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French castle Expedition

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A reader invited me to stay at his castle at Hattonchatel near Verdun in France. I went last week-end to cook extraordinary medieval dishes in the castle - see what's coming next in my 7-article-serie!

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Having written so often about truffles and other expensive delicacies, this was bound to happen. I received this intriguing email in June:

Dear François-Xavier,
I'm a big fan of your site for some time now and each time I look at those great pictures, I get an enormous appetite. I wanted to try to make your recipe for Minestrone, but unfortunately, I couldn't get hold of a pig trotter where I live.

I am writing you this email because we have a Château in the Lorraine region of France and I would like to invite you for a weekend to have a look at it and have some fun with the regional cuisine of Lorraine at the castle. The Château is situated in spectacular surroundings between forests with truffles and wild boar! It would definitly make for a great article and would give us some nice publicity amongst those interested in good food.

The château is normally being rented out for weddings and celebrations and is not in use as a hotel so you'll have the place almost for yourself. We don't have on-site kitchen staff either. You can see pictures of the castle on www.ritz-resorts.com

You are more than welcome to bring your partner and/or children as well. If you have any particular dishes on your mind which you would like to make or ingredients or local wines to experiment with or have any other culinairy ideas, we'll make sure all that can be arranged.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best regards,

This sounded really good, but was it true? If I go, would I end up chased by Count Zaroff or like Jonathan Harker, end up my blood sucked dry by Count Dracula? I arranged for a visit in late August to find out.

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This long week-end at Hattonchâtel near Verdun was one of my best for a long time - a resounding success. I shot 1847 pictures in 3 days. I will write a few different articles to try and cover what we did and keep you entertained, educated and of course - drooling over your screen. Here is an outline of what's coming - the full articles will be published twice a week starting September the 5th, 2008.

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My visit of Dragées Braquier in Verdun, century old manufacturer of fine sugar-coated almond, a specialty of the place.
Read the full article

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An interview of a man who makes red currant jam by deseeding each currant with a feather goose. This jam is no jelly and has been made like this for 600 years old. One of the most famous endorsers of this product was Alfred Hitchcock, the British film director.
Read Article...

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I told Midas we need a food angle for me to be able to write about Hattonchâtel. Just make a list of what you need, he said. I proposed a few medieval dishes I had always been meaning to cook but couldn't by lack of a castle. The fine people at the castle followed my directions with enthusiasm and dedication and created rather extraordinary dishes straight out of the Middle Ages while I took pictures of the whole thing. Finally we made so much food that they invited all sorts of local politicians to share in the medieval banquet to their great pleasure.

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A whole wild boar roasted in the castle's walk-in fireplace, including the gory skinning of the boar and its four-hour roasting. Read article...

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Expertly carved by colorful local hunter Hubert, the boar meat was rosy inside with a tasty brown crust. Beats pork any day!<

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Root vegetables from the castle's gardens (in the former moats) cooked under the ashes in said giant fireplace.

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Hypocras - we go medieval on a red wine with sugar and uncommon spices, then serve it to a collection of local glitteratis. Read article...

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My favorite - an old-time classic, blanc-manger, the almond milk jelly. Insanely scrumptious. Read on...

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As an intriguing side-dish, a historical blanc manger, cooked from a 14th century recipe. A sweet and savory cream made with almond and chicken breasts pounded together. Read on

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The FXcuisine.com medieval banquet at Hattonchâtel was a resounding success!

Check back on September 5th for the first article, I'll post one every Friday for 7 weeks.


Did you like this article? Leave me a comment or see my most popular articles.

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Chicken for Dessert **
One of the greatest desserts in Turkey is made with chicken breasts. It is based on an almond-and-chicken pudding once hugely popular in medieval Europe. See how it's made!

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If you do this recipe at home please let me know how it worked for you by submitting a comment or send me a picture if you can. Thanks!


WOWWWW!!! Can't wait to read your series..
  • #2
  • Comment by Aniwa

What a magnificent castle.
I have just spoken to them, cos. we would like to stay there for a weekend. And they do take individuals or couples in specific weeks of the year. You just have to check on their web-site or better - call the Chateau.
We are delighted. And thank you for the article - we will follow your articles in the weeks to come.

The cuisine is fascinating, and what a beautiful chateau! I can't wait to see the rest of this series.
Fabulous - really looking forward to reading about YOUR summer holidays. I'm especially keen to know how you made the old fashioned blanc mange, as I've wanted to make one for ages (too idle, sadly)

What a terrific castle

  • #5
  • Comment by Laura
When I last visited Istanbul, colleagues there suggested I try a traditional dessert that was a sweet custard with an unusual flavor.  It was indeed chicken, though I couldn't identify it until I was told what it was.  No idea whether the idea spread eastward or westward...
Wonderful, I love historic recipes. I'm expecting your next post about the castle's visit.
  • #7
  • Comment by Yeast_n_meath
I love your site, your style of photography and skill I love! Even more so because its of foodie intrest! I was wondering, would you be willing to send a full size photo (Via e-mail, mail or what not) of some of your photos? I would really like to frame and hang your picture of the old man pouring wine into the stone pot. I'll pay for any cost incured or desired.
  • #8
  • Comment by don siranni
Francois,gets gooder and gooder.Anxious for the castle  series.
  • #9
  • Comment by ariun
NOW! NOW! Your adoring fans want the castle posts now!

* grovel *
* abject grovel *
Oh, dear God!  Are you trying to kill me with anticipation?  I've only just recovered from your raclette article!  Thank heavens for salad - I may actually survive the next 7 weeks.
  • #11
  • Comment by Jason
blanc-manger -this is just another amazing revelation of a hidden culinary delight brought to us by the great FX.

I am so freakin' excited  -this series is going to be phenomenal.

Thank You!!!!!
dear François-xavier,
First let me tell you the pleasure i had to meet a talentuous homonym. You did a great job and your pictures are excellent.
I am sure the guess of this medieval party will remember it for long.
I can't wait to read and view the rest of your serie.
Many French Chefs must envie your talent.
Cheers. FX.
  • #13
  • Comment by Randall
Oh. My. God.

Staying in and cooking in a French châteaux?  Dude - you must be living right!  Cannot wait to see what you have to show us!  I work as a tour guide at a 16th c. English manor house transplanted to Virginia in the 20's.  Maybe I can crib some of your recipes and liven up our routine!  Cheers!
  • #14
  • Comment by pazuzuspetals
O my goodness! fx I am dying to see what's coming! As I am sitting here looking at your pictures and anticipating such things as blanc-manger and hypocras and dragees I am eliciting little oohhs and ahhhs that makes my husband raise his eyebrows and ask "Are you looking at porn?" No darling, this site is Soooo much BETTER than porn!
Thank you again, fx.
Amazing, simply amazing.

I've had and prepared roasted Boar that I've hunted.
I hated cleaning it but the meat was to die for.

Thanks for another great offering.

Wow, me too, can't wait to see your next post!
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
Zorra, hold on there are 7 articles in this serie!
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
Dave, the boar was truly amazing, hunters here actually feed 'wild' boars and the meat is more delicate as a result.
  • #19
  • Answered by fx
Pazuzu, I hope your husband will not mind the culinary philandering!
  • #20
  • Answered by fx
Randall, I got invited by a reader to his chateaux, couldn't refuse that, could I? You should look up the book "The Forme of Currye", it's an English cookbook from the same period, perhaps you can find a couple dishes of interest to make an interesting event in your place of work. But wait to see what we cooked up!
  • #21
  • Answered by fx
Thank you FX, I think the pictures came out OK and I even managed to do a few panoramas - just hold tight and they'll come one by one over the coming weeks!
  • #22
  • Answered by fx
Jason, the modern blanc-manger really is to die for, and it's very fun to prepare too!
  • #23
  • Answered by fx
Voodoo Kitchen, the anticipation will burn enough calories to balance any dish you'll try after reading the articles!
  • #24
  • Answered by fx
Yeast, sure I can send you a print of that picture, do you have Paypal? where do you want it sent?
  • #25
  • Answered by fx
Laura, I just flew back from Istanbul and took pictures of the same dessert over there, in fact there is a common ancestor to both ...
  • #26
  • Answered by fx
Joanna, the blanc manger is really incredible and you'll get to see all about my holidays in the coming articles - hold tight!
  • #27
  • Answered by fx
Dave, the castle is indeed extraordinary and it was quite an experience to have it for me and to cook those medieval dishes I always dreamed about!
  • #28
  • Answered by fx
Aniwa, I can't believe you already checked with them! Yes there are some changes on the way at the castle and I thin that in the future they might even offer regular rooms. Hope you can stay there once!
  • #29
  • Answered by fx
Jaden, thanks for dropping in! I hope you'll like the serie of article!
  • #30
  • Comment by Arpi
Francois-Xavier : My jaw is dropped and I am rendered speechless, particularly by the man with the goose feather! When I saw the first photo of the wild boar I had to rub my eyes to make sure that I wasn't seeing things. Then I scrolled down....
  • #32
  • Answered by fx
Aptronym, thanks for your kind words! The man with the goose quill makes a seriously tasty product and, as jams go, as slow food as it gets. I'll publish it on Friday - check back!
Now why can't I get that sort of email? (lol)

The caste is beautiful. Looking forward to your series.
  • #34
  • Comment by Angelo
I honestly thought the picture of the boar on a spit was a digitally enhanced woodcut or medieval painting. It's all so authentically medieval. You are a truly lucky fellow Francois. I couldn't help but snicker to myself when I read how much you enjoyed the roasted wild boar. The image of Asterix and Obelix feasting on boar kept coming to mind, and with you being of Gaulish descent...well, you get the picture...
  • #35
  • Answered by fx
Angelo, thanks for your praise of my picture! Actually I hesitated to post this one because it was staged - the boar on the spit in the large fireplace was placed there just for the picture, then we moved it outside for skinning (pictures on the way) and it was roasted outside, then brought back on the same spit. Glad you liked it!
WOW FX, this is amazing! I was at home in Belize for a month and didnt have much internet access, so imagine my delight to see the incredible stories you have awaiting me upon my return! I will have to take an afternoon off from homework just to get through them all. Marvelous pictures as well, of course! What a fantastic adventure to get to cook in a castle like that! And thank you so much for sharing it with us all.
FX, as spectacular as I expect the roasting of the wild boar to be (and like Angelo, I too was thrown a bit by the unskinned boar in front of the fire, seemingly seconds before roasting - well, in my carnivorous mind), the goose feather currant deseeder is what has *really* piqued my interest.  And what a beautiful castle, great choice on "going medieval" there.  Roasting boar in a 5th floor urban apartment just isn't the same...
  • #38
  • Answered by fx
Peter, thanks for your praise and hold on for the red currant jam, I will publish it next weeek, normally on Friday there will be the sugar coated almond maker, quite a sight too!
  • #39
  • Answered by fx
Lyra, thanks for dropping by after your vacation!
  • #40
  • Comment by Caroline CREMEL
At last a minute to compliment you on that extraordinary job. What a nice experience we shared at Hattonchatel, that day!! I will keep a special souvenir of it. And with those amazing photos you really confirm your talent. Pleased to have met you at that medieval party, and happy to see through the pictures all what i missed in the stressfull organisation of that unforgettable moment.
  • #41
  • Answered by fx
Carline, thank you and I'm glad you can enjoy these pictures of the preparation in a relaxed setting, it was a big day and I hope it worked for you too, we need to keep the Meuse oils content. Hold on for the Wild Boar pictures, these rock!
I had the pleasure of cooking a medieval feast for 150 people in Caerphilly castle in Wales, but the Chateau Hattonchatel looks so much more beautiful!
  • #43
  • Answered by fx
Kiriel, that sounds awesome, Caerphilly looks like an awesome castle although as far sleeping arrangements are concerned, Hattonchâtel seems better geared! What sort of food did you cook for your medieval banquet?

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