December 15, 2005

D is for…. Daguin.

D is for…. Daguin. And duck, delicious… dare I say darling?

Andre Daguin remains a towering figure in my Gascon universe. Although I am not a restaurant groupie, I remain an avowed fan. The Hotel de France in Auch is no longer under his ladle, but his legacy lives across Southwest France; at any given moment there must be thousands of duck breasts—magret de canard, grilling over open flames, sautéed or cooked in front of cheminées, in the manner Chef Daguin invented in the 60's. Take a perfect food, treat it simply, and transform it to a higher version of itself-eh voila! Now a restaurant standard inside and out of France, magret de canard or duck breast recalls other more daring dishes created under Andre Daguin’s watch- foie gras frais et langoustines served from their foil love nest, a silver salver of mauve goose fat colored by Madiran-infused shallots, and glace de haricots blancs--white bean ice cream shocking in its simplicity.

Daguin has many other words of wisdom when talking about Gascon food. From the forward of his classic 1981 cookbook “Le Nouveau Cuisinier Gascon,” found on a back shelf in a shop in Toulouse, these truly wise words-- translated very roughly from the French with apologies.

“To those intimidated by the clock: the longer a recipe cooks, the longer it gives you liberty; and the lower the heat, even though more time is needed, more energy is economized. The longer a preparation takes, the more your hands are occupied, the more it permits your spirit to be available.”

Although now Chef Daguin wields his power as the head of the UMIH hospitality federation in France, his good words still ring clear and memories of peerless foie gras presented at table come to mind. How many times did I drive the rolling singing hills of the Gers from Auch to Agen with a van full of happy campers? Too many to count, but enough to remember that ‘D’ is for…Daguin.

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