Sunday Chickens & Eggs: One Chicken-Two Pots



Sunday Chickens and Egg- destined for the pot, scrambled, scratching or just clucking around the yard. I admit to being a sloppy chicken wrangler, preferring to watch and guide rather than corral and manage. That means missed eggs, accidental broods, wild child chickens. The mid-morning scramble that results as I tote the kitchen scraps and corn, barley, wheat and other seeds to the yard is a 15 minute meditation. Chicken Meditation.


Surprisingly, I’ve been collecting a couple dozen eggs every week all winter. It is mild enough in Southwest France and the Muscovy ducks are also now laying full force. So the daily menus change– golden, custardy, scrambled and poached. I’ll bake a cake today. I’ll braise a chicken and some vegetables. I’ll make some crepe batter for afternoon snacks.



This chicken bounty is a wonder to a cook. When all else fails, I conjure a meal from two eggs and some garlic. Or take an old hen and cook Gascony’s signature dish- Poule au Pot.


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Some early Spring days when the wheelbarrow fills with eggs, I look South to my Catalan friends. Perfect eggs for a perfect Tortilla or Omelette Catalan.




And though I am not a bird fancier, don’t name my girls, or  even like the prehistoric beak and claw, sweet omelettes have a special place in my heart- souffléd golden eggs for a light dessert. And at this time of Carnival, we whisk thick raw milk with golden eggs, sugar and flour to make classic crêpes. 



It’s too early for asparagus here in Gascony. But I can’t resist the breakfast classic ham and eggs part of this recipe. I’ll substitute some broccoli or other greens (I’m sure there is something to forage out there!) to celebrate the famous chicken & pig combo.


What great return on a little investment of time, space and food. I’ve been keeping chickens for 6 years now; my compost piles are growing richer as my pantry grows fatter. Merci mes petites poulettes de Camont! 

For more: #chickensofinstagram  and follow along with making this One Chicken/Two Pots menu.IMG_8527

One Chicken/Two Pots

Pot #1: in one braising pot put butter, lard, legs, wings and breasts of chicken. Brown and add carrots, onion salt, pepper and two whole lemons (squeeze the juice over the meat); add a large glass of water. Next, layer thickly cut potatoes, salt, pepper, bay over the chicken. Cover and cook for about an hour. Eat with friends.


Pot #2: in a soup pot, place the backs, neck, feet and head (it’s France) cover with 2 liters of water. Bring to a boil, skim and then add carrots, onions, bay, thyme, and salt. Let cook long and slow. after eating lunch from pot #1, add all the leftovers to pot #2.  Then eat for supper with a crusty loaf of bread.


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Chicken and Egg- nothing new under the sun…


This little book dropped into my lap yesterday. Actually, it was gently placed in my basket by my bargain hunting sister on a day’s outing with the Camont Crew to the Fête des Plantes in the village of Lamontjoie.  In it is the record of one small chicken/egg producer during the year 1903. Funny how nothing much has changed. I can read the puffed up pride of new chicken ownership, the prolific accomplishment of rabbit wrangling, the punctilious accounting of sacs of grain and bales of hay between the delicate dotted lines.


Starting with 1 coq, 14 poules, 5 cocquelets, 2 canards, et 56 lapins, this little almanac chronicles the basse-cour on one small French farm in the year when the Tour de France began.  How many feathered and furred critters raised, how many eggs laid and sold, and how much feed, seed, and hay bought over that year? Who administered this rural menagerie? I don’t know, but I am sure it was a tiny but formidable French housewife like my neighbor Madame Sabadini at the Ferme Bellevue.


Over the year, her hens and ducks laid 2186 eggs. The season’s bounty peaked in April at 404 eggs and  by August had started to drop by halves each month, with barely an egg or two a day in October and November.   I imagine the disappoint of November marked by a minuscule zero, day after day until in a last flurry of fecundity, the ducks started laying for an early hatching.  Five large white duck eggs in Mid-December. The meticulous accounting scratched in a fine-nibbed ink pen tells more than the seasonal flow of farming; more than balancing the centimes spent and earned for feed and shelter. Most months, she spent as much or more than she earned; some months, she made several francs and centimes more than spent. It was a delicate balance. No one was getting rich. But they ate well.


What’s old is new and barnyard chickens have their place in the modern home again- 110 years later. This ad in the back of this French booklet is touting an American feed product that included smoked (dried) meat as well as grain, oyster shells,salt, ginger and iron. Here at Camont, we feed our flock a mix of whole grains- wheat, barley, oats, flax and corn, all the garden and kitchen scraps, and all the slugs and bugs they can scratch and peck in the orchard and parc.


It’s an old story, but I raise a few chickens- 10, and a fewer ducks 6, at Camont not because it saves us money, but because we eat the best tasting eggs in town. When a clutch of eggs is hatched, a few more cockerels are destined for the pot, a few more girl chicks for next spring growing into fat laying hens, a few old working girls retired into a golden broth Poule-au-Pot. Last year’s Christmas ducklings have now become summer confit.

We ate this simple salad yesterday. There is no recipe. Look- just an abundance of good escarole lettuce, the first local market tomatoes, and a bowl of hard boiled eggs topped by a lemony mayonnaise made with those golden yolks. One hundred and ten years of barnyard  productivity on a plate. Reason enough to learn about raising birds.

