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Posts from the ‘Holidays’ Category

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.

Agen Prunes

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.

Ulterior Epicure Prune Armagnac Ice Cream

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.

Happy National Filet Mignon Day

Yes, that’s a thing. And August 13 is the day to celebrate the tenderest cut of beef.

Filet Mignon DaySliced from the short end of the tenderloin, this succulent little morsel of beef (filet mignon means “dainty filet” in French) is often the most expensive on restaurant menus.  This cut is commonly used in the classic recipe Steak Tartare, where the buttery texture and delicate flavor of the beef is at its best. With our simple recipes you can enjoy it at home.

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Steak Tartare recipe by Lobel Brothers can be found at dartagnan.com

Another recipe from the old guard is Tournedos Rossini, in which ample amounts of truffle shavings augment the exquisite nature of filet mignon. The slice of seared foie gras doesn’t hurt either. Marie-Antoine Carême is credited with creating this decadent dish for (and under insistent direction of) the composer Rossini, who was one of the great gastronomes in history.

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Tournedos Rossini recipe at dartagnan.com

If you can find a way to enjoy a filet mignon today, go for it. If that’s not an option, just celebrate with these photos and make a note for next August 13. It’s a great excuse for a little party.

Bastille Day Roundup

Here are a few photos of the Bastille Day festivities that we participated in last weekend. We hope to see you at the party next year!

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Celebrate Bastille Day

Feasts, fêtes and fireworks are the traditional ways to celebrate Bastille Day in France. But before the partying, a brief explanation is in order. Variously called la Fête Nationale or 14 juillet, the holiday is commemorated on July 14, the day that the people of Paris stormed the Bastille prison in 1789 and effectively began the violent overthrow of the monarchy to make way for a republic. So, much like Independence Day in the United States, Bastille Day is a national holiday that marks the beginning of a modern nation.Bastille Day Flag Liberte Charcuterie

Traditionally the revelry begins the night before, with elaborate parties and balls. If you are in Paris on the morning of Bastille Day, you will see the world’s largest and oldest military procession make its way from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde. With the President of France at the head of the parade and jets flying overhead it is a marvelous spectacle.

Afterward, the President hosts a garden party, but don’t expect a personal invitation. Most Parisians, and their countryside counterparts, settle in for an afternoon of outdoor parties, with lots of eating and drinking. As they took to the streets during the revolution, so they take to the streets on Bastille Day, only now it is to share good times.

The day ends in a spectacular fireworks display, with the Eiffel Tower serving as a backdrop, though the colorful explosions are quite common across the country in smaller towns and cities as well. 

Article All About Bastille Day in FrancePetit Dejeuner

Wherever you are celebrating, start your Bastille Day right with a French-style breakfast. Thin and delicate crêpes make the perfect choice; you can stuff them with mushrooms and bacon if you are the savory sort, or if you have a sweet tooth, choose fruits or chocolate and top with whipped cream. Did you know the ham and cheese sandwich was first made in France? A hot croque monsieur makes a lovely breakfast or brunch. Delicious truffle butter takes toast from blah to bourgeios (don’t worry, they were from the class called the Third Estate, and were actually part of the revolution).

Let them eat…pâté

By afternoon, après the parade in Paris, or wherever you are in the world, a simple picnic with a French accent is the perfect way to mark the occasion. This is the time for a fresh baguette, bottle of wine, a wheel of cheese and some charcuterie. If you are feeling extravagant, and don’t have a ball to attend, make a quiche the night before, chill it and pack it up for the picnic basket. While there is no traditional food associated with Bastille Day, many choose to eat peasant food in a nod to the proletariat nature of the uprising.

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Our pheasant terrine herbette, mousse truffee and pate de campagne.

Street parties often feature outdoor grills, and mounds of lamb merguez sausage, which is the national equivalent of the hot dog in the United States. The French have made the spicy merguez sausage which originated in North Africa their own. It is grilled, tucked into a baguette, slathered with Dijon mustard and often topped with a helping of french fries. This sandwich is considered by many to be de rigueur at any Bastille Day party.

A French classic: lamb merguez sausage dressed with mustard

A French classic: lamb merguez sausage dressed with mustard

Happy Bastille Day! Bonne fête! Joyeux Quatorze Juillet! 

Happy Summer Solstice

Today is June 21: the summer solstice. And it would be fair to say that we will find any excuse to gather and celebrate with food. But the summer solstice is more than just an excuse to party; it’s a party with long-standing traditions.ss

Since pagan times, the people in the Northern Hemisphere have marked the longest day of the year in all kinds of ways. Generally speaking, the solstice (actually known as midsummer, if you recall your Shakespeare) was a time for great merriment, and festivals that involved heavy drinking and eating of seasonal foods. Throw in a bonfire, a fertility ritual or two, wreaths of oak leaves, flowers and herbs, and you have yourself a fantastic holiday, pre-Christian style.

