In Pétéram We Trust!

In the county of Luchon (where I was born and raised) we are really serious about Pétéram. Pétéram is an ancient local dish made from a combination of tripe (intestine & pluck), lamb  & veal feet, ham, carrots & onions. During my last visit  home I had to have my fix of Pétéram; so one Sunday, part of the family took off to the village of Oô, where the restaurant “Les Spigeoles” serves one of the best Pétéram. Jean-Pierre Oustalet, a friend & the chef-0wner of the establishment, is a very creative man always up to something fun. Recently he printed a series of t-shirts  with  the motto he coined himself: “In Peteram We Trust!”.

peteram t-shirt

This summer a Flemish  TV from Belgium came to film Jean-Pierre’s Pétéram for one of their shows. Though the video is in Flemish & French I urge you to watch it: Touristique: de pétéram.
Tripe dishes are cooked around the world (list here), and as we know
these less desired cuts were left for the poor. It was the same for Pétéram, I don’t think it appeared on restaurant menus in Luchon until the 20th century and my family restaurant was certainly one of the first to offer it. Though I don’t know the exact etymology of the word, one can read its the humble origins through the Gascon language  : petar— French translation: “crever” or in English:”to die” or “to be famished” and hame— in French “faim” or in English “hungry” Thus Pétéram can be interpreted as “a dish for the famished” or as a dish that will kill hunger! Then again this may be an invented etymology (much work remains to be done on the Gascon language, and especially certain of its regional versions, such as that spoken in the Luchonais.) On the other hand, to quote my husband, the poet Pierre Joris, “are any etymologies really ‘false’?”
I used to make Pétéram when I was working at the family restaurant (other posts related to the family hotel here) and though we received “clean” tripe from the butcher, the smell was still strong and the tripe would require extensive blanching in order to get rid of the offensive smell. I got used to it and it didn’t bother me, except this one time. In the late fall of 1981, I had to cut a big pile of intestines and honeycomb for my Pétéram and  that time, for some reason I was to discover a few days later, I couldn’t bear the smell. T
wo days later I found out I was pregnant with my son Joseph. Throughout my pregnancy I had to stay away from tripes.

Jean Pierre Oustalet’s Pétéram is as good as it gets. He achieves the difficult task of making a tripe dish light. The texture of the tripe still firm but tender. The sauce, in which the tripe have cooked for over twelve hours, release the rich and comforting aromas of all the ingredients. The creamy potatoes that have been added late in the cooking provide the perfect starching effect. Some places serve it as a first course, though we had it as a main course. We had soup to start with, then a plate of artisan salamis & cured ham, followed by the Pétéram as the main course. Then we had a slice of delicious mountain cheese, a slice of apple pie and voilà! we sure were full and happy! Below are a few pictures of the fun outing where you can see my parents : Jean & Renée Peyrafitte ( 88 and 81 years old!) in the gorgeous village of Oô. This village is also very dear to me because I premiered my performance The Bi-Continental Chowder /La Garbure Transcontinentale there in 2005. One of the reason is that one of the main Romanesque female figures featured in the show is from the village;  you can hear the song related to it here.

The recipe is a translation of the family recipe transmitted by my grandfather Joseph Peyrafitte & typed by my mother Renée Peyrafitte:

for 5/6 people:
1 lamb stomach & 6  feet 1 kg veal honeycomb & 2 feet
3 carrots whole
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 ham bone
1 bouquet garnis of thym, laurel & parsley
1 cup of ham prosciutto like— diced
2 onions
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock
1 kg potatoes
Hachis (50 gr garlic & 50 gr fatback grounded together)
1/3 cup Armagnac

Blanch and scrape the tripes thoroughly. Cut the stomach & honeycomb in trips of about 1 x 0.5 inches. Place is all in a stew-pot with a ham bone.
Add 3 whole carrots, the bouquet garnis, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 1 cup of ham, 2 onions whole, salt, pepper & a touch of nutmeg. Add wine wine & chicken stock so tripes are immersed and “swimming”.
Bring it to a boil, cover the pot and let cook for 10 hours, one hour before serving add potatoes peeled and quartered.
When ready to serve add hachis and the Armagnac.



Family Heirloom: Les Pannequets Saint-Louis

Among all the family recipes Les Pannequets Saint-Louis is truly a unique one, et je pèse mes mots — that is: and I weigh my words — yes: unique, a word I almost never use.

