Sunday, August 07, 2011


I've been back from Lalande Pomerol for 3 days now and my head is spinning as I try to comprehend how bad you've all been in my absence. I tried to follow the debt ceiling debacle on BBC4, which is next to useless and the absolutely useless French news casts...but that's just scraping the surface of the crusty baguette. But a much more pressing matter seems to have taken precedence. On Monday evening, one of my co workers who had left for the weekend, came back to Vieux Chevrol with a bag of cepes. 
We've had a dry and hot summer and many of the mushrooms I normally see haven't really appeared, but right before I left, there was a lot of rain, then a period of hot days and more rain!
For the first time since 2006, the cepes began to push up in great quantities! When I got home, my wife told me that there had been a lot of traffic on our little road. The road ends here and a trail goes to the forest. The next morning, I was out a 7:30 am with the dog and came back 2 hours later with 2 kilos of cepes de bordellaise and another variety, just as good, which we call le gendarme, because it has a very dark cap. One of the gendarmes was almost a half kilo.
So each morning, I have been getting up and going out before any of the professional mushroom collectors show up and believe me, it is a cut throat business...I saw a car parked at the head of the forest yesterday with plates from the Correze. The car had visited our forest at least twice a day for the last 2 days. I met the cepe rustler in the forest and he had a huge bag and was heading back for his car, actually, my dog met him first...
I told him that he had been taking the cepes before the local people could and mentioned that I saw his car and he wasn't he from the next departement? There are signs at the head of the forest trail that state only local residents are permitted to collect mushrooms, but I guess fair is fair in the mushroom game. He acted very sheepish and said he didn't realize any one lived around there. He hasn't come back!  Supposedly, the cepes start to grow around 5 in the evening. They grow fast and you have to try to get them before the giant red slugs beat you to them.
I have been filling bags with 500 grams of cut up cepes and freezing them. We had a great classic Perigordine dinner this evening of confit de canard and pommes de terre Sarladaise. Confit is the classic food of the Southwest France. Before refrigeration, the technique to preserve food was to cook it in duck  or goose fat and seal it, layered in the fat in an earthen ware crock and bury the crock. 
pomme de terres saladaise with confit de canard
Now we buy the confit in cans and use the fat to cook potatoes. So the Pommes de terre Sarladaise are sauteed potatoes in duck fat with sliced cepes, seasoned with a little garlic and parsley. 
Now fresh cepes are delicious, of course, but they seem to become more intense when they are dried or preserved. So, today, I made a few jars of confit de cepes. Very simple, you cut the ceps into slices and cook them in duck fat. You could use olive oil as they do in Italy, but the Sud Ouest Tradition is to use duck or goose fat, which takes on the taste of the cepes. Then, you have the fixins for a dish of Sauteed Potatoes with use the fat the cepes were preserved in, which I will this winter.
I was out this morning at 7:30 and walked through the forest to the top of the hill across the valley and saw a few other folks out collecting. I took some pictures today.
I rained heavily again today. I don't know it that is a good or a bad thing, but if the weather is good tomorrow morning, I'll be at it again!


Squatlo said...

Your descriptions of the local cuisine are inspiring! I can cook, but only in the rawest definition of the word, compared to you.

Wish it were possible to sample some of the goodies you describe!

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Microdot,
This is once again an outstanding posting and one of the things that hooked me on your site all those years ago.

I love the local flavor, lifestyles, and recipes that you do so well. Yea I can say I miss your postings when you’re gone. You have become a good long distance friend and I enjoy our conversations.

I am now instructing the lessons in Masonry and I have five Entered Apprentice (1st degree) that will be standing their proficiency this Monday. I pass this on because one of the EAs was a Master Chef in one of the BEST restaurants in Baltimore.

There are a group of my good friends that meet at another’s house on Sundays to watch football on TV. Some Ravens fans, some Redskins, some Pittsburgh, etc and it is all in good fun. There were a just a few of us that use to go the a local Pizza Restaurant for a couple of years to watch football on a projector size big screen (about 5’ X 7’) but last year they got rid of it and just went to several 42” LCD TVs and it was just not the same. (I have one at home that size) It was then that we noticed that no matter what you ordered, it just tasted like cardboard.

Well one thing led to another and my friend with the home we meet at and I took it upon my self to cook more French and some Italian Cuisine, the group just got bigger and bigger. All good friends, and class mates, friends of friends etc.

For this Fall Season, I have invited this new Mason / Chef to come watch football with us and of course I will impose on his talents to take our dinning experience up a notch. Everyone is very exicited.