On Mondays, we go to the fresh market of Mirepoix where we have a number of trusted suppliers, like the refrigerated van of Guillemot for meat and the Zengarli family for vegetables.
The Guillemot farm lies in the mountains beyond Foix and is run by a Dutchman, Hugo De Jonge Van Ellemeet, and his French partner Annie who visits the markets. They raise cows, lam ban chicken. There chickens are real free-range animals with sturdy legs and they are slaughtered much later than the battery chickens that have hardly left the chick stage.
We bought, among other things, two legs of some 300 grams each.
At the vegetable stand there were fresh herbs and I bought a bunch of tarragon, not realising at that moment that we have our own tarragon in the garden…
I mulled the idea of making a Béarnaise sauce as that goes well with chicken and uses tarragon. But because of the butter and cream, plus gherkin, chervil and eggs that goes into the preparation, I decided against making such a heavy mayonnaise-like sauce.
Instead, I braised the legs, added white wine and tarragon and later also chicken stock.
Ingredients (for two)
Two chicken legs
A bunch of tarragon
A large glass of white wine
Three cups of chicken stock (fond de volaille, either home-made, cube or powder)
Four table spoons of cream
20 grams of butter
Melt the butter in a skillet with a rim (and lid), add the legs and cook at moderate heat for five minutes, turn the legs and cook for five more minutes.
Add one or two whole washed branches of tarragon and white wine. Let it bubble up. Then add the stock.
Lower the heat, put the lid on the pan and cook for 20 minutes, then turn and cook for another 20 minutes. (With smaller legs or a different quality of meat the cooking times can be reduced, test with a fork whether the meat is done)
Take out the legs and put them on a dish and cover with aluminium foil.
Turn up the heat under the skillet, lid removed and reduce the cooking sauce by half or more – you only need about a cup of sauce.
Pass the sauce through a sieve into a bowl, to remove the tarragon and any other fatty or bony bits, and mix in the cream with a whisk. Taste for any salt or pepper; I used stock powder that already contained salt so I did not add a thing.
Pour the sauce over the legs and sprinkle with some tarragon leaves. Serve.
I recently found a website through which you can order fresh products from selected small producers. It works like a kind of market, you have a deadline by which you have to place your orders, the products get prepared and packaged and delivered at your doorstep. Even when you order at several producers, it arrives in one parcel.
The website is called Tauziet and Co. It started with the Ferme de Tauziet who makes cans of lamprey cooked in vintage Bordeaux wines. Now it has dozens of producers.
I ordered various thinks, meats as well as tinned and smoked fish.
The products would be delivered cooled for freshness by Chronopostfood, a unit of Chronopost.
But when a van stopped in front of the house, it was the same Subra local delivery firm that also brings me parcels for DHL, FedEx or other firms as it controls the “last mile” here in the rural area.
The box was cold and all the products were sealed.
One of the items I had ordered was a pigeon from the Gers.
I still had some broad beans from the market and a dish of cherries that we picked in the village.
- One pigeon (for two)
- 300 grams broad beans (podded)
- 150 grams of cherries
- One clove of garlic
- One fresh leave of sage and thyme
- Black pepper
- Some olive oil
- Chicken stock (I have that prepared in the fridge in used water bottles)
- Rinse the cherries in cold water
- Blanche the beans in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain and put in cold water, then take them out of their skins.
- Put the garlic and herbs inside the pigeon, put the bird in an oven dish and sprinkle with black pepper.
- Put it in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn for another ten minutes while adding some olive oil.
- After these 20 minutes, add some of the stock and cook another 10 minutes.
- Extinguish the heat and allow the bird to rest in the oven with the door open.
- Put some butter in a small casserole and when the foam has subsided add the beans and cherries. Stir well and add some chicken stock and continue to cook until the stock has evaporated.
- Present the bird with the vegetables before carving and serving.
