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Best French Christmas Recipes From Provence

Patty collects recipes and gadgets from the past and is particularly interested in early American history and all Indigenous Peoples.

Lavender fields are a common sight in Provence

Lavender fields are a common sight in Provence

French Traditions of Christmas Past

Although my heritage contains some French ancestry, I never experienced French cuisine until after college. When I first encountered a French dish, I did not even know what it was. Slowly, I became familiar with French food and liked much of it, even snails occasionally.

When it comes to Christmas dishes, France has a rich tradition. In some parts of France, particularly in Provence, a large meal is enjoyed after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. This tradition is not upheld as frequently as it once was, but it is still observed in Provence. It includes seven full courses plus 13 different desserts.

First, the long table is set with different tablecloths in layers to represent the Holy Trinity. The table is laden with each separate course, all of which are vegetarian and eschew meat, according to Catholic tradition,

The number seven represents the number of days it took to create the universe and the number 13 is explained by the 13 days of Christmas in Provence.

The Christmas Eve gros souper (big supper) of Provence contains is a lot of food and requires a significant amount of time to prepare—as well as eat.

All this aside, I have discovered some delicious recipes for the Christmas season from French culinary traditions and will share some of them with you here.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cauliflower Provençal

Cauliflower is delicious and is high in vitamin C and potassium.

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped coarsely
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Clean, break apart, and steam the cauliflower for 9 to 10 minutes until tender-crisp.
  2. In a large pan on the stovetop, combine the red bell pepper, tomatoes, and stock.
  3. Stir and bring the vegetables to the boil over moderate heat.
  4. Cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until peppers are tender-crisp.
  5. Add in the steamed cauliflower pieces and the sliced olives, tossing to coat evenly. Cover pan again and cook 2 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Christmas Meat Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 large potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup diced carrots
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 pastry crusts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Boil the potatoes in water until soft, then drain and mash, then set aside for now.
  3. Brown the beef and pork in a skillet together and drain excess fat.
  4. To the skillet, add in the next 6 ingredients.
  5. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, stir, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  6. Pull out the bay leaf and stir in the mashed potatoes.
  7. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  8. Roll half of the pie pastry into a 12-inch circle and lay into in 9 inch pie pan.
  9. Fill the pastry with the meat mixture.
  10. Roll out the other half of the pie pastry and top meat mixture and seal/flute the rim of the crust.
  11. Place several slits around the top of crust to release pressure.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes and serve.

Yield: 6 servings. Can be made ahead of time and frozen.

Chestnuts

Chestnuts

Christmas Chestnut Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound chestnuts, crushed (store-bought chestnut puree)
  • 7 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 8 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 6 egg whites, beaten stiff
  • Pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Crush the chestnuts and add them to the butter and vanilla in a mixing bowl.
  3. Mix well and slowly add in the cream a little at a time and mixing well.
  4. Add in the egg yolks and stir.
  5. Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites and do not overmix.
  6. Pour into a baking mold or baking pan.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes and remove from oven and cool.
  8. Turn the pudding out onto a serving platter and cover with your favorite chocolate sauce before serving.
Yule log

Yule log

French Yule Log: La Bûche de Noël

In some parts of the world, the yule log is called more simply the chocolate Christmas log. It is a chocolate cake that celebrants prepare and enjoy during the Christmas season in France and other parts of the world. Some French cooks have even come up with a shortcut recipe that uses cookies to save time; however, I will present both recipes here for your pleasure.

Shortcut Yule Log (Made With Cookies)

Ingredients

  • 18 sugar cookies
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cocoa
  • 8 oz. heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
  • Colored sugars for decorating, or icings in a tube

Instructions

  1. Pour the heavy cream, sugar, and cocoa into the bowl.
  2. Whisk cream until just stiff enough to stand up in peaks. Using about half of the prepared chocolate cream, spread the whipped cream onto the cookies and sandwich them together to form a long roll.
  3. Wrap the roll of cream and biscuits up in some aluminum foil and close up the ends.
  4. Place the yule log into the refrigerator to set for 12 to 24 hours; cover and save the other half of the cream there as well.
  5. Carefully unwrap the roll the next day and place the roll onto the plate and cover it with the rest of the cream.
  6. Draw the fork tines across the cream to make the cream look like bark.
  7. Sprinkle it with colored sugar and form snow and holly on top and cut servings between the cookies.

Traditional French Yule Log Recipe

Some sources describe this delicacy as a "chocolate jelly roll", but it is actually a few steps above that description.

Ingredients

  • For the cake: 2/3 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 4 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 3 squares baking chocolate, 2 tablespoons water.
  • For the filling: 1 cup whipping cream; 2 tablespoons ground chestnuts or chestnut puree (traditional, but optional); 2 tablespoons powdered sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (your choice).
  • For the frosting: 1/3 cup butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup powdered cocoa, 2 tablespoons milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter a 15” x 10” jellyroll pan (or a shallow baking pan or a deep-sided cookie sheet, and line it with waxed paper. Also butter the top of the waxed paper. If you use a cookie pan, make sure it is large enough so that the cake will be thin enough to roll up.
  3. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, soda, and salt.
  4. Beat eggs until fluffy and light yellow. Bit by bit, add the sugar to the eggs and beat well.
  5. Melt the chocolate and water in a pan over medium heat and add this to the egg mixture.
  6. Fold in all the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix carefully.
  7. Spread the batter evenly into the pan and bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until cake is springy.
  8. Remove from oven and turn it out onto a clean tea towel sprinkled with powdered sugar.
  9. Remove the waxed paper, and trim edges of cake that are too crsipy.
  10. Starting at the narrow end of the jellyroll pan, or carefully at either end of the other pan, roll up the cake and towel together and set aside to cool with the towel inside.
  11. Make the filling: Whip cream to soft peaks and stir in powdered sugar and vanilla or almond extract until stiff.
  12. Unroll the cake and spread filling on top of cake.
  13. Roll up the cake again without the towel.
  14. Cut a thin slice off each end of the roll to place on top as “bumps on the log.”
  15. Make the frosting: Set butter on the counter and warm up to room temperature and combine all ingredients. Beat until smooth.
  16. Use the cut off ends to make "bumps on the log" and glue them on with frosting.
  17. Frost the entire surface of the cake, ends, and bumps.
  18. Draw the tines of a fork across the surface to symbolize tree bark.
  19. Sprinkle powdered sugar over all to represent snow and decorate with Christmas holly and a bow or create them with fondant, if you like, and refrigerate.

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

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