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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