On Christmas day, Maxence and his mother joined us for lunch at my parents’. My mother and I cooked for this meal, preparing most of it the day before.
As a first course, we served a Zucchini and Mushroom Crumble, a recipe we had come up with a week before, during our Christmas-menu-brainstorming session. Elaborating menus is one of my favorite activities, and practicing it with my mother was a lot of fun: the ping-pong mode we fell into, throwing different dish ideas into the air, catching them, morphing them, and throwing them back, keeping an ingredient but changing the method of preparation, staying with a theme but putting a different twist to it, until we settled on a combination that suited our needs in terms of taste, festiveness, ease and fun of preparation.
After this, we served a roasted turkey, which I unfortunately didn’t get to photograph before the carving, stuffed with a walnut chestnut stuffing. I had never made stuffing before, but my mother had numerous times, and the walnut chestnut idea was from a magazine clipping.
But as we started making the stuffing and I was asking about ingredient X or Y or some step the recipe called for, I quickly realized with a laugh that she needed no recipe at all: what she really intended to make was her usual (delicious) stuffing, adding walnuts and chestnuts to the mix. We served the turkey with celeriac purée, a traditional Christmas side in France, and a sweet potato purée with maple syrup, inspired by the Thanksgiving meals Maxence and I were lucky enough to partake in back in the US. The turkey was fantastic, moist and flavorful, and the trimmings were equally wonderful.
Next came a cheese course of dry goat cheese, Mont d’Or (a.k.a. vacherin, served in its pine bark with a spoon as is the custom) and Etorky, a sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrénées.
Finally, we served an excellent store-bought chestnut and vanilla cake called Carré Marron Vanille, brought to us by our friend Monsieur Picard.
Every body raved about the crumble. It’s a light and tasty dish that leaves room for what comes next, and the combination of soft vegetables and crispy topping is an excellent one. And I particularly liked the little dried parsley leaf! The crumble topping can of course be used on other combinations of vegetables, and I used it once successfully in a main dish of salmon and leek crumble.
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- 1/4 yellow onion, diced
- 6 medium zucchini, diced
- 500 grams (1 pound) mixed mushrooms, diced
- 1 teaspoon flour
- 50 grams (1/3 cup) oatmeal
- 50 grams (1/4 cup) breadcrumbs
- 50 grams (3 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, diced
- 50 grams (1/2 cup) freshly grated cheese such as Parmesan or Comté
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 sprigs curly parsley
- Olive oil
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- In a large skillet, heat up a glug of olive oil over medium heat, and cook the onion for a few minutes, until it starts to get translucent.
- Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and thyme, and season with salt. Cook for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the flour and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Prepare the crumble topping. In a medium bowl, rub together the oatmeal, breadcrumbs, butter and cheese, until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Season with salt and pepper.
- The vegetables and the crumble can be prepared the day before; cover and refrigerate seperately.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Set out 6 ovenproof ramekins, preferably the wide and shallow ones used for crèmes brûlées. Divide the vegetables among them, cover with the crumble mixture, and place a sprig of parsley on top.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Serve immediately.