Gastronomy in France might best be described as a gift for the palate’s delight. And during the season of giving, a number of delectable dishes and treats make their annual appearance—much to the joy of taste buds everywhere. During our Christmastime on the Seine River Cruise, you’ll not only journey between Paris and Rouen, skirting past the wintry French countryside between, you’ll also navigate the exquisite holiday cuisine of the region. Two popular treats of the season—favorites of Nadia Koehl, Grand Circle’s Program Services and Land Operation Coordinator for France—are oysters gratin and chocolate truffles. Simple to prepare, these recipes are sure to make you rejoice.
Huitres en Gratin (Oyster Gratin)
A widely used French technique, gratin (derived from the French grater, meaning to scratch or scrape) is a way of preparing a meal with a browned crust of cheese, breadcrumbs, butter, or egg on top. Scalloped potatoes are a common example of an Americanized version of the gratin technique. However, in France, it is common to prepare many dishes, including meat, fish, pasta, fennel, crabmeat, and more au gratin (literally, “with the scrapings from the pan”). In the case of oysters gratin, allowing just the right amount of time under the broiler is critical to forming that golden crust.
4 Tbs. butter
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
5 dozen oysters
3 ½ oz. crème fraiche (soured cream)
- Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
- Melt the butter in a shallow gratin dish.
- Add half a cup of the dried breadcrumbs and allow them to absorb the butter.
- Open the oysters and remove from their shells, retaining their liquid.
- Arrange the oysters on the bed of breadcrumbs and pour over the crème fraiche and 2 tablespoons of the oyster liquid.
- Cover oysters with the remaining breadcrumbs and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Servings: Serves 6
Although the chocolate truffle lacks the complex, earthy flavors of its mushroom namesake, the similarly shaped treat is no less the culinary crowd-pleaser. Considered by many to be the luxury candy of the modern world, these delicious, easily prepared desserts can be found throughout your travels in France—particularly during the holiday season. Composed of rich chocolate ganache (a malleable mixture of heated cream and chopped chocolate) and sprinkled with a light covering of cocoa powder, nuts, and other delectable adornments, the origins of the French-invented confectionary is thought to be the result of a sweet accident that occurred in 1920 when a clumsy culinarian inadvertently poured hot cream into a bowl of chocolate shavings. Now a world-renowned candy, the truffle has taken on different shapes, textures, and fillings, but purests maintain that the original 90-year-old recipe of ganache and cocoa powder reigns supreme.
9 oz. good-quality chocolate, chopped
2 Tbs. milk
2 egg yolks
2 ½ oz. butter, diced
2 oz. cocoa powder
- Place the chocolate and milk in a pan over low heat, stirring until the chocolate is melted.
- Remove the pan from the heat when the chocolate and milk has formed a very smooth paste.
- Stir in the egg yolks, followed by the butter.
- Beat the mixture for 2-3 minutes.
- Cool the mixture in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours.
- Remove from the refrigerator, and with a spoon and your hands, roll small balls into the size of a walnut.
- Once all of the balls have been shaped, roll them in the cocoa powder.
- Place each ball in a paper case and store in the refrigerator. The truffles taste best if eaten within 48 hours.
Servings: Makes 40 truffles
Savor the delectable tastes of the holidays in France on our Christmastime on the Seine River Cruise.