15 October 2011

Corniottes | Eating France

Charles de Gaulle is rumoured to have commented on the impossibility of governing a country that had 246 cheeses. Winston Churchill is rumoured to have stated that a country producing 360 different types of cheese cannot die. Clearly these men didn't communicate properly, but even so, I'm pretty sure France has at least 400 different types of cheese. It seems very little village or city has their own unique variety (well, perhaps not every...), although only 55 are protected, classified and regulated under French law.

Eastern France in particular seems to have a love affair with cheese (who can blame 'em?) and, for a cheese-freak like myself, this is good news. The bad news is that most of their cheeses aren't generally sold in Norway, which limits my recipe options considerably. I've tried substituting one cheese for another before, but it just kills the entire dish. There's nothing to it – if the recipe says Gruyère, use Gruyère, and not Norvegia, a kind of popular tasteless, latex-resembling Norwegian commercial cheese. Absolutely disgusting.

Anyway, moving onwards from the rolling fields of Lorraine to the rolling fields of Franche-Comté in search of new recipes and some cheese. Franche-Comté, famous for its beautiful landscape, is a lovely little region nestled between Switzerland and the regions of Rhône-Alpes, Burgundy, Champagne-Ardenne, Lorraine and Alsace. The name means ''free country'' (of Burgundy), and it belonged to the Alemanni territory, Kingdom of Burgundy, the Frankish Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, Austria and Spain(!), before most of it finally became French in 1678. Despite their political instability, the people of Franche-Comté still managed to create a wonderful and unique gastronomical identity. It mostly consists of cheese, potatoes, sausages, onions and dishes like the fondue and raclette. Yes, it's unique but it's also similar to other Alpine cuisines,in Rhône-Alpes and Switzerland. And what, I ask, is wrong with that?

Nothing at all, of course. Which brings me to these darlings: corniottes. Corniottes are basically puff pastry dough filled with a cheese-egg mixture that are folded into triangles and baked. Mine didn't come out looking remotely like I had intended. Even though I diligently followed the recipe, the puff pastry still decided to spread out, if you will, resulting in some serious odd-looking triangles. But the taste was all right, although I'll be the first to admit I haven't eaten the 'real deal' yet.
I'm still not quite sure what they're used for (appetizers? sides? afternoon snack?) It was suggested to me that they could substitute potatoes or rice or pasta, but I'm not entirely sure. As much as I like cheese, I'm not entirely sure I'd like to eat, say, a Beef Stroganoff with cheese pastries rather than rice or potatoes. But it's entirely up to you, of course.

PS: Just to prove my point about eastern France and their cheese here's a map (from Wikipedia) of all ''official cheeses''

Recipe adapted from Inter France

500 ml fromage blanc or 250 ml ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (radical)
60 ml crème fraîche
1 egg + 1 for egg wash
100 g. coarsely grated Gruyère
Salt and pepper
333 ml. tepid water
Sea salt, for topping
500 g. puff pastry dough

1.Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Cut out rounds, each 12 cm in diameter. Transfer them to a baking sheet sprinkled with water. Prick them all over with a fork. Chill until firm, at least 15 minutes.Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat together the fromage blanc or the ricotta cheese with the crème fraîche and 1 egg. Add 75 grams of Gruyère , salt and pepper.

2.Brush some egg wash on the edges of a chilled round. Place a walnut-size mound of the cheese mixture in the center of the pastry and pull up the edges of the round and pinch it into a triangular shape so the filling is completely enclosed. Repeat for the remaining dough rounds, arranging the corniottes on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.Chill the corniottes on the baking sheets at least 30 minutes or until very firm or they will open during baking.

3.Heat the oven to 220°C.Brush the egg wash over the surface of the corniottes. Bake in the oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle each with 1/2 tablespoon of the remaining Gruyère and continue baking until the cheese melts and browns, 5 to 10 minutes longer.Serve as soon as possible.

2 comment (s):

FoodEpix said...

Looks delicious. Would love for you to share your pictures with us over at foodepix.com.

Marion said...

Thank you :)I sure will, whenever I have any new posts :)

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