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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Faith Cakes

Cooking "local" comes naturally to me anywhere in the world I seem to be experiencing in my brain except for the actual physical location I can be found in.. here, in Lyon, France.  Maybe it's because I wasn't born here and all my guests were, which usually steers me clear of this type of cooking for company.  Maybe it's because I rarely get off on food lacking either heat or spice.
I'm not saying I don't like French food.  I'm lucky to live in a country with so much culinary culture in the air.  With the largest choice of incredible cheeses, the most elaborate pastries, the finest vineyards, and knowledge of gastronomy (or at least the big names of the field) being just as common here as we in the US would find it normal to see the American flag sported on any house, I really don't have much to complain about.
It's just that since it's all around and all almost expected, I'm just never motivated enough to cook "French" food for guests.  I'll do some of my mother or grandmothers recipes out of nostalgia from time to time, but I'm pretty sure nobody expects to eat anything typically French when coming to my home.
I imagine it's because they already eat it everyday (even if the tough reality is that less and less French people actually like to cook or know how or claim to have enough time for it) so I'd rather help them discover something different and break that stereotype that  "French cuisine is the best in the world."
You can't name any culture as the best in the world.  Each culture has its stars and its losers.  Each person has his or her individual criteria as to what tastes good or not.. which texture is pleasing or nauseating...whether mold is a food group or garbage.  
I tend to be very open (I actually can't wait to have the opportunity to eat a grilled scorpion), but the majority of the local population is not naturally open.  With some coaxing, they can be.. which is the case of the people that get invited to my dinner parties (or invite me to theirs)!
What is strange is that when I lived in the US, I would make typically French dishes all the time.  I would make Escalopes Normandes, Coq au Vin, Tomates Farcies, Boeuf Bournignon, etc all the time.  I haven't made any of those items while living in Lyon... ever.  The only recurrent French thing in my kitchen is Quiche, but I never make it the traditional "Lorraine" way.
It's a geolocalisation thing I'm sure.
So why with this monologue am I presenting you a traditional Lyonnaise recipe, Lyon, being my physical host location for just over 3 years, the longest I've ever lived anywhere other than my hometown?
Well, this week, I bought a, near Lyon.  For the first time since leaving Cali, I feel at home in this strange country so far from my real home.  Since leaving the family nest, I'd never spent more than 2 years in one place.  I never really knew which city or state I wanted to be in.. let alone the country.  With all the short term contracts I've done, I never really knew if I'd ever have a permanent position.  I always thought I'd need an emergency exit back to the states, and being a renter gave me the possibility of making a split second decision.  I didn't change my mind all by myself.  I was given several reasons as to why I should take this step, and all of them made complete sense.  They always have.  Nothing has really changed in terms of reasons to buy vs to rent.
What has changed is that I no longer need that psychological escape route.  I am comfortable being a borderline French sister to my brother and "l'Americaine girl (sans s)" to my coworkers.  I love my job and it seems to appreciate me as well.  I love the new friends and activities I do here.  I love the scenery, the outskirts of a big city giving me access to most ingredients I need without having to go on an expedition but still having the river to hike up at my doorstep.  Lyon may not be THE perfect place in the world to live, but as long as I am here, it is for me.  The fact is, once you figure out you can be happy anywhere, everywhere is the perfect place, which removes that dependence on slipping through the back door.
I named this recipe Faith Cakes, but they're really more like Faith Souflées.  In Lyon, they are called Gateaux de Fois and are usually done in a rectangular cake pan instead of muffin tins.. but I only have muffin tins.
Faith Cakes, because I know I made the right choice, and I know I will continue to thrive while living here.
Foies are livers, for this recipe is a Chicken Liver Souflée, but Foi also means Faith.  The fact that French is a language rich in grammar but poor in vocabulary makes for excellent plays on words.
I'm kidding about the vocab, but I like to bust that out every now and then.  They tend to spend the majority of their word count figuring out how to say something instead of just saying it!
Ah la France.
The photo is hideous, and I apologize for that, but my intro should make up for it.
Yield 11-12 muffin sized soufflées
250g (8.8oz) chicken livers, chopped (I used turkey livers)
3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp chopped chives
13cL (1/2 cup) béchamel (I used heavy cream)
lots of ground black pepper
few pinches fleur de sel
buttered and floured muffin tins or cake mould
1.  Mix the chicken livers in a food processor with the egg yolks, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper.  The mixture should be homogenous.  Then add the cream and blend into a goopy liquid.
2.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.  Use an electric beater.  It is much easier.  In French this step is called battre les oeufs en neige, which translates to "beat the egg whites into snow" which is a more romantic portrayal than the English version.
3.  Fold the snowy egg whites into the chicken liver mixture gently.  Don't go nuts, you want the snow to hold its form.. which qualifies this as a soufflée.
4.  Distribute the mixture into your buttered and floured cake mould or muffin tins.
5.  Bake in a 170°C 340°F for 20 minutes if using muffin tins and 40 minutes if using a cake mould.
6.  Remove and let rest 10 minutes before removing from the moulds, then plate and top with chopped chives.

Serve hot or warm as an appetizer or dressed with a tomato sauce and salad as a main course.
I didn't make the tomato sauce because I only had 40 minutes to make something before bringing it to the dinner party I was invited to.

The texture is very fluffy, as a souflée usually is.  The earthy liver flavor isn't too overwhelming, it's actually just perfect.
I cut these into slices and served with slices of cooked beets and pieces of sucrine lettuce.  It was a test, but it's probably the only local dish I would make again, so I'm hanging on to this one!

p.s:  The only other Lyonnaise dish I would try to make is Quenelles de Brochet... the rest is not for me..

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