It has been two months since our return from a late summer trip to France. It followed two months of difficult recovery for my husband who was in a cycling accident in June. In fact, up to one week before our scheduled departure I feared we would have to cancel. But after nearly two months of inactivity and limited mobility my husband was anxious to be anywhere else but home. Setting my anxiety aside about reaching France only for my husband to be disappointed about being stuck in a hotel room, I soon realized that a change of scenery was exactly what he needed to get on the fast track to recovery. Where I had to drag him on walks at home only to return disappointed after a 2-mile loop around the neighborhood we averaged 3-5 mile hikes each day during an almost month-long vacation. My husband returned home in much better shape, both physically and mentally.
Unlike other trips where many of our days would be accounted for with tourist activities we took it easy on this trip. This was our third return to St. Jean Cap Ferrat so we were familiar and felt practically like locals (for an earlier post on this part of the French Riviera, click here). We even rented an apartment for two weeks of our stay. With the beach only steps away, an unobstructed view of Villefranche Bay and having a kitchen and large balcony for breakfast and afternoon wine hour, we loved our first experience with a self-catering apartment.
Between the early morning hours enjoying black tea with a baguette on the balcony and wine and cheese in the afternoon, we took side trips to Nice, Antibes, Monaco and a few other neighboring towns. Our daily schedule was dictated by our whims and, more often, the museum and farmers market schedules…but we always started with a hike around the Cap Ferrat peninsula.
Every afternoon, before heading back to home base, we stopped at the market for wine, bread and if we decided to eat in that night, ingredients for dinner. Cooking our own meals was such a joy rather than a chore. We found our favorite restaurants and returned to those several times during our long stay but we liked to split up those visits with home-cooked meals in between (having a kitchen was my motivation for suggesting renting an apartment for part of our stay). Even my husband rather enjoyed the short bus ride to town to pick up what we needed for the night. We purchased three weeks of bus passes outside the Nice airport so even several bus rides daily into and out of the town center soon became cost-effective for us…and made us feel even more like locals. We befriended several of the local vendors and a few times a couple of tourists and a local employee even asked me for directions and where to get the bus passes.
Our apartment experience wasn’t without its hiccups and small inconveniences but they were so minor that we would happily return to the same place if/when we visit St. Jean Cap Ferrat again. I mentioned in an earlier post that I might have ruined my chances of ever staying in a hotel again because my husband loved staying at this apartment so much. He loved the neighborhood, the view from the balcony, the quiet evenings and the short hop to the beach. So despite being locked out of the house on our first day (the lock jammed), having only one cutting board and only one kitchen knife (!)(it was well-equipped in all other respects), the washing machine taking some of our clothes hostage for most of our stay (we couldn’t figure out the trick to drain and unlock the washer) and having less bath towels than I would have liked, we more than just managed. The owner of the apartment was very responsive, the unit’s good qualities outnumbered the bad and more importantly, my husband and I figured out that we didn’t need multiples of everything to enjoy playing house away from home.
We woke up to our last day of vacation feeling torn. Torn between leaving behind the daily breakfasts in front of Villefranche Bay and swimming in the Cote d’Azur waters and being ready to return to real life. Having regained some of his strength, my husband felt himself again and I felt quite revitalized myself after seeing the progress he made. One day we will return to this part of the world; if not next year, maybe the year after. Most of my heart might be in San Francisco but there is undoubtedly a small part that I left behind in St. Jean Cap Ferrat.
(Please scroll down below for my Bacon and Leek Quiche recipe.)
Choosing quiche as my feature recipe to accompany this France recap was easy. The eggs in France tasted so good I couldn’t get enough of them. Most mornings and even dinner I had some form of egg dish on the table. A simple omelet with onions, tomatoes and greens made the most frequent appearance because it was easy and always satisfying. Quiche is just as simple but worthy of brunch with company.
I use my favorite pastry crust recipe here; it never fails to be flaky and crumbly. For the filling I went with a classic pairing of bacon and leeks but the options are endless. Add your favorite ingredients and you’ll feel like you’re on vacation in France with every bite.
- ***For the Pastry Crust***
- 1 – 1¼ cups all-purpose flour (140 – 175 grams; 145 grams is what I use)
- 7 tablespoons (3½ ounces, 105 grams) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons ice water
- ***For the Filling (this is for a 9½ in x 1½ in quiche dish)***
- 3 eggs
- 1¼ cup half-and-half
- 3 slices bacon, cut in pieces
- 1 leek, chopped, light and tender parts only
- ½ onion, chopped
- 3 – 4 ounces cheddar, grated
- Pinch or two of freshly grated nutmeg
- salt and pepper, to taste
- oil for sautéing
- Micro greens for garnish (optional)
- To prepare the Crust: Start with the smaller portion of flour; 145 grams works great for me. Process the flour, butter and salt in a food processor until the mixture is the texture of coarse crumbs, about 10-15 seconds. Add the ice water and pulse just until the pastry begins to hold together, about 6 – 10 pulses. Be sure not to let the mixture form into a ball. Transfer the pastry to a plastic wrap, flatten and form into a disk (Add 1 tablespoon at a time of the remaining flour if the dough seems too sticky). Since I was going to use the dough for two individual quiches, I split the dough in two, formed each nto a disk and wrapped separately in plastic wrap to make it easier to roll later. Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.
- To prepare the filling: Cook the bacon pieces until just crisp. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Drain the rendered fat from the pan and add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Over medium heat, cook the chopped onion until translucent, about 1-2 minutes, then add the leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the onion pieces start to caramelize and the leeks are tender. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and half and half and add the nutmeg. Set aside.
- To par-bake the crust: Preheat your oven to 375℉. Lightly flour your workspace and roll out your chilled dough to roughly 12 inches in diameter. Spray the dish with a little nonstick spray and carefully transfer the rolled out dough onto the dish. Press the dough firmly on the bottom and sides of the dish. Tuck the overhang under the inside rim of the dish. I purposely folded the overhang and pinched the ends so that I’d have about ½ inch of dough above the rim. This would compensate for any shrinkage in the dough as it bakes. Pierce the surface of the dough with the tines of a fork and line loosely with foil. Fill the bottom with pie weights and bake the crust for 15 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil and bake for another 10 minutes just until the crust is lightly golden. Take it out of the oven to cool for a few minutes.
- To Fill and Bake: Combine the bacon with the leek mixture and arrange in a single layer inside the par baked crust. Add ⅔ of the grated cheese then pour in the whisked egg/milk mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.