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Preview: Kate Hill: A French Kitchen Adventure

Kate Hill: My Kitchen at Camont

An archive of posts about living and cooking in Gascony at the Camont. For up-to-date posts, go to

Updated: 2017-07-23T08:59:51.868+01:00


Come over to my house-


It's been a year since our new site and blog replaced my starter blog here. Now with the addition of yet another upgrade I invite you to jump over to for the new improved version of Kate's Blog and a look at what we are doing now in my Gascon Kitchen.

Need a little incentive to take an extra minute? how's this? a Seed-to-Sausage video by darling video peeps Denise and Lenny of . Welcome to my new Artisan Butchery & Charcuterie workshops with the Chapolard family. First program begins Sept 20 2010. For more information after watching the video- click on our programs HERE.

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moving house...


...from Blogger to a new all-in-one site at

Like the gitane that I am, I am now writing from my mobile summer office (see above) within earshot of Henri IV (that's the big black Gascon rooster) in the potager. For all my blog friends and French Kitchen alumni, please keep an eye on this new site for changes and additions as we set up the new Kitchen-at-Camont programs for l'Autome '09 and l'Hiver '10: Pigs-in-the-Kitchen and Ducks-under-Glass.

(merci tout le monde a Blogspot !)

Kate Hill & French friends

Julia, Julie, Michael and me. My un-review.


Food Guru Michael Pollan throws out some thought provoking words, a lot of the them, in his NY Times article dedicated to Julia & Julie, food TV and... why Americans in love with food don't really cook.Meryl Streep, Julia Child and fellow food bloggers aside, I couldn't help but get caught on a few words that struck me so personally and timely that I had to jump ahead of the movie review (which doesn't come out until September here anyway, dubbed in French, of course) and get straight to the Pollan-ization.Like preaching to the choir whose mouths are full, I was mumbling "Amen" and singing "Hallelujah!" until I got to the end of the article. Pollan uses food marketing researcher Harry Balzer for a bushel full of figures. But when Balzer announces that Americans will never go back to real cooking I took up arms. Balzer says “Why? Because we’re basically cheap and lazy. And besides, the skills are already lost. Who is going to teach the next generation to cook? I don’t see it."Sorry Harry. WRONG! While many of you are going to sit in a darkened theatre for 123 minutes and watch mouth-watering food porn while munching junk food, I am going to be cooking. I am going to be cooking everyday because I eat everyday. I'll be cooking from my garden, the markets of Gascony, and even from supermarkets and the corner grocery store. If you all spend 123 minutes cooking dinner for yourself, family or a few friends, we could prove Mr. Balzer wrong.Cheap? The average movie ticket price in 1963, the year that Julia Child appeared on PBS, was 86 cents. This year it is $7.18. I know I can cook my dinner for this much money even translated into Euros.Lazy? I don't know about you, but even here in back-of-beyond southwest France, to go see 'Julia & Julie' when it comes to France I'll have to: a) drive into Agen b) find parking for the car c) walk to the cinema d) stand in line ( about 1 hour) e) walk up three flights of stairs to the salle de cinema, watch the movie f) chew the French version of Popcorn (yes, with sugar on it) g) have a drink at the cafe afterwards, and then repeat steps a-e before returning home to Camont. That's somewhere between 4 and 5 hours. Balzer, in way less than 123 minutes I can easily cook a a decent dinner. In 4-5 hours, I definitely can cook a bang-up not-so-lazy 4-course dinner for friends.Lost Skills? Ok, I am not a X-generation (or any other letter that follows) but I have played host (or Auntie Kate) for 20 years to many cooks much younger than me. They can cook. They can cut, chop, saute and grill with the best of the old school cooks that I know. There is just one common flaw, even in those in-debt graduates of Prestigious Culinary Institutes, a serious flaw. They know little, very little about food. If it's not shrink wrapped, labeled or in a refrigerated walk-in these otherwise talented cooks are lost. They buy out of season fruit, immature and industrially raised poultry, and otherwise flounder on the shores of real food islands so close at hand. Thankfully Pollan touches on it's cure here "Cooking’s fate may be to join some of our other weekend exercises in recreational atavism: camping and gardening and hunting and riding on horseback."I was no better then my students and interns when I came to this France of mine in 1988. But I learned. Not overnight, but slowly and at the hands of caring people- neighbors, farmers, and market vendors. A wildly fertile, diverse agricultural landscape fringed with wild as well as cultivated food surrounds the Kitchen-at-Camont. Buckets of pea-sized blackberries are ripening along the canal towpath. The neighbors are tending a lace-net draped apple orchard that will yield several tarte tatins this fall. Too many tomatoes are turning red, yellow and green in our own organic potager. Fresh eggs in the hen boxes appear with much clucking and boasting every afternoon as I check the growth of two new chicks and the swimming skills of ducklings #1,2 & 3. I must wait for the green gage plums-[...]

