Monday, July 31, 2006

Leg of Lamb - Anchovies & 7 hours.

I first posted this on eGullet in answer to a question, but I thought I may as well put it on the blog where people can get at it all the time. Next time I do it I'll take some pictures to add.

Lamb is my favorite meat & I've been cooking legs for many years. Here's a pretty much fool proof method that always wows even the non-lamb lovers.

Start in the morning of the day you're going to serve the lamb.

1) read the eGullet culinary institute course on slow cooking meats.

2) Debone the leg end, but leave the shank end as is. This helps both the cooking & the carving.

3) Salt, pepper, a little minced garlic & a little rubbed rosemany should be placed in the boned cavity. Then tie the boned portion back togetherr with kitchen string.

4) cut 3-5 slashes about 1/2 inch deep across the outside leg end on a diagonal. In each slash place an salted tinned anchovy. (Never fear, they add a great flavor & your guests can have a great time guessing, mostly wrongly, what your secret magic ingredient is.) Add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper & some more rubbed rosemary leaves. NO salt as the anchovies take care of that.

5) Here's the only tricky part. Pre-heat an oven to 425 F. Put the lamb in for about 20 minutes to brown. Take the lamb out of the hot oven & place it in an oven at 160 F. The tricky part is getting both temperatures. If you have 2 ovens then you're in great shape. If not then just let the browned lamb rest while you get the oven temperature down to 160 F. DO NOT leave the lamb in while the oven cools down; it will cook too fast.

6) Roast at 160 F for 7 hours. Once you reach 61/2 hours timing is no longer important. Anothe hour or even more will be Ok. This makes life much easier when it comes to bringing the meal together.

7) Let the lamb rest out of the oven for 15-20 minutes before carving.

As an option (but one your guests will love) make a gravy. Carefully pour off most of the fat, but not all, from the roasting tin. Then put the roasting tin over high heat on the stove. Deglaze with a good dollop of red wine. Make sure you scrape all the bits off the sides & bottom. Let boil until the wine is reduced to 1/3 of its original volume. Take the tin off heat & as soon as it quits boiling add lots (8-12 oz) of heavy (35%) cream. Back on heat stirring constantly. Reduce to about 2/3 rds of original volume. Pour gravy into a sauce boat & enjoy.

Lamb done this way is absolutely delicious & has the great advantage of simplicity.

Don't know what you're serving with it, but a couple of recommendations are:

Roast ratatouille & roast potatoes cooked in duck fat with Herbs de Province & lots of sea salt.

STORY: Last time I served this & there were 10 of us; the guests at one end of the table used up most of the gravy. (they'd had it before) not realizing that that was all there was for everybody. Fortunately Tom who is a professional chef was there. He & my wife went back to the kitchen & whipped up more gravy using olive oil, red wine, lamb stock cubes, some leg trimmings & more cream. It was amazingly good all things considered & our guilty guests were saved. Everybody wanted to try the 'concoction', but the guilty paries weren't allowed. Great party!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Is anybody in France 'normal'?

I was thinking about this today as I talked to Jacques. Now Jacques is truely a Jacques of all trades. He's done all kinds of work on our house. There seems to be little he won't tackle AND do a good job of it. For example here he is building a new fireplace - single handed! Note the cap; we'd known Jacques for months & months before we ever saw him without his hat.
So far so normal. Turns out, however, the Jacques has spent several years in the middle East teaching French to foreigners after that he was a social worker in Paris. He & his wife decided to move down to the country when they decided to start their family (they now have 3 children) as they didn't want to raise the children in a city enviornment. What to do? Elizabeth still works with the elderly locally, but Jacques decided to work for himself. HIs father was a great handyman & taught Jacques a lot so he decided to make a business of it. Given his background, education & intelligence he can work out almost anything. He's much in demand.

A few months ago we were bemoaning the fact that we couldn't find a good school or teacher to improve our French. Jacques volunteered & now gives each of us an individual lesson every Monday. He's a great teacher. We're learning not just 'proper' French, but everyday French as well. We always have lunch together when Jacques is here. Not only is this good for our French, its good for Jacques English. No doubt that his English is better than our French. We all enjoy getting each other's perception of world events, French politics and whatever topics come to mind. As I said this is a very bright well informed man.

