Lucy Vanel: Give us this day… a bread making workshop w/Emmanuel Hadjiandreou

When Lucy Vanel came to visit and meet Baker Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, I asked her to write a post about the special weekend workshop at Camont. In her own beautiful words and photographs…

“The first day of our vacation this year found us on the road to Kate’s. Our goal was to attend a weekend bread baking seminar with Emmanuel Hadjiandreou.   I have his book, called How to Bake Bread, geared to the beginner bread baker, with plenty of photos and interesting recipes.  I have a lot of books about bread.  After pastry, bread has been one of those subjects that I am attracted to because of how little I understand about how it works… 

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What’s red & white all over? Butcher Shops in Gascony.

In the tiny Market town of Lavardac, where I go to the Wednesday Market and park down the a little road by the river, I pass this small, tidy as a pin, one-window-wide butcher shop.

I call it the Meat Museum.

The old scale in window on the ice box,

the red and white striped awning,

the yellow posters rallying the troops for bingo and angainst the new LGV- Ligne Grande Vitesse,

the bottles of very good, very local wine to go with a cote de boeuf; all point to the quality of an artisan butcher.

A man, a knife and his meat.

Welcome to my world.


Projet Cochon- the Butcher & the Kids

The white blackboard read: Project- “dans le cochon tout est bon” . And so it was.

This week, twenty-four French lycée students between 16-20 years old and their professors M. Franck LAPIERRE and M. Jean Marc BOUILLY allowed three American kitchen-crashers to look over their shoulders as Dominique Chapolard, artisan butcher and pork producer, demonstrated in the expansive  school kitchen that “in the pig, all is good!”

The attentive white-clad chefs-in-training crowded around as M. Chapolard reconstructed the whole pig carcass, piece by piece, organ by organ. Silence reigned as Dominique, our master butcher mentor here at Camont, explained what goes into making good pork from field to table.

Only when he split the skull to reveal the tiny brain did squeamish teenage yelps erupt.  Quickly silenced by Chef Lapierre, he teased them that they see more blood on the horror films they watch. After the initial hour of dissection, as the muscle groups began to resemble familiar meat cuts, this next generation of France’s good cooks began to chop and grind, season and taste, while the scent of Gascony’s prized pork filled the kitchen. A hind leg became a Jambon, a shoulder a Roti de Porc. The large rib cage transformed into ventreche, poitrine and travers. Legs broke down into jarret and pied de porc while the caul fat was washed and leaf lard rendered out before grattons were drained and pressed into a terrine.

les 3 garcons

This fine piggy day was a part of “Cooking at the Source-Gascony“, a collaboration between Robert Reynold’s Chef’s Studio in Portland, Oregon and my own Kitchen-at-Camont. We spent the morning with our good friend and farmer/butcher Dominique Chapolard as he did a day long demonstration for the students of  the Lycee Jacques-de-Romas in neraby Nerac. For upcoming Duck workshops in the U.S. and France consult our program pages.

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Day two… this Gascony, this terroir.

Driving to the Chateau St. Loup en Albret this morning was like flying between cloud and earth- rows of golden vines turning in sunshine alternated with blankets of fog concealing house and farm. Montagnac’s church spire floated above the mist.

First stop after gathering Melissa, Robert, Tag, Porter and Nick was the morning market at Lavardac- a good beginner’s guide to local good food.

What we bought and then cooked and ate this day:

  • pâté de grand-mere-  a black pepper-studded liver pâté from Patricia
  • 2 magrets de Canard. 1 1/2 pintade
  • pâté de langue- pork tongues en gelée
  • 3 cheese from Bruno-a Pyrennes sheep cheese, a creamy goat cheese from the Perigord, a slice of perfectly ripe Brie de Meaux
  • from the Chapolard’s charcuterie stall- saucisse de toulouse, boudin noir, an aire-cured noix de jambon, saucisse sèche
  • black radishes, mustard greens, radicchio, spinach and sunchokes form Francoise’s organic garden
  • mushrooms-  cèpe and girolles from Paul
  • bread
  • wine, armagnac and little shot glasses with a pruneaux drowning in Armagnac in each one

We ate lunch, a picnic near the river at Vianne before driving to Camont.

