- Serge Dufour
Top 5 Swiss and French winter dishes
1. La fondue
A good recipe is based on the quality of the ingredients. Specifically, to make a fondue for 4 people the most important ingredient is the cheese called “Le Vacherin” from Fribourg.
A photo of this wonderfully creamy cheese can be seen on the left.
This cheese, as said, will bring the creamy and smooth side to the fondue.
Furthermore, Swiss Gruyère cheese should also be used, this cheese is displayed below.
Ideally, the cheeses must be bought intact and whole. This is because the key to this recipe resides in freshly grating the cheeses such that the cheese does not have time to undergo oxidation, overall leading to a more foamy and light fondue.
The fondue originates from XVIII century peasants living in the Alpine region of Fribourg, Switzerland, who kept the leftover pieces of vacherin cheese and bread to form a fondue. The fondue became very popular throughout Switzerland due to its nourishing and economic qualities.
Now, the ingredients which will be used for this fondue of 4 people are listed below:
400 g of Vacherin Fribourgeois
400 g of Swiss Gruyère
3 cloves of Garlic
30 grams of butter
350 ml of white wine
We can now proceed to making the fondue.
The fondue is traditionally made in a “poêlon”, which is technically a taller skillet. A picture of a poêlon is shown here:
2. Start by putting a small amount of butter in the bottom of the poêlon, and your fire to medium heat. The reason why we put a small amount of butter, is to disable the garlic (which we will add later) from sticking and burning to the bottom of the poêlon.
3. Mince 3 cloves of garlic extremely finely and add it into the poêlon with the butter at medium heat and stir.
4. Add the 350ml of white wine into the poêlon at medium heat and season by adding freshly grinded pepper.
5. Slowly add the 400 grams of grated Gruyère cheese and the 400 grams of grated Vacherin cheese handful by handful whilst keeping the heat medium. Throughout this process do not stop stirring the fondue, always be with it, do not leave it alone! The fondue should not start boiling at any point during the cooking. If the temperature is too high, the grease of the cheese will be separated and deposited on the top of the fondue.
6. Once all the cheese has been incorporated and has melted, the fondue is ready to be eaten. Ideally, place it on a smaller heater whilst you eat it such that it remains warm and continue stirring it as you eat to maintain its creamy texture.
2. Le bœuf bourguignon
Once again this is a simple recipe, that takes little time to prepare, however, the cooking time is long, anticipation is required.
The boeuf bourguignon originates from the Bourgogne region of France, which is known for its red wines. In history, the Boeuf Bourguignon was loved by peasants and a common dish for peasants during festival times. Indeed, these peasants would eat it with grilled garlic bread.
Today, to make our boeuf bourguignon for 6 people, we will require the following ingredients:
4 garlic cloves
3 thyme branches
3 laurel leafs
1.5 kg of beef chuck
1 teaspoon of whole pepper
1.2 L of red wine
1L of water
3 large spoons of sunflower seed oil
30g of flour
60g of butter
Using these ingredients we can start making the boeuf bourguignon:
Peel your vegetables; which includes your 2 onions, your single leek, and your 4 carottes.
Cut your 4 garlic cloves in half, and squeeze them with the side of a knife.
Cut your carottes in relatively large sized cylinders as the time they will cook will be long, therefore by cutting them in large cylinders they will not disintegrate.
Similarly, cut your single leek in large regular cylinders for the same reason.
Mince your 2 onions in large chunks.
Cut your 1.5kg beef chuck in relatively large chunks, roughly 4 x 4 x 4 cm.
Use a large cooking pot to put all the beef and vegetables you cut into, as seen in the picture below:
Preferably, season with large salt and place into your pot your three thyme branches and 3 laurel leaves. And season with freshly grinded black pepper too.
Add the 1.2 L of red wine and 1L of water into the cooking pot.
Leave the meat and the rest of the ingredients to marinate in the cooking pot for at least 1 hour, without any heat from the stove, it should marinate at room temperature. The longer you leave it to marinate the better (3-4 hours ideally).
