Brittany may not be the proverbial land of milk and honey, but nature has blessed its gourmands in many ways. Breton seafood - from its buttery lobsters and coquilles Saint Jacque to its oysters and varied fish - is priced throughout France as are its salt meadow lamb, its fermented apple cider and its lightly salted butter. Perhaps because of the abundance of first rate products, and following my theory that great cuisines evolved to hide the taste of poor ingredients, Breton cuisine is not very complicated. It's famous salt meadow lamb is simply roasted, perhaps with some garlic and butter, and served over a bed of beans. One of its most typical dishes, cotriade is a humble stew of fish and potatoes. It's only on its baked goods that Breton culinary genius shows up - and even here there is more of a reliance on good ingredients than in technique.
Perhaps more than anything, Brittany is famous for its galettes, crepes made from buckwheat that - depending on the subregion - are served with savory or sweet fillings. Savory galettes are often serve as a light lunch in and of themselves, but I felt I couldn't make a Breton meal and not include them. I wasn't certain of how to incorporate them into a dinner menu - as they were pretty heavy for an appetizer and I wanted to serve something else as a main dish - so I finally decided to serve half a galette as an amuse buche and follow them with an apple sorbet as a palate cleanser. I don't think apple sorbet is a particularly Breton dish, but I felt it would appropriately foreshadow the apple cider of the main dish. To make it I simply froze fresh apple cider in the ice cream maker.
I also went outside the region by serving main dish - cider chicken - with truffled mashed potatoes. To make them I combined mashed potatoes with a little bit of butter, some creme fraiche and quite a bit of white truffle oil. They were a big hit. Indeed, pretty much everything I made was delicious. The menu consisted of:
- Galettes Brettonnes
Buckwheat crepes stuffed with Gruyere cheese
- Apple Sorbet
- Coquilles Saint-Jacques a la Bretonne
Scallops with Butter and Bread Crumbs
- Poulet au Cidre
Cider Chicken Stew. Served with:
- Truffled Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans (steamed and tossed in salted butter)
- Far Breton
Breton Pudding Cake
I served the meal with a white Bordeaux which proved a big hit - light, floral and not at all sweet.
Breton Food Links
- A Gourmet Brittany - Mysterra Magazine
- Breton Recipes - Azureva.com
- Brittany Food and Drinks - French Entree.com
- Brittany: The Kitchen at the End of the Earth - Saveur
- Gites & More Breton Recipes