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Posts from the ‘Bits & Bites’ Category

It’s Time for a Giveaway!

We’re giving away a GRANDE CHARCUTERIE GIFT BASKET on our Facebook page. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the holidays (a little gift for yourself, maybe?).

With a value of $99.99 and 8 of our signature pieces of charcuterie packed inside, this is a savory gift basket anyone would enjoy.

Head on over and enter for your chance to win. Get social and share the giveaway to increase your chances. Bonne chance!

Must be at least 18 years old to enter. Valid only in the United States. Giveaway ends Dec. 18, 2013.

Ham, Glorious Ham!

In the December issue, Bon Appétit magazine “effusively recommends” our bone-in heritage ham for your holiday dinner. Obviously, we couldn’t agree more. There is nothing so satisfying (and impressive) as a gleaming, glazed ham on the table.

Click over to the Bon Appétit site and start planning your own path to ham nirvana (step one, buy it from dartagnan.com).

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You can serve a crowd at Christmas and then use leftovers in split pea soup. Yes, please.

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How to Make Chabrot

A  message from Ariane …

Faire chabrot… it’s a rustic tradition from rural France that continues to this day in the Southwest, my region.  It’s an expression of conviviality and continuity, of simple pleasures at the table. So what is chabrot?

It’s a fun way to finish a bowl of soup. When in Gascony, it is often garbure, an improvised soup that varies by season and from one house to the next, though usually includes cabbage and confit of duck or goose. Some people keep a permanent pot of soup bubbling, and add vegetables and meat to it each day. A good broth is a staple in the day of many rural people.

For chabrot (pronounced shab-row), just enjoy your soup and then leave a bit of the warm broth in the bowl.  Naturally, you have red wine on the table, so pour in a dose of wine, I would say about half the amount of the broth, but you can do equal parts if you like.

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The ritual unfolds.

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Soup, a hunk of bread and wine. All a man needs.

There is no stirring and no spoon! Hold your bowl in two hands, swirl gently, and with elbows planted on the table, drink the wine and broth mixture.

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Optional: elbows off the table. (Note the game bird hanging behind!)

This is chabrot. Considered very old school and a peculiar habit of rural people, and in some company bad manners (!), it’s a tradition that l love to share with others.

There is something about the warm broth and the wine together… and the whole table lifting bowls to their faces. It always stirs something in me. Perhaps it is the thought of a long line of ancestors who tipped their bowls through the generations.  Or maybe it’s just the unique flavor of the raw wine and the broth together.

D'Artagnan the Rotisserie

Here, we chabrot at D’Artagnan: The Rotisserie, our now-closed restaurant in NYC. On the left is Georgette Farkas, the owner of the new Rotisserie Georgette.

You can see how it’s done in this video I made with Ed Brown. We were in the kitchen making poule au pot and I couldn’t resist the chance to show him.

So now that you know, go ahead and faire chabrot!

About Our Reserve Jean Reno Olive Oils

A message from Ariane…

It’s not every day that you meet a movie star like Jean Reno, let alone go into business with him. But I was lucky enough to have a long dinner with the great man and our talk turned to food, to France, and to his passion: olive oil. Not only olive oil, but also the rugged little olive tree that seems to live forever, that is such a strong symbol of peace, immortality and beauty.

Over 25 years ago, Jean found a mas, a traditional farmhouse in Provence, which he purchased with an eye to moving his aged father there. Indeed, the home gave his father peace in his final years and a resting place in death, as Jean buried his father on the property.  As you might imagine, he holds a deep affection for Provence and feels a great connection to the place.

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Jean Reno among his olive trees.

Since becoming a local, he has learned a lot about the olive trees of the area, more specifically in Maussane-les-Alpilles in the heart of the Vallée des Baux-de-Provence. This region of Southern France has been famous for its olives since the early Roman Empire, and continues to rank as France’s top olive oil producer with AOC status. Olive oil may be France’s best kept secret. Very small amounts are produced in the traditional manner, and it usually stays in the region. Very little is exported.

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The olive groves of Maussane-les-Alpilles.

