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Urban Leaving to Country Living

More Rural French Cooking – à la Bruno – and Les Américains


The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker Bruno photo crowded grave_zpsxh0jh4yd.jpg

As I’ve said before, one of my favourite mystery series is Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police. The books are set in Dordogne in southern France.

In the latest book that I’ve read, The Crowded Grave, Bruno is entertaining a visiting Spanish official and introducing him to the foie gras that the region, particularly neighbouring Sarlat, is so justly famous for.

He cut the baguette into five portions and brought out a small pot of onion marmalade he had made the previous autumn.

“Bon appétit, and welcome to the gastronomic heartland of France,” he said to Carlos. He took some of the yellow duck fat he had used to preserve the foie and spread it on the baguette before adding a healthy slice of pâté and a small dab of marmalade.

I happened to read this shortly after finishing a charming memoir-of-sorts by “Les Américains” called Beginning French: Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse. In it, Marty Neumeier tells the story of how he and his wife Eileen McKenna, Americans from California, ended up buying a house in Dordogne, in the very same area that the fictional Bruno lives. It was very intriguing to see French country life from the point of view of real-life North Americans.

Beginning French by Les Americains Neumeier photo beginning french_zpsikc9nfv1.jpgThe couple is joined by their daughter Sara who is a chef, which is a happy circumstance considering that they are now in the “gastronomic heartland of France”. (see above)

I loved Marty’s accounts of the town and village markets, particularly the night markets of which I was not previously aware, and which add to my list of reasons for revisiting southern France. At one of these night markets, the family enjoyed duck burgers with an onion jam.

There are several actual recipes in Beginning French. Many involve using duck breast and other ingredients which are not readily available in rural Nova Scotia, but I was intrigued by the instructions for the onion jam which Sara replicated when she returned to the house.

Onion Jam

Sara’s note: We keep this on hand especially for duck burgers, but it’s also good combined with goat cheese in baked stuffed vegetables, or as a condiment with other roast meats or cheese.

6 large red onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

Confit d'Oignon photo onion jam 300_zpsq0m43b8g.jpg Heat oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and beginning to turn golden, about 15 minutes.

Add balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until onions are a rich brown, 20-30 minutes. If during cooking onions begin to stick to the pan, add a few tablespoons water (or wine) and stir with a wooden spoon to dislodge any brown bits.

Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

We had no duck burgers or foie gras to try our onion jam out on, but it was delicious on our sausages in a bun.

And I will be sure to have this delightful book with me when I next stay in France. Our rented stone cottage had a full kitchen and I’m sure I’ll be able to source the proper ingredients for a genuine French feast.

P.S. The Crowded Grave goes on:

“This is wonderful,” the Spaniard mumbled through a mouthful of fresh bread and foie gras. He took a sip of wine, and his eyes widened. “Magnificent. They were made for each other.”

The wine that “the Spaniard” is referring to is Monbazillac, a sweet white wine produced in the village of Monbazillac on the left bank of the Dordogne River just across from the town of Bergerac in SW France.

I’m going to be sure to get some of that when I’m there, too.


Weekend Cooking new logo photo wkendcooking 125_zpsljojsy3j.jpg

I’m linking up with Weekend Cooking.




P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.
Also, I received my copy of Beginning French courtesy of NetGalley and the author. This did not affect my review.


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14 Comments to

“More Rural French Cooking – à la Bruno – and Les Américains”

  1. On September 25th, 2016 at 5:02 pm Claudia Says:

    It’s been quite awhile since I read one of the Bruno mysteries, so thanks for the reminder. Also would like some of that onion jam – a good project.

  2. On September 25th, 2016 at 6:18 pm Debbie Says:

    I’m trying to pace myself with the Bruno mysteries, Claudia. I could eat them all in a weekend, but then they’d be all done! 🙁

  3. On September 25th, 2016 at 5:48 pm mae Says:

    The Crowded Grave sounds familiar, but my kindle app says I’ve never read it (I think I’ve read almost all the other Bruno books) — so I just bought it! Thanks for the heads up. I’ll look forward to the onion jam scene. Books that sort of channel “A Year in Provence” don’t appeal to me that much, so I guess I’ll take a pass on your other subject here.

    best… mae at

  4. On September 25th, 2016 at 6:29 pm Debbie Says:

    I remember A Year in Provence being more about the renovations to the house and the “becoming French” of living in France year-round.

