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Monday, February 05, 2007

if it smells bad, it tastes....

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I've long been a believer in the power of involuntary memory. Sometimes, the mere scent, sound or taste of something can have the power to literally transport you (or your consciousness at least) to some other place.

For some people, it could be the smell of a campfire, or the taste of some long-forgotten treat. While songs tend to be a trigger for me, there are certain scents that have marked themselves indelibly in my memory, and whose reappearance never fails to bring about a strong bout of nostalgia.

In the literary sphere, Marcel Proust wrote a TON about this, devoting one entire portion of his giant epic, À la recherche du temps perdu, to characters who lived their mundane lives, enlivened only by the appearance of this type of memory (like in Du côté de chez Swann). But's a really long long LONG book. You don't want to read it. I only had to read like 100 pages of it, but it was so dense I nearly lost my mind.

But I digress....where was I.....oh....involuntary memory. The thing with this is that it has the propensity to strike in the most unusual places. Like Costco. That evil big box behemoth where I now longer purchase oh SO many things due to factory farm support. Hubs and I were wandering the aisles, in search of laundry detergent and frozen shrimp, when I decided to head over to the cheese aisle, thinking I could pick up some gruyère or emmentaler for our crêpes this week.

Lo and behold, I spotted what looked like a beautiful little Camembert sitting in its wooden box, beckoning to me. I was drawn to its simple, european rusticity, so devoid of shrink wrap and industrialization. It seemed fated - the small alluring box, the $2 off sign overhead. This was meant to be.

And so I picked it up. And sniffed gingerly at it.....and instantly, I wasn't in Costco. I was in a French market, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of artisanal produce....not the shove and bully of massive carts overstuffed with such wares as toilet paper, chips and pop. I had to have this cheese. The seductive earthen scent drove me to madness....

Stinky, yucky cheese

I should have known better.

The thing is, as 'sophisticated' a palate as I attempt to have. I REALLY don't like very many cheeses...I really haven't evolved much beyond cheddar. Mind you, I love a good, really old crumbly block of balderson or perron...but still cheddar. It has a particular that I love and crave. But, I thought I would try to branch out.

I actually enjoy many sorts of brie and camembert (mild cheese, admittedly), generally on some nice baguette. I thought that mixing this kind of cheese in with egg, sauteed veggies and galette de sarrasin (buckwheat crêpe) would really be quite lovely.

And to some would have been. But OMG....that was awful. It was almost as bad as the time that hubs and I ended up on a six course tasting menu in France. One of the courses was a cheese course, and as we still like to of them, the "ass-cheese" (as hubs so eloquently dubbed it), just kept on tasting and tasting and tasting. A lot of value for your buck, that one.

YUCK. So....not only did I stink up the car on the way home from Costco, I stunk up the fridge (despite me putting the offending ball of rot in a ziploc), and I've now stunk up our entire house. Seriously, it's pure raunch. If I could open the windows and not die, I would. GAH.

So....moral of the story is, artisanal raw-milk camembert and I do NOT go together. I tried...I really did. But holy nasty.

That said, those of you who actually enjoy this type of cheese (think normal Camembert times about a trillion) would probably have LOVED this dinner. The crêpes were yummy, the veggies were delicious, and once I pitched the stench and replaced it with (discount, yellow) cheddar, I had a yummy meal on hand.

So I'm sure you all want to try this now. ;) Keep in mind that crêpes can be filled with anything. This Breton special is so flexible - ham, cheese, vegetables, eggs, fruit, ice cream, etc. - you can have anything your heart desires in a galette or crêpe.

Before I share the recipe, here's a little primer on how these are usually consumed in France...a main course crêpe is called a "galette de sarrasin" and is made with buckwheat flour. Normally, you would have 2-3 items inside your galette, and they don't typically have a sauce on them - just pure delicious ingredients. To accompany, you would order a nice french cidre. For Canuck readers, buckwheat flour can be found in abundance at Bulk Barn, and cider is a little harder to track down, but if you're wiley and tenacious (today I was both), you can procure it in the Vintages section of the LCBO (Vintages 2022). Not easy to find though.

Dessert crêpes are called "crêpes de froment" and can be filled with all manner of wonderful things (particular favourites include nutella/banana, caramelized apple and plain old sugar and lemon). Of course, in a pinch, you can sub one kind of crêpe for the other and you certainly will live to tell the tale.

And will all of that ramble and is the recipe!

Galettes de Sarrasin
350 g buckwheat flour (about 2 cups, from what my measuring cup tells me)
10 g fleur de sel (about 2 t sea salt)
75 cl cold water (3 cups)
1 egg

1. Combine the flour and the fleur de sel.
350g buckwheat flour
2. Using a whisk, add in the cold water. Whisk away until no lumps remain.
3. Whisk in the egg and combine throughly. Allow batter to rest for at least 60 minutes. Not sure why, but everyone says you have to. So do it.

Meanwhile......prepare your fillings....

