Shopping the Traiteur
This is going to be another one of those occasions where Guy Fieri’s show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives opened my eyes and palate to something new and interesting. I don’t think it’s so much a love for comfort food, but more how much Fieri shows viewers tidbits of how the “average folk” eat.
This time around, he went to Sacramento, California to check out Cafe Rolle. What struck me about this spot was how much its owner, William Rolle, made French cuisine accessible and palatable to the average person. While the more elegant dining of the bistros and fancy restaurants never appealed to me, it’s the country and peasant food of France that wets my appetite.
Rolle’s venue is actually an American take from his family’s business in Leon, France. He and his parents owned was it known as a Traiteur. In French culture, a Traiteur is mainly seen as the catering profession, but the business is also run like a French rendition of the delicatessen. It’s a place to obtain French delicacies, treats, and prepared foods.
A typical Traiteur is laid out like a grocery store with interior seating and service similar to a cafe or restaurant. Patrons can stop in for an easy lunch, or shop for items like cold meats, salads, bread, wine, some desserts, and the specialty known as pâté.
William Rolle jokingly called pâté “French Meatloaf”, and in many ways he was not lying. Pâté is generally made from ground meat, fat, and herbs. The choices of meat can vary to almost any animal, but most popular are the livers of chickens or geese. The infamous foie gras is made with the fattened livers of geese.
You can also use beef, pork, or even go vegetarian (mushroom pâté has grown in popularity with gourmets). Sometimes the meat is mixed with bread or breadcrumbs like a traditional meatloaf. Texture can vary from a sliceable loaf to a paste you can spread on bread or crackers.
For those who think pâté is some “fluffy” food meant for snobby elites, I would tell you to try it. In my travels to Central Europe, it’s more a staple for quick meals, an add-on to breakfast, a savory treat anytime you wish. While fancier, more expensive pâtés are sold in gourmet shops, simple chicken liver and mushroom pâtés can be found almost anywhere.
In Fieri’s show, William Rolle introduced me to what is known as a Country Pâté, and I can see clearly why he jokingly calls it meatloaf. He took chicken breasts, stale bread, goat cheese, and a combination of French herbs to make a wonderful dish that’s low in fat and high in flavor. He’ll make sandwiches with it, serve it on salads, and I’ve done the same. Try it for yourself:
- 1 stale demi loaf (sliced) or 2 cups of breadcrumbs
- 1 cup of fat-free half & half
- 5 chicken breasts
- Herbes de Provence
- 1 cup of sunflower or canola oil
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup of shallots, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup of curly parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup of goat cheese
- Salt to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 350°. Use a little of the oil to grease the inside of a loaf pan.
- Place the bread or breadcrumbs into a bowl. Pour the half & half all over it and allow it to soak.
- In a baking dish or pan, place the chicken breasts in and sprinkle salt and the Herbes de Provence. Douse the chicken/herbs with the oil.
- Place the pan into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove chicken from oven and slice up into small pieces. Place it into the bowl with the bread/half & half mixture.
- Add in the three eggs.
- Place the total mixture into a meat grinder or food processor. Grind or process until it's a rough mush.
- Add in the shallots, garlic, curly parsley, and goat cheese, mix well.
- Place the final mixture into a loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes.
- Remove the pan when a golden crust forms. Allow the pâté to cool before serving.
Herbes de Provence is just a blend of herbs known to the Provence region (marjoram, thyme, savory, basil, rosemary, sage and fennel seeds). You can find it in most grocery stores.
I would not use Olive Oil in this recipe. I know it's tempting to reach for it, but the Mediterranean flavor of the oil will clash with the other flavors in this dish. Try to stay with sunflower, canola, or vegetable oil.
Be sure to use stale bread in creating this dish. Fresh will just not bring you the results you want. If you do not have a meat grinder, then I'd suggest using bread crumbs.
If you use a food processor, I'd suggest grinding up the mixture in quarters. Dumping it all in only makes a big mess and you want to get a rough mush as opposed to a fine purée.
I personally liked to stay with chicken breasts and low-fat ingredients, but you're free to use anything you like. Use full-fat half & half, dark meat chicken, duck, goose, or the livers of chicken, geese, or beef.
You could serve slices on top of a mixed green salad with a vinegrette on the side. Make a sandwich with a nice crunchy baguette, or even on its own.