Strasbourg, France: Runner-Up to the North Pole as Christmas Capital of the World

Happy early Christmas, guys! Woooo!!!

I can’t believe my first semester here in Lausanne is coming to a close! To celebrate going home for the holidays, I traveled with my pal Eloise to Strasbourg in hopes of finding the perfect gifts at one of the largest Christmas markets in the world!

food a la fac

We took the train up from Lausanne up through Basel and landed in Strasbourg about four hours later- not too shabby for traveling to another country! (I’m still so used to driving endlessly for hours and hours and hours through Texas and still staying inside the state).

food a la fac

food a la fac

food a la fac

food a la fac

I’m pretty sure when I got off the train, the town smelled like delicate pine needles and sweet cinnamon sticks and roasted chestnuts and I swear I saw something like an elf chasing a reindeer down the street but it could have been my Christmas imagination taking over. We spent the first night drinking mugfulls of vin chaud, a delicious mélange of red wine and spices served from giant cauldrons in most of the cute little shops lining the street (I also found that the amount of purchases I made was directly correlated with the amount of vin chaud I consumed so my family should be pretty stoked about everything I’m bringing back).

That night, Eloise and I went in search of some traditional Alsatian cuisine and stumbled across a restaurant over by the cathedral called Aux Armes de Strasbourg. The atmosphere was perfectly lively and it was here that I discovered fleischkiechle – aka the most delicious meatballs you will ever eat in your life! I’m not quite sure if it was the fact that the dish came with a sultry sweet pinot noir sauce or that the meatballs had an incredibly crispy layer across the top or that the accompanying roasted potatoes were cooked to perfection…or that I’d had enough vin chaud to see the world through beautiful burgundy colored glasses. Regardless, I will probably have dreams about that meal for years and years to come (and have included the recipe on here for you to profit from the experience as well. Feel free to worship at the temple of Alsatian meatballs)

Then, it was onward to more shopping!

food a la fac

food a la fac

food a la fac

Eloise!

food a la fac

food a la fac

food a la fac

Day #2 was lovely as well. Eloise and I first toured the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg and afterwards met her hilarious and lovely former high school French teacher, “Ms. B” in town for lunch. The weather occasionally misbehaved as well but at least for me, I thought the afternoon clouds gave the city a peaceful little blanket with all the cute Christmas lights glowing around town.

food a la fac

food a la fac

Eloise again!

After lunch, we decided to hop over to a little area called “Petite France” to putz around before meeting Ms. B’s friend, Alain, for coffee. Oh, and did I mention Alain is a former “Tour de France” participant? Yes, this is true. During our conversation, I also managed to tell him (accidentally of course) that I was currently 10 years old and that I was taking classes on French couture (rather than “culture”) at UNIL, neither of which are true (well, maybe the part about being 10 years old, at least on the inside). Oops. Learning and speaking is French is definitely still a process here, but nothing a few glasses of vin chaud can’t fix of course! (no worries, recipe is here, too!)

food a la fac

food a la fac

food a la fac

To finish the day, Eloise and I grabbed some delicious macarons from the famous Pierre Hermé shop (recipe en bas!) before catching the train back to Lausanne… and passing out there for about 75% of the journey home. All in all, the trip was absolutely incredibly on all fronts, especially the front concerning all things food related.

food a la fac

food a la fac

Eloise and I!

Vin Chaud à la Marché De Noël

Serves about 6-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 750 ml red wine
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/3 cup cognac
  • zest of one orange
  • zest of one lemon

Directions:

1. Place the wine in a large saucepan on low heat. Add the cinnamon sticks, sugar, orange zest and lemon zest to the saucepan. Wrap cardamom pods and cloves in a piece of cheesecloth and add them in as well.

2. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low-medium heat, not allowing it to boil.

3. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, add the Cognac.

4. Remove the cinnamon sticks, cheesecloth bag and serve!

Fleischkiechle, Galettes de viande alsaciennes

(aka awesome meatballs from Strasbourg)

Serves about 6-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¾ stalk celery, chopped
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of oats or whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
  • ¼ cup all natural tomato soup
  • large pinch of both salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together one egg and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.

2. Combine ground beef with the celery, onions, oats, egg and tomato soup by hand.

3. Form 10-15 fairly large meatballs and place on an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet.

4. Brown for 15-20 minutes (It’s quite traditional to brown the meatballs in a skillet using oil but I find this method to be a bit healthier without sacrificing that nice crust on the top.)

5. While the meatballs are browning, begin the pinot noir sauce.

6. When the meatballs are finished, add them to the pinot noir sauce. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160°.

Pinot Noir Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 3 cups beef broth, low sodium
  • 1 cup pinot noir or burgundy wine
  • 1/2 rosemary spring, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Using a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until soft.

2. Add salt, pepper, beef broth, pinot noir, rosemary and bring the mixture to a boil. 3. Reduce heat to medium and simmer. Add meatballs when ready!

Roasted Potatoes, Alsatian style

Ingredients:

  • 10 potatoes, quartered
  • 3-4 strips of bacon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • ½ clove garlic, minced
  • equal parts parsley, thyme and rosemary

Directions:

1. Fry bacon in skillet and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

3. Place quartered potatoes on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings, generously covering all potatoes.

3. Roast for about 20 minutes until lightly browned.

4. While roasting, slice the bacon into thin pieces. Add to the potatoes after roasting and serve!

Pistachio Macarons à la Pierre Hermé

Ingredients:

For the shells:

  • 300g ground almonds or blanched almond flour
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 110g liquefied egg whites*
  • 2g approx yellow food coloring
  • 4g approx green food coloring
  • + 300g caster sugar
  • 75g mineral water
  • 110g liquefied egg whites

For the pistachio ganache:

  • 300g liquid crème fraiche or whipping cream
  • 300g white chocolate
  • 45g pistachio paste (or 45g unsalted pistachios, blended with the cream)
  • 1 or 2 drops bitter almond essence

Directions:

1. Sift together the icing sugar and ground almonds. Stir the food colorings into the first portion of liquefied egg whites. Pour them over the mixture of icing sugar and ground almonds but do not stir.

2. Bring the water and sugar to boil at 245 degrees F (118C). When the syrup reaches 240 degrees F (115C), simultaneously start whisking the second portion of liquefied egg whites to soft peaks on a medium speed.

3. When the sugar reaches 245 degrees F (118C), pour it over the egg whites. Whisk and allow the meringue to cool down to 120 degrees F (50C), then fold it into the almond-sugar mixture. Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

5. Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5cm in diameter, spacing them 2cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment.

6. Rap the tray on the work surface covered with a kitchen cloth. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes, until a skin forms on the shells.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180C) on convection, then put the trays in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes, quickly opening and shutting the oven door twice during cooking time. Out of the oven, slide the shells on to the work surface.

8. For the pistachio ganache: Chop up the chocolate and melt it in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Bring cream to the boil with the pistachio paste. Stir, then pour over the chocolate a third at a time.

9. Blend for 10 minutes with a hand blender. Pour the ganache into a gratin dish. Press plastic wrap over the surface of the ganache and set aside in the fridge for the ganache to thicken. Spoon the ganache into a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Pipe a generous mound of ganache on to half of the shells then top with the remaining shells.

10. Store the macarons in the fridge for 24 hours, bringing them back out two hours before serving.

*Liquefied egg whites: Egg whites will liquefy if you sit them in the fridge for several days, preferably a week. During that time, the egg whites lose their elasticity, the albumen breaks down and they will be much easier to whisk to soft peaks without turning “grainy”.

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