Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chateaux Meatballs

We've just spent a wonderful week and some in the Loire Valley. In case you're wondering why my kids haven't been in school for the past two! weeks, well, it's the yearly All Saints or Toussaint holiday, of course. The school days are long and the year lasts into July, and here's why. We get three staggered two-week breaks during the school year. If you're a mother of three you'd better hope you've got some fun stuff planned. And that your husband doesn't leave on business for the better part of the second week. (hint, hint) I'm not bitter. Really, I'm not.

{rooftop of Chateau Chambord, Chambord, France aka the big one}
We visited seven, count 'em, seven chateaux and the kids were great...actually much better than we could have ever hoped. The French excel at creating interest in art and history and making it accessible to children. Every chateau had something for kids, either a child-friendly audio guide (pronounced geede for just so much holiday fun) and usually a book of games, kind of like a treasure hunt for the kids to fill out as they toured the castle before turning in the 'mystery word' at the gift shop for a prize at the end of the visit. These prizes were thinks like posters and magnets, sometimes a pencil.

{lessons in architecture, Chateau Blois}
We would get them settled with their history hunting paraphernalia and then shuffle around taking in the history and splendor of double helix staircases, mismatched roof turrets, fresh flowers, upholstered walls, painted ceiling rafters and so many salamanders. We'd finish off every morning with a pique-nique lunch of ham and omelet sandwiches at the thoughtfully provided picnic tables on the grounds of whatever day's chateau. 

{Bridge over the Loire in Blois, France}
P-Daddy did some real good research beforehand and found us an apartment in a chateau in Blois. It was on the ground floor of a real live chateau (albeit dating from the early 19th century) and the living room used to be the original dining room. The marble floors and wainscoted ceilings and walls were still there in all their glory. It was the perfect spot from which to see the bulk of the chateaux and the owner was perfectly lovely, perfectly coiffed and perfectly refined.

{marble floors of our apartment, Blois, France}
The kitchen was fully equipped and I was able to make some pretty tasty dinners from the few bits I picked up at the grocery store on our first night in. You know how it is when you're away, especially with children, and you need to cook from a half-stocked kitchen. I have gotten good at keeping travel basics like olive oil, salt and pepper and flavor enhancing fresh stock gels. Our first night there we were exhausted from the traveling, recovering from the first coughs of the season and chilled from the cold. I figured only a soup of clear broth, meaty meatballs and greens would do and so set about making my version of Italian meatball soup.

We dipped the chewy baguette from the bakery just around the corner into the shimmering clear broth and grated on curls of Parmesan cheese. The meatballs were beef and the escarole and leeks gave it the hearty depth it needed. We slurped it until we were warm and toasty and then fell into strange beds while the radiators emitted their snug heat.

Chateaux Meatballs

500g ground beef or pork
2 leeks, white parts only diced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheeseone slice of white bread, no crust
one egg

1 carrot
1 bunch escarole or fresh spinach
6 cups very good chicken stock, homemade if you can

one more egg, beaten and added at the end for extra richness

Make your meatballs by mixing the leeks, finely chopped, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, crumbled up white bread slice and the egg beaten together. Make them small, about the diameter of a quarter or euro piece and set aside. You should get around 35.

Chop the carrot into fine dice and soften in olive oil in a big stock pot.
Add 6 cups of chicken stock when the carrot is soft and bring to a boil.
Drop your meatballs into the boiling broth and bring back to the boil. Then, lower the heat to a simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Rough chop the escarole or spinach and add to the soup. Continue to cook until wilted but not for an age.
When you're ready to serve, stir the soup and while it is still swirling add in the beaten egg, continuing to stir afterwards until the egg is trailing along in the broth, cooked.

Grate in some more Parmesan now or grate it at the table and serve rich and golden in warmed bowls, the perfect balm for a travel weary crew.

{F for Francois I, ceiling tile of Chambord}

More chateaux to come and with more pictures than you can shake a stick at.


  1. Hooray! So glad that you are back--you were missed! :) And I love seeing the Loire Valley through your eyes. So happy that everyone had such a great time. I have got my stick ready so bring on more photos when you can...
    Gros bisous,

  2. Sounds like you had a great week away. We did almost the same thing but down in the Luberon. Daily hill towns and castles with cozy games of Monopoly by the fire at night in the farmhouse that my husband found for us. Perfect!
    P.S. One of ma filles has the same dress as ta fille ;)

  3. Seven chateaux with kids? Well done! So happy to read it was a lovely experience. We're planning a trip to France with kids next year and a trip to the Loire sounds doable now. Thanks! -Kristina

  4. Sounds like so much fun! I hope one day my family and I will be able to do a similar trip. The meatballs sound delish. My husband has been wanting me to make meatballs so hopefully I will have a chance to give these a try.

  5. Kristina,
    I'll be posting about each one if you're interested. Feel free to email with specifics if you are going and I will be happy to help.
    Thanks for commenting.

  6. Francophilehic,
    It was fun. I hope you are able to visit some day. You could listen to all the guides in French! Enjoy the meatballs.
    Aidan x

  7. Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for commenting. Let me know how the soup turns out.

  8. What a gorgeous chateau to rent (a portion of!). I hope when I have children they enjoy such a trip when we take them. I am impressed. And I LOVE Italian Wedding Soup. So good.

  9. I love the recipe of the Chateau Meatballs and the idea of meatballs with soup and vegetables. You may not believe it, but is is the first time that I hear about this combination. What kind of Italian am I?

  10. Seeing your pictures reminds me of our trip through the Loire Valley with our kids along with friends with their kids back in 1995. We stayed in Blois too although not in a chateau. I also remember having a little fight over where to eat dinner in Blois. Thanks for sharing your pictures.

  11. Look who's back...yea!

    Also stayed in Blois with my kids years ago.


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