Un Goût De La Bretagne

We’re going to Bretagne soon, and I can’t wait.  Since we have a friend who’s originally Bretonne, and she has friends who just returned from a vacation there, yesterday seven of us celebrated all things Brittany while having a delicious foretaste of our upcoming journey.  We were greeted at the door by the virgin that guards the house.  She’s the one on the right, as you might have guessed.

The table was set with the beautiful faïence from Henriot, which has been making pottery in Quimper since the end of the 17th century.  We’ll be spending a couple of days in Quimper, and I’m already plotting how to bring some home with me, although they’re no longer making anything like these lovely old pieces.

Lunch was an awe-inspiring procession of courses and small bites.  Here, a starter of slices of andouille de Guéméné, which is a Breton sausage made of rolled pork intestines,  and bites of buckwheat galettes filled with rillettes of pork.   With this, a kir Breton, made with cider, and refreshingly delicate.

There were grilled sardines served, amazingly, with a mayonnaise made with butter instead of olive oil.  Bretagne is famous for its butter, and its love of butter, but I have to confess that butter mayonnaise is something I’d never have imagined.  It’s delicious and you should try it sometime.  Just make your mayonnaise as usual, but use gently melted and cooled butter instead of oil.  If you can get fresh sardines to go with it, so much the better, but I think it would be startlingly good with any fish.

There were scallops in a beurre blanc sauce with lots of shallots, one of the best things I’ve tasted in recent memory.

Doesn’t that look exquisite?  I plan to beg for the recipe, since I’m sure I can’t live without tasting it again.  And because seafood rules Bretagne, there were also fresh briny oysters that slid down our throats so fast that you’ll just have to imagine them.

The buttery crispy galettes made another appearance, this time wrapped around a grilled sausage,

and here’s a course of the vegetables for which Bretagne is known, cauliflower and artichokes.  In butter, of course.

There was a palate cleansing shot of lait ribot, the Breton version of buttermilk.  There was far Breton, a sort of prune flan, served with tiny pitchers of cream, and a beguiling little custard of salted butter caramel.  And then, after reveling in all of our friend’s carefully prepared dishes, it was time for my contributions.  Which, naturally, were made largely of butter.

I’ve been waiting for ages for a good excuse to make kouign aman.  Its name means simply “butter cake,” although it’s tricky and fussy to produce, which is why it’s taken me so long to try it out.  Using David Lebovitz’s recipe, I bravely launched myself into the buttery dough.  My first effort was a dentist’s dream, a bridgework-endangeringly caramelized cake, so crunchy that it could only be eaten while it was hot and semi-molten.  My second try, baked in a slower oven than the recipe recommends,  produced the cake on the right.  It’s worth making, my friends, it’s so worth making.  Just remember that not all ovens are the same, and watch your cake carefully as it transforms itself from a sticky dough ball into a rich golden treat.

I also made the cake on the left, as a backup.  It’s a gateau Breton, another sort of, you guessed it, butter cake.  There are a ton of recipes out there for this cake, and believe me, I read them all.  But in the end I wasn’t very happy with the result, which was crumbly and scratchy to eat.  I’m hoping that it will improve with age, as its reputation suggests, and have a piece wrapped up to test the theory.

So there you have it, a beautiful example of Breton hospitality.   As I think they say in Bretagne “A bep liv marc’h mat, A bep bro tud vat. ”  Which I believe means basically “good horses come in all colors, and good people come from all places.”  And now, more than ever, I’m looking forward to experiencing the good people and the good life of Bretagne.  And a few horses wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

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17 Comments on “Un Goût De La Bretagne”

  1. samantha Says:

    Gâteau breton is often too dry for my taste as well – next time, you could try adding a layer of prunes/prune jam (prunes are something else you often see in the cuisine bretonne – another example is “far breton”).

  2. samantha Says:

    PS. Sorry, that should be “a layer of prunes/prune jam in the middle of the cake”!

  3. Eden Says:

    I love Kir Breton & actually prefer it over regular Kir or even Kir roaylle. That kouign aman looks fabulous!

  4. Dick Says:

    Ils ont des chapeaux ronds,
    Vive la Bretagne!
    Ils ont des chapeaux ronds,
    Vivent les Bretons!

  5. Debra Lane Says:

    When I first started reading this blog, I thought you were having dinner in a fine restaurant and then of course I realized, it was lunch at Abras or friends of Abras! Everything looks wonderful!

  6. Ray Says:

    hostess with the mostess……..confirmed again and again.

  7. Mark Says:

    Great post…I too forgot that this was a home-cooked meal at some point. That virgin can cook!

    Your meal contained many of the components that made up my Bretonese diet last year, and after a week of eating like that I needed a new gut. Don’t forget to have a salad now and then!

  8. Ray Says:

    did you bring all the beautiful & varied dinnerware, glassware, silverware that you show in all your posts TO France from the USA or was it in the rental house…or have you been an avid and discerning collector there?

  9. Abra Says:

    Well, I’m not the hostess here this time. The house, and the beautiful dishes, belong to our friend who’s on the left of the top picture, the one who’s not the virgin. She’s had two children at any rate, so it does seem improbable. And yes, she can really cook.

    But for other pictures, a lot of the stuff was in the house already, and I’ve found some on my own too. I have a slight pottery fetish, i have to admit.

  10. Rothé Danielle & Denis Says:

    Le 21 Août 2008,

    Le reportage photos et les commentaires sont aussi exceptionnels que les plats cuisinés par notre amie Jacqueline Félicitations à vous Abra.

    La galette bretonne a attendu quelques jours avant d’être dégustée, elle était moins friable et plus savoureuse qu’ au premier jour. Merci de nous en avoir fait profiter!

    Désolés de ne pouvoir exprimer tout cela dans votre langue, bien que nous soyons en mesure de comprendre le sens, l’esprit et la subtilité des vos propos.

  11. Eden Says:

    We have a new pastry shop here in town that’s making kouign aman so of course I had to try it after reading your description, yum yum yum! I may have to make my own, because ti was REALLY good

  12. kerangoumar Says:

    my kouign amanns have been physical disasters but grastronomic pleasure bombs. tho i admit i always made them on a baking sheet. took them to my daughters’ french luncheons at school and the teacher greedily ate them up. a bit of an oink, perhaps.

  13. Allen Le Couteur Bisson Says:

    You mention Kir Breton, containing breton cider, but you said nothing about its main ingrediant, cassis. A blackcurrant liqueur. Also there is plain Kir (if there is such a thing as “plain Kir) which uses white wine, it makes even the cheapest old wine tase good. Or if you fancy something a little special, Kir Royale, which is cassis and champagne. I regularly have Kir, but Kir Royale is a bit rich for my taste.
    Don’t be fooled by the name, I am from Guernsey in the Channel Isles, and now live in Cornwall.

  14. Allen Le Couteur Bisson Says:

    I made Far Breton last week. Not the best thing I’ve made. By the following day it was inedible, making a better repair kit for my car tyres, so it went in the bin, but I really want to make Kouign Aman. I can see another fine mess turning up!

  15. Doreen Says:

    Did you ever wind up receiving the recipe for the scallops? If you did, would you consider sharing it with us? Thank you!

  16. Abra Bennett Says:

    Doreen – I’m very sorry, but she told me there was “no recipe.” I wish I had it myself.

  17. sagewomon Says:

    I have kouigns amann baking in my oven right now and can’t wait to bite into their crispy carmalized buttery flakey goodness. Thank you for sharing your culinary journey. Everything looks and sounds quite spectacular. I’m jealous! Cheers!


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