cassoulet cover

Cassoulet: A French Obsession- Book Launch

Welcome to Camont Press’s first book launch. Cassoulet: a French Obsession by Kate Hill, 132 pages of stories, ingredients and recipes about France’s favorite regional dish. Cassoulet is hot off the e-presses as a pdf and as a print on demand book. Click here for your own copy! 
It’s easy not to write a book. It’s easy to think about it, cook the dishes, write the recipes, and make the food to photograph. It’s easy to eat the delicious cassoulet over and over, year by year, and say “next year- the book.”  It’s much harder to remember the many steps eliminated over the years and harder still, to commit to paper a method, a sense of doneness, a small nervous kitchen tic that releases into relief when you open the oven door and it smells… just right.
 I hope you enjoy the journey of discovering Cassoulet, a French obsession, and my own, as I finally put it to paper  (with a little help from my friends) in the Cassoulet season of 2015. Enjoy and share your own Cassoulet pictures on Facebook and Instagram- #cassouletobsession.

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How to Make French Charcuterie-Vèntreche Roulée


The first thing we do in the Kitchen is make a little plan- with this lovely large whole Middle section-the belly- what can we make? We opted for a trio of delicious and versatile products using three techniques: salt curing, hot smoking, and braising.

Discussing the qualities of the meat- How big is it? How much does it weigh? What’s the best usage for each part? How much will we trim off? Just the teat line and mammary glands. Notice the firmer upper part that covered the ribcage and lies just below the loin? What about those meaty pads with layers of soft fat toward the ham end? Each section of the belly primal has purpose.


Step #1 in making the vèntreche roulée is trimming. Trimming is understanding the cut of meat. Here, this softer flap of fat and glands are trimmed off. They will be used in paté.

IMG_1922Next, David removes, with a long clean stroke, the end of the belly closest to the shoulder. We’ll use this meaty trim in making sausage.

IMG_1908Next, we divided the larger  trimmed piece into a clean square of the center cut of the belly- ribs to bottom.


Because we wanted to make three different belly products- we divided the large trimmed square of meat into two; one-third we’ll keep for a hot smoked American-style bacon and the other two-thirds will become our classic French vèntreche roulée.

Our product #2-the hot smoked bacon- gets a sweet and spicy rub based on a recipe by Charcuterie Jam Pal Craig Diehl. His delicious recipes are available to taste in person at Artisan Meat Share in Charleston, South Carolina. Student Chuck Lee worked with Craig before coming to Camont for further study and he shared the molasses based bacon rub with us in class.

IMG_1924Next Tish and David decide on how to trim and divide the meaty Ham end of the belly for product #3. We’ve decided to make a classic French braised pork belly demi-sel or half salted with a spicy twist using a recipe from that great Stephane Reynaud book ‘Pork & Sons’. First we’ll lightly salt the pork overnight, then brush off all the salt and let it rest. Spicy Pork Belly Confit will be poached in a curry and saffron white wine broth and cooked very slowly for 3 hours until the bouillon has reduced to a deep glaze. Stay tuned for lunch on Friday!

And now the part you have been waiting for- Step #2 in making the vèntreche roulée. Salting…

We weighed the slab of well trimmed pork belly now. Turns out David is ace at guessing weights- and he honed in on 3 kilos. Since we are going to leave the rind on this vèntreche  when we roll it, I want to make sure we have enough salt and leave it on long enough to penetrate the fat and meat layers. I am using a standard 3% salt measurement (or 90 grams of salt- 30 gr per kilo) and will rub it on all surfaces and leave on for 5-7 days. Just salt. This is an exercise in salting and curing and we have not started using curing additives yet. This is our base line project.

IMG_3772Salting is science, art, and alchemy. Salt is comprised mainly of sodium chloride (NaCl) as well as a bouquet of complex minerals and natural compounds. This is the salt I use at Camont-  a naturally evaporated salt from the salt springs at Salies de Béarn near the Pyrenees. This is the only salt now used to produce the famous Jambons de Bayonne.

