Say klah’-foo’-tee’. Clafoutis. Now add a little corn meal… say Millasous.

clafoutis aux pruneaux 2


There is the French way of doing things. And then, there is the Gascon way.

When I write from my kitchen desk, I am usually writing in the Gascon tense. Cooking is no exception.

So what exactly does it mean when you see something that says ‘Gascon’ ?  Well, aside from the obvious regional specialties produced in the Gascon region of Southwest France like armagnac and foie gras, it means things are a little more rustic, have a little more depth of flavor, are a little more… more.


Apricot Goat Cheese Tarte- for Tim Clinch Photography Workshop

Photo by

Buy apricots. Now.

When Tim Clinch and I discussed the first day’s shoot for the Food Photography Workshop this weekend, we both shouted , “Summer!”

These are summer moments, don’t put it off. Peaches, Tomatoes, Apricots. Too soon and these perfectly ripe fruit will be passé and you’ll have to make apricot jam. However, just now, these firm but juicy guys give their tart/sweet sunshine  juice willingly yet still stand up to the hot fast baking, holding their shape and cradling their own juices mixed with thyme and drizzled honey.

This ‘variation on a tarte theme’ is my go-to summer/winter fruit dessert. The very good and forgiving French butter pastry is a snap to make. See my recipe for that here.

The fresh goat cheese base- creamy, slightly sweet, and beaten with an egg,  is poured into the unbaked pastry and serves as a creamy blank canvas for the fruit. The surface is arranged with the apricots hollow side up to hold the juices and honey, dusted with some fresh thyme and popped in the hot (425’F/220’C) oven to bake for 25 minutes.

eh voila!  I do this tarte over and over with peaches, plums, pears, figs…all the fresh stone fruit until the fall and then I switch to thinly sliced apples marinated in armagnac, cooked fruit, thick jam or just cream and honey. More good photographs like this one of the steps to make the tarte were taken by Mardi on the Food Photography Workshop and posted on her site here. Want the step by step recipe? Here it is… 


Weekend Breakfast-at-Camont. Asparagus & HAM

It begins here, with two good ingredients.

Ham- Eric Ospital’s Ibaiona brand from the Basque Country.

Asparagus- local, just picked and carried to the market so fresh it snaps.

This week, my Kitchen Godmother, Vétou Pompele,  came by for weekend breakfast (a decidedly not French event) and asked me what I would make for her.

I grabbed a copy of my first cookbook that chronicled my early days sailing on the Julia Hoyt and said,

“Your Asparagus and Ham dish, of course”.

She had forgotten about what was long one of my favorite dishes.  It’s easy. When you cook everyday, EVERY DAY, that’s a lot of recipes under the bridge. We have both forgotten half of the wonderful dishes we cooked together over years of sailing the canals and rivers of France on the Julia Hoyt. This was always one of my Spring favorites, because unlike my life BF (Before France), asparagus is a once a year event, a few scant weeks of spear-ful delight. 

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MAGYC Pies at Camont


There are pies and there are PIES.

There is magic and there is MAGYC.

And yes, this is a bonafide, real, authentic MAGYC PIE.

Over the years, I have dabbled in savoury pies as the visual and gustatory homage to Monsieur Monet’s painted pies here, here and here, of course!

But this week as Fran and Ian from Melbourne, and Hilary from Sonoma, and Matt from Welbeck descend on the Chapolard home for lunch, we’ll be bringing this fat MAGYC PIE with us.  MAGYC stands for Mastering the Art of Gascon Cooking (with a nod to Julie Child’s masterful book). What’s in this golden-crusted succulent pie? Read on…


Hurricane Soup- don’t forget your duck confit!

I was just going to call this Workday Soup- a 20-minute solution to feeding a small crew at Camont. I’ve been working on my homework for SAF  (actually, my homework will be your homework, you lucky Butchery & Charcuterie students who begin next month!). I hate to get interrupted when working on tables and calendars. When the Noon siren blew from the nearby village spire, I just started shouting cooking advice into the kitchen. Cut up some potatoes! Chop up that Ventreche into lardons! Throw it in a pan with the duck fat!

Twenty minutes or so later, the potatoes were creamy and tender, the duck fat broth was golden rich, and a jar containing an solitary confited duck breast was popped in a pan to warm through, crisp up and garnish the steamy thyme and bay infused broth. Eh Voila!

This is the sort of nourishing and soothing meal that might help in a hurricane ravaged moment- grab a sack of potatoes, a jar of duck confit and your sterno stove. To all my dear friends and family in Irene’s path, I dub this soup for you!

ps- don’t have any duck confit in the larder? I still have one place open on the October 3 Confit Course –

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Recipe for a Small Terrine of Joie- la Neracaise

Last night, as the kitchen crew began to lose control between increasingly large portions of truffle-related wonders, Jack uttered a solitary phrase as I suggested we taste the fruits of our week’s labors- a recreation of a historic hunting-inspired terrine favored by Henri IVth.

“Let’s taste Kate’s small terrine of joy”.

The Small Terrine of Joy- henceforward referred to simply as STJ- had been resting on the counter perfuming the air above and around that corner of the kitchen, wafting up the stairs and sneaking under the pigeonnier’s chambres with a heady hint of forest and field elevated to a sublime taste of… game, pork,and veal bound by truffleness.

