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Posts from the ‘Bits & Bites’ Category

Last Day for Savings!

If you’ve looked at your email today, you know it’s Cyber Monday. This is just a gentle reminder that our special offer will end at midnight. You still have nearly 10 hours to shop at dartagnan.com and get these deals.

What a good time to stock up on foie gras, order a cassoulet for the holidays, gift baskets for your favorite food lovers, or just lay in a supply of meat to get you through slow-cooker season.

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Our Green Circle Chicken

You may have seen Mike Rowe’s TV show Somebody’s Gotta Do It on CNN last night … with our own Ariane and a flock of chickens! Mike was interested in our new Green Circle chickens because of the way they are raised. So he and Ariane went to the farm to see how it’s done.

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This Green Circle chicken was a passion project for Ariane, who was inspired by the common sense, waste-nothing philosophy of days past, when chickens lived on vegetable scraps and roamed freely around farmyards. It’s the way her grandmother raised chickens and they were the tastiest birds around.

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Free-ranging chickens.

In that tradition and in an effort to provide truly tasty chicken, we raise our chickens on a diet of surplus vegetables and trimmings. We’re talking about actual vegetables here – collected from commercial kitchens and farmer’s markets. By saving these vegetables from their fate in a landfill and turning them into nutritious chicken feed, we raise healthier birds and contribute to a better world.

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Mike Rowe with scraps from some of our restaurant clients.

Not only are they fed well, these chickens are certified humane, making them rare birds indeed. They are air-chilled during processing, which means you get nothing but pure chicken flavor, not retained water.

Our holistic approach produces truly wholesome results. And that’s why we call it a Green Circle chicken. No waste = great taste.

Ariane & Mike Eating

Mike and Ariane enjoying a meal of chicken – what else? – in our Mennonite farmer’s home.

The Green Circle chicken is available on our website and in some retail stores. Ask for it in your local store and help us spread the word on this new kind of old-fashioned bird!

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Watch Mike Rowe Tonight!

Ariane will be on Mike Rowe’s excellent new show Somebody’s Gotta Do It tonight on CNN at 9 PM EST. Watch a little preview of what happens down on the chicken farm. And tune in for the full episode tonight!

Ariane & Mike Rowe

To get your own taste of the featured Green Circle Chicken, skip on over to our website.

And, yes, Mike is as nice as he appears to be on screen – he is a genuine guy with a big heart. Ariane had a wonderful day shooting this episode with him.

 

Perfect Pork Plating with Anita Lo

Chef Anita Lo of Annisa, a long-time friend of D’Artagnan, was featured on Serious Eats explaining her philosophy behind plating pork loin. Yes, it’s our Berkshire pork, but aside from that, we have a lot of respect for Chef Anita and find this a fascinating peek into the mind of a brilliant chef.

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We are not going to spoil this by trying to explain it, so  just head over to Serious Eats for the full post.

And for more Anita Lo – in action – check our video in which she and Ariane demonstrate how easy it is to sear foie gras.

Master of the Game

No this is not about a new action movie, but rather a medieval book on hunting by Gaston de Foix, also called Gaston Phoebus, because of his bright blond hair like the Greek sun god.

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left to right, Gaston of the gleaming hair, the Arms of Foix-Béarn and a statue of Gaston.

Before your eyes glaze over at the prospect of reading history, we promise you drama, danger, murder and what is possibly the very first Burning Man festival. Plus pretty pictures of animals.

Gaston (1331 – 1391) was the 11th Count of Foix (in what is southern France today) and Viscount of Béarn (southwest France, today  Basque country and Gascony- Ariane’s neighborhood). From all accounts he was an interesting guy. He reportedly had three “special delights” in his life: “arms, love and hunting.”

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Map showing Béarn with purple outline, right by the Pyrenees, and Foix with red outline.

Which brings us to the point of this post; Gaston Phoebus wrote what is arguably the most famous book on hunting ever, Livre de chasse (Book of the Hunt) in the 1380s. He was a great huntsman – perhaps the greatest of his day. It was the pursuit of his lifetime to the very end: he died from a stroke while washing his hands after a bear hunt.

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Hunting a bear.

But the book is his legacy and actually comprised of four books: On Gentle and Wild Beasts, On the Nature and Care of Dogs, On Instructions for Hunting with Dogs, and On Hunting with Traps, Snares, and Crossbow.

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A full page of Gaston’s Book of the Hunt.

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Detail of the hares.

