Sure Moira Martingale, the doyenne of the French House Party, wants her guests to relax. Yes the conversation among the international gathering of participants is often scintillating. Yet when you’ve just prepped your pigeon and are reaching for the brandy to marinate, neither hand is on a notebook or adjusting the voice recorder – the pigeon rules.
As a travel journalist I like capturing the thoughts of others to illuminate articles. Yet as a chef, the pigeon held my full attention.
French House Party culinary workshops are not cooking demonstrations. They are hands-on learning experiences working alongside award winning chefs. The multi-course lunches and dinners guests enjoy are the dishes they are preparing.
Moira Martingale, British novelist, transformed her eight-bedroom en suite villa, Domaine St. Raymond, outside the UNESCO World Heritage City of Carcassonne into the French House Party over a decade ago. Small group workshops (approximately 10 guests) are offered in singing/songwriting, creative writing and the culinary arts. The experience is all-inclusive with the workshop fee covering room, meals, wine, snacks, excursions and the villa’s facilities that make this a five star party (pool, tennis, bike riding…ask Moira.)
The pigeon is still in my hand. There are seven procedures in creating Chef Robert Abraham’s Young Lauragais pigeon with sweet clover, confit of shallots, carrots and honey. It was worth every time-consuming step and even better when paired with a Domaine Le Fort Malepere.
Yet despite popular assumptions, French cuisine is rarely as complex as the pigeon. French recipes do not all ooze with butter and cream. They’re light, fresh with an emphasis on taste, texture and presentation.
Whereas it may not be easy to find pigeon in the local market, smoked haddock is in many fish markets or, as a last resort, in the refrigerated packaged fish section of larger supermarkets. If time does not allow for making the fresh buns, a good quality bakery will have a selection of soft buns – do not use a hard roll.
Chef Robert Abraham’s Smoked Haddock Burger with lime cream
A light, savory alternative on a warm summer day.
Ingredients for 6 servings:
- 400 gr (14 ounces) bread flour
- 1 egg
- 20 gr (4 teaspoons) sugar
- 7 gr (1 teaspoon) salt
- 25 cl (8 ounces) warm milk (43°C/110°F)
- 12 gr. (1¾ package) active dry yeast
- 40 gr (3 tablespoons) soft unsalted butter
- golden or black sesame seeds
- Warm the milk, remove from heat and add the yeast.
- In a mixing bowl slowly blend the flour, sugar, egg and salt. (Either use a mixer with a dough hook or stir by hand)
- Add the milk/yeast mixture and the soft butter slightly increasing mixer’s speed (or stir harder).
- Knead the dough in the mixer for approximately 5 minutes, or remove to a lightly floured board and knead by hand. Either method the dough should be smooth and springs back when lightly indented by a finger.
- Cover the bowl with a slightly damp cloth and allow it to rise for 50 to 60 minutes.
- Weigh out balls of dough: 50gr/2 ounces for small rolls, 90gr/3 ounces for large.
- Place on a baking sheet and cover with a cloth. Allow to rise 60 minutes. Brush lightly with an egg wash (1 egg white/1 teaspoon water beaten) and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Place a pan of hot water on the bottom rack of a preheated oven and the baking sheet on the middle rack. Bake at 180°C/350°F for 10 – 15 minutes until golden brown.
- 4 shallots
- 10 cl (3 ounces) white wine
- 5 cl (1½ ounces) apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Peal and chop the shallots.
- Place in a saucepan with all the ingredients.
- Cook on low heat stirring occasionally until nearly all liquid is evaporated.
- Zest from 2 limes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 25 cl (8 ounces) heavy whipping cream
- Heat the cream with the lime zest and salt until cream just begins to steam.
- Turn off heat and infuse for 30 minutes. Chill in refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes.
- If you are familiar with a siphon, add the strained cream and follow directions. If not familiar with a siphon, whip the chilled cream with a beater until soft peaks form just before serving the burgers.
- 400 – 450 gr (14 – 16 ounces) smoked haddock fillet
- 25 cl (8 ounces) milk
- handful of mixed fresh herbs – dill, parsley, basil, lemon thyme
- Using a fish fillet knife – and I’d recommend gloves if not used to slicing potentially slippery fish – thinly slice wide haddock no larger than a couple inches in size.
- Heat the milk with the herbs until steaming. Add the haddock, reduce heat and gently poach for 10 minutes. Drain.
- Cut the rolls in half, lightly brush with extra virgin olive oil, return to baking sheet and heat for 5 minutes.
- Place a roll on a plate and spread with a little lime cream, a dap of shallot confit, some haddock slices, more lime cream and then top with the bun.
- You may garnish with baby greens, drizzle of oil, sprinkle of sea salt and a dab of lime cream.
There are several steps, but the buns can be made earlier in the day or store bought. The confit and the lime cream could be made a day in advance, just do not whip the cream until ready to assemble the burgers. The haddock can also be prepared a day in advance, arranged on plastic wrap in single layers and refrigerated.
At the French House Party creativity not time is of the essence. With two 3-hour workshops sandwiching a delicious lunch, the pool is inviting at the end of the day. A relaxing multi course dinner that you worked on will top the evening with scintillating conversation, laughter and remind you that, yes, you are a guest at a French House Party.
When you go:
The 2018 schedule of the French House Party runs from May 5 through October 1.
The French House Party, Domaine St. Raymond, is less than 50 miles (77 km) southeast from the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport and the rail station Gare de Toulouse-Matabiau. The Gare de Carcassonne is 16 miles (27 km) west. Transportation is provided for guests arriving by air or train from either Toulouse or Carcassonne to Domaine St. Raymond.
Moira Martingale, French House Party, Domaine St. Raymond, 11150 Pexiora, Languedoc, France.
Tel: +33 4 68 94 98 16
The French House Party: http://www.frenchhouseparty.eu/
Course dates: http://www.frenchhouseparty.eu/how-to-book/course-dates/
Disclaimer: the author was a guest of the French House Party for three separate workshops – Song Writing with Dean Friedman and two Gourmet Explorer courses.
Recent French House Party articles by Marc d’Entremont
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