It’s almost criminal that we didn’t get to France until our 5th Delicacies Box, given how much French food and cooking has influenced global tastes over the years.
The truth is, French food is not where I tend to explicitly gravitate (frankly, I’ve got fewer “French” cookbooks than I do cookbooks written by Yotam Ottolenghi), but the influence of the flavors and techniques of French cooking are liberally dispersed across the way I cook. “New American” is hugely French-inspired, and of course so much of what “fancy” food has been for centuries is about French techniques and flavors.
So with that said, I’m really excited about the France Box I’ve put together – it’s a mix of “new” and “old” world versions of traditional ingredients made deliciously that can be put to very traditional uses (cassoulet!) and also adapted pretty endlessly. I hope you enjoy cooking with these as much as I have so far. Here’s what’s in the box:
- Boonville Barn Collective Piment d’Ville
- Gilles Hervy Fleur De Sel
- Rancho Gordo Cassoulet Bean
- Burlap and Barrel wild hyssop thyme
- KL Keller Banyuls Mustard
- V Smiley Lavender, Blackberry, Rhubarb Preserves
Boonville Barn Collective Piment D’ville
Espelette Pepper is a staple of French Basque cooking, and the Boonville Barn Collective in California is growing a truly delicious version of the same pepper. They can’t call it “Espelette,” since it’s a controlled appellation from a specific place, but it’s grown expertly from seeds of the same plant.
Use in place of black pepper with incredible results, or as an ingredient for deep flavor across a variety of dishes. There’s a recipe in the box for a delicious chile cream sauce, and I’ve been using this pepper liberally as a base seasoning in soups, stews, sauces, and dressings.
KL Keller Banyuls Mustard
Like a more interesting version of Dijon, this mustard contains Banyuls vinegar, a prized ingredient in restaurant kitchens, barrel-aged for 6 years. And, importantly, it includes just what should be in mustard – high-quality seeds, salt, and amazing vinegar, with no additives that would detract from the flavor.
This mustard is produced for KL Keller, an importer who pioneered Banyuls vinegar in the US.
I made a simple vinaigrette recently with just the mustard, garlic olive oil, thyme, sea salt, and lemon juice, I’ve been putting it on sandwiches, and used as a rub for roast duck.
Burlap and Barrel Flowering Hyssop Thyme
Thyme is a base herb across many different cuisines, and few herbs evoke southern France for me more than thyme (perhaps only lavender comes close).
Burlap and Barrel’s Flowering Hyssop Thyme is an incredibly aromatic version of this herb that grows so well across the Mediterranean.
A key part of many French seasoning blends, use this thyme as you would any other, especially in rubs, sauces, and soups. It will play in the Cassoulet I discuss below, works as the main herb in salad dressings, or can go far beyond that.
Rancho Gordo Cassoulet (Tarpais) Beans
What could be more French than cassoulet? These beans are grown in California from French, Tarpais bean stock – the traditional white bean most prized for cassoulet.
But, what cassoulet to make? In reviewing my Robuchon book and some other recipes, there’s truly an amazing amount of meat required in a traditional preparation, but wow, the results can be amazing. For the Robuchon recipe, check out this blog post.
And here’s a Smitten Kitchen recipe for a leaner, vegetarian version (though she does at some sausage).
Large, white, and creamy, you can also use this bean for many other preparations; as a pot bean, for a white bean soup, or as a hummus-like dip, blended with oil, citrus, garlic, and tahini. Check out "How to Cook: Beans" for more.
M. Gilles Hervy Fleur de Sel
Harvested from sea foam in Brittany, this delicate fleur de sel lends a delicious, briny finish to any dish.
Use as a finishing salt on meat, fish, or vegetables, on a salad, or just on some bread and butter. Hard to beat.
V Smiley Preserves Lavender Blackberry Rhubarb Jam
What could be more Provencal than Lavender and Blackberry? V Smiley Preserves in Vermont makes delicious, imaginative preserves that Ben can’t wait for you to try.
Use simply on toast, with cheese, or on roast pork.