Once you have let it marinate for at least 1 hour, preheat your oven to 200 °C, as this will be useful later in the recipe.
Remove your beef chuck pieces from the marination in the cooking pot. Set the beef chuck pieces aside in a bowl. Then start heating the cooking pot with the rest of the ingredients inside of it, at a medium high heat.
Now you will caramelize the half of the beef chuck pieces using sunflower seed oil in a hot pan. This means the outer layers of the meat should remain crispy and the inner layers soft and not fully cooked. Then you will pour the meat you have caramelized with its oil into the cooking pot with the rest of the ingredients.This fat will bring additional taste!
Further, you should deglaze some of the juice present in the cooking pot at this point. Take a couple spoons of the juice and add it into a hot pan, let the juice boil such that the water evaporates and the remaining juice becomes more concentrated. Add this concentrated juice into the cooking pot where the rest of the ingredients are. This will bring additional taste to your dish.
Now insert the remaining half of your marinated beef chuck pieces into a fuming hot pan with sunflower seed oil in order to once again caramelize the outer layers of the meat. However this time, spread evenly the 30 g of flour across the meat once it has caramelized, and place the hot pan with the meat and flour into the oven for 10 minutes which you should have already preheated to 200°C. This will allow you to roast the flour.
Take the meat out of the oven, and place it into the cooking pot once again. Leave a medium heat under the cooking pot and leave all the ingredients in the pot to cook slowly for 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours.
Once the 2 hours cooking time is over, the dish is ready to be eaten, you can immediately serve it into a plate, as shown in the picture below:
3. Le pot-au-feu
Originally from France, the pot-au-feu’s name comes from the container in which it was cooked: "pot à feu".
Like the other dishes, the pot-au-feu is of peasant origin. This popular dish was then adopted by the bourgeoisie during the 17th century.
In order to cook this popular French dish for 6 people, the following ingredients must be used:
6 garlic cloves
1.5 kg beef scoter
2 tbsp. rapeseed oil
3 liters of water
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
3 marrow bones
With the use of these ingredients and the following recipe we can make a pot-au-feu!
We have to prepare our vegetables; this includes peeling our 3 potatoes. Once you have peeled your three potatoes, place them into a bowl of water such that they do not become black. Peel your 3 carrots as well. Peel 1 turnip. Peel your two onions. Peel your six garlic cloves. If your leek still has its roots cut them off, and cut half of the green leaf part off.
Cut your leek into large cylinders. Cut your turnip into large chunks. Cut your garlic cloves in half. Cut your carottes in large cylinders. Cut 1 of your onions in large chunks, and the other onion in half, as you will burn this half cut onion in a pan later. Cut your potatoes in large chunks too.
Cut your 1.5 kg scoter beef into large chunks, roughly 4 x 4 x 4 cm.
Now put your two half onions face down into a pan, without oil, and burn them until their faces surface is black.
Put 3 liters of water into a large cooking pot.
In a hot pan place 2 tbsp. of rapeseed oil and caramelize your scoter beef meat such that the outside is crispy and inside soft and uncooked. Caramelizing the meat brings additional flavoring and juices to the final dish.
Pour your caramelized meat pieces into the cooking pot with the water. Deglaze the remaining juices in the hot pan by adding a little bit of water into the pan. This will allow the juices of the meat to become more concentrated and provide stronger flavoring in the final dish. Add these concentrated juices into the cooking pot.
Place your onions burnt on one face into the cooking pot mixture. This will bring colour to the mixture present in the cooking pot. Do not worry, it will not provide a burnt taste to the dish.
Add coarse salt to the cooking pot, and add your 3 sprigs of fresh thyme and 2 fresh bay leaves. Grind fresh pepper into the cooking pot mixture as well, to season.
Place the cooking pot above a low heat on the stove, and let it cook slowly for 2 hours.
