February 29, 2008

Too Busy Cooking to Blog!

When students come for a week or two of intensive Gascon cooking, it's intensive for me, too!

This week I went from having tapas in San Sebastian to the famous Truffle Market in Lalbenque to perfecting a delicious Gateaux Basque recipe.

This Morning My Neighbors are Killing a Pig.

I promise this weekend there will be blogs to post, pictures to file
and stories of the good food in Gascony...all year round!

This is what we have cooked so far:
  • Pintade a la crapaudine truffée
  • Gratin Dauphinoise aux truffes
  • Gateaux Basque supreme!
  • Saucisse d'Agen et Lentilles du Puy
  • Clafoutis aux Pruneaux d'Agen
  • Cœur de Canard flambe
  • Cote de Bœuf Bordelais
  • Crème brulée aux Diamant Noir

And that's just the first four days!

February 25, 2008

Duck hearts and Clafoutis

I just returned with First Peas and Fava beans from
the Market at San Sebastian.

Spring Stall with Mimosa and Plum Blossoms

This is what Kris, Matt and I are cooking for dinner tonight in the French Kitchen...

Saucisse de Canard
Floc de Gascogne
morcillo with hot peppers

fresh pea puree and sauteed gesiers
(the first peas of the season from Basque Country)

grilled duck hearts on a bed of
fondante de poireaux
(slow-cooked leeks)

Wild Roquette Salad
with walnuts and roquefort

Clafoutis aux Pruneaux d'Agen
(this recipe is for my buddy DL)

Clafoutis aux Pruneaux

1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/2 lb pruneaux
1/4 cup armagnac
5 tablespoons flour
5 tablespoons sugar
5 eggs
3 cups milk

Heat oven to 350'.
soak the prunes in armagnac for 30 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. This can be done well in advance.
Butter a shallow 1 1/2 qt baking dish then powder with sugar or flour.

Beat the eggs in large bowl with a balloon whisk.
Mix the flour and sugar, add to the beaten eggs and whisk.
Add the milk, little by little, until mixed well.

Drain the prunes reserving the liquid,
arrange in the buttered pan in an even layer,
pour any of the leftover armagnac into batter.

Pour the batter carefully around and over the prunes.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Serve warm. Yum.

Madonna and child...

Stay tuned for more good food this week... with Matt and his mom.
Live from the truffle market tomorrow in Lalbenque...

February 22, 2008

Spanish Hooky*- rooms with a view

I love hotels.
The bed is always Maid.
The bath has too many towels.
A genius put a Toblerone in the petit frigo for my midnight craving.
But best of all, I love the view...

from here,

and here,

and here.

Pais Vasco is more than gastronomy children, but if you are going to pilgrimage to San Sebastian for Arzak & Pintxos, then think of all the great places you can stay-all these 'rooms with a view.'

*Playing Spanish Hooky at the Hotel Londres, Iturregi- a Basque paradise, and the Sheraton Bilbao.

February 20, 2008

Spanish Hooky*- the making of...Caviar de La Rioja


Seems like everyone is doing it... Even my friend David Lebovitz is writing eloquently about luxury in this time of... fiscal hijinks. So when I found myself in the arms of Frank O. Gehry's smiling Hotel Marques de Riscal in La Rioja Alavese, I succumbed to the temptation.


Perfect, dark bubbles of burst-in-your-mouth flavor. Don't worry sturgeon lovers. This caviar is perfectly sustainable and might even be called... vegetarian if it wasn't sitting on a cloud of foie gras mousse. This is the restaurant Gastronomico's Caviar de Vin. A creation of Chef Francis Paniego and his smiling crew headed by executive chef Jose Ramon Piniero.

Caviar pearls floating on a cloud of foie gras curd with red pepper.

Maria explaining the syringe technique to make the wine gelatin caviar pearls.

Spinning constellations of caviar in cold sunflower oil.

Wine Caviar drained and ready to serve.

Shooting the F.O.Gehry egg.

Francis Paniego explaining his 5 generation-long traditions.

Francis Paniego & Jose Ramon Pineiro

Happy Tim Clinch eating the fruits of their labors.

The room with a view?
From the City of Wine- the Hotel Marques de Riscal in Elciego in La Rioja Alavese
in the Pais Vasco.

Muchas Gracias .

*Spanish Hooky- what I call working on a new book of Spanish design.

February 19, 2008

Spanish Hooky- room with a view...

Winter sky
Vino tinto
pink, gold, inox ribbon

Where am I?

February 17, 2008

Spanish Hooky- a coffee in the port

Its in my nature.
Part gypsy, part hobo, part 19th-c traveler.
I live on a boat.
I travel for a living.
I dream in technicolor and surround-a-sound.
I have one foot planted on water, the other in the garden.
Sometimes I channel Mark Twain, wearing an apron.
I am at ease in this world.

Ok, so enough with the lifestyle haiku. This is my way of introducing a new feature here at French Kitchen Adventures. I call it Spanish Hooky.