Camont in sunshine on a November day- the kitchen warming to the fragrance of a richly perfumed Gateau Basque,  a pintade braising in a short wine broth enriched with pruneaux, la cruchade cooked and steamed, and several bottles of Domaine la Galine.

Dinner was the rich and savoury terroir of Gascony on a plate.  Fotos to follow.

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Camont’s New Beekeeper- Narcisse the Sweet

When shopping the Le Passage d’Agen market on a Wednesday, I whisper to students and guests that “This man sells the best honey in Gascony!”. I get little patronizing nods, the cameras click away; they love his trim mustaches, the flowing gray locks,  his black Stetson hat. He flirts and poses and sells a few more kilos of leeks, garlic, potatoes, persimmons, nefliers and pomegranates. But I wait. I wait patiently for the French ‘central casting’ call to diminish and then announce again.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. I love honey. I use honey in many of my traditional recipes like pain d’épice, chevre, miel & armagnac tartine or a pan-seared foie gras aux 4-épice. Best of all, I love honey straight from the pot, drizzled over warm toasted bread that has been smeared with fresh salted butter. But I have never, ever had such delicious honey as that Miel de Ronces (bramble honey) from local beekeeper Narcisse Ferranoto.

hives with a veiwsouth facing hives

This year I wished for a bee swarm and got one (see archives here), followed the #Tweehive happening on Twitter and have been planning to integrate more beekeeping in Camont’s resident programs. Only problem was WHO would be our King Bee?

hive studio

While working on a chapter for my book of French food producers- “Butcher, Baker, Armagnac-maker’, I have long ‘stalked’ this honey man, this beekeeper, this sweet pillar of the market. This week Photographer Xtraordinaire Tim Clinch, fall intern Julia Leach, and I went across the Garonne River and through the woods to discover the sweet secret way of the beekeeper Narcisse Ferranoto at his Ferme de la Chateau Madaillan. After coffee with his smiling new bride, (they have lived together 30 years and just married 5 months ago!), Narcisse told me a few sweet secrets and, at last, I know the answer of just how he makes THE BEST HONEY IN GASCONY.

setting up the shot

Want to know how? Then join us this spring in France for the inaugural Apiculture Internship at

La Ruche… outside the Kitchen-at-Camont.

April-June 2010.

Narcisse the Sweet by Tim Clinch

Narcisse Ferranoto by Tim Clinch

French Beekeeper Teacher at Camont

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A world of food-making whirls around me by the time I wake, here at Camont. Yesterday, photographer Tim Clinch and I started a week of shooting for a new book project under a flour-dusted cloud called la Boulangerie de Pierre in a modest strip mall in le Passage d’Agen.

This was always a good bakery. When the previous owners retired, I sniffed over losing their very fine malted barley flutes. Soon enough, Pierre and Valerie unpacked their bags and began the process of transforming someone elses bakery into notre boulangerie.
Bread perfume fills the parking lot. Fragrant yeast and toasted flour escape the constantly opening doors. Two baguettes, six croissants, a pain aux raisins walk out the door. A bucheron, 200 grams of chocolate, a tartine gourmande and a handful of little beignets leave next. Flutes and pains, paves and baguettes stack warm and crusty in handwoven baskets behind the smiling counter. This is a bakery that is all about bread. Pierre wields his large wooden paddle of crackling loaves into the cooling basket. “Listen,” he says nodding to the quiet, ” The bread is singing.”

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Could this be your Perfect Pig on an October morning?

free range Frenhc pigs

The Agen market is full of surprises on a perfect fall morning.

Today, shopping for quince, cress, and cilantro I ran into a drove of pigs.

Free-range, pasture-raised French pigs.

pigs in forest

Like a stage setting, simplicity itself- one knife, a cleaver, a wooden block,

bacon boy

& a smile.

Julien Veyrac

of Tournon d’Agenais


No one was more surprised than me to meet the new butcher boy on the block

and discover some damn good looking charcuterie and fresh pork.

Merci, Julien for taking over the family farm.

