Coque or Gâteau à la Broche

Coque or Gâteau à la Broche

This was a dream come true. Since I was a little girl I have admired & loved this cake.  It is made for very special occasions like weddings, christenings, special birthdays or anniversaries. I found an entry for “coque” in an old Gascon dictionary that says “qu’èm invitats a la còca” meaning “we are invited to the christening.”
It takes hours to complete this cake and needless to say it is a very special present to be given one. When I spoke about Pierre’s birthday menu to my friend & neighbor Roland Jamme I couldn’t believe he offered to make one with his wife Simone. Not only were they going to make it, but I could be there the whole time! This incredible ancient cake takes over 5 hours to make and requires the constant participation of 2 people who will endure intense heat. As you will see below, someone has to sit in front of the fire at all times.
After consulting with Simone, Roland they set up the cake making date for Saturday July 9 at 8:30 am., i.e. 6 days before the party,  which would be perfect as the cake needs to age before being served.
I was instructed to show up in Garin —where Simone’s family home is— on time and with all the ingredients .

Thus I showed up very excited and armed with 72 eggs, 3 kgs of flour, 3 kgs of sugar, 3kgs of butter, 15 packed of vanilla flavored sugar, 1/2 litre of rum Negrita & a roll of parchment paper. I was finally going to see the gâteau à la broche made from scratch like it as been done for hundreds of years! So, voilà le photo-reportage of the making –and do not miss the short video. I want to thank Simone & Roland from the bottom of my heart for this incredible day.

  

All the ingredients are placed on the table in order not to forget anything.
Then all the 72 super fresh eggs are carefully separated.

  

I was entrusted with slowly melting the butter in a pan while Roland started whipping the egg whites.

Simone hand mixes all the ingredients expertly; the rum is the last one to go in.

Roland had started the fire before I arrived. Once the batter is done, the ancient wooden mold is warmed up then wrapped in parchment paper.

.

The wrapped mold is warmed up again and lathered with butter. Now the cooking part can begin. Simone takes her position in front of the hearth and starts pouring the batter while Roland turns the handle. Simone & Roland have mentioned several time that the starting of the cake is a crucial moment in order to make it sturdy. The main fear is always to break the cake and this fear is only lifted once it has been delivered to the party place!

Slowly but surely the pouring & cooking continue. Closely supervised, I anxiously got to relieve Simone at pouring a few times and Roland at turning. As the cake becomes heavier the turning/cooking  gets trickier. The conversations are continuously interrupted by comments or commands like: “Il faut mettre – put some on,” ” tourne plus vite – turn faster,”  “attention le pied – watch the bottom,” “attend!  les piques brillent encore – Wait, the peaks are still shining.”

Roland keeps feeding the fire with long logs that he and his nephew Fabrice have cut for the occasion. Each log is carefully picked as the fire needs to be highly controlled. Logs & embers are moved according to where most heat is needed.  Here we can see the cake shaping up. The “peaks” are starting to form. One of the conversation around the fire was about the length of the peaks, the pride of the cake makers, though Simone points out that she favors the taste over the shape and I agree.

As the batter in the basin diminishes slowly, Simone is wiping the sweat off her face more often. I try to relieve her as much as I can, but her expert hand is needed to “mettre” properly as it is getting more difficult; due to peak formation the batter sticks less and less so the spooning over has to be more frequent and the batter dripping in the pan needs to be quickly collected —that is before it cooks– and spooned back on too the cake (see video below).

 

Here we go! many hours later finally the last spoon of batter! The cake is perfect, just a little more cooking to give it the final golden look.

The cake is brought inside to cool off while resting between two chairs. After lunch Roland, with the help of Simone’s brother Jean-Claude, the mold is removed with a mallet! That part is very scary and you can sense the how everyone is tense in order to execute the appropriate move in order not to break the cake.

The cake was delivered by Roland & Simone on the morning of the party on July 14. We served it for dessert accompanied by crème paysanne —aka crème anglaise— that my mother, Marie-Jeanne Jamme & Robi Castbrunet made.  What a gift! I am so thankful to Roland and Simone for their generosity, time, expertise & hospitality at her family home. Watch the video and stay tune for the rest of the menu!

For your information a very similar cake, called Šakotis, is make in Lithuania, another close cousin is the German Baumkuchen.

Photos Credit: Nicole Peyrafitte & Roland Jamme
Video: Nicole Peyrafitte
Flower arrangement on the cake: Sylvia Gorelick

Loose in Toulouse

Loose in Toulouse

I left my hometown of Luchon this morning to travel back to Paris. I had a 5 hours lay over in Toulouse in order to catch the cheap €29.29 iDTGV.  I locked my belongings at the “consigne” and took off.