The best part living in Europe is that in the time it takes to drive from Seattle to Portland, I drive from France to Spain. That means Goodbye baquettes et cafe au lait, Hola cerveza y pintxos! Today I drive off to Northern Spain- west coast-- the Pais Vasco (Basque Countries to you!) and la Rioja for a week of exploring the insides of some of the most interesting and beautiful houses, hotels and... restaurants in all of Spain. Like this- the new City of Wine building by Frank O Gehry for La Marques de Riscal in La Rioja.

So when you see Spanish Hooky think: calamar, bacalao, jamon, antxoa, aceites... I'll meet you in the bar on the sea for a cortado...

a great way to start the day.

February 14, 2008

My True Valentine Boy.

Sorry all you hot, panting animals.
My heart barks out for another.
He is big, and sweet, and eats like a pig.

He talks back, growls good night and then snores.

But at the end of the day when I say "Good Boy" for the one hundredth time,

I know I really mean it.
Nobody's perfect, but he's pretty close.


Happy V-day, Bacon!
(Celebrating one year and one month together!)

February 13, 2008

Faux Twitter

I can't seem to find the time. Training Bacon to ride a bike. Hanging a curtain rod. Fixing a toilet. Two down and two to go. Eating bread and wine for dinner. Good French bread and great Madiran wine. Skype, Blog, phone, cell, email, website... Unplug. Quiet. A night bird calls out across the canal. Twitter.

February 07, 2008

New Orleans love letters...

PJ & KH 'n NYC

You're going to be hearing a lot about Nouvelle Orleans from old France for the next couple of months as we get our lil' ole traveling shoes on (size 12 thankyouverymuch!) and head to La Louisiane in April for the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference-see banner above! (Ok, it's a great excuse for a food-long week of gabbing and grabbing goodies as well as some serious networking, pitching, teaching and sharing going on.)

The gossip is that The Pimster has just posted a love letter to Tony Bourdain-- in public no less! But I hear the love for NOLA behind it all. My own Love Affair began when a friend of a friend arrived to write a newspaper story about me and the French Kitchen. Ever after called Capt' by one Pableaux Johnson (see above and newly at the Louisville Courier-Journal and writing about it all here) , my courtship with NOLA began.

Since then, it's been a friend of a friend of a friend sort of world... Pableaux beget Sue, Sue beget Mario, and so on. Eventually a few other NOLA Natives arrived on their own to taste la Gascogne and voila! Camont and New Orleans are now twinned forever. At least in my heart!

This summer David Aman "showed up". David is the eye behind the camera of DOCNO and one very nice guy. You can find what he shot this summer with me playing in my tic-tac-toe potager here or just waltzing around 'the Gascon Ranch' here.

All in all, its a great time to be thinking of going to New Orleans and 'giving back' for all the great friends it has set me here!

February 05, 2008

Mardi Foie Gras tout le monde !!!

en Gascogne- 20th century

Fat Tuesday.
Fat Liver.
Even the buds on the orchard trees are fat this Tuesday.

I might not be in New Orleans ...yet.
But that solitary, artisan-grown foie gras resting in my freezer may just have to be dinner tonight to celebrate the day along with the rest of the world...le carnaval. What better way to party than with a Mardi FOIE Gras!

Claude et Canards gras

Here are a few special photographs by my lens friend Tim Clinch taken in our neighborhood in our lifetime. For a fatter peek at how TC sees the world check out his official website- www.timclinchphotography.com (and notice all the great food pics taken in my French Kitchen!) and TC's new photographic travelblog from our recent trip to Spain- www.clinchpics.blogspot.com.

aux voisins

After the first pre-holiday rush for Christmas foie gras, now is the time to start making confit and putting ducks to bed. Spring is a natural time for the pre-migration fattening mode to kick in. Hardwired in the birds' brains, these spring ducks produce great foie gras and tender meat for preserving for later special dishes like cassoulet and garbure or best of all, a crispy leg of Confit de Canard and a Spring salad.

They may be lining up for beads along the parade routes this week, but here in the French Kitchen, I am celebrating in my own Gascon way- au paniers mes chères!

Laissez les bonnes temps roules!

All photographs above by Tim Clinch

February 03, 2008

Spanish Lemon Marmalade- the recipe

It didn't take long to cut, juice and slice the dozen souvenir lemons I brought back from Spanish Hooky jaunt #1- Catalunya. I didn't want to do anything fancy, just save the juice for a sweet/tart curd and preserve the untreated, natural rinds.

The French Kitchen recipe:
  • 12 organic lemons
  • cut in half and juice (reserving juice for lemon curd)
  • weigh and slice the rinds in thin strips
  • measure an equal weight of sugar (e.g.- 500 grams sugar to 500 grams lemon rind)
  • toss in a stainless steel pot, dump the sugar over them, let them sit together all night
  • next morning, cooked the rinds in their syrup-- very slowly, all morning until the syrup was thick and the rinds are still a little chewy.
  • pour into 3 jars; give one to a friend, put one in the cupboard, then make toast.

This Sunday morning breakfast- a still hot baguette from the boulanger at Brax, salted butter and lemon marmalade with a steaming cup of café-au-lait.
Wish you were here...