Louis

My great grandfather Louis, Gabriel, Marcel, Marie, Peyrafitte (1858-1929) created this amazing recipe that we still make for very special occasions like this Christmas day when Pierre, Joseph, Miles and I gathered around our kitchen island for a true family food communion.
Pannequets
have been part of the French cuisine repertoire for a long time, though the word derives from the English “pancake”— from the middle English pan +cake that’s an easy one. The famous French chef, Auguste Escoffier, has several entries for pannequets in the Entremets section of his reference work Le Guide Culinaire. So does Joseph Favre in the Dictionnaire Universel de la Cuisine, mentioning an interesting version of pannequets au gingembre — with ginger. They both specify that it is a Patisserie Anglaise or English pastry. Not surprising at all, in fact, that my Pyrenean ancestors would be acquainted with English desserts. In the 1900’s the French Pyrenees were “invaded” by English tourists, the family hotel in Luchon even changed its name: the Hotel de la Poste became the Hotel Poste & Golf ! My family had sold some land so a golf course could be built for to the increasing (colonial) British clientele. Surfing the net to look for traces of my grandfather Joseph’s stay in England (he was there as a cook between 1902-08), I was quite astounded to find the following entry in  “The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe” by Algernon Bastard (probably published around 1903):

Throughout the mountain resorts of the Pyrenees, such as Luchon–Bagnères de Bigorre, Gavarnie, St-Sauveur; Cauterets–Eaux Bonnes, Eaux Chaudes, Oloron, etc., you can always, as was stated previously, rely upon getting an averagely well-served luncheon or dinner, and nothing more — trout and chicken, although excellent, being inevitable. But there is one splendid and notable exception, viz., the Hôtel de France at Argelès-Gazost, kept by Joseph Peyrafitte, known to his intimates as “Papa.” In his way he is as great an artist as the aforementioned Guichard; the main difference between the methods of the two professors being that the latter’s art is influenced by the traditions of the Parisian school, while the former is more of an impressionist, and does not hesitate to introduce local colour with broad effects, — merely a question of taste after all. For this reason you should not fail to pay a visit to Argelès to make the acquaintance of Monsieur Peyrafitte. Ask him to give you a luncheon such as he supplies to the golf club of which Lord Kilmaine is president, and for dinner (being always mindful of the value of local colour) consult him, over a glass of Quinquina and vermouth, as to some of the dishes mentioned earlier in this article. You won’t regret your visit.

The Joseph Peyrafitte (1849-1908) mentioned above is Louis’ brother and therefore my grand father Joseph Peyrafitte’s (1891-1973) uncle who was named after him. Louis & Joseph had married two sisters, Marie & Anna Secail. Anna moved to the Hôtel de France in Argelès-Gazost and Louis Peyrafitte came to Hotel de la Poste in Luchon. The marriages had been arranged by one of the Peyrafitte’s brothers who was a priest at the Vatican with one of the Secail brothers — also a priest. All this is documented — and left a magnificent family heirloom that I inherited: “the Chandelier” but that story is for another blog-post.  Both brothers had been classically trained cooks so one can easily understand how the inspiration for this recipe came about.



Hotel de la Poste in the late 1890’s

My father, Jean Peyrafitte, doesn’t remember his grandfather’s cooking very much  — he was 6 years old when his grandfather Louis died in 1929 — but he vividly remembers his father Joseph Peyrafitte (my grandfather and cooking mentor) making the Pannequet Saint-Louis.
At that time no “grande carte” was available at the restaurant, though there was a menu du jour which changed daily given that the clientele were “pensionnaires” —residents — who would stay for periods of 3 weeks or more.
My grandfather would occasionally put the pannequets on the menu but only during low season, as they are incredibly time consuming. The recipe was not written down until the mid 1960’s. At that point my dad decided to promote regional cooking and to upgrade the restaurant to a “grande carte,” hoping to get attention from the Guide Michelin and Parisian food critics. So he created a “grande carte” full of regional dishes like Pistache (mutton & bean stew), Peteram Luchonnais (lamb, veal, and mutton tripe), duck confit, etcetera.  My grandfather considered this food low class and believed that lobster and tournedos Rossini was more appropriated.

Carte

But my father pointed out that the clients could eat that food anywhere, but not our local specialties. That is when the pannequets Saint-Louis made their way to the dessert menu of the  grande carte and were listed as “Les Excellences to be ordered at the beginning of the meal (order for 2 minimum)”.