After the 2 hours of cooking, use a spoon to remove some of the impurities laying above on the surface of the cooking pot mixture. Then add your cut vegetables into the cooking pot mixture (potatoes, onions, leek, turnips, and carotes).Add the 3 marrow bones into the cooking pot mixture too, and let the cooking pot mixture cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes above a low heat.
After the 1 hour and 30 minutes of cooking, your dish is ready to serve and eat. You can place it into a small bowl as displayed below:
4. La blanquette de veau
The exact origin (location and date) of the blanquette de veau is not obvious: Lyon region, Picardy, Burgundy, etc…
Indeed the recipe for veal blanquette was very quickly spread throughout France. However, it could have been a dish created in the Île-de-France region, and could have been invented by François Marin, author of a book of recipes in 1739.
In order to make a beautiful blanquette de veau for 6 people, the following list of ingredients must be used.
1 kg of veal shoulder
3 liters of water
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
3 cloves of garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
10 sprigs of fresh chives
300 g button mushrooms
1 tbsp. sunflower oil
200 ml of liquid cream
With these ingredients we can start the blanquette de veau!
If your veal shoulder is not pre cut, cut it in rather large chunks and place it directly into a large cooking pot with the 3 liters of water. The cooking pot should be above a medium high heat.
At the same time, prepare your vegetables by firstly starting to peel them. Peel your carottes, your onions, your garlic cloves. Cut your carottes into relatively large cylinders. Cut your onions in large chunks, and your leek into two 3 large pieces. Cutting the vegetables into large pieces will disable them from disintegrating during the cooking process.
Using a large spoon skim the surface of the water and veal shoulder meat mixture in the cooking pot to remove all the impurities which rose towards the surface whilst you were preparing your vegetables and the mixture was cooking in the pot at the same time.
Put all your cut vegetables in the cooking pot mixture with the 2 sprigs of fresh thyme and 1 fresh bay leaf. The mixture should not be boiling at any point, the heat must simply be moderately high.
Season with coarse salt, because there is lots of liquid, and the salt will forcefully dissolve. And season with freshly grinded pepper.
Squeeze a whole lemon worth of juice into the cooking pot mixture, to bring freshness and acidity to the overall dish.
Let the cooking pot mixture cook a good 1 hour and 30 minutes at moderately low fire.
Once the 1 hour and 30 minutes cooking time has passed, use a chinois to separate the liquid/juice of the mixture from the meat and vegetables. Do not throw away the liquid/juice of the mixture, drain it into a bowl.
Now we will start preparing a roux in order to thicken our sauce later on. Start by melting the 60g of butter in a medium heat pan. Once it has melted, progressively incorporate your 60g of flour using a whisk. Once the flour and butter has mixed completely, do not cook it more, otherwise the roux will turn brown. Once the flour and butter has mixed, incorporate half of the liquid/juices you extracted from the cooking pot mixture. Do this progressively, small quantities at a time. This will avoid solid chunks of sauce building up. The sauce will start to thicken, and once you have added all the juices extracted from the cooking pot, leave this sauce to rest.
Using the other half of the juices extracted from the cooking pot mixture, let it boil down in another pan, to concentrate the flavors.
Take your 300g of button mushrooms, cut their feet off, and cut their heads into 4 symmetrical pieces. In this recipe we will not use the foot of the mushrooms, however you can keep them for another dish.
Now, incorporate the juice which you boiled down into the roux sauce you prepared, to accentuate the flavor of meat more into the sauce. Whisk it together.
Now you will prepare a form of whipped cream to provide more volume and fluidity in the sauce. Start by pouring in a bowl 200 ml of liquid cream. Whisk the cream in the bowl for 5 minutes until it gains a thicker consistency, as displayed in the photo below:
Add a bit of lemon juice to tighten the cream.
Incorporate the whipped cream into the pan with the warm sauce, and season with a bit of salt. Keep it warm, but not boiling.