  • How much salt? approximately 3% of the weight of your piece of pork belly.
  • Rub in very well until there is just an even covering of salt sticking to the meat.
  • Place rind side down on a tray or shallow pan.
  • Put in refrigerator and keep there for 5-7 days.

Next week, we’ll remove the belly from the fridge and do Step #3 in making a ventrèche roulée. This is where we are going:



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Back to Cooking School- Butchery & Charcuterie


What happens at a cooking school in France that specializes in teaching Butchery & Charcuterie? If you’ve visited here before, followed my Instagram photos, or drooled over the Facebook photos, you’ll remember how hungry you’ll be by the end of the four week sessions- ham, ventreche, saucissons, paté, rillettes, confit, foie gras…

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This month you can follow along as each week we make some classic French farmstead charcuterie products. I’ll choose a favorite product each week and you can imagine yourself here in Gascony, sharing a glass of chilled rosé wine and tasting that deep farmstead flavor of the Chapolard pork in each bite.  The students will be posting. The teachers will be posting. Maybe even the pigs will be posting.


Here’s an overview of the month to come:

Week 1- Welcome to France, the Chapolard Farm, the XL Pigs, 30+ Farmstead Charcuterie Products, Basic Salting and Curing at Camont.

Week 2- Pigs do Fly! The Fat Duck under Glass-from Confit to Jambon de Canard, Rillettes, Paté, and Civet.

Week 3- Slaughter to Nose to Tail Breakdown into Charcuterie Cuts for Small Production. Whole Muscle Curing: Noix de Jambon, Filet Sec, Coppa and Understanding Saucission. HAACP Certification Course with Dr. Michele Pfannenstiel of Dirigo Food Safety.

Week 4- Understanding the Big Picture of Artisan Pork Production and Field Trip to Ham Heaven in Basquelandia-  Jambon de Bayonne and other Basque specialities.

Before you are ready for the slower curing products like noix de jambon and saucissons, we’re going to start with a fast introduction to salt curing with ventrèche roulée or salted rolled pork belly. This isn’t bacon as most of you know it. But it has the elements of bacon that we love, fat and lean, salty and sweet, slight smokiness- French bacon. It is the most versatile piece of charcuterie to have in the French Kitchen at all times.


Go get a nice big piece of pork belly this week, have some good coarse salt on hand, black pepper to grind, and we’ll start on Wednesday; how to, what to look for, and recipes to follow. This is what it will look like when we are finished. Hungry now?


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Shifting Seasons: Late Summer Recipes Inspired by My Garden


One minute it’s all picnics and tapas, night markets, and bbqs, the next it is soups, braises and cassoulets. I’m not quite ready to let go of these lovely Gascon days and the longer nights under the new canopy, but my kitchen is. Looking for inspiration from summers past, I found some great late summer recipes here in the archive. Fruit and vegetables are at their peak now directly from the garden and orchard so I am declaring a transition period this week; cook just once a day, in the morning for dinner and then take a few bites out of the pot for lunch and a salad. I still want to work as much as I can in the perfect outside temperature, get my teaching kitchen ready for the new group of Butchery & Charcuterie students in September, and continue working on new projects yet still have a bit of staycation time each day. Oh, and naps; don’t forget the late summer siestas, too.

Here’s my late summer menu pictogram fresh from the windfall orchards of my neighborhood and gardens: IMG_2651_edited

raspberries and peche de vigne fool


Fig and goat cheese tartes for lunch or dessert.

IMG_5696Ratatouille to eat with anything!

If your mouth started watering at these pictures, then it’s a good time to put something in the oven or in a pot to simmer. Need some more ideas? Check here, here & here or just browse through my back posts for more late summer ideas click here.

Happy Summering with these Late Summer recipes!

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Summer souvenirs of cool French cooking



Summer Cooking Classes during a heatwave? ? Of course, if you are within the cooler stone walls of Camont’s natural air conditioned interior world. Even during la canicule of 2015, we must cook; I just change my attention to how I cook. Last winter I planned a three day cooking course in mid-July. So as we bounced up and over the 100’F mark several times already this month, it was time to shift gears from the famous long slow cooking of Gascony to some easy and fast dishes from our gardens and summer markets.