Piment d'Espelette- Potager Pinup #1


Piment d'Espelette

The first hot pepper from the
potager announces Summer
in the
at Camont

3 easy things to make with Piment d'Espelette
  1. Tomato chili jam- sweet, hot and great with anything.
  2. Pâté de Campagne- Basque style with a pinch of dried piment.
  3. Kate's grown-up hot chocolate- just add a sliver of pepper & a slug of armagnac.

First Honey Love


A pale blue beehive sits under the a William pear tree, a memorial to the May evening when a wild swarm arrived and asked to stay here at Camont, then surrounded by dozens of acacia trees in snowy bloom. "Bien sur!" I responded (that means "right on!" in French) and so Marc and I moved the virgin hive under the swarm on the branch, a small pear dangling like an earring. After a glass of rosé wine and watching a few Google-driven You Tubes, especially by my newbee hero, Kirkobeeo, at Backwards Beekeeping, I clipped the branch, grabbed a stick and scraped the swarm into the waiting hive. I left the hive sitting under the pear tree in the orchard amongst the chickens and ducks. Last week I found a smoker, un enfumoir, at my favorite brocante. Today I got up the courage to lift the lid on the hive and take a long careful smoky peek. Eureka!!! Gold. Pure sweet gold. Je vous aimez, mes amis les abeilles! After a first finger licking taste, I was hooked. Captain Nick and I feasted on honey and bread for breakfast and the sweet knowledge that my bee longing had come to fruition. Sometimes, learning in the Kitchen at Camont takes place outside the building. Think outside that stone wall box and harvest your own food! The next 'Charcuterie & Confit' sessions in the Kitchen at Camont begin in Mid-October. Write for further information. [...]




it's a long process. one step at a time.
shelling peas.
planting beans.
harvesting ideas.
making changes.

day to day life in the Kitchen at Camont is like shelling those French peas.
one day at a time.
one thought.
one action.

This day, this very hot windy summer day in Gascony, we are planting a new garden of ideas for you. Here at the French Kitchen, the Kitchen at Camont, we are drinking iced l'O Rosey- rose syrup over crushed ice while

writing new programs for fall, and celebrating those long days when the tomatoes ripen redder, the peppers get hotter and the ideas flow faster.

Coming soon. The Kitchen at Camont- a center for creative culinary learning.
In France, of course.

Detroit Rose

A large bunch of fresh deep red rose petals (organically grown, of course)
500 grams of sugar
1 liter of water
1 large lemon- squeezed
a generous shot of eau de vie de armagnac

Heat the rose petals, sugar and water in a pan until just simmering and the sugar melts into a light syrup. Let sit while you read a book. (The Poisonwood Bible be Barbara Kingsolver is on the bed where I nap.)
Strain the petals from the liquid, add the lemon juice and eau-de-vie.
Pour into a carafe and store in the refrigerator until needed on a very sultry French day.
Pour over crushed ice, add a shot of water.
Drink and be grateful you planted those roses 4 years ago... and remembered to water them.

charcuterie news


Summer + pigs = too much fun.
Some people are wondering what I am doing. Too much.
Some people know that when it gets quiet here, I am busy making magic happen.
This summer the magic is happening with the help of a gang from Portland OR and Philly PA.
Call it summer school, call it Camp France. I am the Camp director, Bacon is the mascot.
The souvenirs will be stuffed into sausage casings, cured in salt and processed in a water bath. The larder is filling. The centuries old kitchen information is being passed butcher's hand to butcher's hand. Ask Jonathan, Camas and Bill.

The spring/summer '09 session of the Kitchen at Camont now winds down for a "too hot to cook break" after a last week of porkout extravaganza. I am working on the official charcuterie workbook for the new Kitchen at Camont fellowships. So for a look at what's been happening here I am sending you over to the Kitchen Camper blogs.

Camas Davis spent her 5 weeks studying at Camont working with the Chapolards in the butchery room on their farm and selling L'Art du Cochon products at the Nerac Saturday market. Her thoughts on living close to the blood & bone in Gascony are at
There are more of her great photos at her facebook album...

