The Cooking of Southwest France Today at Camont.
This is my kitchen and these are my favorite things to cook. Come learn. Come enjoy. Come celebrate Gascon cooking in my Kitchen at Camont. This new 5 day cooking course focuses on some of Southwest France’s best known dishes from duck delights like foie gras and confit de canard to Kate’s famous Cassoulet and flaky butter tartes.
“When I turn my head, I see hundreds of meals served at a crowded wooden table, on rustic pottery, on fine Limoge, on wooden cutting boards, in soup tureens, and spilling over large platters; carafes and bottles empty and are refilled; and the clatter of silver serving pieces, wine glasses clinking, and laughter makes a convivial soundtrack. My souvenirs of the Kitchen at Camont.”- Kate Hill
Gascon cooking is defined by the best products grown and raised locally from farmyard to fruit. Luxury goods like foie gras and Armagnac figure generously in our cooking classes as well as the delicious lunches served at Camont. Classic French cooking techniques are defined and explored: braising, confiting or poaching in fat, wood oven-roasting, emulsifying sauces, ratios for vinaigrettes, and classic pastry techniques.
Cooking in Camont’s two kitchens allows us to have plenty of space for production work like hands-on pastry making or a cozy Cassoulet making demonstration by the wood fire. Camont’s garden kitchen and terraces are used seasonally for grilling and smoking meat as well as entertaining around the terrace tables . Although most of our classes are intimate groups of 4-6, we can arrange private weeks for groups with 10 or more.
Our classes usually start at 9:30am and we finish around 4:00 pm with a delicious lunch break in between. On Market Days (Wednesday & Saturdays), we shop to learn the secrets of buying ripe produce, building a menu from the ground up, and finding that special producer who makes and sells the best cheese, paté, pastries, etc.
What do we cook? Specialities of Southwest France, of course!
- Duck: Foie Gras to Confit- Duck in all forms- the Gascon flavor mascot- from terrines of whole foie gras to crispy duck skin cracklins, succulent rare breast meat, silky confited legs, tender gesiers and grilled hearts.
- French Pastry Primer– Sweet and savory tartes (easy butter pate brisee), croustades (feuilletage or rough puff), Gascon cornmeal crust for galettes.
- Gascon Mother Sauces- Kate’s adjusts the classic Careme and Escoffier list to reflect the terroir and cuisine of Southwest France.
- Cassoulet- The quintessential guide to how to make a classic Cassoulet based on Kate’s popular book “Cassoulet- A French Obsession”.
- Clafoutis, Crèpes & Canelés- working with just eggs, milk, butter and flour we turn these farmhouse staples into three of our favorite desserts.
Our Cooking Classes: During the course of the week there are 6 cooking classes, two market excursions, a shopping morning, lunch at our favorite 1-star Michelin restaurant, one welcome dinner, and 4 lunches at Camont.
Cooking Class #1 Le Canard: Explore breaking down the duck into cooking pieces for a Gascon Lunch preparing the Magrets with a Wine and Shallot reduction sauce, Frites cooked in Duck Fat, a perfect Green Salad and Vinaigrette and Duck Skin Croutons, Goats Cheese & Honey Fruit Tartines. Each part of the duck is celebrated in it’s own fashion and we explore the best and the most tasty of these traditional cooking methods: wine based civets, confiting or poaching in fat, oven roasting in pottery. We explore salt curing the legs and breasts for making confit and duck ‘prosciutto’.
Cooking Class #2 Foie gras & Confit: Salting and Preserving duck for confit and dry-curing; marinating and cooking the Foie Gras Mi-Cuit en Terrine.
Cooking Class #3 Confit Cooking: slow poaching in fat is a traditional French method to preserve meat- pork belly, rabbit, game & poultry. Today we confit duck to discover the subtle flavors of slow cooking in its own savory fat and serving it in classic dishes like a Confit de Canard Parmentier and for our Cassoulet class.
Cooking Class #4 Sweet Treats: Kate’s Easy All-Butter Pastry is the basis of many sweet and savory dishes at Camont. Starting with a classic Tarte aux Fruits (the seasonal best!) and a savory Tourte aux Champignons, we explore the many forms that a simple pate brisee can take. The next step is creating a Rough Puff Pastry- a simple feuilletage or laminating of pastry and butter for a Gascon Croustade aux Pommes. Alternately, we focus on clafoutis (or millasous- the Gascon variation), crèpes and canelés for an in depth exploration of all things custard based.
Cooking Class #5 Discover the Gascon Mother Sauces: There are five ‘Mother Sauces’ in Classic French Cuisine, but here in Gascony we have our own list that kate has refined to these more rustic classics:
- Bechamel Leger for gratins, vegetables, and poultry
- Reduced Wine and Shallot for meat and game
- Tomato Caper for poached poultry, offal, and vegetables
- Vinaigrette is a vinegar reduction sauce balanced with sweet wine and herbs
- Armagnac & Butter Caramel sauce for desserts and ice cream
Cooking Class #6 Cassoulet: Kate’s book Cassoulet: a French Obsession describes the whys and how of making a great classic cassoulet. We create the dish from bean to cassole exploring the fine points of choosing charcuterie-saucisse de toulouse, duck confit, and pork belly. Each student receives their own copy of Kate’s book, Cassoulet: a French Obsession and their own special Poterie Not cassole dish.