Summer hit early this year and has brushed its scorched earth policy across most of Southwest France. Toasted. Burnt. Gratinéed. When students Todd Perry and Ms. Paris by Mouth, Meg Zimbeck- along with my ‘Kitchen Coheart’ Vétou Pompèle- arrived we took a cooler approach to Gascon cooking. This is what we cooked over three easy going summer days. Think cool, chilled, and super fresh from the Wednesday market at Lavardac.

  IMG_1317The beginning of a Summer Cassoulet- fresh borlotti beans.

Some of my favorite meals start with this shopping list:

  • Fresh Borlotti beans from the garden for a summer cassoulet
  • Magret for quick grilled ‘Duck Burgers’ .
  • Prunes for above, too.
  • New potatoes for frites cooked in duck fat, of course!
  • Perfectly ripe melons for Soupe des Melons
  • Peaches for a fruit tarte
  • Duck eggs  from our ducks for a summer clafoutis 
  • 2 kilos of cherries, peaches, apricots or ? for a micro batch of confiture
  • Duck farce or minced meat for a quick summer terrine 
  • Chapolard’s Saucisse de Toulouse
  • Greens for a Salade Gasconne
  • Kate’s Ham for tapas…
  • Perfectly ripe tomatoes for a tarte des tomates
  • and a tourin des tomates


See, it wasn’t hard to be inspired. We made pastry twice- once savory and once sweet; one in a tart pan, one as a fresh fruit galette. Of course, you want the recipes… But this is about cooking, from scratch, with friends, with some coaxing and hand-to-hand guidance. As Meg said on her instagram feed– Recipe? Kate Hill is all about letting the produce shine, so it’s tart dough (pâte brisée) slicked with coarse mustard, topped with the most beautiful local cœur de bœuf tomatoes, rounds of Sainte-Maure de Touraine goat cheese, some crumbled fresh thyme and a drizzle of honey (plus salt and pepper).”   Here’s a little peek of how I teach how to make my All-French All-Butter Pastry Crust- 

Then we made two soups- one cold not-cooked Melon soup and one warm, light, and fresh tomato tourin (recipe in my book A A Culinary Journey in Gascony)


We cooked one rabbit for a pot of lemony olive oil rillettes (to serve cold the next day with garlic toasts) and a perfect duck and foie gras terrine, as well as a small pot of rabbit liver paté. IMG_1309This creamy duck egg clafoutis was deep yellow and rich and barely sweet with white and yellow peaches. We made a fresh bean Summer Cassoulet that served us at lunch one day with a great garlicky frisée salad made with tomato vinegar.

IMG_1365The minced magret made a great duck burger stuffed with an armagnac-soaked prune and served with Prune Ketchup on a brioche bun. With duck fat fried frites, of course. Friends came by for lunch on our last day, and the pressure was on. Brenda and David Dadakian of Eat Drink RI popped in, and local friends Linni and Rob with Todd’s family joined us.


That’s what we do here at this Kitchen at Camont-make a lot of food, then sit down and eat, together. I love these Summer Souvenirs of good times in the kitchen and out, new friends and old. There is one more chance to book some Summer Cooking Classes at Camont in August.  Come on over…



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Summer + Red = #Summerrosso


This is “Not Campari”. When my dear friend in Tuscany, Judy Witts Francini proclaimed “Red is the New Black” this summer, it started a hashtag war. Her Italian Campari; my Gascon rosé. Somehow, all of a sudden, I was seeing red everywhere! And here’s the proof.


Childhood Summer memories are running rampant right now. One of my earliest Red images-a horizontal soda pop machine with small glass bottles sporting brightly colored caps full of sweet sticky cold Strawberry Soda.  So when I was given a precious gift of these old variety strawberries-dubbed a Raspberry-Strawberry by some, I knew that I had to find a way to savor the amazing flavor that was quintessentially red.

