, there was a cooking company that was built on having a hostess sponsor a party in her home, and a representative of the company would demonstrate all of its kitchen gadgets. It was one of those parties that you felt obligated to go to, and also buy something, because your friend was having the party. Even if you’d just been to one the week before!

So for the few years that this company was popular, I collected quite a few gadgets. (I don’t remember the name of this company, and I don’t know if they’re still around.)

Something I did purchase were canapé molds. I thought they were pretty cool. I purchased 2 flower-shaped molds, 2 star-shaped, and 2 heart-shaped. I used the star breads for a New Year’s party once and they were so pretty!

Here are the flower molds I’m using today:
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Essentially, you bake a yeasted dough inside these molds, and slice the breads to use for canapés.

Recently I was asked to be part of a special event, and I wanted my contribution to be unique. So I decided to practice with these molds since it had been such a long time since I’d used them for caterin. Fortunately, after a little digging, I discovered the recipe that was created for these molds, although the recipe is for 3 and I only had two of the same flower-shape.

I wanted to use the recipe because I remember once I made my own bread dough and filled the molds up too much, and there was a lot of bread overflow in the oven. I think I even remember some flames.
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Here is the recipe:

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So here’s what I did. If you need a more involved tutorial on baking bread, there is a recipe with many more photos here.

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water. I keep my yeast in the freezer, and it lasts for years.

Once the yeast has dissolved, give the mixture a stir, then let the bowl sit in a warm place for about 5 minutes. The yeast will cause the mixture to rise and bubble.

Heat the milk and butter together until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm. Pour it in to the yeast mixture.

Begin adding flour 2 cups of flour. I typically keep the dough moist for the first rise. Cover the bowl, and after 1 1/2 hours, the dough will look like the second photo.

Add a generous amount of flour to your work surface and remove the dough from the bowl. It will be very soft. Carefully work flour in to the dough as you’re kneading it.

After about 5 minutes of kneading, the dough will be nice and smooth.

Add a little oil to a clean bowl, place the dough in the bowl top-first, then turn over. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise for about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in to 3 parts, and gently roll each part lengthwise.

Place the dough into a greased mold. Place the lid on the molds and place them horizontally in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees meanwhile. Then bake the molds for 10 minutes, and lower the heat to 375 degrees. Continue baking for about 25 minutes, then remove the molds from the oven.

Let them sit for 10 minutes, then remove the lids. The photo on the right shows what the bread looked like after I removed it from the oven, the photo on the left shows the bread with the “heel” sliced.
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Remove the breads from the molds and let them cool. Then slice and serve.

I served them with my faux Boursin spread.

Alternative, you can place the sliced breads on a cookie sheet, brush them with oil, and toast them in the oven first before serving. This makes them firmer and easier to spread.

Either way, they add something special to a party spread.
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Now, it does take a little effort to make these, especially for me because I only have 2 matching molds, but I think it’s worth it. If you don’t own molds like these, you can always use cookie cutters and cut shapes out of sliced bread.
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