Typical gastronomy from the cities and regions of France: Central France
BURGUNDY: COOKING WITH RED WINE
First and foremost, Burgundy is a land of wines, of excellent wines, and they are quite naturally featured throughout the local cuisine. From the traditional beef bourguignon to dishes labelled “en meurette” – that is to say cooked with bacon dices and red wine. The same goes for the preparation of eggs, poultry (coq au vin), including charcuterie and parsley sprinkled ham. In fact, all regional dishes are prepared or consumed with wines produced from the wonderful Burgundy vineyards. On the hillsides overlooking the Saône valley are born some of the greatest wines, or grands crûs: Aloxe-Corton,Nuits-St-Georges, Vosne-Romanée, Vougeot, Chambolle-Musigny, Gevrey-Chambertin… Next we reach the city of Dijon, the reputation of which spreads far and wide thanks to its mustard and Kir, an aperitif featuring a subtle mix of burgundy wine and black current cream. In Mâcon, home of Pouilly-Fuissé, one comes across Charolais cattle famous for its premium meat. Not too far away lies an area called Bresse, home to outstanding free range poultry. In a nutshell, a land so rich and generous that it well deserves to be explored in depth. As far as fish is concerned, the river Saône provides all the ingredients which will enter into the making of a local specialty: pauchouse, a bouillabaisse style soup made from fresh water fish such as tench, perch, eel, carp, pike, white wine and garlic croutons. Then you might fall for a charlotte “rigodon” or a pear “tartouillat”! Yet again a region worth the detour. You have already been told, France is rich, very rich indeed in the field of gastronomy.
AUVERGNE: ROOTED DEEP IN LOCAL TRADITION
Fed from the terroirs of Auvergne, Cantal and Haute-Loire, Auvergne cooking is proud of its peasant origins. It gives a large place to cabbage which is often served stuffed or marinated in a soup, or still in a stew featuring also various pork cuts and charcuteries. For pork is also the meat which most often finds its way to the local tables: dry hams, saucissons, grilled pigs totters, petit salé with green lentils from Le Puy. You can also add succulent meat from Charolais cattle grazing the rich pastures of the Allier region as well as Salers cows from Cantal. Very often, “truffade” (potatoes cooked with fresh tome (cheese) from Cantal or aligot will accompany its dishes for even more distinction. Spring fishing brings on to the table magnificent catches: wild trout, salmon, char, pike or zander. Come autumn and it is the turn of strong meats to be featured on buffets: deer, wild boar and water fowl. This is also the time when forests are replete with all sorts of wild mushrooms and berries.
Finally come cheeses: Saint-Nectaire, Bleu d’Auvergne, Fourme d’Ambert, Cantal, Salers. These must always be washed down with one of the five vintages from the Côtes d’Auvergne, available in reds, whites, greys or rosé.
CENTRE VAL DE LOIRE – THE GARDEN OF FRANCE
Located in the centre of the country, astride the valley of the river Loire, this region offers a countless variety of meats, fish and vegetables. From the city of Tours, one will pick potted meat, to sample in a sandwhich and a glass of local red wine. From Blois to Tours, wines are on the fore front. Surprising wines: Cheverny, Touraine and further afield the prestigious reds from Chinon, Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas. The “garden of France” and its numerous orchards produce wonderful apples and pears ripened under the sun and fresh small vegetables.
Val de Loire ranks first in Europe for the production of prime season leek. After mâche (corn salad), it is the most widely cultivated vegetable in open fields in the area around Nantes. As a main course, there is nothing to surpass those fish from the Loire, so divinely prepared with a beurre blanc (white butter sauce) or poultry known as gélinote noire widely sought after for its gorgeous taste. For dessert, you should try poire tapée, the delicious nougat from Tours or candies made from prunes. And you could do no better than wash all this down with Savennières wine, one of the 29 AOC registered in the Loire Valley. And if you would like to become a fully fledged chef in Val de Loire cuisine, it is quite possible. Where ? In the city of Angers, at the Atelier Culinaire cooking school.