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Posts tagged ‘southwest france’

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.

chabrot_1

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!

Summer in Gascony with Ariane

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.2013-07-22 12.23.54 YES

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.

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Armchair Traveler: Gascony

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.

Breakfast at the Kitchen at Camont. Photo: Gentl & Hyers, Conde Nast Traveler

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.

The rolling hills of Gascony, France. Photo: Gentl & Hyers, Conde Nast Traveler

Ariane’s Class at Kings Cooking Studio

Ariane shared her secrets to making great cassoulet at Kings Cooking Studio in Short Hills, NJ on Monday night. But it was not just cassoulet!  Ariane talked about the simple techniques that are the backbone of the D’Artagnan lifestyle. Just the basic things a girl from Gascony knows how to do. She seared foie gras and served it with port and grape sauce…and spread medallion of foie gras on sliced bread… then seared duck breast and paired it with a balsamic-red wine reduction into which medallion of foie gras was stirred…and only then came the generous bowls of cassoulet.  The folks that attended the class were not left hungry, that’s for sure!  Did we mention that for dessert she offered French Kisses? At D’Artagnan, those are prunes soaked in Armagnac and then stuffed with mousse of foie gras.

The evening was filled with the conviviality that is so much a  part of life (and eating!) in Southwest France. Ariane had a great time chatting with the students and answering their questions. We hope that the evening inspired them all to make cassoulet, sear foie gras and duck magret at home!

Thanks to the team at Kings Cooking Studio–Randi, Wendy and Steve–who were a delight to work with. We would be happy to come back for another class.

For those at home, enjoy the photos.  We hope to see you at the next event!

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Take a Food Lover’s Dream Trip

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”   So said Albert Camus.   If you’re whiling away the long dark days of winter imagining how to spend the next gorious summer, we have an inspiring idea for you.

The Majestic Dordogne

Toulouse geese on a foie gras farm in picturesque Dordogne.

This July, join Ariane Daguin for an enchanting week of culinary exploration in her favorite corner of France—the southwest.  The Dordogne, and specifically the Périgord Noir region, is famous for its prehistoric cave paintings, medieval castles and villages, but especially for its unique blend of cultural and culinary riches.

Les tomates at a local market.

This is an ideal spot to find out what joie de vivre is all about, and to taste it for yourself.  The Périgord Noir is revered in France for its regional cuisine including the finest truffles, walnuts, wild mushrooms and foie gras, and for wines like Bergerac, Monbazillac and Cahors.

La Combe Périgord

You will stay at La Combe en Périgord, an 18th-century stone farm house nestled on 40 acres of parkland and woods deep in the Périgord Noir.  This gracious home is well equipped with a swimming pool, private apartments and modern amenities, including a state-of-the-art French country-style kitchen, a fully-stocked bar, library and massive stone fireplace.  Your every comfort is simply and elegantly considered.  You will have all the privacy you want, and all the attention you need.

Kitchen at La Combe Périgord

Each evening aperitifs will be followed by beautiful dinners….days will be spent exploring produce markets, visiting farms, learning about the traditions of foie gras, watching bread being made from the grain mill to the oven, eating leisurely lunches at fine restaurants, and discovering the history and culture of the area.

perfectly crusty loaves

While absorbing the culinary traditions of the Périgord, you will also enjoy hands-on cooking instruction with guest teaching chef, Ariane, who brings unique skills and vast food knowledge to the kitchen.  Cooking the seasonal produce available in the markets and talking to farmers and food artisans is the best immersion in the local food culture.

Market vendor selling fresh chevre.

Spend a week in the Périgord Noir with Ariane and remember the flavors for a lifetime.

July 20-27, 2012

Cost is €3200 per person and is all inclusive.   La Combe en Périgord can only accommodate 8 people, so don’t hesitate and miss this extraordinary experience!

For information and reservations call 888-522-6623 or email info@lacombe-perigord.com

http://www.lacombe-perigord.com/index.html

sunflowers soaking up the rays

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