An impressive document on natural history, describing animal behavior as well as the stages of hunting those animals, it is considered to be one of the finest manuscripts of its time. It’s a powerful cultural history that took such care with observations of the natural world that it was in use as a textbook right into the 19th century.

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And it was a bestseller right from the start (as much as things could be when entirely hand-lettered, drawn and painted). The courts of France and Burgundy considered it a work of art, and in some hands it certainly was. Shining with gold and richly colored, perhaps the finest example is from the Masters of Bedford workshop.

Since it’s game season, and we are having a sale on all game meat this week (save 15% – no hunting necessary!), we wanted to share a little of this beautiful book with you. If you would like to see  more, check the Morgan Library & Museum website.

Book of the Hunt Gaston Phoebus DEER

Book of the Hunt Gaston Phoebus BOAR

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What about the murder, the drama and Burning Man? Well, Gaston Phoebus had a son who, in adulthood, tried to poison his father. Then later, Phoebus accidentally stabbed and killed this only son in a fight. That’s Shakespeare-level drama.

While he had no heir, he did have four illegitimate sons. And one of them was burned alive at an unfortunate performance at a ball in Paris for King Charles VI of France. The Bal de Ardents, or Burning Man Ball, went down in history when a costume brushed against a torch and spread rather quickly, killing four dancers in the fire while the court watched. And here is where our story ends.

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Le Bal des Ardents, illuminated miniature from Jean Froissart’s Chroniques, note the dancer plunged into a wine barrel on the right, and how the musicians continue to play.

 

It’s Game Season! Save 15% This Week

Whether beast or fowl, all game is 15% off all week. Our Scottish game, flown in fresh from the hunt, our venison, raised in pristine pastureland in New Zealand, and even dainty and delicious quail are all specially priced through 10/19/14 at dartagnan.com.
HPC_WildGame15And check our website for recipes and videos. Worried about cooking wild boar? No need! Chef Marc Murphy and Ariane show you how in this video.

And our recipe page has plenty of inspirations for game feasts. Forget the thrill of the chase … this is all about the thrill of the taste.

Charc Week Continues: Jambon de Bayonne

Our jambon de Bayonne is made right here in the United States, and some would argue that the use of “Bayonne,” as in the AOC, is all kinds of wrong. Ariane was well aware of this when she began making the product in the early days of D’Artagnan. Of course, she could see Bayonne from her office window… Bayonne, NJ, that is. Using the same simple, centuries-old dry-curing technique that made this ham famous in France, our domestic version may break rules, but it satisfies jambon cravings.

Try it wrapped around figs, melon or pear slices. Sandwiched in a baguette with mustard. On a charcuterie board with cheese.

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Charcuterie 101

Whole books have been devoted to the subject. Techniques have been handed down through the generations, and different cultures have distinct charcuterie traditions. So what is this mysterious “charcuterie”? Pronounced shahr-kyut-uh-ree it is a French word that comes from chair “flesh” and cuit “cooked.” It refers to cooked, cured or smoked meats such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, rillettes, galantines, pâtés and dry-cured sausage. Charcuterie has been considered a French culinary art since at least the 15th century. The specialized store in France is also called a charcuterie and will have confits, foie gras and a selection of ready-to-eat dishes.

Charcuterie France

Germans sell their cured meats at a delicatessen, and Italians purvey salumi in a salumeria. In America many of the Italian salumi products are familiar, such as prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, sopressata and mortadella. If you’ve ever eaten antipasto you already know about charcuterie. Been to the deli and ordered a liverwurst sandwich? How about a cold cut sandwich? Both are charcuterie. Even baloney is charcuterie.

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Spain is legendary for dry-aged aging hams from heritage breed pigs. Germany is noted for the frankfurter and Braunschweiger, among a myriad of sausages produced there. Poland offers the smoked kielbasa. And in the United States there are many that swear by the flavor of smoked and cured Virginia ham. Call it what you will, charcuterie is universal.

A Little History

Food traditions are often best understood in the context of history. With charcuterie it’s necessary to go back to the origins of Homo sapiens. Since every culture preserves meat in some form, it appears to be a foundational element of human survival. Imagine hunting, gathering and having to eat everything before it spoiled. This process would ensure a nomadic lifestyle and subsistence diet. However, if you could store food for later, you might settle down, build a shelter and put in roots. Since the origins of cooking meat are lost in our prehistoric past, it’s only conjecture that early man might have hung fresh meat near the fire to protect it, and discovered that it cured over the smoke and tasted quite good the next day.