A 'normal' workman? I think not. Actually I should call Jacques an artisan which is what the craftsmen here are called. Its a priviledge to know him.

We thought Jacques was the exception until we met Gerard the falconeer who also happens to make beautiful cabinetry and then Stepan the gardner who climbs mountains most of the time. I'll tell you about them in a future post.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The beauty of France

Its hard living here. Today was yet another very hot day, well over 90 degrees so I suggested to my wife that we go for a long drive in the air conditioned car & have lunch somewhere. Good idea so she started getting ready. I had a quick look at Michelin on line & worked out a route that looked interesting & had a good looking restaurant at about the right distance away.

We left home about 10:15 & went North via Limogne to Cajarc, passing the Lot valley on the way with its beautiful scenery. We stopped in Cajarc for coffe & a look in the local Real Estate agents for houses for some friends who are looking to move to France. ( Turned out that the agent was out showing a house, but his wife was there & didn't know much about the properties for sale. So she labouriously wrote our his name, phone number & e-mail adrress & proudly handed it to my wife, She was very happy to have been able to have helped. I didn't have the heart to tell her that all of the information was on the back of her husband's flyer. You're got to love the spirit, if not the efficiency!)

On to Maures up the Cele valley, very pretty. There we turned right (East) towards Montsalvy on the D19. Empty country, but beautiful. As we gently climbed the views just got better & better. Nice small villages & hamlets with steep rooved houses with round slate tiles. Great in the summer, but probably pretty cold & isolated in the winter. Traffic? What traffic?

We reached Montsalvy about 1:15 & went into the Auberge du Fleurie. The dining room was very well set up, nicely decorated and about half full. Menus & wine list were brought & we then knew we were in for a good meal. Four courses for 28 Euros. (A bit expensive for these parts.) Linda had a langustine starter with a whole crustaton & a "tail" made of a crisp crepe stuffed with langustine & porc all on a basil sauce. Very pretty & good, but a bit too mild in flavor. I had what was billed as a gazpacho of cucumber. There was a small glass of tomato & cucumber gazpacho, but there were also two good sized portions of smoked salmon on a bed of salad with a light vinegarette & a tiny cup of melon puree. It was absolutely delicious. We both had the fillet of beef with truffle sauce. WOW! This was accompanied by a ball of mashed potatoes with a thin crisp slice of ham moulded to the top, the whole had been fried lightly in duck fat then topped by finely sliced crisp onions. A great main course. A nice cheese selection featuring local cantal & chevre & a blue veined tome. ( I got a real rise out of Madame by asking if this was where the Montsalvy cheese was made, its an artificial 'supermarket cheese which isn't veey good, I got an emphatic non! And in English "NO good!" with a dramatic thumbs down.) Linda had a dessert consisting of finely sliced fresh strawberries with creme freshe sandwitched between large rounds of very rich chocolate. I had an individual apricot claflutte.
In addition to the food the Auberge had a huge wine list with over 300 entries. Some great bottles at fair prices. What I appreciated was about 30-40 choices of half bottles. Thus we could have a split of Chablis Grand Cru & follow it with a 50cl bottle of Corbiers. All this for just under 100 Euros. Pas mal as they say.

We slowly wended our way home admiring the views as we descended to the Lot valley again, then along the Lot via Decazville, Capdenac Gare & Villefranche de Rouergue on the Averyron & home. We stopped on the way so Rupert could have a nice swim in the river which he loved.

What a nice way to spend a hot day. I do love France!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Magret de Canard recipe

There are lots of recipies for magret out there. Both Paula Wolfert in SouthWestern French Cooking and Jeanne Strang in Goose Fat & Garlic have good ones. My recipe is just my way of doing it; nothing special.
Last time we were in the states I discovered that Whole Foods was selling magret; don't know if they still are what with all the flap about force feeding the ducks for fois gras. Sure glad we live in France.


