Tales from a One Handed Chef

Parisian Style Bistro: What’s the Fuss About?   Chef Shawn Kretz turns in his latest column typing with only one hand!

What makes a Parisian style French Bistro different than a Bistro in Lyons, Strasbourg, or Dijon?

Well, for the most part a Parisian Bistro will draw the best from all of France’s 22 regions (including Corsica) (see  map).


Regional French cuisine is as varied as the cultural traditions and backgrounds in each.   Although I am of Germanic descent, my Family hails from Alsace, and nearby northern cantons of Switzerland.  Traditions and familiar meals are far different than those found along the French Riviera or Bordeaux for example.

These factors can be attributed to preferences had by specific cultural groups as well as climate and soil conditions.

It is no coincidence that France’s most popular national dishes also corresponds to its most successful wine growing regions.  Each region’s dishes are as varied as the ingredients available in each region; , ie .Cheeses, etc.

France’s most recognizable regional cuisines are those of Alsace, Burgundy, Provence, Languedoc/Midi, Normandy and the Pays Basque(Aquitaine).   At Chez Nous you will see dishes from all over France.

Influence from surrounding regions and countries is evident in the character of border regions. ie. Germany with Alsace, Italy with Provence, Spain with Aquitaine, etc.   Each region also is varied in its seasonality, for example, Burgundy has rich and hearty stews in the winter offset by lighter, vegetable, grilled meat and poultry based dishes in the summer.

Proximity to perrenial fish stocks is also an important consideration.   Hence why the southern regions of Provence and Languedoc rely heavily on seafood, as well as other warm climate ingredients; whereas meat and hearty vegetables have a more important role in northern regions such as Alsace and Normandy.
Some regions are better known for dishes from certain seasons.  Cassoulet is popular in the fall/winter in Midi/Languedoc, Boeuf Bourguignonne in Burgundy in the winter, and Ratatouille in Provence in the Summer.  One of my perennial family favorites is Choucroute Garni, for which I will provide the following recipe.

Choucroute Garni: 4 Portions

1 lb good quality Saurkraut (preferably homemade,but Food Basics carries a nice German variety)
4 Bratwurst (PC garlic brats at Baxtroms)
3 Strips of bacon cut into thin 1″x 1/4″ wide strips (lardons)
1 small onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt to taste

To accompany your favourite potato side dish (I recommend scalloped potatoes or rich creamy mashed.  I also enjoy a wild mushroom ragout with this dish.)

Start with a hot sauce pan.

Sweat the bacon an onions until softened but not coloured (about 5 min on medium heat).

Add the garlic and contents of the can or bag of sauerkraut.

Add your sausages and cover with kraut, and a lid. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until  the sausages are cooked through.

Check the seasoning of the kraut and serve each person a helping of kraut along with their sausage.

I recommend eating this dish with an appropriate Alsatian wine (Reisling, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Muscat, or an Edelzwicker).

German wines will also suffice, make sure there is enough acid in it to stand up to the kraut. You may even get away with an Alsatian Pinot Noir. Bon appetit!

Copyright: C. Shawn Kretz

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