Thursday, 22 October 2009

The international language of gastronomy

Ah C'est bon vacance en France.

How could it not be? Cocooned in a tiny medieval village in the Perigord region of Southwest France, it was 6 days of eating and sleeping, a castle here, a glass of vin de Cahors there, eating, sleeping, eating, eating, eating, sleeping, eating, eating, eating...

With such amazing gastronomic inspiration surrounding me in the boucheries


and even on the roadsideries

I couldn't resist spending some of my holiday doing a little cooking too.

Buying ingredients at the markets and in the shops was fairly unproblematic (and entertaining for the locals) using my basic French with lots of pointing and miming - flapping my arms and slapping my bottom for various cuts of meat. But one day my charades a francais failed me and a request for speck was met with a blank look from the butcher.

How do you say speck in french? "Jambon fume?" "Jambon avec sel?" Apparently not. I was starting to get a little stressed as a queue of customers was forming behind me so in a desperate plea I said "pour coq au vin!"

"Ahhhh lardons!" was the relieved chorus from the other customers as the butcher produced a magnificent slab of fatty bacon. The woman behind me then proceeded to instruct me to cut thick slices: "epais- non fine pour coq au vin". I was patted on the back and wished "bonne chance" as I left the shop. I hope I did the residents of Monpazier proud with my 3 course menu a la Perigord.

Grilled goat's cheese with honeyed walnuts for entree

Coq au vin (avec lardons) for plat principal

and Monpazier Mess for dessert

One thing I won't miss about France is the coffee.

Quelle merde. An opportunity for La Lantana en Perigord?

Recipe for Coq au Vin (Serves 6)

6 chicken pieces (leg and breast pieces)
200g speck cut into thick slices
2 cloves garlic crushed
50ml brandy or cognac
1/4 cup plain flour
200g eschalots
1 tablespoons castor sugar
50g butter
1+1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
450g button mushrooms

2 x 750ml bottles shiraz or burgandy
2 carrots sliced
1 onion sliced
3 cloves garlic crushed
12 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
8 sprigs thyme

Combine all marinade ingredients, add chicken, cover and marinate in fridge overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade, pat dry with paper towels.

Strain marinade into saucepan (reserve marinade), bring to boil, then strain.
Heat large casserole over medium heat, add speck and cook for 8 minutes until speck is golden. Drain on paper towels. In same pan, brown chicken in batches. Remove from pan.

Add reserved solids and crushed garlic to pan and stir ocassionally for 8 minutes. Add brandy and ignite with a match, then stir in flour. Gradually add marinade, return chicken to pan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 1 and a half hours until chicken is very tender.

Meanwhile place eschalots in a pan with castor sugar, 20g butter, 125ml water and a large pinch of salt. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to low and simmer until liquid is nearly all evaporated and syrupy and onions are lightly golden. Heat remaining 30g butter and oil in large fry pan, dd mushrooms and cook, tossing for 3 minutes until golden. Season.

To serve, stir speck, onions, mushrooms and steamed baby carrots into coq au vin and scatter with parsley.