Traditionally, a trou normande (or "Norman hole"*) is a small glass of Calvados taken between courses in order to help aid digestion and encourage total besottedness throughout a meal in Normandy. This seems reasonable to me. The weather up there is kind of English when it's not summer, and unless you hunt or farm trout or harvest apples, I'm not sure what else there is to do besides quietly resent your tablemates and crave hard liquor.
In contemporary metropolitan France, a trou normande more commonly refers a glass of Calvados poured over sorbet or ice cream. That sounds nice enough, although it could veer into near-criminal territory if one used a Calvados worth tasting on its own without the numbing sweet chill of what you've just poured it over. Almost any booze tastes nice on ice cream, really; there's nothing stopping the invention of the trou mexicain or the trou russe or the trou de kentucky. Whereas in fatter, better-financed days I used to like to keep a bottle of Domaine Dupont 15yr around the apartment, and everytime someone proposed the ol' trou normande I'd respond with a hearty hell non.
Which brings me to the third, near-mythical (to me) trou normande, the one I seem to only ever hear of when it's proposed half in gest by cavistes and vignerons after they've been drinking all morning. This one involves pouring a dab of Calvados onto a freshly shucked oyster and then downing the thing.
I suppose the argument could be made, by insane people, that giving the bivalve a short swig of hard stuff could numb somewhat the pain of being digested whole. To me the saner question is: what the hell does that even taste like, pouring apple brandy onto an oyster? It sounds weird city. I would DEFINITELY not bust out the good stuff for such a use.
Nevertheless the other night during our oyster feast we happened to have a bottle of so-so Calva' lying around, and more oysters than we knew what to do with. So I tried it. The third "Norman hole."
It's a little better if you add lemon juice in addition to the splash of Calvados.
I don't know; honestly, the only reason I can see for this strange tradition ever arising is perhaps it was once used as a way to alcohol-cure any oysters left in the back of the icebox for a few days too long.** The combined taste is rich and unctuous and vaguely compost-vegetal where an un-Calva'd oyster is bright and mineral. Until proven otherwise I'm lumping this one in with the caviar pizza and the sake bomb, as examples of ways to spoil two otherwise fine things by unnecessarily combining them.
*Too obvious. Not making the joke.
**Not endorsing this. In no way am I endorsing this.
Domaine Dupont's terrific 15yr - for drinking the normal way, from a glass - is available at:
67, rue de Lancry
Metro: Jacques Bonsergeant
Tel: 01 48 03 17 34
38, rue Oberkampf
Tel: 01 43 14 99 46