Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Regional Meal Back At La Touche

After a lovely though overly brief stay in Paris last week doing the tour of the usual museum suspects and tasty restaurants Valerie and I made our way back to the countryside. We left on Sunday morning accompanied by my cousin Nick and his lady Delphine despite traffic warnings due to the August rush of vacationers leaving Paris. We made good time however and made it in time for arriving in the early afternoon for a tasty lunch that I completely forgot to photograph. Dinner was another story however. We spent the day lounging around the property and went for a walk in the late afternoon when Delphine spotted some cèpes. Cèpes are woodsy mushrooms akin to porcinis that grow among the forests of France particularly around Bordeaux though we have a variety, cèpe des pins, in the Sologne. The large light brown and white mushrooms resemble porcini in flavor and texture but I find them much superior. Eaten fresh they are nutty and meaty with a smooth, creamy, and slightly slimy texture. Cèpes are eaten raw in Italy sliced paper-thin and dressed with olive oil and sea salt and in France they are commonly sautéed with butter or added to pasta, risotto, or soups. At La Touche we prefer them cooked and eaten with minimal preparation which allows you to really savor the flavor of the woods. We foraged quite a heavy load and brought them back to the kitchen to be fried up with a bit of minced garlic and parsley. They were absolutely delicious and I look forward to going back into the woods in search of more.

The dinner was a typical Solognot meal with a roasted meat, garden side dish, and tasty foraged appetizer. The only difference was that we did not raise, hunt, and dress the lamb ourselves, opting instead to buy a lamb leg from the local butcher. I love lamb and it has become one of my go to meats when I host company at my apartment in New York. Leg of lamb also happens to be one of my favorite cuts, the perfect roast for a large crowd that usually guarantees leftovers. The bone insures that the meat remains moist throughout cooking and imparts a delicious flavor to the roast which I stuffed with tons of garlic and rosemary. I rubbed the whole thing with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper before throwing it into a hot oven to cook for about 40 minutes give or take. It was a little overcooked but I like it very rare or seignant as they say in France. I think that generally people enjoyed it especially when eaten with our new favorite; truffled mustard, basically Dijon loaded with black truffle paste.

We ate the crisp roasted lamb packed with garlicky goodness and herbal flavor alongside roasted potatoes plucked from the garden. These spuds happened to be of the Ratte variety. La Ratte is a small French fingerling potato held in high esteem by French chefs for its nutty flavor and creamy texture. I have mostly encountered them in France whether at Parisian markets, restaurants, or from our garden at La Touche. In the past five or six years however Ratte potatoes have been popping up at Farmer’s markets in the States much to my delight. There is an ideal function for every potato and unfortunately roasting is better suited to Charlottes or potatoes with a higher starch content that will not dry out. Our roasted la Rattes did exactly that and some where simply to hard to chew through, much better steamed with a bit of sweet butter or olive oil and tons of fresh herbs. We ate our meat and potatoes followed by the ubiquitous green salad and cheese course consisting of Roquefort, Comte, Brebis Bleu, Cantal, and my current favorite, Rocamadour. It was a tasty meal that was very much a product of the region and Michael Pollan would have been beside himself because we used all natural whole foods coming from the woods, garden plots, and pastures around us. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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