Roughly 1 whole magret per person, a bit less if they're large.
Lots of fresh thyme leaves, well rubbed
Coarse sea salt & freshly ground pepper.


  1. Trim the fat on the magrets to remove any pin feathers, veins & the like.
  2. Carefully cut a cross hatch pattern in the fat avoiding cutting into the meat underneath as much as possible.
  3. Rub the salt into the fat.
  4. Place the magrets fat side down in a frying pan over low/medium heat.
  5. Cook until the fat has rendered. This will take 15-20 minutes & you will want to drain off the accumulated fat 2 or 3 times. (Save the fat in a sterilized sealable container such as a canning jar. Let the fat cool then keep it in the fridge. Its wonderful for cooking with.)
  6. Once the fat has rendered take the magrets off heat & grind the pepper and sprinkle the thyme leaves over the meat side. Let rest until you are ready to finish cooking.
  7. There are three basic options for finishing the magrets. In the frying pan, in the oven or on the BBQ.
    1. In the pan. Place a frying pan over high heat. When hot put the magret in FAT SIDE DOWN. Fry for 2-3 minutes until fat is crisp. Turn over & cook meat side for 1-3 minutes to taste. (Traditionally magret is served rare.)
    2. In the oven. Heat oven to 400F. Place magrets in a roasting tray with a rack. Fat side down. Roast for 10-15 minutes checking to get the right degree of doneness.
    3. On the BBQ. Get the BBQ good & hot. Place magrets FAT SIDE DOWN over the coals & roast for 1-3 minutes moving them around whenever there is a flareup. Turn the magrets over & cook the meat side for 2-3 minutes. (This is my favorite method.)
  8. Slice the magrets thinly across their width & serve immediately.
That's it. A simple dish, but delicious with the Aillade.

A wonderful variation is drain the frying pan of any fat & then too add slices of fresh fois gras to the frying pan for the last minute or so of cooking. Slice your magret as before & serve each portion with a slice of fois gras on top. Very rich & very wonderful.

Friday, July 21, 2006

French meal in Italy- L'Aillade Toulousaine recipe

This is a sauce made locally here in the Rouergue and which is a traditional addition to magret. I first learned of it from Jeanne Strang's book "Goose Fat & Garlic". I highly recommend this book by the way. If you like the Paula Wolfert book on South Western French cooking you'll also love this book. In addition to the recipies Jeanne describes a way of life that continues in this area, but is slowly fading away.

NOTES:The recipe quantity will serve 4-5 people, but I have discovered that the Aillade freezes beautifully so I usually at least double up & keep a nice pot for next time.
Use walnut oil if at all possible. I've used olive oil & even truffle oil when I didn't have walnut & although they work well its just not quite the same.


75 grams fresh walnuts
50 grams raw garlic
150 milliliter walnut oil
Salt & pepper
A small handfull of Parsley


  1. Mix the walnuts & garlic together and process in a food processor or blender until very smooth. You may need to add a bit of water to keep the mixtrure flowing, but not too much. ( the traditional method was to do this step in a mortar & pestle, but the food processor is much easier.)
  2. With the processor running slowly pour in the walnut oil. Process until the Aillade is nicely smooth.
  3. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  4. Add the parsley.
  5. Serve with magret or place into a ramekin, seal with film & freeze.
I know this sounds very garlicy & strong, but believe me it offsets the duck beautifully. My wife always insists on Lyonaise potatoes with this so she can eat more Aillade.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

More on Notable food in Italy

More olive oil. Found that the really nice dipping oil was, many times, labeled 'frutata'. We asked at the restaurant & they wrote down the brand name they use. The search was on! After many shops filled with temptation we found it. We now have a couple of bottles, in fact I used some last night on cold green beans. Very nice.
Dinner on the way home in Le Muy was very good. The owner/chef makes all of his own bread and it turns out he loves to make terrines. I had his terrine entree which gave me four different types accompanied by olives, cornichons, home made fig jam & an outstanding onion confit. This in itself would have made a wonderful dinner, but the entrcote which followed was also excellent. Fresh from the oven croissants & rolls for breakfast completed the stay.

