In our little corner of Burgundy, a major event has taken place. A new truck stop has opened. Truckers take their eating seriously, and nowhere more so than in France. A substantial four-course meal, with wine, is taken at noon and in the evening to a background of cheerful backchat in half a dozen languages.
Imagine a menu for $10, starting with mixed hors d'oeuvres -- grated vegetable salads, marinated cucumber, eggs with mayonnaise, pickled tongue, liver and pork pa~te' -- as much as you can eat. Main course is a choice of steak (a tough one, this), pork chop or chicken in wine sauce, all with a vegetable. Then comes cheese or green salad, followed by a dessert of caramel cream, ice cream or apple tart. What a feast.
For this dinner I've picked out the menu I enjoyed just a couple of weeks ago. Here in the United States, we are lucky enough to find inexpensive chicken livers (in France they are a luxury) so I've added them to this terrine in place of pork liver. Pure'ed in the food processor, they make a pa~te' that is invitingly aromatic and moist without being sticky, and the flavor improves when kept a day or two.
Chicken Angevine is an old crowd-pleaser -- chicken with mushrooms and onions with a light white wine and cream sauce. The wine -- an inexpensive vouvray from Anjou -- gives it its name, though any light, fairly dry white can be substituted. After browning, the chicken cooks gently with the wine in its own juices so the sauce is concentrated and rich.
With the chicken comes an unusual pure'e of turnip and potato, a handy accompaniment for all sorts of dishes now that cold weather is in sight. However, boiled rice or pasta could be substituted if you prefer.
Dessert is the simplest of apple tarts, with the apples thinly sliced and arranged in circles in a pastry case. The choice of apple is important, as they should be acid and produce little juice during cooking. Granny smith is an obvious candidate, but at this season all sorts of local apples are available which you may like to try. The pastry I suggest is the classic French pa~te brise'e, but your own pie pastry will do equally well.
Add plenty of French bread, a slice of brie or goat cheese and a cup of strong cafe' filtre and before you know where you are you'll have the truckers lining up outside your own front door.
Timetable Following the example of a busy restaurant, preparation for this menu is all done well ahead.
Up to 5 days ahead: Make liver pa~te' and refrigerate.
Up to 2 days ahead: Make chicken saute' and keep in refrigerator.
In the morning: Make apple tart and keep at room temperature. Boil turnips and potatoes, pure'e them and keep tightly covered.
One hour before serving: Remove pa~te' from refrigerator and let come to room temperature.
Fifteen minutes before serving: Reheat chicken saute' and keep warm. Finish turnip pure'e and keep warm.
PATE DE FOIES DE VOLAILLES (Chicken Liver and Pork Pa~te') (4 servings)
Serve the pa~te' with black olives, gherkin pickles and plenty of crisp French bread.
4 ounces thinly sliced fat bacon
3/4 pound chicken livers
3/4 pound ground pork
1 onion, quartered
1 teaspoon parsley leaves
1 teaspoon tarragon leaves
1 egg, beaten to mix
1 tablespoon cognac
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 bay leaf
Line two 2-cup loaf pans with bacon, reserving a slice for the top. Trim membrane and tubes from livers. Pure'e livers with pork in a food processor with onion, parsley and tarragon leaves. Work in egg, cognac, salt and pepper. Fry a small ball of mixture in a frying pan and taste -- it should be quite highly seasoned.
Pour mixture into lined loaf pans and cover with reserved bacon slice. Set bay leaf and thyme on top and cover with foil. Put pans in a water bath and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Cook in a 350-degree oven about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the center of the pa~te's is hot to the touch when withdrawn after 30 seconds.
Let pa~te's cool to tepid, then remove foil and set a plate with a weight on top. Chill until cold. Cover with foil and refrigerate at least 2 days or up to 5 days so flavor mellows.
To serve, cut pa~te's in thick slices and arrange them overlapping on individual plates. Serve black olives, gherkin pickels and French bread separately.
SAUCE DE POULET ANGEVINE (Saute' of Chicken with White Wine and Cream) (4 servings)
Enjoy the rest of the wine as you eat the chicken!
3 1/4- to 4-pound roasting chicken, cut in 8 pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
20 baby onions, peeled
1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons chopped parsley for sprinkling
Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil until foaming in a large deep frying or saute' pan. Add chicken pieces and brown thoroughly on all sides, taking about 10 minutes.
Take out chicken, add the onions and brown them also, shaking the pan so they cook evenly. Remove them, add mushrooms, brown them also and add to the onions.
Replace chicken and pour over the wine. Cover and cook over low heat 20 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is very tender when pierced with a 2-pronged fork. If some pieces cook before others, remove them.
Take out chicken pieces. Discard excess fat from the pan and if necessary, boil the pan juices until reduced to about a tablespoon of glaze. Add cream and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the juices. Stir in onions and mushrooms, heat gently 2 to 3 minutes, and taste the sauce for seasoning. Replace chicken pieces in the pan. The chicken can be refrigerated up to 2 days.
If necessary, reheat chicken on top of the stove. Arrange it on a platter and spoon the sauce and vegetables on top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
PUREE FRENEUSE (Potato and Turnip Pure'e) (4 servings)
Potatoes give body to this delicious pure'e.
1 pound medium turnips, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
Pinch grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Put turnips, potatoes, salt and enough water to cover in a saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until turnips and potatoes are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain vegetables and work them through a food mill or sieve. Alternatively, return them to the pan and pure'e them with a hand-held electric mixer. Note: Do not pure'e them in a food mill as they become glutinous. The pure'e may be kept, tightly covered, with plastic wrap pressed on the surface, up to 4 hours at room temperature.
To finish: return pure'e to the saucepan and, over low heat, stir in the butter and nutmeg. When hot, stir in sour cream and taste for seasoning. Serve pure'e with chives sprinkled on top.
TARTE AUX POMMES PAYSANNE (Pleasant Apple Tart) (4 servings)
One of the simplest versions of an international favorite. FOR THE PATE BRISEE:
1 1/2 cups flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold water, more if needed
FOR THE FILLING:
2 pounds granny smith apples
6 tablespoons sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup apricot jam for glaze
To make pa~te brise'e: sift flour onto work surface and make a large well in the center. Pound butter to soften slightly. Put butter, egg yolk, sugar, salt and water in the well and work together with the fingertips of one hand until partly mixed. Gradually work in flour, pulling dough into large crumbs using fingertips of both hands. If crumbs are dry, sprinkle on a tablespoon more water. Press dough firmly together -- it should be soft but not sticky. Work on a lightly floured surface, pushing dough away with heel of the hand and gathering it up with a dough scraper until smooth and pliable, about 2 minutes. Press dough into a ball, wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. Dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Roll out dough and line a 9- to 10-inch tart pan with removable base, fluting the edges. Chill the tart shell. Peel and thinly slice the apples. Toss them with 4 tablespoons sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Arrange apples in layers in tart shell, making a neat pattern on top. Sprinkle top layer with remaining sugar.
Bake the tart in a 400-degree oven until pastry begins to brown, about 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until apples are tender, about 30 minutes. The apples should have formed an attractive pattern with the edges lightly browned. If not, light the broiler and mask pastry edges of the tart with foil. Broil the tart 1 to 2 minutes until apples are browned. Transfer tart to a rack to cool.
For glaze: melt apricot jam with a squeeze of lemon juice and 1 to 2 tablespoons water. Work it through a sieve and heat again until melted. Brush glaze over tart to cover generously. Apple tart can be kept up to 8 hours at room temperature but it is best eaten the day of the baking.