Less a recipe than a celebration of special ingredients, bound by traditional respect for lean and fat, natural flavor and added seasoning, we began with an idea and ended up with delicious mouthful of succulent savory textures that played between toothsome and tender as foie gras melted onto truffles under a lean strip of marinated pheasant.

This is a lesson in cooking, as we let the ingredients dictate how we treat them, slow or high heat, moist, covered or browning. This is not a recipe of proportions or weights; this is an afternoon of friendship and inspiration manifested at the table and on our plates in the Kitchen-at-Camont. For Tim Clinch’s lovely take on this:


Duckys- cornmeal ducklard cookies


It is just 26 days to D-day. January 1 2010 is Duck Day and I’m  counting days to my arrival on Podchef Island to help the @podchef himself, farmer, chef and food guru Neal Foley, kill, cook, cure and eat a few dozen meaty Rouen ducks. Someone declared December as ‘all-duck, all the time’ month. So as December’s kitchen becomes more and more infused with the scent of duck, I took a break from savory to sweet with these melt in your mouth shortbread cookies.

In the spirit of Ashley Rodriquez’ great post on bacon fat shortbread cookies here, ‘nothing goes to waste’ in the Kitchen at Camont. So with a bit of tweaking from Ashleys’ recipe and an inspirational nod to my sweet guru David Lebovitz easy jam tart use of cornmeal (after all ducks take to corn like… ) I baked up a first batch of these crumbling rich, nutty-flavored shortbreads. Duckys.


Here’s the recipe for a few dozen Duckys


70 gr duck fat

70 gr butter

50 gr white sugar

50 gr brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 Tablespoon white armagnac- (or rum)

200 gr white flour

80 gr fine cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon baking powder


I melted the duck fat and butter together with the sugar until it formed a broken caramel.

Then measured all dry ingredients into a large bowl, poured in fat/sugar mix, broke in the eggs with the armagnac then stirred like mad.

Next, I divdied the dough in half, formed two rolls, wrapped them in parchment and stuck them in the frigo until I was ready to bake.

Cut the rolls into thick slices. Place on cookie sheet. Bake in a hot oven (400’F) for 15 minutes or until slighty toasted. Quack! Quick, make coffee or tea!

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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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Pain d’Epices- a honey sweet spice cake

Julia cooks

Nothing like a little frost on a Sunday morning to bring out the baker in us all. So when Julia Leach, the Kitchen-at-Camont’s fall intern, fell under the Pain d’Epices spell, we turned on the oven and began a day learning about dough, pastry and good smells.  Here in Gascony, Pain d’Épice or Spice Bread is thought of as a foreign treat- from the north, another region, a taste of winter.  Usually, I buy thick slices of honeyed pain d’epices made near Rocamadour from Kakou & Francoise at the Saturday market and serve it in the Gascon way with duck rillettes or thin slivers of foie gras. Dense, solid and studded with walnuts or candied orange peel, prunes or even chocolate chips, this honey bread is made by a former beekeeper turned patissier specialist in the Lot at la Noyeraie des Abeilles.

pain d'epice loaf

With that tasty inspiration at hand, we turned to a monograph on the subject published by Les Editions du Coq a l’Ane and signed and prefaced by the late Bernard Loiseau. I found it one year in Dijon, one of the spice cake centers of France and have hoarded it since waiting for a chilly baking sort of day. All secrets lie within this thoroughly researched and well written book, from history and folklore to dozens of recipes. From the sucrée– actual recipes for dozen’s of versions of honey spice bread, to the salée-including a killer looking Lapin au Pain Épice for rabbit with cream, mustard and pain d’epice breadcrumbs.

le Pain d'Epice book

But first things first, I chose this basic recipe “like in Dijon” to honor the book, the source and inspiration to cook regionally. We used local honey, mixed flours and upped the spices some. Results? Perfect! A chewy caramelized crust, moist but substantial density and just right  balance of honey, spice and orange flavors. Have fun!

Julia et Pain d'epice

Adapted from Le  Pains d’Épice by Lise Bésème-Pia.

Le Pain d’Epice Comme a Dijon.

  • 250 gr wheat flour (we used half white wheat flour &  half whole wheat; rye and buckwheat are traditional choices as well)
  • 125 gr honey-
  • 125 gr sugar
  • 200 ml warm milk
  • 1 tsp spices (1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ginger, allspice or cloves, & anis)
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • zest from one orange

Place the flour in a  bowl. Add the sugar and spices. Melt the honey with the warm milk and add to the flour. Whisk together and work the batter (not using machines much here, we whisked by hand for 10 minutes). Then add baking soda and whisk again until well mixed, stir in orange zest. The batter should be smooth and fluid. Pour into a well-buttered loaf pan (22 cm or 8-9 inch) set on a baking sheet. Place in cold oven; turn on and set at 180’C or 350’F. Bake for 45 minutes, then lower heat to 150’C or 300’F for another 15 minutes; total baking time 1 hour. Remove from oven, cool some, remove from pan, cool some more. Then attack with knife and fork with good coffee or tea at hand! A taste of honey for you sweet things…

Pain d'epice en tranche


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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