After a quick game of tic tac toe with the startling white Pineberry-those oldest variety of new world, South American berries, I took the few remaining red berries-super charged with flavor-from the box-and with just a scant 7 berries I made a VSB (Very Small Batch) of Sirop de Fraise using some simple syrup already tucked in my fridge.IMG_0726I let the strawberries mingle with the syrup over night and declared this a perfect Sunday breakfast drink: a splash of syrup over ice, a float of cold water, a quick stir. As refreshing as a Campari Soda (last savored in Portofino an age ago!) and OK before breakfast.

IMG_0717The idea behind VSB (Very Small Batches, remember?) is to not drown yourself in gallons and liters but to celebrate the very short season and small precious tastes in a mini-moment of Summer Redness. So when another friend (nice to have good friends, eh?) brought a lovely small basket full of THE MOST DELICIOUS cherries to Camont, I knew if I didn’t snag a few handfuls for later, they’d be gone in Gascon minute. IMG_0737So I grabbed a canning jar (the size I usually put my Duck Confit in), and using that same smash with a fork technique, I covered the fruit, stones, stems and all with a cup of fine sugar and filled the jar with some homemade eau de vie stashed in the bar. I covered the top with some cherry leaves for added flavor (check David Lebovitz’s recipe here for more inspiration)  and  set it aside for a few more days. IMG_0730It was only after I had sat back, that I thought to check my own cherry trees here at Camont. There were so few when I looked a couple weeks of ago, I hadn’t bothered. What a delightful surprise to see small but perfectly ripe clusters weighing down the end of the branches by the Gypsy caravans. #Summerrosso confiture coming next!


Celebrating Summer is a Camont tradition… check our archives here of summer posts for more #Summerrosso inspiration!


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Rillettes- #1 Kitchen Charcuterie at Camont


Simple rillettes often get lost in the big charcuterie picture-that diverse family of patés, terrines, boiled hams, and other salt-cured meats. Really, it’s hard to make a pot of cooked meat and fat look sexy (although I think I did a pretty good job above). Cold meats can be the star of summer garden lunches, pique-niques by the river, and wine-fueled aperos that turn into an excuse for dinner. All you meat mavens can say what you want about bacon, but for me, rillettes are the gateway to learning about charcuterie and remain one of my favorite things to make and eat. Like right now for your summer parties!

Call me an”In-Season-Only Gendarme”, however, I think it’s perfectly fine to make rillettes throughout the year. After all, were not talking about huge quantities- just mouth watering, small batches simmering in your 4 liter/quart le Creuset/dutch oven and packed in a few nice pots to stash in the fridge. Traditionally, the offspring of Winter’s slaughter of pig and duck, rillettes are the by-product of all the carcass meats after making confit de canard, or the sacrificial bits of trimmed belly and loin from the pig.  So last month, when Jayne, the Small Batch Queen of Australia (Preserved & Pickled) came for a professional crash course in Patés & Rillettes- we ignored the season and attacked the project with gusto. I’m glad we did, because it confirmed what I felt about confitures- small batch is better!


The lesson began with three rillettes, based on similar techniques, and seasoned in three complimentary palates: pork, duck and rabbit. Less a recipe and more a technique, I make my rillettes by beginning a condensed bouillon/broth/brodo with the falling aromatic vegetables, herbs, and spices: leeks, carrots, onions, fennel, bay leaf, thyme, a bit of lovage, and 50% white wine/50% clean water.  Oh, and add a healthy dose of fat-; it’s the fat that makes the rillettes bind together. For the rabbit, I used olive oil and seasoned with lemon juice; lard for pork and duck fat for … yup.IMG_0495

As the bouillon starts to simmer and I pack in the meat (2 whole rabbits or one whole duck, jointed for example, or 2 kilos of pork shoulder/loin), cover with tight fitting lid and bring to a hearty boil. I keep the temperature high and let the meat fall off the bones and start to shred- about 1.5 hours for the rabbit; 2.5 hours for duck; 4 hours+ for pork.  Pick through and remove all bones, gristle, cartilage, tendons, etc… Be meticulous! And as you pick the  bones out, start to shred the meat.