Jonathan Kraska, resident chef and dog trainer, wielded knife and saw, pots, pans and garden tools for 12 weeks here at the Kitchen at Camont, at the Chapolard's pig farm and while wooing the French shoppers at the Lavardac market with his parlez-vous American...
Bill Reeves arrived last week for 4 weeks, a first week as we finished up the Charcuterie 101 weeks and the next three at the Ferme de Boue as their first American stagiere. Follow Bill's first look at Gascony through a bacon crusted

As for me? The summer p'tanque parties keep popping up with delicious distraction and there will be more news to come while preparing the first fall/winter sessions of the Kitchen at Camont, a culinary retreat in Gascony.


Bonnes Vacances!

You are invited to a French Pig Roast Picnic- 4th of July.


French Summer.
Sunny and hot.
Haricots verts and Swiss chard from the potager for dinner greens.
A dozen hens laying deep yellow-yolked eggs for deviled eggs.
The first red tomatoes on the vine.
Sounds like a picnic to me.

A French Pig from the Chapolard's, a cochon to spit roast over an open fire:
  • crispy cracklins and succulent ham meat,
  • falling off the shoulder bone for pull apart figgy bbq sandwiches.
  • mouth smacking ribs dipped in sweet fiery fish sauce
Bring the side dishes- American inspired, French execution:
  • Walnut and white wine potato salad
  • Summer cabbage coleslaw with red wine vinegar
  • white peach shortcake with creme fraiche
Y'all come over for an afternoon of good eats and cold rose wine, iced beer, Chinese lanterns and loud music. rsvp.

photo by carnivore TC at

French Easter marche!


Now that we ALL know that 'plastic or paper' is so passé, I took a look at my Saturday morning market with a fresh Spring eye. From the ubiquitous reed panier woven in Morocco to the classic canvas trolley that les grande dames wield with stunning accuracy across vulnerable toes, here are just a sample of a few of my favorites filled to the brim with fresh spring vegetables and the hint of a French Easter Brunch under the just blooming wisteria vine.The first strawberries, asparagus, & artichauts arrive to joina leg of lamb in a Spring celebration of all that's new and colorful.Try to make your next shopping expedition just a little more green and...colorful![...]

Breaking ground for NEW French Kitchen Adventures


(object) When My Friend David Aman from New Orleans, showed up for a visit in the summer, this is what we talked about... for more of David's wonderful video docs click here!(embed)

Confit de Canard. Duck Confit...part 3- 7 French Tips


Time Warp PortalBehind this door lies the secret of several generations of French cooking lore and savoir-faire. How fitting that my friend Greg Orr neither knocked nor rang the sonnette, but boldly walked in thorugh the heavy tapestry curtains and called out "Catou! France! We're here!" And so we were, here at the Chateau de Gayrac for a Fat Duck weekend with les Soeurs Mazet. But in which century? Catou and France weave a magic spell over all who enter their treasure house domain, whether they arrive to scout the antiques and brocante at the barn and stable shops or come in friendship to share their convivial hospitality at the oversized kitchen table. Today, a small band of visitors and local residents descended to 'help' in their annual fat duck weekend and I came as part reproter, part culinary spy, eager student and grateful guest.I reveled in being in company with gastro-friends and these timeless cooks. We were just seven of us, wearing wonderful homemade butchers' aprons to butcher, trim and cook the seven fatted ducks supplied by a neighbor. But I knew I was in the presence of generations of excellence in this kitchen: a butcher father, a frugal grand-mere, a great-grandfather who was a chef in a renowned Paris restaurant. The room was crowded with history and kitchen lore as if these smoky yellow walls who had witnessed centuries of recipes and trucs or tips were inspiring us.Catou demonstrated her sure hand, warned us not to sacrifice the foie gras, and made the rounds of the table conjoling, correcting and scolding us in turn. We took our work seriously. After all, this would be their food for the year. Instructions were delivered brief, fast and with barely a heartbeat between breaking down the neck, breasts, legs, wings before 'birthing' the ivory firm liver each weighing in just under a pound. Hearts, gesiers or gizzards all got salted and added to the growing pile of meat. The carcasses themselves were quartered as we fought, caressed, and jointed the 15-pound birds with knives, secateurs and bare hands.Leaving the meat to rest overnight in a cold pantry under a veil of delicate salt and wrapped in a pristine linen sheet, we retired to Greg's own medieval Manoir d'Orr in Lauzerte for a Saturday supper of sweet potato soup, Boeuf Caducienne cooked slowly in Cahor's delicious black wine, a pair of perfect cheeses and a perfect pear almond tart.Saturday morning we returned to Chateau de Gayrac just as the fat and trimmings from yesterday were put over a very slow flame. From my notes:11:00- fat trimmings and half glass of water go into a large aluminum caldron over a very low flame protected by a cast iron hob.11;15- the duck legs are added 4 at a time to the barely melting fat so that they, too, can render their fat to the cauldron. They are placed upside down into the pan so that the fat forms an insulative cushion from the heat.11;40- all the legs are now in the pan and slowly cooking over the lowest's not even simmering.11:45- the manchons or wings are now added.STIR CONTINUALLY lifting the meat off the bottom so it doesn't stick.12:00- add gesiers or gizzards12:15- seven hearts are added12:30- the fat is only just now starting to simmer12:45- begin to add the carcasses cut into quarters along with the wing tips1:00- stir, stir, stir1:15- begin to remove the legs if done and drain1:30- continue to cook and stir all pieces until completely cooked.The confit, once drained, is then placed into aluminum freezer boxes and stored in the freezer. Catou uses a pair fo garden shears or secateurs to snap the knob end of the bone off the leg. This makes it a tidier package not just for storing but for serving as well. The legs are then covered in fat, cooled and then set in the freezer. Freezing the confit in its fat makes a very qu[...]