I lived in Toulouse in two occasions: In the mid 70’s while being a student at Lycée Raymond Naves and in 1983-84 while trying to be an actress. These times were certainly not the rosiest of my life. As a student I lived at the home of an extremely rigid & dark family where I felt inadequate & stupid most of the time. As a pretending actress the situation was no better, despite landing a small role at the famous Grenier de Toulouse. I had troubles hiding my accent, I was  bold —in many ways as I shaved my head at that time— untrained, uneducated and I was also mostly focused on my son Joseph then a toddler.  I had separated from his father when he was less than two years old and my pride was to take care of him myself. I was 24 years old had already been a clerk at a pharmacy, a chef/restaurant owner, a door to door vacuum cleaner salesperson, but wanted my dream was to be an actress as I had done a lot of acting in high school. Well it didn’t work the way I had envisioned though my first, and only, professional role at the Grenier was to be a waitress in the Arnold Wesker play The Kitchen! That might explain why I wasn’t fit for it…I thought I knew how to be a perfect waitress and could carry it on stage, but I totally missed the point it was not about being “real” but about to be theater real and I was certainly not prepared for that.

Anyhow I have returned to Toulouse many times since then, & performed several of my shows there: Deplacements with Pierre Joris, Ninon at the Cave Poésie & The Bi-Continental Chowder/ La Garbure Transcontinentale at the Festival Occitania. Toulouse is also the inevitable transit hub to Luchon —about 1h 1/2 south, straight toward the high pics.

Today was the first time in years I was there alone. I had no friends nor family scheduled to see & a very strong desire to let the city carry me. The day was beautiful, I walked along the Canal du Midi for a while and then directed myself towards downtown thinking that I might enjoy getting some lunch on a terrasse around place Wilson. When I crossed the boulevard I noticed the sign for Marché Victor Hugo and followed it. I love markets and this one is very special. Unfortunately as it was around 1h30 PM it was closing time. I still got a glance at the beautiful meat displays, so fresh, so perfect. I also remembered that there was great restaurants on the mezzanine above the market and last I stopped there in 2007 I bumped into a childhood friend, Christian Lazorthes,then known as Kiki, he worked at Le Louchebem.

Christian LazorthesSure enough he was still there, I spotted him out right away, set myself at the bar, he also recognized me immediately & that is alway reassuring! I asked him for a spot and he sat me in his section of the communal table. He brought me a glass of Tariquet for apperitif and advised me to eat a piece of onglet roti —hanger steak— with raw shallots & round new potatoes, I made sure I wasn’t getting frozen fries — as in the USA, most of the french restaurant now serve frozen fries, please help me put pressure on the abolition of frozen fries!—. While I was waiting for my plate a man sat across the table from me. We exchanged a few banalities, that ended up not being so banale because something made me understand that he spoke occitan. I asked him about it and he said yes of course. After that almost our entire conversation was conducted in his beautiful perfect occitan and in my broken pyrenean gascon. While eating the most delicious hanger steak with Mustard of Meaux, I found out that we had many common acquaintances. Once of them the occitan scholar/philosopher Alem Surre-Garcia, I have been very inspired by his work and was glad to find out that he had two new books out: ARCHIPELS ET DIASPORA : ESSAI D’ÉMANCIPATION La théocratie républicaine & LA THÉOCRATIE RÉPUBLICAINE Les avatars du Sacré. I went to buy them at Ombres Blanches (Best bookstore in Toulouse and maybe in France) as soon as lunch was over.

My new acquaintance, Jacme Delmas, turned out to be a radical occitan writer author of the blog: http://democraciaoccitania.blogspot.com/ and contributing editor at El Triangle an independentist Catalan newspaper. A very passionate man that has put a lot of thinking and practice of being an occitan. I had a great time, it was energizing to be able to feel the depth of my culture and feeling totally inside of it even though I Iive so far away from it. Once again my favorite mantra “Things fall where they lie” & my identity as a Gasco-Rican were confirmed! Mercés Jacme per la conversacion, eth partatge de la passion del país e espèri que me mande al puslèu l’explicacion dera prononciacion de Jacme.  Adishatz!

 

Petit Rôti de Wild Boar

Petit Rôti de Wild Boar

As I was picking  meat for the week at the Park Slope Food Coop, the “Wild Boar Mini Roast,  Distributed by d‘Artagnan” looked like the perfect piece for Pierre and I to make into one of our  celebration dinner sfor our 21st anniversary month —neither of us remembers the exact date, so that’s a good excuse to have a few celebration throughout the month of January.

It would have been better if I had let the cute little roast marinate for a day or even a few hours, but when I came home after shopping I sat at my desk and didn’t get up until 7:30 pm. Pierre said: “It takes about three days to make one of the boar recipe from Luxembourg.” Well, I took on the challenge and with great anxiety I turned it into one of my fast dinners. I first went to the d’Artagnan website to check out the product information:

The D’Artagnan Wild Boar Mini-Roast is made from the knuckle and is pre-tied to hold its shape and allow for even cooking temperature. Simply brown in a hot sauté pan with sliced garlic and rosemary to seal. Then place in the oven about 375F to finish the cooking or until internal temperature reaches 155-160F. Remove from oven and let rest before slicing. Serve either hot or cold. Great on sandwiches!

