Lovers of true French 'Cuisine du Terroir' will find much to enjoy in the mostly rural region of Centre. Famous foods from the area include mouth-watering pork dishes, such as Andouillettes sausages (cooked in Vouray wine) and Tours Rillettes, and goats cheeses, arguably the most renown being Crottin de Chavignol and Sainte Maure de Touraine. Boasting a wide selection of locally grown fruits, the area is also famous as the birthplace of one of France's most popular deserts, Tarte Tatin.
This delicious combination of light, flaky pastry and caramelised apples (which can also be spelled 'Tart Tatin') was apparently invented by accident around 1898 in the Loire Valley by Stéphanie Tatin, who was running a small hotel with her sister, Caroline.
Preparing dishes for their guests, Stéphanie left apples that she was preparing for a traditional apple pie simmering for too long in a pan with butter and sugar. Returning to find that the mixture had boiled down into a caramelised base, she poured it into a pastry dish, covered it with her homemade flaky pastry and baked it. The result, when turned out upside down onto a tray, La Tarte Tatin, now served in almost every restaurant in France.
A jewel in the crown of Centre's fine dairy tradition is the area's deliciously light goats cheese with Crottin de Chavignol and Sainte Maure de Touraine among the most celebrated.
Sainte Maure de Touraine, which comes originally from Touraine province, is a soft and log-shaped cheese with a thin, blue grey rind of mold. It has had an AOC Label, tightly controlling its authenticity and quality since 1990.
Crottin de Chavignol, softer and lighter, is a perfect spreading cheese, ideal to be enjoyed with a stick of French bread, perhaps with a glass (or two) of lightly chilled Sancere.
Rillettes, which originated from the town of Tours, is a delicate, moist and delicious terrine, made only from pork belly and fat. The recipe itself requires a fine blend of bay leaves, black pepper, fresh thyme, garlic, sea salt, shallots, and French five-spice. The pork itself is cooked very slowly until it becomes so tender it flakes apart. Then it is shredded, mixed with melted pork fat and set.
Traditionally served as a sharer's platter, to be spread on French bread and eaten with gherkins, rillettes are a favorite for all lovers of French charcuterie, as well as a 'must try' for anyone staying locally in gites de France.