    Les Americains, on the other hand, is more about the food and, rather than becoming French, visiting and “learn[ing] how to be better Americans, becom[ing] the best etrangers [they] could be” (as Marty himself says in the book’s epilogue). While there are similarities, I think Marty and Eileen’s story is their own.

    Happy reading with your new Bruno book, Mae. I hope you’re tickled when you run across the onion marmalade! 🙂

  5. On September 25th, 2016 at 9:18 pm Deb Nance at Readerbuzz Says:

    I love books like this. I call them “Moving and Starting Over Books.” I am off to add this one to my wish list.

  6. On September 26th, 2016 at 7:52 am Debbie Says:

    I think you’ll really enjoy it, Deb.

  7. On September 26th, 2016 at 5:31 am Beth F Says:

    I’ve been meaning to read the Bruno mysteries. I love books set in the French countryside — much more than books set in Paris. That onion confit sounds awesome … If there are red onions at the farmers market this week, I’m going make it.

  8. On September 26th, 2016 at 7:53 am Debbie Says:

    I’m with you with the French countryside, Candace. The Bruno series have evoked that life for me better than any I’ve read.

  9. On September 26th, 2016 at 9:15 am Elizabeth Otter Says:

    With this, your most recent post in ExUrbanis you catapulted me into the French countryside, even though I have never walked that particular earth, and alas! I have little or no expectation of ever doing so! [I cannot even get to the Yukon, my-top-of-the-list destination, for crying out loud].

    Nevertheless, there I was strolling along the rural banks of the Dordogne, startling fat rabbits in bushy thickets, pushing and forcing my way through unfamiliar vines and brambles that scratched my bare legs and arms, emerging on the perimeters of farmers fields and pastures where ‘horned’ cattle grazed contentedly in knee-deep clover. No wait…, it was ‘trefoil’, beautiful Birdsfoot Trefoil in great yellow mounds that reached their glossy bellies and that they were blissfully gorging. [‘good husband’, an educated man who is from Europe and who knows ‘everything’ related to agriculture in Europe, [No, really!!], informed me that Birdsfoot Trefoil is not a common crop in European pastures, but I declare that that is what I saw!! Why must he contradict me!]; [and an additional note- in North America, we rarely see cattle with ‘horns’! They are usually ‘de-horned’ in the herds of, dare I use the term “avant-garde” graziers/breeders (the scurvy dogs). But indeed, “horned” cattle were what I saw!]

    Anyway, as I continued my solitary stroll along the grassy bank, I watched a Kingfisher that dove into a deep dark pool from which he at once emerged, in Kingfisher fashion, with a silvery fish in his beak that he dispatched forthwith and then rattled and scolded from a near perch. Advancing, I interrupted a little group of well-dressed, small children at harmless play in the shallows at a bend in the stream, who were guarded by a capable-looking and uniformed nanny, and then I wandered into a sleepy village where dark-clothed matrons roosted like broody hens, gossiping and cackling on the sidewalk outside the village bistro…..and then…

    Ah, well…. my journey was wholly achieved through your description of one event in The Crowded Grave and another description from Beginning French, etc. Oh but the power of the “bon mot”! [word of the day, i.e., ‘today’, in one of my online dictionaries- how almost apropos!]

    Thank you for ExUrbanis. I am not the only person who waits for your fair book evaluations and discriminating observations. Keep ’em coming pal.

  10. On September 26th, 2016 at 6:51 pm Debbie Says:

    Elizabeth, I’m flattered that my simple descriptions should evoke so much detail in your imagination (and what an imagination!!) It’s a shame that you won’t get to France because you’d write one heck of a travelogue.

    But where were the geese (for the foie gras) and ducks (for the duck burgers)? 😉

  11. On September 26th, 2016 at 4:33 pm Judy Krueger Says:

    It all sounds great but especially the onion jam!

  12. On September 26th, 2016 at 6:51 pm Debbie Says:

    Try the jam, Judy – it’s really very easy.

  13. On September 29th, 2016 at 9:45 pm Buried In Print Says:

    I think I’ve been confusing this series with one set in Italy. Now I’ve got to sort out my bookish misunderstanding. In any case, pleased to hear that the Bruno mysteries are such favourites of yours. Even on a plate!

  14. On September 30th, 2016 at 10:09 am Debbie Says:

    There’s a number of series set in various places in both France and Italy. This one stands out for me especially because this is where we were on holiday in 2014.

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