But Jean and I thought it was time to change that.  You see, he bought the farmhouse with a little property, and then added a little more, and those acres included some fine olive orchards.  Like many in Les-Alpilles, Jean’s trees would produce enough olive oil for his family to enjoy. So he bought more acres of trees to make more olive oil.

He also became involved with the local moulin, or mill, that was producing his olive oil. The moulin follows traditional methods, using great granite stones to crush the olives. Working with them, he developed the blends for his olive oils, and now he’s the president of their association. He is a vocal advocate for true flavors of terroir and for the superb olive oil that flows from the moulin.

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The moulin –or mill–is in an ancient Benedictine monastery.

Great chefs like Joël  Robuchon and Daniel Boulud knew a good thing when they tasted it, and started using his olive oils in their restaurants. But Jean had a vision to bring his olive oil to a wider audience with the help of D’Artagnan.

That’s how it began, and I am proud that after months of work, we now offer three styles of olive oil, made with olives hand harvested in Reno’s own orchard and pressed in the historic mill famous since 1924 for creating fine quality oils.

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Barely a month after the U.S. launch, we are honored that restaurants like Balthazar, Mercer Kitchen, Felix, SoHo Grand and Bistro Vendome in NYC are using our oils on a regular basis. But the excitement about Jean Reno Olive Oil is not limited to Manhattan. In Chicago such luminaries as Graham Elliot, L2O, Les Nomades, Brindille, Belly Q, Acadia and Black Bull are among the many serving it. And in Boston you can taste it at The Four Seasons Hotel.  New Jersey restaurants serving it include Highlawn Pavilion, Restaurant Serenade, GP Restaurant, Restaurant Avenue, and Park Ave Club.  Le Diplomate in D.C., Philippe’s Wine Cellars in Lafayette, LA and Café de la Presse in San Francisco, CA are just a few of our  national clients who appreciate and serve these oils.

Jean Reno olive oil is not yet found in retail stores, so if you want to try it, the best place to go is our website.

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Freshly picked olives being sorted.

The olives you will taste in these oils are varieties exclusively grown in the region. They are: Salonenque, Grossane, Béruguette, Verdale des Bouches du Rhône and Picholine.

Another distinction of oil from Maussane-les-Alpilles is that the olives are aged and slightly fermented for a brief period before being crushed under ancient granite millstones, and then mechanically pressed in large scourtins (disks) to extract pure, unfiltered olive oil. This all comes from matters of practicality, as in the old days with limited technology, only so many olives could be picked and processed into oil each day. The ones that got pressed later were more fermented, and it became a hallmark of production in the region.

This aging process, which can last as little as one day or as long as a week, allows the water to evaporate out of the fruit and it makes the flavors more intense. The Fruite Noir, or Black Fruity, variety is a virgin olive oil, and is aged the longest, about seven days. When you taste the oil from this fruit, which is 50% Picholine olive, it’s like eating the olive itself. It tastes like liquid olive tapenade, with a unique fruity flavor that is slightly acidic with subtle aromas of cocoa, bread and roasted artichoke.

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All three of Jean’s olive oils are smooth and silky with subtle aromas and terroir rarely encountered outside of France.

The Fruite Vert, or Green Fruity, is aged for one or two days only and the juice is extracted, not pressed. This changes the flavor and aroma immensely; it is fresh, barely acidic, with a peppery note, hints of green herbs, grapefruit and fresh almonds.

The Classic Blend, Extra Virgin Olive Oil offers a mix of four olives that have been aged for three days. It’s well-balanced oil with light floral notes of dried fruits and a fresh peppery aftertaste.

Each of Jean’s oils are made in limited quantities. Do not hesitate to order them soon (they make a nice gift for a food lover).

Watch our video to see what Jean has to say about his oils and get tips on how to use them.

Jean and I appeared together on BFM TV to talk about the project. If you can understand our French, you may enjoy this video in which Jean recommends drinking olive oil straight from the bottle!

And if you enter our contest on Facebook this week you could win all three varieties –autographed by Jean himself.  

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The autographed bottles.

D’Artagnan Giveaway on Facebook!

If you are not yet friends with us on Facebook, you might want to head over there now. We are giving away a set of our new Jean Reno Reserve Olive Oil. And each of the three bottles is autographed by Jean Reno himself!

