Time to get back in the kitchen and cook. It’s the start of comfort food season! Take 15% off this week on our favorites for the fall and get to roasting, braising and slow cooking.
Valid until Sunday, September 22nd at midnight EST.
Whip up a batch of this garlic confit to keep in the refrigerator and add to just about anything. Ariane loves this trick, and would tell you it’s one of her little secrets in the kitchen. The super simple, 2-ingredient recipe provides soft, fragrant cloves of garlic, perfect for potatoes, bread, pasta, or pizza. After a little bath in hot duck fat, there’s no garlic bite left, just mellow flavor that will complement many meals. Store garlic cloves in duck fat and they will last quite along while (not that we would know, the stuff seems to vanish all too quickly!).
2 containers duck fat
3 whole heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
Melt the duck fat slowly in a small sauce pot over medium-low heat. Add garlic cloves and turn heat to the lowest possible flame. Cook garlic until the cloves float and are very soft.
Pour the melted duck fat through a fine-mesh strainer to catch the whole cloves. Place the garlic into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and strain the duck fat into the jar through a layer of cheesecloth to catch any burned bits of garlic.
A message from Ariane–
It is always a joy to return to my country – Gascony—for any length of time. This summer, I spent 3 weeks there with my family and friends. We rented a rambling old farm house with a swimming pool and we relaxed into the pace of South West France. Which can actually be pretty brisk!
Summer is dedicated to food and music festivals in Gascony, so there was plenty to do. There is the Tempo Latino festival in Vic-Fezensac and the Jazz Festival in Marciac, where Wynton Marsalis always appears. We went to Cuivr’enfoliz, a brass band music festival in Fleurance, which featured 12 brass bands, including some all-girl bands.
Not far from there is the lovely town of Barran, a bastide, or medieval fortified village. If you are lucky enough to visit Barran, you can’t miss the famous church, the 13th century Collégiale Saint Jean-Baptiste. Its spire is helical, or spiraled. In the middle ages, artisans learned their trade by apprenticing with masters and then proved their skill by producing a masterpiece of their own. This church is one of those masterpieces—and a real challenge of symmetry.
Anyone who knows me knows that I adore Armagnac. Maybe it’s a bit chauvinistic, but I truly love the fiery intensity. And, no, Cognac is not the same –I won’t drink it! And in a region known for Armagnac, the ancient city of Éauze is the capital of Armagnac. So, after a day of visiting my good friends Armagnac makers at Domaine de Lagajan, then saying Hello to the Grassa family at Tariquet, we gathered for dinner at a long table under the ivy awning for a well needed solid ration. After the late dinner, we sat at “the loft,” in the middle of the main square to sip more Armagnacs. Their outside cart alone stocks 53 varieties. A “normal” tasting is about 6, but we had to try 14 types, could not decide which ones were better than the others, and have no idea how we got home.
At Domaine Lagajan, under the direction of George, the father, the whole family makes Armagnac the old way, with a continuous still over a wood fire that must be tended for the entire week that it takes to distill pure spirits. The fire under the beautiful copper alambic is a convenient place for the workers to make their lunch while they babysit.
A hallmark of Armagnac production is la part de anges, or the angel’s share, which is the percentage of alcohol that evaporates from the casks, every year. These vapors create a black fungus (Baudoinia compniacensis ) that you’ll see thriving on the alcohol fumes on the walls of the distillery and aging rooms. One can see it on the outside of the building, which is a telltale sign that some Armagnac casks are aging inside.
George accumulated, over the years, a huge collection dedicated to the old ways—farm equipment from the Middle Ages and other instruments we have forgotten how to use. I liked the painting of D’Artagnan at the entrance, hanging above a few swords and a plumed hat.
At Vic-Fezensac, where Tempo Latino is held, we encountered a flock of geese outside the tourism office. We thought they were looking for Youri Buenaventura, who was performing that evening, until we saw the gooseherd with his dog. On their way to the foie gras market, maybe?
Farming is an important part of life in Gascony, but raising bulls for bullfights is pretty unique. Jean-Louis Darré, a man whose entire life and passion is about breeding these fierce animals, invited us to look at them up close, in his ranch near Mirande. The bulls were magnificent to see… from a distance. We couldn’t get too close. Though, apparently when they are in a group, the bulls remain calm, we took no chances.
We also became friendly with a neighbor near the vacation home in Marambat who raises bees. He has 12 hives and how he removes the honey is amazing! It is a little bit stressing but totally amazing to be surrounded by bees with their gentle buzzing, and the smell of the summer fields and fresh country air. He tends to his 3 organic potagers, (kitchen gardens), one of which is regularly stomped by a family of wild boar, and about 2 dozen hens. Like most people in Gascony, surviving and even striving on his own food production is just a way of life.
Ah, the food. It’s all fresh, locally grown on family farms, and every time you eat, you are experiencing the honest flavors of the land. The only time you rely on “foreign” ingredients, is to take inspiration from neighboring Spain, like the day we made a huge paella outdoors, with incredible seafood: langoustines and mussels, and chicken, rice and plenty of chicken stock.
