Maitre Marcel

Because food is more than fuel for the body

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Duck risotto

The southwest of France is known for duck. duck liver, duck confit, duck breast and duck pate. On the market you can find almost every part of duck to whole ducks without the liver – the prized part – that people are currently buying to prepare their Christmas dinner.

I had some duck carcass left and turned it into a duck stock, with leek, onion, carrot, turnip, start aniseed, nutmeg and pepper. I stored this in empty apple juice bottles.

I had ordered pasta and rice from De Cecco in Italy and used some great Arborio rice and I grated some Parmesan. The combination was delicious.

I served the risotto with a grilled duck breast. Because I had to trim some of the fatty skin, I melted it in a small pan and then filtered it so that I could use the duck fat to prepare the risotto, instead of butter and oil.

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Fresh trout on cabbage

At a market nearby I found a man selling fresh fish from his small fish farm in the mountains, using clean spring water, as many fish would prefer. He used a net to catch the fish from plastic containers on the back of his car.

I prepared the fish in the simplest possible fashion to appreciate the taste and presented it on a bed of green cabbage, leek and a carrot because they happened to be waiting for use in the kitchen.

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Spaghetti with spinach, garlic and vacherin cheese

I like spinach. I do not believe it makes me strong like Popey the Sailor Man (and he ate them from cans…) but it is healthy. On the farmer’s market in the town here they sell “cold-ground” spinach, big rough leaves with a snail here and there. It will not last when it starts freezing.

Start of winter is also the beginning of the season for cheeses that melt easily to be put on bread or in fondues after walks in the mountains or winter sports. One of my favourites is Mont d’Or, a soft cheese with a nutty flavour from the Jura area. It is a kind of Vacherin, a soft cow cheese, from a specific area.

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Cod, cabbage and chorizo

Although I now live in a small village near the Pyrenees mountains, I can get good fish at a fishmonger in Mirepoix.

The cod filet looked too great to resist. Cod can be bland and I usually spice it up a bit.

I had some chorizo left that I had bought at butcher’s who said he made them himself.

The cabbage came from the fresh market.

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Jol — small fish fry

When I was younger and not yet living in France, I discovered a small hotel on the Dordogne river (Hotel du Pont in  Groléjac) that served a wonderful fry of small fish. It was called “petit friture” which has the same double meaning as “small fry” in English as it means both fish and frying. There they used goujon, small river fish.

In the Paris area I sometimes bought éperlan, sprat, to fry. This came from the Atlantic.

Here in the Ariège, where most fish comes from the Mediterranean, they sell Jol, also called Joël or Athérine after its Latin name Atherina Boyeri. In English it is the large-scale sand smelt.

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