Something that i’ve always wanted to do is cook abroad. I love restaurants and street food but to pass up the cracking selection of ingredients in the markets around Europe is just crazy. While in Colmar we were staying at the Appart’hôtel Odalys La Rose d’Argent which houses a kitchen facility in every room – seems a shame not to take advantage.
Thing is though, out of all the French recipes that I had going around in my head, what do I make? I was thinking through the traditional Alsatian food that we’d tried already but there was no chance of Choucroute Garnie from absolute scratch – even though you can purchase large jars of Choucroute ready prepared.
I decided to let the ingredients available on the day dictate the menu. Down at the Le Marche Couvert there’s some wonderful dairy stalls selling various types of butter, creme fraiche and double cream. I picked up some butter and also Creme Florette ‘Epaisse’ which is the French equivalent to our double cream. I’d need the cream for a later recipe.
Goats cheese (also from the dairy stall) was another addition to the basket as a salad idea came into my head – probably as a result of all the rich food so far on the trip! Some really good delicatessen Coppa di Parma I thought would be ideal in the salad, so in that went.
Other ingredients I managed to get from the supermarket just across from the hotel. Salad leaves, stock cubes, herbs, honey and baguette plus some other items for later. I felt an adrenaline rush as I fired up the stove in the apartment in preparation for my first attempt at cooking on foreign soil.
One thing about the induction stoves in apartments is that they take AGES to get red-hot. Probably best not to make plans to sear any steaks – or indeed, anything that’s going to produce a large amount of smoke. With the fire alarm above me threatening to let the whole hotel know that I was cooking, I nervously continued.
I whacked a knob of butter in the large pan while it was heating up and let it melt. This was handy as I planned to make a salad dressing from the butter, honey and some thyme. It is an untried combo but in the absence of my good friend olive oil, it was all I had. Once the butter had melted, I placed it into a saucepan on a low heat along with a tablespoon of honey and some thyme leaves.
Into the now increasingly hot pan, I added another large whack of butter. Cutting baguettes at an angle, I made some large croutons. Straight into the pan, soaking up the butter and frying until golden brown should give you nice crispy, rich croutons. This took around 10 minutes.
Now it’s pretty much an assembly job. Take the salad leaves and dress them in a little of the honey and butter dressing. Place the croutons onto the plates and top with the salad. Dot the salad leaves with crumbled goats cheese, add the ham and finally glaze with the remaining dressing. Viola!
I’ve got to say, despite having a limited larder and a small cooking area, this was absolutely incredible. Simple to make but when you’ve got such good ingredients to play with, you almost can’t fail. The baguette was rich and buttery underneath the crisp salad. The goats cheese and ham were just perfect along with that sweet, buttery dressing – I was so impressed that this idea came off, butter could be my new go-to salad dressing choice.
I really hope that you make this at home, it makes a great lunch – or in my case, a great starter. Washed down with a glass of Alsace Riesling, it’s exactly what you come to this part of France for, here are the ingredients and quantities in full:
1 Baguette, sliced on an angle to make croutons
2 Small, or 1 Large Soft Goats Cheese
70-100g Coppa di Parma, or Parma Ham
Salad Leaves, such as Frisee, to garnish
2 tbsp Honey
1 Sprig of Thyme