See you next Wednesday for your andouillette-

my secret ingredient for an onctuous cassoulet.

producer of pasture-raised pigs

Wednesdays- Agen Central Market

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Sunday Grasse Matinee- hatching ideas

working girl

I love it when I feel I am in the middle of something. It doesn’t happen often being a bit of a “living on the edge” sort of person- in all senses. But when it does, I feel that delicious “a-ha!” moment welling up out of my back brain and jumping out of my mouth onto The Keyboard.

  • A-ha! Locavorism is my way of being a lazy bum- what’s growing outside the door? dandelions? rosemary? rosehips?
  • A-ha! Organic Gardening is also wonderfully lazy, no schedules to follow for spraying or bottles of poison to sort out by use by date.
  • A-ha! Canning & Preserving in small batches is fast and easy. 4 jars of quince here, 5 jars of salsa there; faster than going to the supermarket.
  • A-ha! Butchering & Charcuterie making on the farm with artisan French butchers is part of the yearly cycle here.
  • a-ha! Farm-to-table does work when you live surrounded by fertile fields in a wealth agriculturally based society. “France” in a word.
  • A-ha! Urban farming works as long as you have Wi-Fi and can Google “mysterious chicken diseases”.
  • A-ha! The Back-to-the-Land movement I joined in the 70’s on Lopez Island, WA never went away, it just got better music.

So when the I see this big kahuna wave swelling around me,  I’ve been sitting on my long French board for about 20 years, it makes me want to start paddling faster and faster. Catch that wave now! And at last, I can be the #1 Surfer French Farm Queen-Dudette in town.

This week’s wave is all over the web on blogs and news sites. Kim Severson writes an article at the NYT  about  some of the of the problems people are having raising chickens in an urban environment. And today, Alex Williams writes about the new “do-it-yourself butchery” taking place around the country in shops, cooking schools and well as bars. Like preaching to the choir, I want to join in and shout Amen! or Hallelujah! After all, I learn by doing, too. And while I want to encourage and applaud these Good Food neophytes, I want to bang them on the head, too.

EF'S piggy snout

Like parents that think Easter chicks are cute- for a week, I imagine those chickens abandoned by someone who found out that a living breathing animal eats, poops and needs attention just like we do.  I think about the wasted meat not cooked from that lovingly raised porker by someone whose stomach was turned by the smell of too much raw meat or the serial killer smell of fresh blood. I know some of that good meat will end up in the garbage uncooked. I know what happens not just because I see it when fresh students and interns show up in France all starry-eyed or because I have years of experience of sheltering the delicate Gourmet-reading gourmand from knowing too ‘much ado about foie gras’, or the ‘truth behind truffles’.   I know what happens because I, too, have been there. And I am willing to admit it.

le Porc

I’ve learned a lot these two decades of eating France. Yet, I still have a lot to learn.  About Charcuterie- did you know that the age of the pig (minimum 12 months) affects the acid level produced in the meat muscle and thus affecting the quality and curing of the jambons, saucissons and chorizo?  I didn’t either until this summer when Camas D., Jonathon K. and I sat down at teh lunch table with the Brothers Chapolard for a Q&A about their pig farm and artisan charcuterie operation.  About Chickens- after a year with my own layers  (11 hens- 1 rooster) and losing a couple to neighbor dogs (including Bacon the teenage gangsta pack member),  I am soooo glad I have chicken-raising neighbors who coached me through my first crisis (one too many rooster) and told JK and me exactly where to stick the knife. The Coq au Vin was as good as any I have cooked and eaten.

Interested to learn more? Not on the web but live and in person with people who love their food and make it too. It’s easy this winter. Come to France (air fares are looking good, children!) this November (read about it here) or meet me in the North West this New Year 2010 as  I pack my Gascon bags with lots of ideas and tons of experience on making cassoulet, rendering duck fat, confit and natural foie gras with Neal Foley on his Podchef Island and Robert Reynolds at his wonderful Chef’s Studio in Portland.

Now about that wave… let’s keep it swelling. There are a lot of delicious rides ahead.

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Meet the teachers #1- a solo act.

french pigs m-h tarn2

This is the pig that roots in the woods then lives in the barn that eats the grain that becomes the bacon that I bought in the market that came from the house that Jill built.