Even our modern ideas about marrying in June can be traced back to these ancient festivals, when the sun seemed to smile down and bless everything.

So while you may not dance around a maypole, spend the day at Stonehenge, the whole night at a street festival, or weave flowers into your hair, there are ways you can celebrate the longest day of the year, and the official start of summer.

In lieu of a bonfire, just fire up the grill; cook and eat  under the stars. Use fragrant fresh herbs and toss some on the grill or in the fire. The summer solstice is a time to commune with nature, so a garden party, or any al fresco dining, is right and proper.

You can eat seasonal fruits, especially those that are red, orange or yellow, to pay homage to the sun. This recipe for Seared Pekin Duck Breast with Orange-Cassis Sauce from the Bromberg Brothers would be a lovely and colorful way to pay tribute.

June is when the best honey is harvested, so honey-glazed pork chops, mead (honey wine), beer or liquor infused with honey, or honey cakes would all work at a solstice party. Even without honey, our orb-shaped Truffle Butter Gourgeres, baked until golden, are welcome at any party. Might have something to do with the truffles.

D'Artagnan Truffle Butter Gougeres

D’Artagnan Truffle Butter Gougeres

Looking for summery greens?  This Smoked Duck & Cherry Salad from Alison Attenborough has both red  fruit and a smoky flavor unrelated to a bonfire. And it doesn’t even require cooking, only chopping and whisking.

And this Bacon, Eggs & Asparagus Salad recipe, from cookbook author and cookie authority Dorie Greenspan, has both seasonal asparagus and lovely soft-boiled eggs that might just remind you of the glowing, golden sun.

Dorie Greenspan's Bacon, Eggs and Asparagus Salad

Dorie Greenspan’s Bacon, Eggs and Asparagus Salad

However you celebrate the solstice, may you have a long and joyful day.

Presidential Palates

Happy President’s Day! We’ve done extensive internet research on presidential preferences in food. As a result, we now have a game plan in case any of our presidents come over for dinner.

George Washington (1789-1797) liked a savory steak and kidney pie, a common dish in his day, so we would bake him up some Venison Pie. Since he had his own whiskey distillery, we’d pour a few fingers of quality American whiskey.  It’s classic tavern food for the father of our country.

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Whole books have been written about Thomas Jefferson’s (1801-1809) love of food and his contributions to gastronomy. He introduced macaroni and ice cream to the United States, began experiments with viticulture, and wanted to make the country completely self-sustainable on the food front. We would honor him with a plate of Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

GW & TJ

Pancakes were favored by Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929), Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945). Now, they might have meant fluffy breakfast pancakes, but we’d serve savory crepes with a béchamel sauce and sautéed wild mushrooms.

Since Washington, Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) all liked sweet potatoes, they would surely appreciate this Pork Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Prunes.

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James Buchanan (1857-1861) and FDR relished cabbage, so to please them, along with Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), who had a taste for game meat, we would serve Pheasant Braised under Cabbage. Three presidents, one dish.

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Our 16th president Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) liked simple foods: fresh fruit, crackers and cheese, which we would arrange along with a few choice pieces of charcuterie like saucisson sec and jambon de Bayonne.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) also kept it simple, preferring vegetable soup and steak. We’re sure he’d chow down on this Rib Eye Steak with Greens and Root Vegetable Mash and enjoy it.

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For Texan Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969), steak reigned supreme. But he loved every type of cooking; the White House kitchen said that “he will eat anything that doesn’t bite him first.” He adored French haute cuisine, Southern cooking, German specialties, but most of all, he loved Mexican food (also the favored cuisine of George W. Bush). LBJ took entertaining from the white tablecloth to the backyard when he threw barbeques for foreign heads of state. He sounds like our kind of eater! We could make him happy with any number of dishes, from Terrine of Foie Gras to Sweet and Sticky Baby Back Ribs or Duck Confit Tamales.

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John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) really went for soups. His favorite was New England Fish Chowder, which was frequently served in the White House. He was perfectly happy with soup, a sandwich and some fruit for lunch. Though simpler in his tastes than Mrs. Kennedy, who planned elaborate French menus for state occasions, he did enjoy Poulet a l’Estragon, that is, Chicken and Tarragon.

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Barack Obama loves a good hamburger, and we think our Big Bleu Burger is perfect for him. We’d like to serve that with some of his beer brewed at the White House. Come to think of it, Bill Clinton (1993-2001) famously loved a burger when he was in office. So burgers all around!

BO & BC

Many of the founding fathers loved ice cream (quite a novelty with no refrigeration); Thomas Jefferson is responsible for the first ice cream recipe in the States. He probably kept cool on hot days in Virginia with his favorite flavor: vanilla.

ice cream

George Washington, James Madison (1809-1817), and in the modern era, LBJ and Barack Obama have all confessed to a fondness for the cold stuff. But who doesn’t like ice cream? So we know what’s for dessert: Black Truffle Ice Creamimg (2)

Theodore Roosevelt loved drinking tea, so we’d be sure to include a steaming pot of black tea. And of course, a bowl of jelly beans in honor of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989).

