Tuesday, December 9, 2008

French Aperitif: Ham and Olive Cake

Holidays are such a wonderful time! With all the parties that Juan and I need to attend, I like to contribute something really French for each. This Ham and Olive Cake is traditionally served in France during an aperitif (drinks served before a meal, along with snacks). It's usually cut in thick cubes, arranged on a platter and served as a finger food. We call it "Cake aux olives et jambon". 

In France, "un cake" is a sweet or savory rectangular-shape dish. Any other size, like a round cake would be called "un gateau". "Les cakes" are very popular in France. This ham and cheese one is the most basic one but there are many other variations possible: adding goat cheese, smoked salmon, chicken, rosemary... There really is not limit to your imagination. Fortunately, I have many "cake" recipes up my sleeves, so I can't wait to share more with you!

They are so incredibly easy to make and so versatile. I love them! This recipe has been my Mom's for decades. She always makes one or two versions of "cake" for Christmas, to serve during the aperitif, while everyone in my - big - family catches up around a glass of Kir Royal. I particularly love the addition of white wine to the recipe. It adds a subtle je ne sais quoi...

The weather was so nice this last Sunday that Juan and I cut a couple slices of my Ham and Olive Cake for ourselves and headed for an outdoor picnic (yes in December!). I put some fresh green salad in a tupperware and mixed a quick lemon and olive oil vinaigrette. It was absolutely perfect! No mess, no plates and delicious.

Stay tuned tout le monde .... I sense a French Fork "savory cake" series coming our way...

** Other French Fork Aperitif ideas**

Ham and Olive French Cake (serves 8 to 12)

6 oz (or a little more than a cup) of pitted and non-stuffed green olives (Manzanilla or anything you like)
2 cups and 3 tbsps of all purpose flour
1 tsp 1/2 of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup of whole milk
1 cup of white wine
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup of olive oil
7 oz of  smoked ham (like a smoked virginia ham or black forest smoked) cut in 1/2 inch thick
6 oz of Gruyere cheese (if you can't find Gruyere, you could use Emmental, Comte or Beaufort)
1/2 tsp of freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter and flour an 11-inch long loaf pan. In a saucepan, boil 2 cups of water. Drain the olives, and when the water is boiling, drop them in for 2 minutes, to blanch them (it takes off that briny taste). Drain them and roughly chop them. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Transfer to a bowl. Combine the eggs, one at a time. Combine the milk, the wine and both the vegetable and olive oil. It gives a very liquid consistency, which is normal. 

Dice the ham into 1/2 inch cubes and combine to the dough. Grate the Gruyere cheese and combine. Finally, add the pepper and olives, combine well and transfer to the loaf pan.

Bake in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a knife inserted comes out clean. Because there is so much liquid in the recipe, it will be very bubbly and the blade of your knife will be somewhat wet, but there should not be any uncooked dough. The top should be brown. Don't worry if the inside of the cake looks uncooked. That's exactly how it's supposed to be!

Resist the temptation to unmold right away and allow to cool for an hour. Serve cut in slices for lunch or dinner, along with a simple green salad and vinaigrette, or cut in thick 1 inch cubes, as an appetizer, along with drinks. Enjoy lukewarm or cold.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I found your blog today and read all of it. It is an interesting mix of delicious food and memories from your life in France. Thanks for sharing the recipes and explanations. I live near Antibes and have made a version of the "cake aux olives" and wondered why my French friends called it a cake. I plan to try your recipe with the white wine during the holidays.

Crystal said...

Just wanted to let you know that I posted the links to the food bloggers from last night on my blog. :)

Laetitia said...

You live near Antibes?! We own a second home in Juan-Les-Pins!! Yes "le cake" (French "cake") is very popular in France. I hope you enjoy the recipe. Do let me know and JOYEUX NOEL!!!

cynthia said...

Oops, I just made your ham and olive cake. The recipe didn't say when/where to add the olives so I just added when i added the ham? We'll see...
Also, I tasted the olives after boiling and brought to room temp- wow! it really brings out the taste of the olive, and it doesn't get mushy. I may do that more often!
Thanks - bringing to a French wine tasting tonight.

Laetitia said...

Cynthia - Oops! Thanks for catching that!! It's been updated! Let me know how your party goes tonight and how everyone enjoys the cake! Happy New Year to you in advance.