French pigs m-h tarn

Jill is really called Marie-Helène but she did indeed plant the corn that she feeds her long-snouted pigs that she takes to the abattoir that she turns into fine traditional charcuterie that she sells at the weekend markets in the Tarn department about 2 hours from here.


Marie-Helene defies the beret-wearing burly butcher stereotype here in France. She is a feminine and soft-but outspoken butcher/pig farmer who singularly raises and processes her own pigs before selling them to a small but loyal group of farmer market goers. She tells me that she sells a relationship as well as the fresh pork and cured meats, one based on trust and confidence in her everyday hard work. Her week is long, like most farmers, but she has learned how to maximize the time spent in the ‘laboratoire‘ to slaughter, cure and pack just enough pork each week to sell out. And she does it alone. Yup! All by herself. single-handed. Alone. She raises, slaughters, butchers and cures two to three pigs a week, every week, all year long. She is my new hero.

The bacon made with these pigs tastes and smells of that earthy farm perfume that distinguishes  ‘small-batch’ farm-raised charcuterie from the sanitized version of pork products that Americans have come to know and love. It only happens when the farmer is the cook and in this case, the butcher and charcutière as well. I call it ‘close-to-the-earth’ gastronomy.

What do you know about pigs and pork? Think again. Think France. Think 5 generations of raising pigs.

This could be your new teacher.

(Fergus Henderson admonished us years ago to ‘hug our butchers’ and today Ed Bruske inspired to me hug my teachers.  Hugs to the garden teachers here at Slow Cook.)

Photography by Eugene Frerichs while at the Kitchen-at-Camont this summer. To see more of her work while in residence here, click here.



Estouffade: crowing hens…cluck, cluck, cluck whole hog!

Do you know that hens crow too?

The new red hens are starting to lay their first eggs.  When the commotion in the chicken garden reaches a crescendo, I know there is yet another golden yolked egg waiting in the straw nest. But here in Gascony, even little Pigs crow. So when Judy Witts  and I start crowing this morning, it’s because after 4 years of reporting on all things pork at the Whole Hog Blog we made Saveur Magazine’s best of the web. Cluck, cluck, clucckkkk!

learning about pork from the ground up

learning about pork from the ground up

While Judy has been giving online courses to chefs  in making Porchetta, I have been waking up at 4 in the morning (ouch!) to drive charcuterie apprentices to the abattoir, hauling 150-pound half carcasses in the trunk of my Renault Clio back home, and helping them learn the names and cuts of the French Pig from jarret to jambon.  Then we cook, cure & preserve all week until the larder is full, the pantry est plein.

My favorite French ‘pulled pork’ is called escaoudoun in the Gascon patois. Tasted in a hideaway of a cafe in the Landes forest called La Croute du Pin where it was made with the typique Noir de Gascogne pig, I re-created the dish here at Camont with most of the shoulder from Camas’ graduation pig.

Camas' graduation ham

Once it cooked in the sweet onion sauce for a two hours, I ladled the sauce pork into large canning jars. When unannounced friends arrive for dinner, I’ll cook some Monalisa potatoes and serve them floating on an island of sweet onions pork, just like Madame did.

Recipe- for  Estouffade de Porc- l’Escaoudoun

  • 2 kilos / 4 1/2 lbs. of farm raised pork shoulder, cut into large cubes
  • 1 kilo of onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 soupspoons of duck fat
  • 1 bottle of sweet wine wine (jurancon or cote de gascogne)
  • 1/2 bottle madera, sherry or white port
  • 1 generous glass of armagnac
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • a large bouquet garni- lovage, bay leaf, thyme
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, a lot of it!
  • a large pick of quatre épice  (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)

The basic recipe is to cook all of the above until the onions have melted, the pork is falling apart and the flavors of the sweet wine mingle with the onion in a caramel-colored sauce.

Cook the onions in duck fat until they start to be translucent.  Add the pork and herbs, season (using only a little salt at this time to allow for reduction of the sauce), pour the wines and armagnac over the meat, cover and cook over a very slow heat for 2 hours or until meat is falling apart and the sauce is thick. Taste to reseason for salt. Serve warm with boiled potatoes.

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