For me, the current selection of our Cook the Books Club, The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais, was a movie before it was a novel. Ten minutes into it, I started fidgeting. Five minutes later, my husband and I agreed it was not worth watching further. Nothing happened in that quarter of an hour to make us wonder what would happen next.
With that history, I approached the book with caution and was pleasantly surprised. It is much better than the movie, at least until the midpoint: the story, the characters (particularly the protagonist's mother) and the descriptions are interesting and enjoyable. At the scene in the chapel my suspension of disbelief shattered, then the novel became another story of apprenticeship in the kitchen.
The book has a lot of dishes in it, but what intrigued me was the location of the French village where the protagonist's family moves, the Jura, so I did some research on French mountain cuisine and read about crozets, a type of pasta typical of Savoie (which is south of Jura) traditionally made "from wheat flour, buckwheat or a mixture of both."1
The dry version of this pasta can be purchased in boxes. It comes in three varieties: plain, with buckwheat flour and with mushrooms.2 Differently from pizzoccheri, the famous pasta made with buckwheat flour (farina di grano saraceno) typical of Valtellina (Italy), crozets contain eggs. Also, the crozet dough I made has less buckwheat flour than the dough I make for pizzoccheri. I followed the ratio of 2 parts wheat flour to 1 part buckwheat flour that Clotilde Dusoulier has in her recipe for Buckwheat Pasta Dough3 and, as usual, I made a small batch, using one egg (un uovo di pasta).
As you can see from the photo, the dough was quite pretty, of a pastel yellow and speckled, thanks to stone-ground buckwheat flour. Traditionally this pasta is used to make gratins and I was planning to do something along those lines, but an unwelcome cold requiring chicken soup therapy for my husband sent the crozets into hot chicken broth. My version of crozets combined the richness of egg with the rustic texture of stone-ground buckwheat flour. They were a great company to the pieces of chicken that enriched the soup.
Ingredients for the pasta dough:
- 55 g all-purpose flour, plus more, as needed, to obtain a firm dough
- 25 g buckwheat flour, possibly stone-ground
- A pinch of salt
- one 55 g egg, possibly from pastured poultry
Ingredients for the soup:
- 3 cups / 700 ml chicken4 or vegetable broth, homemade or, if store-bought, organic
- 1 batch crozets
- 7 ounces / 200 g cooked chicken, diced
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
On the working surface or in a bowl, create a well with the flours and salt and crack the egg directly into it. Scramble the egg with a fork. Draw flour from the sides of the well into the center, mixing well with the egg.
Trade the fork for your fingertips. Draw flour until a soft dough forms. If you started in a bowl, empty it on the working surface and scrape its side and bottom well.
Starts kneading the dough: push the dough away from you with their heel of your hand (given the small size of the dough, one hand will be enough), then with the help of the other hand gather it back toward you folding it on itself and turning it 90 degrees. Add a bit more flour (5 grams or so) to obtain a soft, non-sticky dough. Continue kneading in the same way.
Knead the dough until it is smooth, 8-10 minutes. Let the dough rest for an hour or so (at least half an hour), well covered (e.g., in a small ziplock bag or wrapped in plastic film) so it doesn't dry out.
Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces, flatten both with a rolling pin and then roll by hand or with a pasta machine. This is a fairly thick pasta, so I stop at the last but two notch of my pasta machine. Sprinkle the dough with all-purpose flour as needed to prevent sticking.
Sprinkle the dough with a bit of all-purpose flour, then cut each piece into 1/4-inch / 6 mm wide strips (basically, tagliatelle) with the machine attachment or by hand. In the latter case, fold a 3-inch strip of pasta lengthwise away from you. Continue folding the strip until the entire pasta sheet is folded into a flattened roll. With a sharp knife, cut across the flattened roll. Immediately unfold the cut strips, then line them up and cut them across into 1/4-inch / 6 mm wide squares. (I do this with my bench scraper rather than a knife.)
Sprinkle the crozets with flour and run your fingers through them (see top photo) to ensure that they are well separated and don't stick together.
Continue until you cut all the dough, kneading and rolling again cutouts as needed.
Make the soup
Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan and add the crozets. Cook until tender (the time needed depends on how dry they are). In the meantime, if the chicken is cold, warm it up in the microwave. Once the pasta is cooked, add the chicken to the soup and stir. Take the saucepan off the heat.
Ladle the soup into bowls and optionally sprinkle a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano on it. Serve immediately.
Thanks to the book, I went on a journey of discovery and am pleased to have found crozets. (I suspect you will read more about this pasta soon.)
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the crozets audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]