Prepare a pan by adding 1 tbsp. of sunflower oil and turning the heat high. Grill your cut mushrooms in this pan until the outside caramelizes.
Remove the veal meat pieces from the chinois and place them into the warm sauce as well as the caramelized mushrooms. Remove the large carrot pieces from the chinois and cut them into smaller pieces, then place them into the warm sauce.
To finish off, mince the 10 sprigs of fresh chives into the sauce mixture with the meat.
You can now serve this dish in a plate and eat it.
5. Le hachis parmentier
This dish - Le hachis parmentier - which appeared at the start of the 20th century, was named in honor of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737-1813), who popularized the potato in France, enabling his country to emerge from the famine and darkness cycles.
To commence the hachis parmentier we must make mashed potatoes.
To make mashed potatoes we will use the following ingredients:
1 kg of potatoes
200 ml of milk
200 g of butter
Mashed potatoes can be made simply and tastefully using the following recipe:
Preheat your oven to 200°C.
Use a container or metal tray that can go into the oven, and place a layer of salt above it. Place your 1 kg of potatoes on the salt in this container.
Place this container with the potatoes and salt into the oven for 1 hour if your potatoes are medium sized, or 1 hour and 30 minutes if they are large.
Once the potatoes have cooked in the oven, use a towel to grasp the potatoes and peel them. Do not rinse them, this will take away some of the roasted taste the potatoes acquired whilst being roasted in the oven.
Once peeled, place your potatoes into a bowl and squeeze them using a fork. Season with a pinch of salt.
Add the 200 g of butter into the mashed potatoes, and progressively add the 200ml of milk into the mashed potatoes bowl. Mix to incorporate all elements in the bowl.
To ensure the mashed potatoes are warm, reheat it in a pan.
Now that the mashed potatoes are prepared, we can start focusing on the secondary part of the hachis parmentier:
The ingredients for the hachis parmentier for 2 people are listed below:
5 garlic cloves
1 tbsp. sunflower oil
800 g of minced beef
200 ml beef stock or water
5 sprigs of fresh parsley
5 sprigs of fresh tarragon
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
Using these ingredients you can now start preparing the hachis parmentier!
Prepare your 2 onions and 5 garlic cloves by peeling both. Cut the garlic cloves into 2. Squash your garlic cloves using the side of a knife. Mince the garlic into fine pieces. Mince your onions into fine pieces.
Add 1 tbsp. of sunflower oil into a pan and add 10 g of butter too, and a medium heat below the pan. The mixture should not burn. Then, add the finely minced garlic into the pan. And then add the minced onions all whilst maintaining a medium to high fire beneath the pan.
Then add the 800g of minced beef into the pan. Since there is a large quantity of minced beef, turn the heat of the pan to a maximum to really gril the meat and the onions, and evaporate the water present in the vegetables and meat. And do not forget to season with freshly grinded pepper and salt. Continually mix the meat during the cooking process for 6 to 10 more minutes.
During this time you can start to mince the 5 sprigs of fresh parsley. Add this minced parsley right before the meat is cooked. This will help to keep the fresh flavor of the parsley before it disintegrates too much into the mixture. Once the parsley is added, remove the pan from the fire.
Taste the meat, and rectify the seasoning if needed.
Before setting the meat mixture and potatoes into a heat proof container, preheat your oven to 220°C on the grill mode.
Now, add your meat mixture from the pan into the bottom of a heat proof container as shown in the photo here:
Now add the mashed potatoes above the meat mixture until it reaches the top of the heat proof container and covers the whole surface of the meat.
Add your 60 g of breadcrumbs on top of the mashed potatoes to provide it extra texture and crispiness.
Place the heat proof container with its contents inside the oven at 220°C for 10 minutes.
Once the 10 minutes is over, take out the heat proof container from the oven, and your hachis parmentier is ready to eat.
Le bœuf bourguignon:
La blanquette de veau:
Le hachis parmentier: