www.meganjoychapman.com

Author of Lion Heart & Alessio: The Victory Ride Series

Goût de France: Sunday in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Saint Remy de Provence

Waking up in the South of France for the first time was dreamy. The sun was shining, birds chirping, and my husband was making breakfast for the four of us—eggs, fresh Provençal sausage, fried potatoes, with a side of Gouda cheese—Yikes! My typical breakfast in Hawaii is usually an organic green smoothie after a killer workout. But I’m in France here— so who cares.

While Chap slaved in the kitchen, I enjoyed some quiet time alone with my coffee in the garden.  The perfect weather was a blessing because we’d been told that it had rained for weeks before we had arrived.

Saint Remy de Provence

Soothing church bells chimed in the distance as I read my Bible. It was Sunday in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and with over 12 hours of needed sleep from jet-lag  the bells clarified that we had already missed the service we’d planned to attend.  So with no rush to be anywhere, we all took our time enjoying the morning at L’Harmas.

Saint Remy de Provence

The Historical Town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

After breakfast we took a 20-minute walk into the historical town square to acquaint ourselves with Saint-Rémy (sahn ray-mee). Since the beginning of the 20th century, St. Rémy has attracted people like me—artists, writers, and painters to its quaint medieval village tucked away in the rugged limestone hills of Les Alpilles.

Saint Remy de Provence

Limestone hills view from L’Harmas

Rémy is also known for the Saint-Paul de Mausolée Asylum where Vincent Van Gogh admitted himself after cutting off his ear. His stay from 1889-1890 was brief but Van Gogh created some of his best masterpieces at the asylum, including 143 oil paintings and over 100 drawings.

Saint Remy de Provence

Asylum in Saint-Remy, painted by Vincent Van Gogh

Boutiques, galleries, specialty shops, unique cafes, and restored houses line the rustic side streets of Saint-Rémy.

Saint Remy de Provence

 

Saint Remy de Provence

Wine shop offering gourmet snacks and gifts

 

Saint Remy de Provence

People actually drive down these streets-and fast to boot. Check out the parking garage on the right. But at least there’s a hospital, too, just in case you don’t quite make the turn!

Winding short alleyways lead into the shady town square. Ancient stone fountains are scattered throughout the old-world village.

Saint Remy de Provence

Our first stop on our excursion was Saint Martin Church where I’d heard the bells chiming earlier. The church is St Rémy’s largest building and planted in the center of the town square.

Saint Remy de Provence

Saint Martin Church dates back to the 14th century but after a collapse in 1818, it was rebuilt in the 19th century.

Saint Remy de Provence

The temperature inside the large stone structure was cold but peaceful, smelled of incense, had ginormous chandeliers, detailed painted walls, and vibrant stained glass.

Saint Remy de Provence

Saint Martin’s is renowned for its organ. St. Remy’s Organa Festival welcomes some of the finest organists in the world to perform a series of free concerts between July and September.

Saint Remy de Provence

The architecture of the mammoth archways, stonework, and moldings were quite impressive.

 Saint Remy de Provence

Me (left) and Deanna (right) on the steps outside Saint Martin

Saint-Rémy de Provence

Me and Chap feeling like superstars in Saint-Rémy (hence the stars on the pavement!).

Next ,we ventured off to find lunch but because of our late start that morning, we missed it. So we ended up having to eat at an Italian pizzeria. I know! My first meal out in France was pizza. Crazy! But at least I was able to create a good recipe remake for Rustic Provençal Pizza.

After lunch we waited in a long line for gelato. I think the last time I had an icecream cone was back in high school. I’m more of a Vitamix-Smoothie-Girl these days. Healthier. But again—I’m in France, so who cares.

Saint Remy de Provence

Chap’s eyeing my Macaron Gelato. He preferred it over his Pistache. Pizza for lunch and gelato for dessert—I wondered if we were in Italy instead of France.

Deanna and I ducked into a shop to try on hats. They were super cute but also super expensive. I was dead set on buying a fun one while in France, but it was hard for me with my fashion design background to pay 250 euros ($336.72 American dollars) knowing I could make one just like it. Of course I never will—make one for myself, that is—but just saying.

Saint Remy de Provence

Deanna on left, Me on right feeling très français dans des chapeaux.

Saint Remy de Provence

Chap with backpack on in store talking me out of buying expensive hat.

Before heading back to our castle we hit a boulangerie for pastries and bread, then walked home. Other than eating mostly Italian our first day, it was a perfect Sunday in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

Saint Remy de Provence

Link is Bread Guy on left, Chap on right. And no, they’re not holding hands. LOL.

Recipe Remakes

Coconut Milk Macaroon Sorbet

Rustic Provençal Pizza

Provençal Chicken Sausage

Read this story from the beginning here:

Goût de France: Thanks, Mom!

Click here to check out Megan’s educational adventure book for kids ages 8-12!

Goût de France: Roasted Dijon Chicken with Fingerling Potatoes and Gravy

Chicken

The chickens we had in France were insanely good. Even the chickens sold in the grocery stores were exceptional. But I especially loved seeing the rotisseries at the farmers markets. I’d literally start salivating as I watched the chicken slowly rotate on the spit while its juices seasoned the potatoes below. And the best part was that the meat in France was always fresh and organic—a major plus. I’m not a fan of antibiotics so try to eat organic as much as possible, especially when it comes to chicken.

So I had to wonder . . . Should I even bother trying to recreate a recipe for French rotisserie chicken? I mean, how can you perfect perfection? But after a little research and many chickens later, I think I may have unlocked the secret to tender, succulent, mouthwatering chicken. But here’s the kicker—you won’t need a rotisserie to achieve it. The secret is brining and butter.

Brining the meat first is key to locking in juices. And don’t judge me— but the ungodly amount of butter in my recipe adds tons of flavor as well. I don’t generally cook with a lot of butter, but if I want to compete with the French, let’s face it—it’s a must. Just follow my easy brining recipe along with the recipe below and you’re on your way to poulet rôti parfait every time. Bon Appetit!

Roasted Dijon Chicken with Fingerling Potatoes and Gravy Recipe

Fingerling Potatoes and Gravy Ingredients
2-2 ½ lbs. fingerling potatoes (or any small potato medley)
2 large garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 carrot cut in chunks
1 onion cut in chunks
1 celery stalk cut in chunks
½ teaspoon Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet

Roasted Chicken Ingredients
One 4-5 lb. brined chicken rinsed, patted dry, giblets removed
1 stick unsalted butter, softened (the brining adds salt so I recommend unsalted butter)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 extra sprig of rosemary and thyme for cavity
2 extra sprigs of rosemary for breasts
2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
More salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan, toss the veggie chunks and potatoes with the garlic, rosemary, EVOO, salt, and pepper until evenly coated. Scatter veggies and potatoes into a single layer to create a bed for the chicken.

In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, Dijon, shallot, rosemary, thyme, Herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. With your fingers, slather the butter mixture under the skin, inside the cavity, and over the top of the chicken. Add the extra sprigs of rosemary under the skin of the chicken breast for added flavor. Add the other sprig of rosemary and thyme into the cavity. With kitchen string, tie the chicken legs together. Place coated chicken breast side up, on top of the veggies and potatoes. Brining the chicken does add salt but I still season the outside with a little S and P—about ½ teaspoon more salt and ¼ teaspoon more pepper.

Chicken

Place chicken, potatoes, and veggies in oven for about 1 hour for 4 pounds or 1 hour and 15 minutes for 5 pounds. Roast until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 degrees F and juices run clear. The potatoes should be soft with a good amount of juice in the bottom of the pan, and the chicken skin should be crispy golden brown.

Transfer the chicken to another dish, cover with foil, and allow it to rest about 15 minutes before carving or eating. I like to transfer my potatoes to another baking dish and continue roasting them until they’re crispy— about 10 more minutes at 425 degrees, but that’s up to you.

To make gravy, transfer the veggies to a food processor along with the strained pan juices. Add ½ teaspoon Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet and blend till smooth. Transfer gravy to a small saucepan and keep warm on stovetop. Gravy will be thick so add a little water if needed. Serve your succulent chicken with fingerling potatoes and gravy.

Chicken

Related Links

Chicken Brine

My First French Kiss and Vintage Villa

Read this story from the beginning

Goût de France: Thanks, Mom!

Click here to check out Megan’s educational adventure book for kids ages 8-12!

Goût de France: My First French Kiss and Vintage Villa

Villa

As we got out of the car we were greeted by Astrid, the seventy-something, propriétaire of L’Harmas whom my husband kept calling Asteroid by accident. At my husbands expense, it became a running joke between the four of us that would come back to bite us later. But that’s a story for another day.

“Sorry,” Astrid said, revealing her thick French accent with German undertones. “I did not hear the buzzer. Were you waiting at the gate long? I was on the phone scheduling your maid service.“

She fit my stereotype of a proper mature Frenchwoman perfectly. Her mouth looked like an asterik, permanently pursed, and she wore a blue and white striped nautical top with navy pants. But instead of a beret or scarf, a thin headband secured her ash-blonde bob.

Astrid welcomed us with a customery European kiss—one on each cheek— three times. I tried not to feel slighted when I only received one-and-a-half kisses. I guess she was tired by the time she got to me after already busting out nine in a row to my husband and two friends.

She pecked her cheek against mine, quickly swiveled half way to the other side but stopped mid-stream. Instead of proceeding she shook her head vigorously and threw up her hand. “Ah! In some cases it’s four kisses. Too much, too much! How about some chilled Rosé?”

Inside our Vintage French Villa

The dining room was just off the kitchen and became our favorite room in the house. The yellow walls and many windows gave it a sun-room feel. Fresh pink peonies were there when we arrived.

The dining room was just off the kitchen and became our favorite room in the house. The yellow walls and many windows gave it a sun-room feel. Fresh pink peonies were there when we arrived.

Astrid led us in through the dining room entrance just off the kitchen and poured us each a glass of crisp Rosé . Alcohol was the last thing I needed to add to my jet-lag and hunger, but I’d heard that turning down food or drink from the French could be direly detrimental. And I wasn’t about to get off on the wrong foot with Astrid, especially after my altercation with the fromage coguette at the Intermarche supermarket.

French doors opened into the garden.

French doors opened into the garden.

A Villa with a Little French Character

After giving us the run-down for laundry, garbage, and what bathroom not to use because it was out of commission, Astrid mentioned she’d be back in a couple days to check on us, and then left so we could settle in. Once bedrooms were assigned we hauled in our luggage and put groceries away.

Chap’s and my bedroom was down a long dark, narrow hallway at the back of the main house or villa. Two dimly lit lamps in the hallway provided minimal light. It was somewhat creepy at first but I adjusted to L’Harmas’ foreign character and eeriness after a couple days.

Most rooms had fabric-lined walls with water stains along the borders. So it smelled musty—not offensive—just oldish. The dark furniture was ornate and tattered oriental rugs were scattered throughout. A fire place in the livingroom added to its charm.

I caught a shower to rinse off thirty-one hours of travel , then headed to the kitchen to inspect my canvas for cooking. It was much smaller than expected with very little counterspace.

Adding to my adventure, I’d soon learn that many things in France were smaller than in America.

Adding to my adventure, I’d soon learn that many things in France were smaller than in America.

I had to pinch myself. I felt like I was in a movie. Lost in a strange foreign country—Car breaks down. In search for help, I stumble upon an abandoned villa. . .

The hallway bathroom had about 15 different leftover face-mask creams and essential oil scrubs along with used combs and hairbrushes! Used combs and hairbrushes???

The cupboards in the kitchen were also stocked with leftovers from former visitors and the spice rack was full. But the herbs looked and smelled like they hadn’t been used in years. I was glad we’d bought our own at the market.

On a more positive note, I fell in love with the garbage chute.There was a little metal square door on the wall where garbage was tossed. It dropped into a garbage can located in a cabinet only accessible outside. “To keep the smell and bugs away,” Astrid had said. I told Chap, my carpenter husband, that I wanted one for our house.

Using the groceries we’d purchased, we quickly threw together a rustic Provencal meal.

Store bought organic rotisserie chicken, assortments of cured meats, fresh cheeses including Gouda, peppered chevre, and truffled brie, cured olives, fresh baked bread, and a salad with thick aged balsamic vinegar, local olive oil, oregano, Mediterranean sea salt, and crushed red and black pepper.

Store bought organic rotisserie chicken, assortments of cured meats, fresh cheeses including Gouda, peppered chevre, and truffled brie, cured olives, fresh baked bread, and a salad with thick aged balsamic vinegar, local olive oil, oregano, Mediterranean sea salt, and crushed red and black pepper.

Rather than make it look pretty, the four of us just dug in and had at it. Then it was off to bed for a good nights rest, so we’d be ready for our first full day in the historical town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

Inspired Recipe Remakes

Roasted Dijon Chicken with Fingerling Potatoes

Chicken Brining Recipe

Read this story from the beginning

Goût de France: Thanks, Mom!

Click here to check out Megan’s educational adventure book for kids ages 8-12!

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