Disaster struck at lunch in Le Vigan. The worst meal we've ever had in France! And they tried to overcharge us. The details are too greusome to relate. Its a real shock as it happens so seldom in France.

We were asked by our hosts to cook a French meal while in Lucca. Knowing this in advance we were able to load up the car fridge with a few goodies. Naturally we also took wine, a couple of cases. For nibbling we had rilettes & some cheeses. For non-alcholic drinks we took a couple of bottles of the wonderful French fruit syrups so we could make Diablas by adding some diet lemonade. For THE meal, however, we brought fois gras & magret. Out menu was:

Fois gras on toast FOLLOWED BY:

Roasted tomatoes with olive, garlic, basil & balsamic vinegar FOLLOWED BY:

Barbequed magret accompanied by L'aillade de Toulouse
Roast new potatoes; green beans & sauteed green & red peppers with spring onions & radishes FOLLOWED BY:

A salad of butter lettice with fresh basil & cilantro; tossed with a light vinagrette. FOLLOWED BY:

Italian cheeses FOLLOWED BY:

Baked apricots with vanilla gelato.

Of course we took our time eating this & everyone seemed to enjoy the meal.

I'll start posting the recipies in the next day or so, but can start with the fois gras as it was so simple.

Sauteed fois gras

1) Buy fresh fois gras, Separate the lobes & carefully pick out the veins

2) Carefully slice the fois gras in to about 1/4 inch thick slices. Layer the slices with cooking paper between each to keep them separate. Freeze if not cooking immediately.

3) Toast some nice thin rounds of French bread.

4) Heat up a frying pan to hot. Have your salt & pepper ready to hand.

5) Place several fois gras slices in the hot pan. Immediately salt & pepper lightly. Turn the slices over (they should cook no more that 90 seconds for each side.

6) When done put each slice on a toast round & serve immediately.

7) If you need to do a second pan full carefully pour off the fois gras butter into a container. Keep it was its absolutely delicious. Now fry your second pan full as before.

Die & go to heaven. Serve with a sweet wine. Let your budget be your guide on this. Chateau D'y on downwards

More later.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Notable food & stuff in Italy & on the trip

On the way to Italy we stopped at Colomar which is a village perched high above Nice. Nice hotel & would have been quiet except for one noisy bullfrog. Dinner was good. Excellent lamb steaks which had been nicely marinated. Off to Italy the next morning.
Had a great time finding an olive oil factory (Lucca olive oil is supposedly THE best) mentioned in a guide book. Did eventually find it with the help of a French speaking Italian. (also, we learned a new gesture. No, a polite one. You put your thumb & fingers together then open & shut them. Like click, click, click. It's short for click which is slang for K which is short for kilometer. 3 'clicks' = 3 kilometers!) Well sure enouigh we went 3 K's then left & then 5 K's & found the place. Absolutely charming. We bought olive oil, wine & some cookies.

First really nice restaurant dish was a starter of fresh anchovies in a lemon sauce. Wonderful! The fritto misto was also excellent, but not unusual. Had a great meal at La Porte in Viareggio. Two of our party ordered what they thought might be a clam chowder type of soup. What they got was a delicious big bowl of clams with herbs & not much broth. I had the house antipasta. 5 kinds of marinated & sauced fish including a squid salad, stuffed calamari, sauteed bream & so forth. Very yummy. Linda & I shared a large flat, sole like, fish that they baked. Very fresh & great looking both before & after cooking. The waiter expertly deboned it & it was fantastic.
At other times we had really good pasta, freshly caught trout and some good beef. Also had to go buy more olive oil for dipping after tasting some really good stuff in a little tratorria.
This is getting long so I'll add more later. Also think I'll give you all of the recipies for the meal I cooked for our friends at the villa.
Ciao for now.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Back from Italy