Sautéed Veggies
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces
1 red pepper, chopped into 2 inch strips
12 oz oyster mushrooms, chopped in strips
1 clove garlic
1 T olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add vegetables and sauté to desired doneness. Season to test with salt and pepper.
oyster mushrooms, red pepper and asparagus

Galettes (continued)

1. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium/medium-high heat. The skillet is hot when you can have drops of water "dance" on it (when you flick them).
2. Have a small bowl of oil, and a 1/2 cup measure handy. Dip a paper towel in the oil and rub it on the skillet, so you have a very thin brush of oil over the whole surface.
3. Using the 1/2 cup measure, scoop just under 1/2 cup of batter into the hot skillet, and swirl it around with the other hand, to spread the batter out. Don't worry if it's not perfect (and the first one definitely won't be!) all tastes the same in the end.
4. Watch the galette carefully.....when the edges start to pull away from the pan, slide a spatula underneath and flip it over. Give it about 30 seconds and remove from the pan. (I just pile them all on a plate). It's better if your crêpe is a teeny bit underdone, because it will go back in the pan to warm up the filling later.
Here's one of my rounder specimens...

5. Repeat until you run out of batter, re-oiling the pan before each one. You may need to adjust the heat, if you find the crêpe is getting too crispy at the edges before the centre is done.

To make filled crêpes:
1. Make sure the pan is hot (though turn it down to just below medium for this...not super hot) and oiled.
2. Put your crêpe in the pan. If you are using an egg for filling, you should crack it onto the crêpe now (TIP: If you are like me and skeeved by food that runs away from you, lightly beat the egg in a bowl beforehand - this enables you to get eggy goodness without yucky, runny yolk).
3. Once the egg starts to set (I find this is aided by putting a lid on your pan), add the other filling ingredients (if you're not using an egg, start with cheese and put others on top).
Here is hubs' galette that he didn't eat. That cheese is seriously poison. I know it looks's NOT.
Filled galette
4. To serve, try to fold the edges over, so that only the centre of the crêpe is showing and then toss it on a plate. Here is mine, with my MUCH-needed cidre. Bah, that was so nasty.
Galette and cidre doux
5. Enjoy! Or.....if you're like us, bravely try to eat a bite or two and ooooooze sophistication....then give up and toss on the chedda.

The second crêpe was much better.....even if the cheese was orange (I let hubs pick out his fave this week since I didn't think I'd have to eat any).....
the one I actually ate....

I also made a little 'dessert' crêpe by taking one of the leftovers, sprinkling vanilla sugar and then drizzling lemon juice. Yum. Maple syrup is also wonderful (I'm saving that for brekkie.....)

Thanks for reading through my fromage-laced rambling tonight. This will teach me not to pretend to be a gourmet cheese connoisseur, because clearly, I am not.....and hopefully the next time a scent transports me through time and space....I'll remember that absence makes the heart grow's selective memory like this that allows for me to do this time and time again...come back tomorrow for adventures in soupitude.

Love the comments!!!!!


Freya said...

I love French cheese and often the stinkier it is, the richer the flavour - luckily it doesn't always taste like it smells either! However, I totally understand why you might not like it, but at least you tried it! The dish does look delicious though! Wish I had been there to eat the leftovers!4

Unknown said...

Hold on, you can get real raw milk cheese (or at least Camembert) at COSTCO? Will wonders never cease?

(My husband and I aren't members so while we've got tons of family and friends who shop there, we never have).

Anonymous said...

mmmm camembert. I have a co-worker who's a total cheese whore, and she introduced me to smoked gouda at her last dinner party. it was like biting into a piece of meat, no joke! I'm just starting to get into the gourmet cheese thing, but i still don't like the really stinky ones (blue cheese, rouqefort, etc). at least you tried, the dish did look yummy, even if it didn't smell yummy! :)

Anonymous said...

Loved the story!

Linda said...

this looks delicious. the photo is fantastic!

funny you should discuss stinky cheese. i've found with brie it's often hit or miss, sometimes its stinky sometimes not. one evening my boyfriend and I had a wine and cheese relaxation session on our fire-escape, sadly ended up with a nasty, stinky brie and rolled it into balls to see who could get it to stick to the building across the way. ok, juvenile i know, but the best part is the were stuck there, turning all kinds of yucky colors for weeks, about five if i remember correctly.

Anonymous said...

This combination sounds and looks delicious. Vive le fromage puant ! And your galettes look great btw!

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

freya - I know, in theory I should love this stuff....but I just can't do it. I'll keep on trying though!

nyxie - I was as shocked as anyone that Costco, of all places, actually sold raw milk cheese. Too bad it was utterly wasted on hubs and I.

lesley - I'm going to try camembert crepes again sometime, but I'll just make sure I get cheap one, so it's not so strong. :)

shawnda - glad to be of amusement!

linda - buahahahaha. Sad as it is, I could see myself doing that. Great story!!!!! hahahahahahaHAHAHA

bea - le fromage puant c'est encore un peu trop pour moi - je suis pas mal sensible quant aux fromages. If at first you don't succeed......

Thank you for all the comments! :D

The Liberty Belle said...

Thank you for sharing your galette recipe! I confess that I've been looking for a good recipe (with measurements I actually understand...cups, teaspoons, etc.) since returning from France. I'm going to try out the recipe this very week. Thank you!

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