The distinctive flavors of his olive oils come from the terroir of the Mausanne-les-Alpilles region of Baux-de Provence, where he grows the olives for the Classic Blend, Green Fruity and Black Fruity varieties.

You could win all three bottles if you enter our giveaway! Share with your friends to increase your chances of winning. Good luck!

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Jean Reno signs bottles of his olive oil in Ariane's office.

Jean Reno signing a bottle of his olive oil in Ariane’s office at D’Artagnan.

The contest ends November 22, 2013, so enter soon.

Ariane Talks Turkey on TV

Ariane appeared on ABC 7 Eyewitness News yesterday to share her tips for making the perfect turkey this Thanksgiving.  If you missed it, you can watch the video  and get Ariane’s recipes here. For more turkey recipes, go to our website.

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Ariane preps for the cameras.

Ariane brought three different types of turkeys — wild, heritage and organic — to the studio. Each offers something different for your Thanksgiving feast. Learn more about our birds here.

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Michelle Charlesworth asks Ariane about the different turkeys available at dartagnan.com.

With a whole Thanksgiving meal (and wine!) set up in the studio, no one went hungry.

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Ariane force feeds the team. L-R Amy Freeze, Ariane, Michelle Charlesworth, Alisha from D’Artagnan and Phil Lipof.

Countdown to Thanksgiving …

…begins now. Take some stress out of the holiday by pre-ordering your turkey at www.dartagnan.com.  Our heritage-breed and organic turkeys are raised free-range on small-scale farms. These top-notch birds will make your holiday meal a memorable one.  Quantities are limited and the early bird gets the best selection. So shop now and select delivery day of Nov. 26 at checkout.

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Four Prunes Day

A message from Ariane

Today is a strange food holiday: Four Prunes Day. I believe it refers to the idea that four prunes a day will keep the doctor away. But I am happy to take the opportunity on this official holiday to share my affection for this little wrinkly fruit with you.

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Sadly, prunes seem to be the punch line to a joke in America, valued only for their fiber, not flavor. But in Gascony, where there are about 3 million plum trees, we know that prunes are special.  Prunes have been part of the gastronomic heritage of Southwest France for centuries.

Originally brought by the Greeks and Romans from China, and planted all through the Mediterranean, the plum holds a special place in the city of Agen, where the famous Prune d’Ente trees produce luscious plums that are well-suited to drying. These are the renowned pruneaux d’Agen, or Agen prunes.

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Vintage postcard of harvest in Agen

These particular plum trees were developed in the 13th century by Benedictine monks who crossed the existing trees with a variety the Crusaders brought home from Syria. The tree survived harsh winters, world wars and triumphed in the 21st century, when it was recognized in 2002 by the EU with the Indication Géographique Protégée.

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Sorting plums in Agen

Everyone in France knows that Agen is the place for the sweetest, juiciest, plumpest prunes, and a visit there would reveal a myriad of ways to eat prunes.

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Agen prunes in their natural setting

At D’Artagnan, we have incorporated prunes into several products that reflect the flavors of my area of France: Duck Terrine Mousquetaire, which is a coarse-ground pâté of duck (the livers, too), pork meat, a dash of Armagnac and studded with prunes.

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D’Artagnan Duck Terrine Mousquetaire

And our famous French Kisses, which are prunes that have been marinated in Armagnac and then stuffed with mousse of foie gras. They are the perfect amuse bouche, and are a favorite at parties. I wouldn’t be caught without them on New Year’s Eve.

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D’Artagnan French Kisses

Which reminds me of a fun story. Back in the early days of D’Artagnan, I was invited by Michel Richard to help honor Julia Child on her 80th birthday. He invited many prominent chefs and 500 guests to his Los Angeles restaurant, Citrus, for a feast. With so many meals to prepare, the mise en place (prep work) was being done all over town. I was supposed to work at the hot foie gras station. I had also brought foie gras mousse and pitted prunes soaked in Armagnac with me from New Jersey, so I could make French Kisses.

