There is the French way of doing things. And then, there is the Gascon way.
When I write from my kitchen desk, I am usually writing in the Gascon tense. Cooking is no exception.
So what exactly does it mean when you see something that says ‘Gascon’ ? Well, aside from the obvious regional specialties produced in the Gascon region of Southwest France like armagnac and foie gras, it means things are a little more rustic, have a little more depth of flavor, are a little more… more.
1. Crack 3 eggs into a large bowl and whisk like crazy until smooth.
2. Put 1 cup of flour (125 gr) + 1/4 cup sugar (75 gr) + a pinch of salt into bowl and whisk again.
3. Add 1.5 cups of Milk (375 ml) + 1 tablespoon melted butter + 1 tablespoon rum, armagnac or crêpe arôme. Now, whisk again until the batter is smooth and just thick enough to coat a spoon and thin enough to pour easily.
That’s it. French crepes as easy as 1,2 & 3. The batter is always better if you let it rest a while- an hour or two. But if the very idea of these light and lacy crepes drizzled with honey or some of your homemade jam is driving you crazy, then put on the water for tea- now. Heat up a wide flat pan, a skillet or crêpe pan until a drop of water skittles across the surface.
I melt some butter in the pan and keep it on a high. I make the crepes as fast as I can by ladling the thin batter into the pan, giving it a swirl and letting it set. Then a quick flip to dry the top surface once I see a little golden color and that’s it. Layer them on a plate and keep making them warm under a tea towel until you are done. Serve with a bowl of butter and honey, creme fraiche or jam. This recipe makes about a dozen crepes and a lot of friends. It’s pancake time for: Candlemas, Chandeleur , Shrove Tuesday, and Mardi Gras.
Big spirals of meaty sausages grilled over fire, slipped onto cassoulets, eaten with purée de pomme de terre (mashed potatoes) and much gusto. That’s what comes to mind when someone says “Saucisse de Toulouse”. Over the years spent haunting the butcher shops of Southwest France, I have just one thing to say to you- “It’s all about the pig”.
All these pictures were taken in the Marché Victor Hugo in Toulouse or my kitchen at Camont. This is how Saucisse de Toulouse is sold, always in long casings, coiled into spirals and selling for the price of good meat…because it is just that, all good meat. In France, Saucisse de Toulouse is recognized as a fundamental element of many recipes. It replaces a shoulder roast, a chop or slice of ham when preparing a family dinner. It is just good meat.
The better the pork, the better the sausage. There are no spices, additives or coloring to make it look or taste better. It is good pork, ground coarsely, seasoned only with salt & pepper and stuffed into natural casings. For the first recipe I ever wrote about making Saucisse de Toulouse, click here.
Buy apricots. Now.
When Tim Clinch and I discussed the first day’s shoot for the Food Photography Workshop this weekend, we both shouted , “Summer!”
These are summer moments, don’t put it off. Peaches, Tomatoes, Apricots. Too soon and these perfectly ripe fruit will be passé and you’ll have to make apricot jam. However, just now, these firm but juicy guys give their tart/sweet sunshine juice willingly yet still stand up to the hot fast baking, holding their shape and cradling their own juices mixed with thyme and drizzled honey.
This ‘variation on a tarte theme’ is my go-to summer/winter fruit dessert. The very good and forgiving French butter pastry is a snap to make. See my recipe for that here.
The fresh goat cheese base- creamy, slightly sweet, and beaten with an egg, is poured into the unbaked pastry and serves as a creamy blank canvas for the fruit. The surface is arranged with the apricots hollow side up to hold the juices and honey, dusted with some fresh thyme and popped in the hot (425′F/220′C) oven to bake for 25 minutes.
eh voila! I do this tarte over and over with peaches, plums, pears, figs…all the fresh stone fruit until the fall and then I switch to thinly sliced apples marinated in armagnac, cooked fruit, thick jam or just cream and honey. More good photographs like this one of the steps to make the tarte were taken by Mardi on the Food Photography Workshop and posted on her site here. Want the step by step recipe? Here it is… Read More
It begins here, with two good ingredients.
Ham- Eric Ospital’s Ibaiona brand from the Basque Country.
Asparagus- local, just picked and carried to the market so fresh it snaps.
This week, my Kitchen Godmother, Vétou Pompele, came by for weekend breakfast (a decidedly not French event) and asked me what I would make for her.
I grabbed a copy of my first cookbook that chronicled my early days sailing on the Julia Hoyt and said,
“Your Asparagus and Ham dish, of course”.
She had forgotten about what was long one of my favorite dishes. It’s easy. When you cook everyday, EVERY DAY, that’s a lot of recipes under the bridge. We have both forgotten half of the wonderful dishes we cooked together over years of sailing the canals and rivers of France on the Julia Hoyt. This was always one of my Spring favorites, because unlike my life BF (Before France), asparagus is a once a year event, a few scant weeks of spear-ful delight. Read More