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Recipe: Black Truffle Butter Gougeres

Classic gougeres are already a cocktail hour favorite, but add our Black Truffle Butter, and they become completely irresistible.  These delectable little puffs pair equally well with champagne or cocktails, making them perfect for aperitif.  We won’t tell how easy they are to make!

Black Truffle Butter Gougeres

Ingredients
1 cup milk
1 cup water
7 tablespoons D’Artagnan Black Truffle Butter
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon D’Artagnan Black Truffle Oil
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups Gruyère cheese, finely grated
Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

gougeres blog

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add milk, water, truffle butter and salt. Bring to a boil. Add flour, all at once. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until dough comes together and creates a film on bottom and sides of the pot, 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Remove from heat. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, allow to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add truffle oil. Finished dough should form peaks that droop over and be smooth and glossy.

5. Drop 1 tablespoon sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets. (1 tbs. sized cookie scoop works well for this, or a spoon + wet fingers. Dough may also be piped with a pastry bag.) Top each gougere with a large pinch of gruyere. Season the gougeres with pepper.

6. Transfer to preheated oven and bake until puffed and golden brown, rotating pan once mid-baking, about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Featured Recipe: Blini with Caviar

Perfect for your New Year’s Eve fete, this easy recipe for blini uses all-purpose flour instead of buckwheat for a light texture and delicate flavor that lets our French caviar shine! Give it a try!

Buttery blini make a tasty cushion for our French ossetra caviar.

Buttery blini make a tasty cushion for our French ossetra caviar.

Ingredients

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast, (one 1/4 ounce envelope)
1/2 cup warm water, (about 110 degrees)
1 cup all-purpose flour
Coarse sea salt or fleur de sel, to taste
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggs, seperated
Crème Fraîche, for serving
D’Artagnan Farm-Raised Ossetra Caviar, for serving

Preparation

1. In a small bowl, add water and sprinkle yeast over the top. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Sift together flour and 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch of salt. Stir together buttermilk, butter, sugar, and egg yolks in a large bowl; whisk in yeast mixture, then flour mixture. Let stand, covered, in a warm place for 30 minutes.

2. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter. Let stand for 10 minutes

3. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, and coat with a thin layer of butter. Add a scant tablespoon batter for each blini and cook, flipping after bubbles appear at edges and color turns golden, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side

4. Transfer to a lined sheet tray and allow to cool.

5. Garnish with a small dollop of crème fraîche, then top with a spoon of D’Artagnan ossetra caviar. Serve immediately.

blog sticky gift baskets

Ideas for Edible Holiday Gifts

Edible holiday gifts, made lovingly by hand, are often times the most appreciated. Not only a delightful gesture, rolling up your sleeves and getting messy in the kitchen can be a lot of fun. Plus, it’s a great way to check multiple people off of your gift list in one fell swoop. Here are our picks for delicious holiday gifts using our products.

biscochitos

1. Duckfat Biscochitos   

A traditional sugar cookie made with lard, biscochitos are a Christmas staple in the American Southwest. But the orange and fennel flavor reminds us more of Southwest France. So we had to create a version that uses our duckfat, bien sur! A duck-shaped cookie cutter gives a little extra D’Artagnan flair.

foiebutter

2. Foie Gras Butter   

This decadent treat will impress even the most die-hard foodies on your gift list. They don’t have to know how easy it is to make!

brittle

3. Pig Brittle 

Sweet, salty and smoky, this crunchy candy is generously studded with our applewood-smoked bacon and toasted pecans.  Just be warned – not only is Pig Brittle delicious, it’s addicting! Once your recipients taste it, it’ll be requested year after year.

garlic confit

4. Garlic Confit

A cooking staple in Gascon cooking, garlic confit is the gift that will keep on giving long after the holidays are over. Plump garlic cloves are gently cooked in duckfat until meltingly tender. Kept in the fridge, the confit will keep for up to a year (although it never lasts that long…). Cloves can be added to all kinds of recipes from sauces to braises to roasts.

rillettes

5. Rillettes

We are firm believers simple pleasures, our duck rillettes are made with duck, aromatic vegetables, herbs and little else. A small pot of this unctuous, meaty spread makes a wonderful gift, especially when paired with a crusty baguette!

Packaging

Of course an edible D’Artagnan gift should be presented with panache!

Rillettes, Foie Gras Butter and Garlic Confit should be packaged in non-reactive glass or ceramic jars that can be refrigerated, such as Weck Canning Jars or Le Creuset Mini Cocottes. We like tying gift tags on jars with festive red & white bakers string.

Pig Brittle and Duckfat Biscochitos can be left at room temp so the packaging possibilities are endless! Two of our favorite sites for packaging ideas and supplies are Cakegirls and Garnish. Check them out – both shops have a great selection and wonderful blogs full of creative ideas for packaging edibles.

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