Well we made it back, but not without some travail. First we took a wrong turn on Genoa's very poorly signposted freeway & ended up downtown with, seemingly, no way back. Took a lot of wandering & navigating to get back on track. The good news was that we saw some interesting coast line.
A word of warning! The freeway from La Speza in Italy to Nice in France is an engineering marvel, a succession of bridges & tunnels, but its nearly 4 hours of very concentrated driving. We're used to European driving & believe me this route is tough!
We stayed near Le Muy & had an adequate room & excellent dinner. (I'll cover food in a separate post.) Next day the trip was plain sailing until we got near Nimes. There the autoroute to Montpillier just choked up. So, we got off & headed north west. Lovely countryside & good roads. By accident we ran into Le Tour de France near St, Hippolyte. Fouth year in a row that I've seen a stage. Stopped for lunch in Le Vigan. Great town & Saturday market, but a disasterous lunch.
Plain sailing the rest of the way home. Happy to be back in France; so celbrated by doing dinner last night for our dog sitters. Artichokes with thyme mayonnaise, Confit de canard with green beans (dressed with olive oil & lemon) and sauteed red & green peppers with spring onions HdeP & Garlic. Fresh melon for dessert. All washed down with a modest chardonnay from near Beziers.
Life is good! Even if the weather's a bit too hot.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Who is that Mad dog?

I've been asked a number of times in the public forums of eGullet who my avatar is or what he is. I answered, but since it was off topic the posts were jerked. Only fair, but for those interested here is the story.

He is Rupert who is our 22 month old standard poodle puppy. All 38 kilos of him. He's a real delight and our third standard poodle.

The pictures were taken on a walk this spring just after we got our new camera. (a Nikon d50 so we can use our lenses) Roop was running around a meadow like a mad dog, just full of the joys of spring. Having a great time. I had a long lens on & just started snapping. Got some pretty good shots considering that Rupert was at full gallop. I like them anyway and decided to crop & use one as my avatar.

It's interesting that big standard poodles supposedly French are fairly rare here in France. Lots & lots of the small poodles, but not many standards. Rupert attracts a lot of attention when we take him to market with us. 'Quelle race est-il?' "Il est un caniche royal." 'Ah, tres, tres beaux chien. Est-il gentile? "Oh, oui il est tres gentile."

And so on. We meet a lot of nice people this way & its very good for our French.

Here's Rupert looking like the intelligent animal that he really is, not the mad puppy.
Roop is a real foodie at heart. Just about his favorite thing is walnuts. He like to find them when they drop from the tree, carefully crack the shell, then eat the meat. He also likes to pick blackberries & wild plums in season. When I'm cooking he's never far away, not begging which isn't allowed, but just around just in case. An opportunist is our Roop. He's as big a cheese lover as I am.

Some day I'll post a strory about Roops predecessor, Kuno. Kuno was absolutely unique, I've never met another dog with as much presence as Kuno. But, that's a different story and I've got to start getting ready for our Italy trip.

ciao for now.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Previews & delays

The delays are that we're leaving for 10 days in Italy Thursday morning. Hope to come back with both new recipies and new ingredients. We'll be near Lucca where I'm told the best of all olive oils comes from. I'll try to find out.

The delays are that I've got a couple of new recipies to put up. I've done the pics, but won't have time to do the write up's before we leave. Watch this space for "Amusing Amusees" plus some other delights.
To keep you going here's some more cheese.

At front are 3 little cabecous. Raw goat's milk; they're made all over this area. These are nicely ripe, soft & fairly pungent.
To the right is a chunk of laguiole. Cows milk from the high areas of the Aveyron. They've been making this & its cousins, cantal & salers, since before the Romans came. Yummy.
On the left is a gaperon, also from the Aveyron. Myth says that if you drop your knife on the cheese from waist height & it stands up the gaperon is ripe. True? Who knows, but a good story anyway.
At the back is a lisseau de chateau. New to me & I have been unable to find out anything about it. Mt cheese guy at market was very busy so I didn'r get to ask about it. Tastes like a variety of blue de causses & probably is. Again very local.

They made a nice addition to our dinner of magret with tiny roasted potatoes, sauteed peppers & green beans & were followed by some superb melons.

Why do I every leave this blessed country? Just curious I guess.