Thursday, October 1, 2015

Soupe à l'oignon...and le château de Balzac

French Onion Soup is much loved chez nous. Though my recipe doesn't call for a splash of cognac, don't let that deter you from adding a tablespoon or so just before filling and placing the dish/bowls under the grill.

Paille des vertus onion variety from our potager has a superb depth of yum

For an excellent soup, the onions need to be fully carmelised, usually taking thirty to forty minutes over low heat. For more flavour substitute some dry white wine for the beef broth when simmering the soup. Making it the day before allows further mellowing. For even more wallop, the soup can be reduced in volume until your taste buds say, yup, that's for me. And don't forget the soup sans the cheesy croutons can be frozen.

Croutons are grilled, garlic sourdough rye slices smothered in Gruyère

Though a roomy, no-fuss casserole dish was used, for a special serving I finally dug out a small bowl that we found at a flea market.

So you don't forget you are eating soupe à l'oignon!

For this week's jaunt in our electric car, a Renault Zoe, we headed north in the late afternoon. Our destination, the village of Balzac that once was a seigneurie (fiefdom) as far back as the 12th century, is about a fifteen minute drive from our Angouleme. The lovely rural landscape is enough for a visit, but there are a few architectural gems also. Le Château de Balzac is one of them.

Yes, that's a cornfield on the right close to the château courtyard's wall!

The majority of corn grown in France is planted in the southwest, including our region of Poitou-Charente. Mainly exported to other European nations, it is used for feeding chicken, sheep, and pigs or made into silage for cattle. The cobs can be used for fuel, mulch, litter for animals, and soil conditioner.

The château is open just during July and August, but it still was interesting to see its exterior.

Where is the handle for the Zoe's rear side door? It's that black triangle on the bottom right of the window!

Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac whose parents built the château was a renowned writer of epistolary letters and one of the founding members of L'Académie française. Since he is noted for focusing on the idiomatic expression of French, the credit of executing in French prose a reform parallel to Francois de Malherbe's in verse is attributed to him.

Marie de Médicis visited the writer here at his hermitage

Apparently in this region, it was often the case of estates having two entrances, one for people, the other for carriages.

Stone carriage portal flanked by rose bushes and the smaller one for people on the left

There was another gate, one of metal, that allowed us to get a glimpse of the extensive grounds.

Though a peek through the gates was a treat, we will try to come back when the château is open.

The skies were quickly darkening as we left.

À la prochaine!

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