D’Artagnan Wild Boar come from a large free-range ranch outside of Quebec. The animals graze freely on nuts, acorns, and grasses while being supported at times of need by whole grains. You’ll find the meat leaner than large-farm pork and richer in taste, but smooth and succulent in texture.

Alright, sounds good, though I don’t like the “pre-tied” device, which is an elastic trussing net. I discarded it  and replaced it with some d’Artagnan bacon and decided to just braise it in the oven. Voilà the procedure:

Preheat oven to 375F.
Take one sliced onion, 1 cup of sliced celery root, 1 sliced carrot, 6 slices of chopped  bacon, one cup of unsweetened cherries and about a dozen heads of shitake mushrooms, and place it all in a roasting dish. Generously coat if with olive oil, add salt pepper. Mix  well.

Boar Roast

Boar Roast

Coat the meat with oil, salt pepper. Wrap with  uncured apple wood smoked bacon. Place roast on top of the veggies and that’s how it goes into the oven.  As we read above, the legit internal cooking temperature is 155-160F, but that is too much for me. Our roast was 1.31lb, I cooked it for 40mn, the temperature reached 144F and this was a little over cooked for us, but that is a matter of taste and choice. In the same oven cook fingerling potatoes in another roasting pan,  lightly coated with oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Once the meat is cooked to your liking, let it rest and transfer the vegetables & cooking juices into a sauté pan with one tablespoon of melted butter and a dash of oil. Sauté the veggies and flambé with  Armagnac.

Boar Roast

Finish up the fingerlings potatoes with fresh butter and parsley.
Slice the meat, keep it warm, pour the juice into the veggie pan, add  another dollop of butter in the pan to give it a shine!
Set up you plate and serve quickly.
Really simple, delicious and if you are a Park Slope Food Coop member, not  expensive either ($10.10 for the roast, a little more if you order at d’Artagnan but you don’t have to work for the discounted price and it can be delivered to your house!). Though very tasty with a rich and lightly gamy taste, I have to confess that the meat was a little tough, the marinade would have certainly ‘cured’ the problem, but other than that it was amazing. The hints of tartness (unsweetened dry cherries) combined with the distinguished taste of celery root, the shitake mushrooms’ texture, the sweetness of the carrots & onions, the mildly wild taste of the boar and the hint of Armagnac, plus the bottle of the inexpensive, but good Côte du Rhône Les Garrigues to wash it down, made it a very pleasing experience indeed.

It took me only 15/20 minutes to prepare it, 40 minute to roast it, and 10 minutes to finish it up. We had a few slices left over that will make a great sandwich for lunch. Enjoy le sanglier!



Gratinée or French Onion Soup

Gratinée or French Onion Soup

My dad always calls it a gratinée, but it is generally called une soupe à l’oignon, here in the USA it is mostly known under the name “French onion soup.” Whatever you call it, it is a delicious and incredibly restorative soup.  Actually they used to serve it at my dad’s night club at the wee hours when many customers would have it to soak up the booze and line their stomach for more drinking. I used to make it on New Years eve when we had a party at the house and serve is at 1 or 2 am. It really makes a difference in the quality of your hangover — trust me!
Well, this time it was not about a hang over but about the carcass of a roasted chicken that had been picked clean of all its meat and was sitting in the fridge. I threw it in a pot, covered it with water, 1 onion, 1 carrot , 1 bouquet garni. When it came to a boil, I let it simmer for 1 hour, then strained the broth and let it cool. This type of broth can be used as a base for many soups or sauces, but tonight as we were waiting for another snow storm I was craving my onion soup. (You can substitute the homemade broth for some store bought stock & if you are vegetarian you can use an Organic Mushroom Broth)

Recipe for two:

In a soup pot melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Meanwhile slice 2 large sweet onions very thin.
Cook the onions over moderate heat until they are golden & almost caramelized. At this point some recipes call for sprinkling a tablespoon of flour to give the soup a thicker consistency. I don’t, because I like my onion soup lighter, plus I feel that the bread that will be on top provides plenty of thickness & starch once you mix it in with the soup, but I though I’d mention it as so many recipe do.
Add about 2 1/2 cup of broth, 2 teaspoons of brandy or white wine —that is my secret!
Season with salt, fresh ground pepper  and let simmer for about 1/2 hour.

Garlic butter

Meanwhile make parsley & garlic butter. In a food processor add 1/2 stick of butter, 2 cloves of garlic, blend well and add 1 cup of chopped parsley, mix it in for just a few seconds, do not over  blend once the parsley is in. Fill a little ramekin and save in the fridge. Cut a few slices of good country french bread, butter generously with the parsley & garlic butter. Fill two individual soup tureens with the onion soup, place the buttered bread on top, & top generously with grated —in order of preference— Gruyère, Emmental or Swiss cheese. Place the bowls under the broiler until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Garnish with a few pink pepper corn and a spring of parsley and Bon Appetit!


In Pétéram We Trust!

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.