I have a love-hate relationship with offal. I have never eaten brains, testacles or heart and do not intend to either. I did have to change my attitude to duck hearts, though, so who knows. But kidney, liver and sweetbread I do like.
Offal is rather perishable so you need to buy it fresh from a reputable shop.
On one of my weekly visits to a small meat producer on the market in Mirepoix, la ferme de Guillemot had some ris de veau, sealed in plastic. I did not hesitate and bought it.
At home, I first washed the sweetbread and then removed some left-over bits of blood as well as some whitish veil. Then I soaked them in cold water for about an hour, this allows the rest of the blood and impurities to get out of the meat.
Meanwhile I also soaked some dried ceps and started to pod the broad beans.
After that I put two pans of water on the gas, with some salt, and I prepared two bowls of cold water. I blanched the sweetbreads in one pan with cooking water (turning the heat to a simmer) and the beans in another. After two minutes, I drained the beans and put them in cold water. After five minutes, I did the same with the sweetbread.
I dried and cleaned the sweetbread and sliced them up.
I drained the beans and double-podded them by squeezing slightly on the skins.
I prepared another pan with boiling water and cooked casareccia pasta for 12 minutes.
Meanwhile I drained the ceps and patted them dry, keeping the soaking liquid for another use. I chopped some parsley.
With all the ingredients prepared, I put a large skillet on the gas with a knob of butter and browned the pieces of sweetbread on all sides, then I added the beans, ceps and pasta and stirred. I added some of the soaking liquid and continued cooking and stirring. Then I took it off the heat and added the parsley.
You could make a white bean soup in about 15 minutes with a stock cube, a tin of white beans and some tomato pulp. This recipe takes a lot longer but the time and trouble is worth it as the taste is rich and smooth.
You need to cook the dry white beans. I used a local variety here in the south of France, the coco de Pamiers. First you put them in a casserole with a lot of cold water and heat it up for some 20 minutes until there is a white foam on the surface. You can scoop the foam away or pour the cooking water and beans through a sieve and then rinse with cold water.
You also need to prepare a stock. I used beef shank and root vegetables and let that simmer for four hours.
I returned the beans to a casserole, added water and cooked for another hour.
Then I filtered the stock and put it in a large pan. Then I added the beans, some vegetables and tomato pulp. I cooked it together for 20 minutes and then added some garlic.
Meanwhile I had cut up the meat of the beef shank and cut up some smoked lard and added these to the pan. A sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste and the soup is ready.
For the stock
A beef shank
A piece of rutabaga
A chunk of root celery
A piece of celery
“Bouquet garnie” of herbs
5 litres of water
For the beans
300 grams of dried white beans
Lots of water
For the finishing
One carrot in cubes
One leek in rings
The meat of the shank
A tin of tomato pulp
200 grams of smoked lard
Two cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
Ossobucco, bone with a hole, is one of the many classic Italian recipes that take more patience than skill. The Milanese version has you coating the meat with flour and adding gremolata, a mixture of parsley and grated lemon rind.
Last week I went to the butcher’s in Mirepoix for some slices of cooked ham. Once there, I saw lovely veal shanks and veal tail and I could not resist. The tail I used for a veal stock but here I will give you my recipe for “jarret de veau”.
First I dried the meat and removed some bone splinters, then I tied it up around the bone. My ages-old Marcella Hazan cookbook told me to find a shank with the bone in the middle, but the anatomy of calves is that the bone is on the side of the meat so you should tie them up prevent it from falling apart.
I had some vegetables from the market, carrot, celery stick, onion. I chopped that up with some garlic and set it aside.
I put a combination of butter and oil in a casserole and browned the meat on all sides. I put them aside and added some pepper and salt. In the remaining fat, I baked the vegetables until tender. Then I put the meat back, added a glass of white wine (or vermouth) and a tin of chopped tomatoes. I let this simmer for a while before putting in an oven at 150 °C for two hours, with the lid on.
Towards the end, I chopped some fresh parsley and sprinkled it over the meat.