When you are bone-free, start to add back the warm fatty broth and mix with a wooden spoon or your hands. You should have just enough concentrated bone broth (the real kind…) to moisten and emulsify the meat and fat. This is the tricky part as it’s a matter of ‘hand’- too gentle and the proteins, fat and liquid won’t bond; too rough and you’ll get soggy cotton wool. I think of this as making chunky mayonnaise- with just enough moisture and fat to be silky. Now, weigh your total mixture and measure salt and pepper- 15 grams salt and 4 grams pepper per kilogram as a starter. You can add more and I did- 17 gr was about right. Use a scale.  Remember this will be eaten cold and will taste a little flat unless well-salted; a couple days resting will enhance the flavors. And please, use a restrained hand with spices. A pinch of quatre-épices for the duck, a bit of confited lemon zest for the rabbit, and just salt and pepper for the good Chapolard pork.

Rillettes IMG_3891Here at Camont, like in most of Gascony, we toast the bread for the tartines, scratch a raw garlic clove over the surface, and eat the rillettes straight up, barely at room temperature (remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving) and alongside a glass of very cold rosé wine- a fruity Côte de Gascogne like UBY or if you are lucky, Elian Da Ros’ seriously wonderful Outre Rouge. These rillettes are charcuterie at it’s most simple- good meat, salt, fat and the time to make your own good food in your own kitchen. Aux Rillettes tout le monde!


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From the Basque Country- simply red, green, and white


Here are 19,000 words to show you what a little road trip through SW France and NW Spain looks like. I call it Basquelandia. The 4+3=1 provinces of the Basque Country that drapes over the Pyrenees, straddles two countries, and runs to the Bay of Biscay. Mountain farms and fishing ports via for my affection like old best friends- happy to be with one, and then the other. But really loving both at the same time.

Last week on my annual Salt Circle Road Trip through this mythical kingdom of Basquelandia, I renewed my love affair by sharing the road with a handful of old friends- Cate, Lee, Caroline and Bill. We made a jolly troupe of food lovers, artists, history buffs, gardeners and raconteurs; each table became a organoleptic performance born of salt, earth, and sea.

IMG_9734_2Sheep and Pigs who punctuate the landscape with ringing bells and soft grunts transformed onto our plates as salty memories of timeless techniques for curing and curding. A mouthful of sweet salty ham from the Euskal Herria or Basque pig balanced a perfect glass of cold rosé wine; a slab of Ossau-Iraty cheese dripping with cherry jam from Itxassou.



A picnic becomes a feast, perched overlooking Les Aldudes; sharing food with new folks on the first days is a gentle way to make fast friendships. We focus on the amazing products produced by people I know- Josette and Gerard, Xole and Michel-while inhaling air so pure we are giddy with clarity.IMG_9692_2IMG_9722_2

The Sea calls soon enough-anchovies to ham- salt to salt. We turn our backs to the green green western Pyrenees- not so high  but dramatically beautiful in their velour Spring cloaks. Fish as fresh as the salt breeze off of the Golfe de Gascogne beckons.


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France morphs into Spain remaining Basque all the way. We bounce between hotels- minuscule to moderne; five-course meals in St. Jean de Luz become pintxos and tapas in San Sebastian.


The simple stripped down small plate rules- a solitary bite of a pork cheek, one perfect anchovy, a sea slipper on a tablespoon of embryonic fava beans-peeled. A stand-up bar, a sea port grill, a gastronomic mecca-all satisfy this well-traveled troupe. Look at the video on the website for Asador Etxebarri if you need more tempting.IMG_9983 IMG_9959

From my memories, I pull a bag of red, white and green souvenirs. The Basque Flag visible in every nook and cranny of the land.

IMG_9787IMG_9789 IMG_9790 IMG_9862For another look from another roadtrip- Want to make a trip with me? just leave a comment here:

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