Autumn in my Kitchen: with La Belle Gasconne
October honors a certain kitchen credo- harvest, prepare, preserve, and arrange. No, not the hoarding of liters of overcooked canned vegetables, or even the larders filled with baskets of multi-colored roots, but a different sort of harvest.—a harvest of ideas.
Not everyone lives on a farm, or has access to overflowing farmers markets. While I do have fruit dropping from the trees around me here at Camont, quince and apples at this time of year, I am also looking, hard, at how to gather in the more ephemeral experiences of the summer, the small jewels of kitchen work we enjoyed so much, and the special meals shared amongst visiting and local friends. Take a peek at what we made and ate this last month in Classic Gascony and Insider’s Roadtrips on my Instagram Stories.
Poule Verte or Stuffed Savoy Cabbage (as seen above)
Paté de Campagne
Confit de Canard
Rillettes de Canard
Soupe au Citrouille avec foie gras
Tarte aux Tomates
Gratin de Celeri Rave
confiture de Prunes et Figues
Croustade aux pommes
Gateau Chocolat aux Coings
Tarte aux prune, pomme, et peche
Omelette aux girolles
The menu of regional dishes we prepare in the Kitchen at Camont spins on to tell the story of Autumn, of the waning garden- still savory and assuring, of chilly nights that start to beg for the duvet pulled up tight, and the thought of a fire to build in the morning. On the Insider’s RoadTrip:Gascony I stock up on Armagnac from my favorite producers- Delord, LaDevèse, and Dubordieu while visiting their cellars with guests. In tasting together, I get an better appreciation of what people respond to and how I might stretch their palate to include a few more quirky choices. Don’t like turnips? Never tried brouttes? How about taking a turn at breaking down a whole duck or chicken? And of course, we all learn to make my simple All Butter French Pastry for tarts, savory or sweet.
Cooking at Camont during any season is a delight as the market truly dictates are seasonal approach. It aligns our tastes buds for the way we cook, simply from the single pot with a short sauce on the side. Imagine buying a basket full of fresh Coco de Paimpol beans then sitting around the table together shelling them at 6:00 or so- the dried yellow pods heading for the compost, the beans needing only a quick rinse before covering them with cold water and starting to cook for a cassoulet for tonight’s dinner. That’s exactly what we did the last night of both our Classic Gascon Cooking week and the Insider’s Gascony week. Cassoulet has migrated to the west of Toulouse as I continue to teach and share my long experience on making France’s gastronomic obsession.
Of course, no menu is complete without something sweet. Here’s the very simple and dense chocolate cake created by Marie-Claude Gracia in her riverside restaurant La Belle Gasconne in Poudenas oh so many years ago. It remains a taste of one of my favorite souvenirs of those days discovering what Gascon cooking was all about. Here, I decorate with a simple sugared top studded with fruits of the season- Prunes d’Agen and Chassela de Moissac grapes and filled the layers with quince paste loosened with PX sherry. Want the recipes? The Poule Verte is from my Culinary Journey in Gascony Book and the Gateau Chocolat a la Belle Gasconne is below. Make it and enjoy!
Gateau Chocolat a la Belle Gasconne
320 g dark chocolate 65-70% ( broken into small pieces)
160 g sweet butter
10 g extra butter for the pan
160 g fine white sugar
5 fresh eggs
40 g pastry or cake flour
Mix the chocolate, butter, and sugar together in a pan over very low heat (or use a bain-marie); mix until all is melted and homogenous.While the chocolate cools some, separate the eggs. Beat in the egg yolks, one by one, into the warm but cooling chocolate mixture. Next, add the flour in by sifting over the surface with a sieve.Whip the egg whites until fairly stiff and then fold in delicately.
Here, I used two 8 inch cake pans, the layers were thin (about one inch) but perfect for sandwiching with a filling. Alternately, use one pan and fill it deeper to make a thicker cake. This will affect the baking times so watch your cakes and adjust the times as needed.
Butter the cake pans and then sugar the bottoms.
Add the cake mixture. Cook in a medium hot oven (180’ C or 350’F) for 30 min or so. Stop the cooking while the cake is still moist. Let cool completely before turning out of the pan.
Madame Gracia suggested serve with a Banyuls, Sauternes or PX sherry. Instead, I created a fragrant jammy filling with some deep ruby red quince paste loosened with some dark sweet Pedro Ximenez Sherry. the tangy sweet/tart filling set off the deep egg rich chocolate cake perfectly!