Thursday, February 18, 2010

-flettes of varying degrees

So the other day, my brother in law was making dinner with my niece.  I noticed a boiling pot of water on the stove, and in it were a lot of little squares of pasta.  I had never seen it before, and I did remember that it was being discussed the other night, when discussing this as dinner.  As with most other French meals to which I have been a party, there was also various pork products and of course cheese.  It was pretty damn good looking overall, and I briefly discussed a couple of language points, but well, my interest in food, got the better of me. 

So of course, I asked what it was called.  Croziflette.  So I have no idea what that means, but it's one of two dishes that end in -flette that I know of.  The other being Tartiflette.  It's good, and gets its flavor predominantly from the cheese you use in it, Reblochon.  It's potatoes, cheese, and some kind of meat.  It's a lot like what we would call a skillet in the US, so called because they are cooked in a skillet.  I always did wonder why my partner always got the same thing when we would go to the breakfast place down the street.  After a few weeks in France, I understood why. 

We'll start first with the pasta.  They are known as crozet au sarrasin.  When I asked about the last word in that expression, yes, all of the medieval history buffs' eyebrows should be shooting up, it was confirmed that it's the English word, Saracen.  For those who don't know, Saracen is an old word for any Muslim, but it more precisely refers to members of the nomadic tribes on the Syrian border of the Roman Empire.  I think it's most likely because of the nature of the pasta.  It is made from rye flower, and I have been told, similar to couscous in make up.  Either way, I was totally ready to eat it.  So that worked. 

Now as I said, it's similar to a skillet, an to the average American, it means meat.  There was one breakfast skillet I used to get in particular that had a variety of meats in it.  And it was paradise.  Much like the American one, -flette at the end of a dish seems to mean pork products.  Of course, being that I think I have discussed it ad nauseum, it usually means lardons.  Lardons are these tiny little cut up pieces of thick bacon.  They are poetry.  There was also ham.  Big strips of ham.  It's wonderful.  I was hoping they would be latticed like a covering for a pie, but it was not in the stars.

Of course, what skillet would be complete without cheese?  Americans are not adventurous when it comes to cheese typically.  There are people who can stomach strong cheeses, but well, most Americans are just fine with cheddar, or its exotic cousin, Swiss.  French people normally put Swiss cheese on everything.  However, if you have ever been to France, it becomes obvious that Emmenthaler cheese is not exotic, like it is to Americans.  Emmenthaler is sold in bags like how we sell cheddar or mozzarella, or when they decide to get general and just call it Mexican cheese, or my personal favorite, pizza cheese. 

No, the cheese used this night was the stuff that you find in a case across from the deli that costs about ten dollars for 3 inches.  First, there was gouda, and another whose name escapes me.  it was poetic though. And as I mentioned earlier, reblochon.  Reblochon is one of those cheeses that you couldn't even buy in the case in the supermarket in the US.  Reblochon, like Raclette, is one of those cheeses you have to buy at the whole food store or a specialty cheese store. 

Reblochon is a cheese that is naturally a little melty, like Brie or Camembert.  It has a bizarre taste alone, and complements starches and carbs really well.  It comes from cow's milk, so it's not anything too out there, to let you know.  It comes from a verb meaning "to pinch the udder twice."  This was done because the owners of the herds were charged by how much milk their herds produced.  Holding the milk back was advantageous for two reasons.  First, it meant that the owners of the herds paid less in taxes, and the resulting milk taken after was richer.  As a writer's note, if you cut it and leave it on a plate, it will stick like hell.  Just a friendly warning.

So after that triumph, there was the mixture of onions, shallots, and spices.  Everything came together a lot like lasagna.  It was about three or four layers, and then cooked in the oven for something like 20 minutes.  When it came out, it was beautifully crisp on top.  I am a huge fan of crispness, which is demonstrated by the copious amounts of breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and cheese that I believe is compulsory for good macaroni and cheese. 

So if you see something that ends in -flette, it will most likely involve carbs/starch, lots of cheese, lardons/ham, and onions.

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