24 October 2010

France, Gluten Free

This is the shot that got me in trouble at Laduree on the Champs Elysee in Paris last July.  I was told (not so politely) that photos were not allowed.  In my defense,  I couldn't resist trying to capture the incredible beauty of all those naturally gluten free cookies.  I only wish I could have captured the aroma of freshly baked macaroons.  Needless to say, we bought a box...and then came back a few days later for another and had brunch there. It was Bastille Day and the parade was over, but the crowds were still there and it was raining, so we ducked into Laduree and had omelettes and tea and dessert, all totally gluten free and made to perfection.

I've been to France before and had very little trouble eating gluten free and am always surprised to hear when people are panicked over the prospect.  I spent about ten days there this past July, five days in Paris while my husband was there on business and several more in Brittany with my Aunt at her vacation home. I am not as sensitive to minor cross contamination, so I lived a bit dangerously and did not worry about eating the fries and just tried to stick to sauces that were wine reduction to avoid flour. Here are some of the highlights:

Dessert at La Fontaine de Mars (where President Obama ate on his trip to Paris, near the Eiffel Tower)

Chocolate Mousse and Berries with Pistachio Cream

Dinner at Willie’s Wine Bar (near the Palais Royale), where you can give them a list of your food intolerances and they will find the closest fit with their menu and then make substitutions.

Leek soup, beef with herbs and olive oil, Hazelnut Panna Cotta

Dinner with my Aunt: pork chops in cream and lemon thyme pound cake (which I made with almond meal and gluten free all purpose flour.

Pork Chops with Mushrooms. Lemon Thyme Pound Cake

Lemon Thyme Pound Cake
for cake:
200 g salted butter
200 g caster sugar
100 g all-purpose flour (or GF all-purpose flour)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
100 g ground almonds (almond meal)
4 large eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. thyme leaves

for syrup:
4 T sugar
juice from 2 large lemons
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
loaf pan lined with parchment (I used a quiche pan)

Preheat oven to 325° F
Cream butter with sugar until pale and fluffy.
Sift flour and baking powder and add almonds.
Lightly beat eggs and fold them into the mixture in
2 or 3 sessions, beating in thoroughly.
Mix zest and thyme leaves and add to mixture.
Spoon into pan and bake (45 mins for loaf/25 mins quiche pan)

Dissolve sugar in lemon juice in saucepan and add thyme leaves.
Cook over moderate heat to make syrup.
Spike finished cake and pour syrup over.

(—recipe from a British magazine/newspaper article)

Obviously, the time spent with my Aunt was the easiest, because we had a kitchen and could cook for ourselves, but I also researched ahead of time and brought some gluten free things with me for treats as well as crackers to substitute for bread.  I found a Naturalia store (health food chain) online and went there the first day and bought GF bread to have for breakfast toast or for emergencies. Then I just told waiters that I needed to eat “sans gluten” and everything was fine.  In traditional cafes, I went with steak frites and avoided the sauce. I also ate moules frites (mussels and french fries) a few times and just avoided the bread they served with it. My bigger problem was that steak was too difficult for me to chew, given my TMJ issues.  Luckily, they don't overcook it there, so that made it a bit easier...as long as I cut into tiny pieces first.

So go to France and enjoy all the wonderful things it has to offer.  And leave the nasty gluten to everyone else.  You're not really missing that much.

Artichokes at the Farmer's Market, St. Brieuc, France

Karen, herself