That morning the kitchen was a mess. Celebrated chefs such as Jean-Louis Palladin, Vincent Guerithault and Thomas Keller were working like maniacs to get their dishes organized. TV reporters and journalists followed them around, asking questions, trying to get a sound bite or quote. Cameras flashed.

I found a little corner to work in the hallway, and started by draining the Armagnac from the soaked prunes into Styrofoam cups, which were the only thing I could find to use. As Laurent Manrique and I piped the mousse into the drained prunes, the smell of foie gras and Armagnac filled the air. Daniel Boulud, standing nearby, got a whiff of the Armagnac-prune juice and took a judicious sip from one of the cups.

Just then the late Pierre Franey came ambling down the hall and asked Daniel what we was drinking. “Coffee,” he said with an obvious wink, and offered the cup to Franey. Without thinking, Franey knocked back a swig of fruity Armagnac, and at 10 A.M. got a true French kiss. And the best part was that the live TV cameras were in tow behind him. So after his first big gulp he tried to hide his surprise, with some difficulty. By the second gulp he got it right and kept a straight face.

Prunes soaked in Armagnac are a common item served in Gascony, and when sipped with some of Franey’s “coffee,” they make a lovely after dinner treat.

And for a truly luxurious dessert, try my father’s recipe for prune and Armagnac ice cream. Are you sensing that prunes and Armagnac were made for each other? It’s common knowledge in Gascony.

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Prune and Armagnac Ice Cream, photo via flickr user Ulterior Epicure

Ages ago my father, Chef André Daguin, not only pioneered this now-famous recipe, but also was the first to use liquid nitrogen in his kitchen to make it. This was before anyone heard of molecular gastronomy, of course. Get started on this 2 weeks before you want to eat it, so the prunes can really marinate in the Armagnac.

ANDRE DAGUIN’S VANILLA ICE CREAM WITH PRUNES AND ARMAGNAC

Four to six servings –  Preparation time: 25 minutes  –  Standing time: At least 2 weeks  –  Chilling time: Several hours  –  Freezing time: Varies

16 pitted soft prunes
1 cup Armagnac
1 cup whole milk
1 long vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise, giving four quarters—or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
1/2 to 3/4 cup natural wildflower honey to taste
Pinch of salt
1 cup whipping cream

1. Two weeks or more in advance, place prunes in a large clean jar or crock. Add Armagnac to cover. Cover jar or crock and set aside in a cool place to steep.

2. When ready to make ice cream, measure out 1 cup moderately packed prunes and fill up remainder of cup with Armagnac; set aside. Use remaining prunes for garnish.

3. Scald milk with vanilla bean (but not vanilla extract); set aside. Whisk egg yolks over very low heat in medium, nonreactive saucepan until warm. Continue whisking, adding honey gradually. When all honey is added and honey has begun to dissolve, remove saucepan from heat. Do not boil. Whisk in hot milk and salt.

4. Return saucepan to low heat. Cook and stir until custard is thick enough to coat a spoon heavily, about 170 to 180 degrees on an instant-registering thermometer. Do not boil. Immediately strain mixture into a bowl. Stir in cream and vanilla extract if using.

5. Refrigerate, covered, until very cold. Then beat very vigorously with whisk or electric beaters.

6. Strain custard mixture into an ice cream freezer. Follow manufacturer`s directions for freezing. When ice cream is just beginning to set, drop in prunes one by one (while machine is still in operation) and drizzle in Armagnac. Continue freezing until ice cream is firm.

7. To serve, scoop out ice cream, top with an extra prune, and drizzle some Armagnac over it.

You can cook savory dishes with prunes, too. Roasted with meats like porklamb, rabbit, or game, prunes can offer a bit of sweetness.  A favorite little treat of mine is a prune wrapped in bacon, either duck or pig variety work just fine.

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Stuffed Pork Loin with Prunes and Porcini, recipe at dartagnan.com

Whether  coated in chocolate, stuffed with foie gras or Roquefort cheese, soaked in Armagnac, baked in pies and pastries, or simply eaten out of hand on a cheese board, the prune is a ubiquitous part of life in Agen, and a beloved fruit of Southwest France. So Happy Four Prunes Day!  I hope you will enjoy some prunes today, and if you have a little Armagnac, wash them down with that elixir. You can’t go wrong.

