The problem with having drawn France in the World Cup Food Challenge is deciding what to cook. Some of the countries taking part in the world cup have a limited culinary history. When looking up dishes for Honduras I came across Carne Asada on four or five separate searches, the decision was made for me. The French though have more iconic dishes in their culinary canon to lay siege on most of the rest of Europe, never mind the rest of the world.
Choosing Confit de Canard as my first dish was a no brainer. I'd been looking for an excuse to cook it for ages. Assuming that France would get out of Group E I had already been looking for inspiration for Tonight's Menu. I originally thought that tonight would be the night that I knowingly tried horse for the first time. Since horsegate I have been looking for an excuse to cook an equine supper and as the French love cheval I decided to give it a go.
I asked my butcher if he could source me some horse and sure enough he said that he could. I'd decided that I wanted to cook Daube de Chevaline, a slow cooked stew that required some shoulder meat. This was available but once you added on delivery to the butchers it was close to £25 for a couple of pounds of meat. Horse was off the menu. Next on my hit list was Blanquette de Veau, but sadly the time consumed in a fruitless horse chase ate up all of my veal ordering time too.
Having tried and failed to get hold of the ingredients for two classic and refined dishes I decided to go a bit more rustic and cook Choucroute Garni. This mountain of a meal has a place in the folk lore of Z's family. Holidays to France weren't complete without a table bursting pile of sauerkraut festooned with various sausages, hams and pork.
My choucroute has a base of cabbage braised in white wine with onions, bacon, celery, caraway, mustard seeds, and juniper berries. This was served with a Toulouse style sausage, belly pork and a joint of cured pork collar that were cooked separately and then added to the choucroute to warm through before serving. I also cooked a load of new potatoes but there wasn't enough space on the serving plate to include them in the photograph.
I'll be honest, as meals for two people go this was excessive. We managed to eat half of the collar, one of the belly pork slices and a third of the sausage. There is plenty of cabbage and potatoes left too. The collar will be part of some pea and ham soup. The sausage will appear on sandwiches and pizza later on this week. The rest will become soup-croute.
In case you are wondering, the stork garnish is one of Z's strongest memories of the holidays. She and her brother used to collect them. She now thinks that they were just put on every kids meal not just the choucroute, but we couldn't resist having one for old times sake.