Saturday, July 11, 2009

Crêtes-de-Coq (Oven-Baked Meat Patties)

Pour lire ce billet en français, cliquer ici
Odile, my paternal grandmother, called these patties crêtes-de-coq (literally, rooster crests), probably because of their fan shape. I've trawled for that name in Google and only came up with recipes using actual rooster crests. So maybe she made up the name or maybe she got it from the aunt who raised her and taught her to cook.
Odile was born and grew up in the Tarn in southwestern France, a region with a rich culinary tradition (but then what part of France doesn't have a rich culinary tradition?)...
...and she had a magic touch in the kitchen, probably the only place where she was truly happy. Away from it, she was dour and embittered, emotionally crippled by the series of hard punches life had thrown at her. She was a tough grandma, unyielding and distant. Hard to love. But in the kitchen, she smiled. She would call out to us when we arrived on our weekly Sunday visit, lift up pot lids, open the ovens for a minute giving us a glimpse of the baking apple croustade, a peek at the roasting home-raised chicken, offer a spoonful of her hare civet, a forkful of the terrine she was slicing. As a child the kitchen was the only place where I felt safe with her (elsewhere her tongue was sharp and her bite ferocious). Now I realize that cooking was probably the only way she could express love and that she took great pleasure and comfort in watching us eat what she made.
Her crêtes-de-coq were sublime: she rolled out a butter dough, cut out rounds with an inverted glass (actually she let us take care of that part and we loved it), put on each a spoonful of whatever meat had been leftover from other meals, chopped up with onions, herbs and maybe a little garlic, folded them over, crimped the edges with a fork and deep-fried them to fragrant crispiness. We could never get enough of them.
She never used a cookbook (didn't even own one) and regrettably never wrote anything down, leaving us with nothing but memories of her feasts. I have made my grandma's crêtes-de-coq for my kids as they were growing up when I still owned a deep-fryer and didn't think twice about the amount of fat and butter in a recipe. Now that the Man has to watch his cholesterol, though, I had to look for another way and his birthday dinner offered an excellent opportunity to try my hand at a lighter version. He loved them and, as my grandma before me, I took great pleasure in seeing him devour them.
These little patties make an excellent tapa, especially if served piping hot with crisp French cornichons (sour pickles) but I would settle for some with a mixed green salad any night of the week and call it dinner.
I am not posting exact weights for the filling as I pretty much used whatever leftover meat I could find in the freezer (I had chicken thighs and sweet fennel sausage), added some parsley and basil from the garden, some onion and garlic, chopped up everything and wrapped it in bread dough.
Anything can be used that won't leak and make the patty soggy, including chopped up greens (Swiss chard with crumbled feta and fresh mint for instance) and mushrooms (but I would cook those first to make them yield their water) with leeks, etc.
For the dough, I hand-mixed: 

  • 500 g of flour
  • 250 g of water
  • 11 g of olive oil
  • 10 g of salt
  • and 4 g of instant dry yeast until smooth and pliable.

I let it rest 90 minutes before rolling it out thin with a rolling pin.

Then I cut out circles with an inverted glass and went to work.

Once the crêtes were ready, I painted them with eggwash (i.e. an egg beaten with some milk), pricked them with a fork and baked them for 25 minutes in a 425F/218C pre-heated oven.
I had dough and filling left over but when I reassembled the pieces of dough and tried to roll them out again, they were not so compliant anymore. So I gave them to my 4-year old granddaugher who promptly put them to good use...
...and I made pan-fried "sausages" of the remaining filling. They will be scrumptious cold with a salad or in a sandwich.
As for my granddaughter, she opened up the crêtes-de-coq, extracted the filling and threw out the crusty wrappers: "I like meatballs without bread", she said, handing me the empty shells. I smiled at her. She was creating her own memories...

I hadn't thrown away the leftover dough after my granddaughter was through playing with it but stored it in the fridge overnight thinking she might be happy to play with it again in the morning. However this morning I found it had relaxed again and fermented some more and it now smells so delicious that I am just going to incorporate it as a pre-ferment into my next batch of bread. Never waste anything if it can be helped. This too I learned from my grandmother.
These crêtes-de-coq go to Susan, from Wild Yeast, for Yeastpotting. This week's Yeastspotting will be hosted by Iamafoodblog.


  1. Hmmm, my first comment doesn't seem to have appeared?

    So I want to say merci MC, fabulous story and great looking empanadas a'la Grandmere Odile!

  2. MC, your crêtes-de-coq look delicious! As a young boy, I remember eating a similar patty with a potato-based filling with apple sauce on the side. Being in the U.S., of course it was deep fried!

  3. They look so good! By the way, in case you haven't read my reply, I discovered yesterday I had a comment in my blog from you which I had not answered, I apologize for that.

  4. Mmmmmmmm! Your pictures are making me hungry!

  5. @ Jeremy: How are you doing? You are right, I never thought of them that way, but crêtes-de-coq are the Tarn version of empanadas. Isn't that something?
    @ Steve: The patties you remember sound like latkes wrapped in dough. Were they very similar?
    @ Miriam : No problem. Thanks for visiting again! I enjoy your blog greatly.
    @ Mimicooks, I wish we could share over the Web...

  6. My Mom used to make something like this, although she just called them turnovers...I like the rooster comb instead...more colorful!



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