We were in France for all of two short weeks, starting and ending our holiday in Paris. And in the middle, we went to Brittany for a few nights along the beach in Carnac, and took a day trip to see Monsieur P’s grandmother who resides in a town so small it doesn’t have an official name.
His grandmother prepared a fantastic feast when we arrived precisely at noon. She swung open the front doors to the country home before we even turned off the car engine, ushering us in with glasses of port, and buttery biscuit cookies. She lives on a farm, where she has resided her entire life, raising cows for milk and chickens for eggs. And of course, there was the dog, loyal and sternly watching our every move.
We spent the entire day eating, with a meal that spanned five hours, starting with individual servings of Coquilles St. Jacques, a dish of scallops baked in cream with shallots and white wine. The ramekins were topped in breadcrumbs before a quick broil in the oven. The only utensil required? Baguettes! Can you just imagine how fantastic that was? Soaking up the sauce, picking up the fresh scallops with in every bite? The fact that it was quite chilly out that day made this meal all the more perfect. I dunked the bread in with abandon and then realized that his grandmother had a much better method of first slathering the baguette with salted butter and then dipping it into the cream. Butter, then cream, got it?
Post-port, we switched over to red wine, and out came a roasted chicken which I oohed over until…I saw the potatoes. Now these potatoes, they are famous. Monsieur P has talked nonstop about them since we planned the holiday. He only had one word to describe them: BUTTERY. I took his word for granted…they’re not just buttery, they’re saturated in butter. The potatoes are cubed and literally boiled in butter. A pot full of butter. Then, removed and pan-fried in butter till the surfaces are all crisp and golden. Butter-boiled, and butter-fried. If you gently tap your fork on the potato, the tines will stick, that’s how buttery they are. A little salt goes a long way and that was all we needed to elevate this to pure bliss. The photo above is from what must have been my fourth helping of these butter potatoes. I only stopped because Monsieur P gave me the slightest nudge, looked at my belly and then looked at my eyes….there’s a lot of butter in those potatoes.
But oh! That’s not the best part. Heheh. Grandmother poured off the chicken drippings, fat and everything, into a cup. She served us the potatoes on a plate and then proceeded to douse the butter potatoes with glossy fat drippings. And only then could we eat!
His grandmother can’t speak English and I have yet to learn French (soon!), but conversation was not nearly as awkward as I feared. I think she liked me just because I ate everything, heh. She had an intense amount of energy, enthusiasm and an equally hearty appetite – Monsieur P and I were exhausted just trying to keep up with her!
A brief break after the last potato was devoured and then out came a salad, simple greens, a mustard vinaigrette. Then a plateful of cheese (did you expect anything else? ;). Monsieur P pounced on a soft round of goat milk cheese, cutting a generous wedge and smearing it over his baguette, “I haven’t had this once since I was a kid!” And of course, it turned out that grandmother got it just got the occasion. Too sweet for words :) There was tea and coffee to finish, an apple tart from the market…
…and then a tour (led by the dog!) through the farm…
…this cow is only a few weeks old!
Just before 4pm, we were called back for goûter, an afternoon snack…
…On the agenda? Far Breton we bought at the Sunday market in Carnac earlier that morning. Think of it as a custard tart, minus the shell (with a texture not too far off from clafoutis) and studded with dried prunes. Have you ever had the Bagel Pudding from Russ & Daughters in NYC? That coincidentally enough, comes very close to the flavor of far Breton.
We polished off the far Breton rather quick while a round of Kouign Amann, (purchased from the same Sunday market) warmed up in the oven…here it comes!!!
Now will you look at that! First check it out from the side…
…and the back. Golden! Caramelized sugar and quantities of salted butter that was almost excessive, an exterior well-browned and crusty. I started off with a fork, then decided to use my fingers as it made for a much more satisfying bite, breaking throw the flaky exterior, and down the many buttery sweet layers. Like the most intense croissant you’ve imagined, turned into a cake with sugar caramelized between each and every layer. Surely the most wonderful product of caramelization. One wedge, and then two wedges…it was a shame I didn’t have room for a third.
More tea concluded our visit, then big hugs and kisses, “au revoir!” We made the two-hour drive back to Carnac with happy butter-padded bellies. There was a walk along the beach near sunset, and a late, “light” dinner of fresh seafood…mussels, shrimp, crab, and snails, at a local restaurant. A fairytale day? You bet!