Now this is the part I remember. In the late 60’ my mother begged my grandfather to write the recipe down. He said he couldn’t as he knew it by instinct. She didn’t get discouraged. She stood by him as he was making them, weighed the ingredients one by one and made a note of it. I must say that without my mother (Renée Peyrafitte) most of the family memory would be gone.

When I called my parents to talk about the Pannequet Saint-Louis recipe I reassure them that I wasn’t going to give the recipe away. Mom said, “don’t worry no one else can make them anyway.” What she meant is that this recipe takes total dedication. When my grandfather grew old, it was she who was entrusted with the task of making them. She tried to teach a few cooks but the result was never satisfactory.  One of the reasons is that from making the batter to cooking them requires total and utterly focused attention. And if you don’t do that the best dessert in the world turns into the worst glob!

Nicole Peyrafitte

I must say that since a little girl I watched my grandfather & then my mother making them over and over. My favorite post of observation during “service” was in the corridor where I could survey all the action. As soon as I would hear an order for pannequets being “barked,” I would get into position to assist and taste!  I have memorized all the gestures. Unlike the regular crêpes the pannequet doesn’t get flipped (but come and see me do that Sunday at the 36th Annual New Year’s Marathon). Once one millimeter of the batter is poured into a hot and generously buttered cast iron pan, it is let to cook until almost, but not completely, dry. Then the edge of the dough next to the handle is gently detached with a spoon and if cooked perfectly the batter will roll down the pan like a cigarette helped only by little tap in the pan. A perfect pannequet Saint-Louis has a very lightly crisp skin on the outside and custard like consistency on the inside. While the texture melts in your mouth, the rum, almond, lemon & vanilla flavors lead you to gastronomic ecstasy!  I don’t know if my great grandfather named the pannequet “Saint”-Louis himself, but I doubt it — it sounds more like one of those mischievous puns my grandfather Joseph Peyrafitte was famous for!


Hotel de la Poste became Hotel Poste & Golf around 1905

Happy New Year, Bona Anada, Bonne Année!
And hope to see you Sunday for poetry and crêpes at the Poetry Project for the 36th Annual New Year’s Day Marathon Benefit Reading .

ps: You might enjoy reading these 2 posts about crêpes:
Crêpes History, Recipe + Video:
The Crêpe, the Theorist, the Chef and the Volunteer

Oeufs Cocotte à la Crème


Sunday morning I made Oeufs Cocotte à la Crème. This is another dish that was often served at my family hotel-restaurant and below is the scan of a menu from my grand father Joseph Peyrafitte’s menu notebook.

On Thursday May 2nd 1968 Oeufs Cocotte were served as the first course of the traditional five courses lunch menu. As you can see this lunch did not lack proteins!
Appetizer:
Jambon de Pays (Prosciutto type ham from the Pyrenees)
First Couse: Oeufs Cocotte à la Crème (see recipe below)
Main Course: Pistache Luchonnaise ( a white bean & lamb stew with pork rind — a specialty of the Comminges region. I will have to do a post on this dish)
Plateau de Fromage : not mentioned here but a given.
Dessert Course: Strawberries & Fresh Quark Cheese.

I served the Oeufs Cocotte for brunch and they were incredibly delicious.

Recipe:
But first, what is a cocotte: it is a small fireproof dish in which individual portions of food are cooked and served.


Escoffier recipe from a second edition of the book published in 1907

-Break 2 eggs per person in a bowl and reserve them for later. Escoffier skips this step but I like to do it for two reasons: 1) the eggs will reach room temperature and 2) it will be easier to remove any egg shell bits and check on the quality of the eggs before pouring them into the final dish.

-Warm up the cocotte dishes in a pan filled with water half way
-In a small pan warm up one (generous) table spoon of the heavy cream per person.
-Pour one of these table spoons of hot heavy cream into each of the warm cocotte dishes. Then add the eggs. Season to taste (Escoffier does not give quantities for seasoning. I used salt & pepper, next time I will add a little paprika), two little pieces of butter (you can see below how much I did put in).
-Cook covered in double boiler for about 4/6 minutes depending on how you like your eggs; the water shouldn’t go higher that 1/2 way up the cocotte dishes. Escoffier doesn’t tell how long it should be cooked; I did mine for about 5 minutes, they were perfect, but that is a matter of taste — I like my eggs very soft.
-Dig in with a spoon and have rye bread toast on the side. Do not butter the toasts! that would be excessive, it is decadent enough as it is! Bon Appetit!