More stories about eggs and chickens at Camont:

 On counting eggs-

Making the Catalan Spinach Egg Tortilla  

What to do with duck eggs

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Taking care of birdness-at-Camont.

This is an Official Warning.

A shout to the Wild and Undisciplined Neighbors.

A call to arms to protect my brood, my working grrls &  my critters-at-Camont.

When Mr. Fox, probably Mrs. Fox, too, attacked yet again my chicken yard, I knew that changes were in order. Out of 8, they left just our most reliable but ugliest hen and my new prized Black Gascon Rooster. This weekend will be a showdown of sorts and the gloves come off. Electric wires, flashing solar eyes, and reinforced heavy metal mesh fencing.

This is the less gentile side of living in the French countryside. But we need our eggs. They are the color of Camont.

We need our golden eggs for little goat’s cheese cakes, silky plum clafoutis, classic Tourteau de Chevre, Omelette Sucree Soufflée, and my go to summer lunch or tapas- a traditional Catalan Tortilla. Looking for more good ideas for eggs? Browse through my recipe page here and enjoy a golden dish flavored with real farm eggs. Buy from your farmers, markets and neighbors; their eggs are truly worth their weight in gold.

Ste. Poulette de Camont



Spring Market inspiration. Open your eyes!

Why go to the market?

I mean the local farmer’s market, of course.

Fresh, simple, direct- a bargain.

Inspiring, colorful, nurturing- satisfaction.

Diverse, diverting, fun- amused.

All those words pop into my head when I think of the many very good markets I can throw a Gascon stone at from Camont. But versatility is reason I stay faithful to one of my first loves in this area, the little true producer’s market nestled under the unattractive eaves of the Chat d’Oc strip mall on the Avenue des Landes. Not only can I buy just picked old-timey vegetables out of neighboring market gardens, get a great baguette  at l’Envie de Pain (thanks Pierre & Valerie!), take my weekly beekeeping lesson from Narcisse, pick up some house paint or maybe get a blood test at the Laboratoire and get Bacon groomed, I can also wash my car at the best carwash in town! It’s a full service strip mall French style… with wine.

What the Chat d’Oc lacks in French country charm it makes up in seriously good content. Here’s a sample of what I picked up yesterday before our MAGYC Day Cooking Class with Michelle & Rochelle where we started with a little fresh herb soup we drank as a hot cocktail.


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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and now a word from our sponsors….la basse-cour!

This French life is full jour & nuit of good food, hard work, and harvest. Although Camont is no longer the grand historic farm it was in the 18th century, we do stand on centuries of terra firma that resonate of good food cooked largely from la basse-cour– the farmyard of laying hens, ducks, geese and guinea fowl.

Last year, when Matt Chambas and Alvin Stillman built the chicken coop that we washed with Bleu de Lectoure, I had a vision of 3 or 4 hens pecking lazily around their own square in the potager carré. One year on, and after a volunteer gang helped to fence in the heritage orchard, we are holding at a dozen hens (with half in egg production at any given time), one Black Gascon Coq, a pair of Rouen Clair ducks and their three summer offspring. Some days I think about a couple pigs for next spring lounging in a straw bale hut or a pair of black-eyed lambs grazing the parc over the summer. I think that there is plenty of land to work in a small yet concise way. This morning while listening to the twittering birds,  @hyperlocavore tweeted this video about organic farmers Bette & Dale on their intensely farmed 1-1/2 acres. I got distracted, very distracted.

The Kitchen at Camont’s two-and half acres ramble along the Canal de Garonne, with the farmhouse and barn sitting in the middle like the knot in a fat bowtie separating the domesticated side of parc, potager, and basse-cour from the “where the wild things hide” side of wooded spring and shady stream. It’s a nice balance like wild honey and salty farm butter or a fat farm duck roasted with wild cèpes and watercress.

Golden egg custardA golden egg custard courtesy of the working girls!

Flexibility and structure work in cooking as well. Too many fresh eggs in the Bulgarian egg bowl led to a golden-hued baked custard for lunch. No recipe needed but the kitchen experience that 5 eggs plus a liter of milk with 3 tablespoons sugar and a shot of armagnac is a magic formula= whisk in large bowl, pour into a buttered cazuela and set in the oven at a medium heat for as long as it takes to cook.

To keep the balance in check in my life, I also like to mix the wild and unplanned hazards of life in the slow lane with a cartoon outline of what’s to come.  I am now ready to pump it up a notch and explore the edges of Camont’s beating heart. In an eggshell, I am looking for more eggs, metaphoric eggs that will produce delicious, golden, rich results.  Anyone interested in an organic gardening/forest garden/permaculture experience and ready to trade time & experience for French room & board, please contact me here on the intern and residency page

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The Golden Egg- chicken love.

These warm fall days inspire lots of things- flanning along the canal, browsing old magazines, sorting the summer pantry… but real work? No, thanks. I’ll look around and stay outside to do some garden chores.

It’s been dry since April.  I know this fair weather won’t hold much longer. Rain is sure to come. The chicken coop needs some end of season love and weather proofing,  so it’s off to the tool shed, hammer, nails, screws and ingenuity in hand. The best part is getting to spend an hour with the girls, clucking and clicking as they scratch, peck and lay their golden eggs.

With Julia preparing some winter crop beds, we’ll turn the flock into the potager and let them give us a hand. Should be a slugfest frenzy!

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