Braise, Baby, Braise, with 15% OFF!

Yes, we are launching into serious autumnal cooking! It’s time to slowly simmer and tenderize with a braise. And to inspire you, we’re offering 15% off a selection of our favorite cuts for braising at dartagnan.com. From ribs and racks to shanks and shoulders, apply the simple technique for tender results. Our special pricing lasts through October 11, 2013, so shop now.

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Making Chicken Stock

“Indeed, stock is everything is cooking. Without it, nothing can be done.”  –Escoffier

Forget about the cans and boxes of watered-down, flavorless stock in stores. The best stock is made at home and the good news is: it’s not difficult to do. You will be amply rewarded with glorious, golden liquid that will boost the flavor of sauces and serve as a base for soups. Professional chefs confess that they dip into a constantly bubbling stock pot when water is called for in a recipe.

Stock cooling in quart containers

Health benefits

When Brillat-Savarin said, “Soup is a healthy, light, nourishing food, good for all of humanity; it pleases the stomach, stimulates the appetite and prepares the digestion,” he was not referring to canned soup or low-sodium, thin broth. Bone broth rich with gelatin was the basis of soup in his day. And French studies on gelatin have found it to be useful in treatment of many diseases, and helpful to digestion.

Rich, homemade chicken stock has been called “Jewish penicillin” for its healing qualities. Bone stock has minerals that the body can absorb easily—important ones like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. Why pay for supplements like glucosamine chondroitin, which supports joint health, when you can get it naturally from bone stock?

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How it’s done

Whether making chicken, fish or beef stock, the first thing you will need is a pile of bones. And the next is a stainless steel pot. The one we used is a 14-quart stock pot, but depending on how many bones you have, you can do this in a smaller (or larger) pot.

Waste not, want not. Start a bone collection; save all the bones, wing tips, backs, necks and gizzards from any poultry that you eat. Seal the bones in a bag and store in the freezer until you’ve collected enough and are ready to make the stock. No need to defrost them–frozen clumps can go right into the stock pot.  And you can mix raw and roasted bones and bits together in the pot.

If you can get hold of chicken feet, throw them in–the collagen in them makes a gorgeous, gelatinous broth that jiggles when refrigerated. This is the holy grail of chicken stock.

We used a combination of a fresh, raw chicken carcass mixed with frozen chicken bones.  Toss the carcass and bones into the pot with the onion, carrots, celery and bay leaves. Cover with water. The rule of thumb here is that meat, bones & water + heat & time = stock.  All you need to do is fill the pot with as much water as possible and let time and heat do their thing.

Bring the whole thing to a boil, and skim the foamy scum off the top. Always skim! The effluvium that rises to the top can spoil the taste of the stock, and it looks pretty nasty, too. You can use a broad, flat spoon or a fine-mesh strainer to do this.

Then reduce the heat and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook it, the more concentrated and flavorful the stock will be.  You can cook it for 10 hours if you like, or even 24. It will just continue to reduce and become more delicious.  About 10 minutes before finishing, add the optional parsley (just throw it in whole), for added dimension and brightness.

Allow to cool a bit before attempting to remove the bones, chicken scraps and soft vegetables with a strainer or slotted spoon. Strain the stock into another pot or large bowl. Allow to cool and skim off the fat as it rises to the top. Be sure to save the fat. Chicken fat, aka schmaltz, is a valuable cooking medium, and a necessity in chopped chicken liver. Or leave the fat in the stock, and pour into quart or pint containers.  Do not fill to the top, as the stock will expand when frozen. Store a quart in the refrigerator and put the rest in the freezer. When you chill it, the fat will separate and you can remove it then.

Use chicken stock in sauces, soups and sautéed vegetables. Add some to the water when cooking rice and pasta. You will soon find it an indispensable ingredient in the kitchen. Add salt and pepper when you cook with the stock, but never in the reducing process, or it will get too salty.

What You Need for Chicken Stock 

1 whole free-range, organic chicken (or assorted bones)
2-4 chicken feet
1-2 onions, cut in half
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2-3 bay leaves
Bunch of parsley (optional)