What: Charcutepalooza: Le Grand Prix
Where: Gascony, France
When: After a Year of Meat- March 2012
Who: You, Me & Trufflepig
Why: il faut venir ici..
I once interviewed Michel Guérard- one of France’s 3-star Michelin chefs- about the secrets of making armagnac. When I asked what final words he had for those wanting to learn all about making Gascony’s evocative amber brandy, he had a simple response, “Il faut venir ici- You must come here.”
Those four magic words became my philosophy as I leapt head first into creating an artisan life crafted around the extraordinarily good food of my Southwest France. From the quotidian artisan breads to special occasion vintage armagnacs, I embraced it all- from foie gras, truffles, and wine to oysters, caviar and salt. Gascony is a perfect place to study terroir. Everything we touch, from the dark chocolate alluvial Garonne River Valley that anchors the roots of thousands of orchards to the rolling hills that march toward the blue shadowed Pyrennees covered in summer sunflowers and winter wheat, is about a sense of place. The geology of this fertile land, laced with abundant rivers, streams and springs, and tempered by a moderate continental influences four distinct and delicious growing seasons. Oh, and did I say it was beautiful? Beautiful like in a Monet painting? This kitchen is a part of the terroir of Gascony, too.
Here, too, we grow meat, good meat.Meat with French names like the Blondes of Aquitaine beef cattle, prized Cou Nu Poulets de Landes, and Piétrain and Gascon Noir pigs; small production on small farms. But it was meeting the farmers that husbanded these meat animals that changed how I saw …and cooked, my food. I fell in love with a place and the people who have tended it’s crops and flocks for a thousand years of civilized agriculture.
So now it’s your turn. Il faut venir ici. You, too, have a shot at coming here on us- me, my Gascon neighbors, the Meat Dames and Xtreme Gasconophiles of Trufflepig. Just follow ‘the Ruhls’ and enter into the spirit of Charcutepalooza as Cathy and Kim (Mrs. Wheelbarrow and the Yummy Mummy) have described so well here.
My new Best Friend in Paris, Jack Dancy with Trufflepig Travel and I have spent an afternoon giggling long distance about all the fun things we could do with you. So join in and start making that bacon now!
For more information about the details of le Grand Prix see here on the official site.
Charcutepalooza: Le Grand Prix with Kitchen at Camont and Trufflepig Travel
- March 9th– Fly overnight to Paris
- March 10th– Transfer to hotel St Thomas d’Aquin; private guided market and food-shop walk; welcome dinner with local food-writer guest at L’Ami Jean restaurant.
- March 11th– TGV to Agen; pick up and transfer to Camont to meet Kate; introductory Gascon lunch; afternoon class of French farmstead butchery breaking down ducks, chickens and rabbits to prepare terrine de foie, pâté de campagne and confit de lapin; transfer to hotel; dinner at leisure.
- March 12th– Visit Baradieu, the Chapolards’ pig farm and farm butcher shop as the family starts the week’s order of breaking down ten whole pigs to sell at the market as fresh and cured pork. After learning about the specific needs of raising charcuterie pigs with Jacques, lunch with Christian and Dominique in their home before returning to work in the salle de coupe with Bruno, Marc and Cecile to learn how to make French pancettaventrèche, how to bone and seam-butcher the shoulder, and trim and tie the neck or coppa for curing as delicious home-cured Gascon charcuterie. Return to Camont to prepare a dinner of roast coppa with our new friends.
- March 13th– A full day learning the basics of European seam butchery. Working on your own half of pig, you can now more easily define the meat cuts by use and muscle- loin roasts, coppa for curing, belly for ventrèche and bacon, ham leg and shank for curing, shoulder for sausage, etc.
- March 14th- After a shopping trip to the morning market at Lavardac, we take a butcher’s tour of Nérac’s six artisan butcher shops where each butcher shares his trucs and secrets with us including a class by Maître Charcutier Bruno Saclier in making his famous Terrine Néracaise, a 500 year old favorite of the court of Henri IV.
- March 15th- Devote the morning to the high art of duck charcuterie- specifically foie gras and magret seché or duck pancetta, with a visit to the working Fatted Farm of Jehanne Rignault where she raises and prepares duck and geese for confit, pâtés, and other delices! We pack a bag of savory goodies for a high-speed train pique-nique recapping the week as we travel to Paris arriving in time for drinks & dinner.
- March 16th– Rise early for a visit of the professional Marché de Rungis, the unimaginable large food market that feeds the city of Paris. Visit the meat section with expert guide, before returning to Paris for lunch and the afternoon at leisure, before meeting up in the evening with the city’s most tuned in bloggers and twitterati for the Bloggapalooza Jambon & Wine fête.
- March 17 – transfer to the airport for flights home.