For outdoor grilling, we used the bottom of an old wine press and made pork ribs the country way. The marinade was piment d’Espelette, olive oil, wild oregano we picked ourselves on the roadside and fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden. No BBQ sauce needed!
When I go home I am reminded of the importance of food raised the right way. Growing up in a place dedicated to food – from the hotel kitchen of my father to the surrounding farms and vineyards—taught me so much. Here in my adopted home, I try to bring that sensibility about food to my American friends. Spending time in Gascony reminds me of this mission and inspires me.
It is a region of France less traveled than others, and it is raw and beautiful, full of character and wonder. If you can, go to Gascony. You will see a side of France you might not expect, and you will eat well, I promise.
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!
We love Michael Ruhlman’s writing, whether it’s in a cookbook, his blog or even twitter. But this article in the July issue of Conde Nast Traveler about his culinary pilgrimage to Gascony is enough to make the stomach rumble. It’s possible that we are a little biased; Ariane is quoted in the article, and of course, she is Gascon to the bone.
Settle in and give Michael your undivided attention for a little while. You will be rewarded with an appreciation for Gascony; the people, the beauty of the countryside, the way that agriculture and food are intertwined, and the intense devotion to eating, drinking and living well.
Plus, you will get a sense of the ethos that built D’Artagnan, as Ariane has worked for 28 years to bring these sensibilities to the culinary scene in the United States.
You may want to pour yourself a glass of wine (or Armagnac) to sip while you find out why ancient Gascony is France’s new foodie destination. And then book your trip. It’s that inspiring.
Happy 1oth Anniversary, ‘wichcraft! Check out this video series to learn about their carefully-sourced ingredients. We’re proud to supply them with our heritage breed bacon, which they put to good use in many delicious sandwiches. In this short video, watch for Tom Colicchio and for Ariane’s bacon socks! And learn how we raise pigs to make the best bacon around.
Mmmm. Might be time for a BLT.
For many, venison is associated with a hunter friend who dispenses irregular, butcher-paper-wrapped meat parcels of uneven quality and dubious taste. So it’s not a surprise that venison’s reputation has been less than stellar until recently.
Over the last decade or so, venison has become more main stream. The best restaurants in the country include it on their menus, and it can be purchased at neighborhood grocery stores and local butchers as well as online. Not only is venison easier to procure, but it’s more tender and milder in taste than its wild counterpart. Retail availability also means that home cooks can pick and choose the best cuts, not just the frozen stew meat left over from Uncle Bob’s hunting trip last year.
The term venison comes from the Latin verb venari, meaning “to hunt.” It can refer to meat coming from boar, hares, and certain species of goats and antelopes, but is most commonly applied to deer meat. Deer meat is characterized by its fine grain and supple texture resulting from short, thin muscle fibers. Red (the largest type of deer), axis, fallow, and roe are the most common type of deer used for their meat. Because of its large size, red deer are preferred for ranch-raised venison.
Where Does Venison Come From?
In addition to venison hunted largely in the Fall and early Winter season, ranches or farms are now located throughout the world. Most of America’s supply currently comes from New Zealand ranches and is marketed under the appellation Cervena, a name which reaches back to historical origins, combining cervidae, the Latin word for deer, with venison.
Cervena is a trademarked appellation that certifies that venison has been naturally pasture-raised, grass-fed with only minimal supplemental feed such as hay, and without steroids or growth hormones. Antibiotics are administered only in cases of extreme disease and are then tracked by animal and not allowed to be processed. Cervena also requires that animals be under three years of age at time of processing and that processing take place at accredited facilities. Cervena certified farms are privately-operated New Zealand farms that adhere to the strict standards required by the appellation.
Why Eat Venison?
Game of all types, especially venison, is low in fat, cholesterol, and calories and high in the essential nutrients niacin, phosphorus, iron, selenium, and zinc. Tender, light, and with a mild red meat taste, Cervena venison is packed with flavor (plus iron and calcium), but weighs in with only a fifth the amount of fat that beef does – making it both delicious and nutritious.According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, Cervena venison has about a fifth the amount of fat and about 100 fewer calories per 3.5 ounce serving of beef, the traditional choice for red meat.
It’s that time of year again, our Cassoulet Recipe Kit is on SALE! For a limited time only, save 15% off our signature kit, with or without the authentic French bowl. In honor of this ‘it only happens twice a year’ sale we’d like to share one of our favorite videos. Here’s Ariane making a Gascon-style cassoulet with Chef Pierre Landet of Felix in New York City.
Dear customers, chefs and friends,
We are happy to report that D’Artagnan headquarters, in Newark NJ, has now returned to normal activities as power was restored.
While several of our team members have incurred damage to their homes, and are still without electricity, they are all here to resume work.
Our hearts go out to the thousands less fortunate than us.
We would like to thank our Mayor Cory Booker and his crew for a swift clean up. And huge thanks to all of you who called and wrote messages of sympathy and concern. We are humbled to be a part of such a caring community. And now we know foie gras doesn’t float.
Ariane Daguin, Owner and CEO
And The D’Artagnan Family