Whenever it was that humans started to cook and cure meat, it has not stopped since. Sausage recipes date to before the golden age of ancient Greece, and traditional sausages have been made for over 2000 years in both Rome and France. The Romans set standards for raising, killing and cooking pigs, and they regulated the process. Centuries ago, Germanic tribesmen made fortunes selling salted hams made from acorn-fattened boars that were hunted in dense forests. But charcuterie really comes into its own in France during the Middle Ages.

In France, pigs were raised by virtually every household and slaughtered when the chill of autumn took hold, to fill the larders for the winter with lovely bacon, ham, potted pork and lard. To this day in the French countryside the pig slaughter and resulting day of cooking that follows is taken on as a communal ritual. And no part of the pig is wasted, from the intestines to the hooves.

Today, in the United States there is plenty of old-world style charcuterie available, both in restaurants and stores, and DIYers are rediscovering the joy of making charcuterie at home.

Edouard-Jean Dambourgez (French, 1844-1890) A Pork Butcher's Shop

Making a Charcuterie Plate

Just like a cheese board, a charcuterie platter is an ideal way to serve a party and please all palates. Arranging a charcuterie board is easy. It should have a range of items representing the various styles of preparation from cooked to dry-cured. The meats should be complemented by something acidic, like cornichons (tiny French pickles). Whole-grain mustard makes a nice accompaniment, as do olives or even black truffle butter. Allow two ounces per person, and serve with a rustic country bread, or good quality, plain crackers. A hearty red wine (but not too heavy) will make a good accompaniment, such as Côtes-du-Rhône, Gigondas or Madiran.

A charcuterie board might display:

Pâté de Campagne is a rustic, coarse pork pâté and is a staple in France
Pheasant Terrine Herbette, another coarse pâté made of pheasant, pork and fennel
In the dry-cured family Jambon de Bayonne, a thinly-sliced pork product is perfect
Saucisson sec is a dry-cured sausage, similar to salami, made of pork or sometimes wild boar
Mousse Truffée is a spreadable turkey/chicken liver mousse with black truffles
Smoked duck breast is air cured and smoked over natural wood

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Sandwich Savoir-Faire

August is National Sandwich Month!

We think a sandwich is perfect anytime, but in the summer a sandwich makes a neat solution for a quick dinner or a picnic lunch. On a hot evening who wants to cook? Opt instead for a cold sandwich with choice charcuterie and a bottle of rosé. 

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We have already laid out a little history and a plan for sandwich domination here.

You may want to just feast your eyes on a few of our favorite sandwich ideas…like this peppery saucisson sec tartine with refreshing slices of cucumber.

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This simple chicken salad sandwich, made with smoked chicken breast and chorizo, was a smash hit at an office tasting.

Chicken Chorizo Sandwich

And though we advocate the cold sandwich as a summer meal, it’s hard to resist the lure of this pulled duck sandwich.

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Or the lobster roll with bacon, which is undoubtedly the perfect summer sandwich.

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A spicy pressed chorizo sandwich with cheese and red peppers satisfies the heat seekers.

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Our smoked duck breast works well in a banh mi sandwich, that perfect melding of French and Vietnamese cuisines.

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However you enjoy sandwiches this month, reflect on how this simple and portable meal has infinite varieties, from haute to humble.

 

“America is a confirmed sandwich nation. Everywhere you go you find sandwich stands, sandwich shops, and nine out of ten people seem to stick to the sandwich-and-glass-of-milk or cup-of-coffee luncheon.” –  James Beard

 

 

Playing Pinball, Three Musketeers Style

Meet the latest addition to our collection of all things Three Musketeers. This beauty now lives in the lobby of our office. And when it’s switched on, you can play for free! No centimes necessary!

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That is a circa 1964 Rally Three Musketeers pinball machine. Pinball, or un flipper, was once all the rage in the cafés of France. The sad truth is that the age of pinball is coming to an end, according to this article.

Rally was a French company that manufactured interesting pinball machines in the 1960s. They made history in 1966 with the first digital scoring pinball machine. This one, their interpretation of the Three Musketeers, involved three voluptuous babes with swords.

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Better than XBox!

It’s all in English, because in hipster 1960s France, that was the language of cool, of rock n’ roll caché. Here are some close-up details of the playfield with its garish colors, medieval lettering and even Cardinal Richelieu.

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But the instructions are in French. Here are the cards with rules and prices – and not to worry, we’ve never wagered yet! Click on the photo to enlarge.

Pinball Details Instructions

For more about Rally’s pinball machines, check out the Paris Pinball Museum, where we found this ad for our pinball machine. Très cool….

Pinball Page