Confit de Canard. Duck Confit. Part 2- like meat loves salt.


Confire- French verb to preserve, confis tu confis il confit'Nous confisons un canard avec quatre tetes.' We are preserving a duck with four voila! for information about why 4 heads... see previous post.It took me longer to download and then upload these pictures then it did to make the confit. Way too long! So when my students complain (or comment) that real cooking takes so long, I protest. The virtual world might make some things easier but not necessarily faster. Making Confit de Canard ( or Porc, d'Oie or even Poule- that's pig, goose and old hen) is all about slow cooking, but it needn't be a three day affair. A quiet morning catching up with emails will do while the meat simmers away in a deep pan of golden fat.The first step after butchering the whole duck into pieces is to lightly salt the meat and let it sit overnight. 'Overnight' here means no more than 12 hours. Salt before you go to bed and be ready to cook in the morning, or salt at the crack of dawn and cook that evening. Salting for 24 hours (or longer!) is overkill. Keep in mind the size of your ducks (mine will weigh in at 6-7 kilos, that's 13-15 pounds each!), the length of time you will be cooking and the preserving the meat (After cooking for 1 to 1-1/4 hours, I typically jar and sterilize my cooked confit in winter and leave it in the pantry until summer and fall using up most of it before the next batch is seasonal made) and to what end ( I will serve confit legs and magrets or breasts solo with salad and fried potatoes in the summer, add to autumn cassoulets, and make soups and garbures from the little peices of necks and wings.). More salt and longer salting time was necessary when confit was put up in earthenware jars and stored unrefrigerated in 'caves' or cellars. If you are not using traditional large fatted ducks (take a look at the size of the legs in my size 8 garden glove hand!), then scale down salt and cooking time.These are the photographs on Flickr of the steps taken to get from fresh raw succulent duck confit. I'll get the descriptions on Flickr written up as soon as I get a minute between real life chores. This week, you'll notice that I put the confit in 2 jars, the necks into a crock, the extra fat in jam jars and then into the refrigerator rather than sealing and sterilizing them like I do usually. I'll be testing them in 2 weeks time for tenderness; we'll talk about aging the confit soon. In the meantime, enjoy the process! [...]

Confit de Canard. Duck Confit. Part 1- How to buy a 4-headed duck


To market to market to buy a Fat Duck...That was the idea. Traditionally the Wednesday morning market in Agen has been the live poultry market. When I first arrived in the Lot-et-Garonne in 1987, there were rows of benches on which housecoat-wearing Frenchwomen and beret-sporting Gascons sat behind piles of feathered friends tied together at the ankles or next to cardboard boxes with beaks and tails sticking out. The Wednesday morning soundtrack was a low murmur of gossip and clucking.Even in this Southwest France modern times have arrived and the buying of live poultry in an urban environment has slowly disappeared from Agen. There was but one truck of cages filled with bedraggled-looking chickens from a local 'semi-industrialized' farm. I had expected there to be a great show of fatted ducks at this time of year. What I found instead was a wonderful show of winter produce at bargain prices with a smattering of artisan poultry growers with their wares prepared for a more urban audience- fatted ducks already cut, cleaned and parceled out ready to confit.Here are the January Market season specials:ORANGE is good in the Winter!SPANISH ORANGES & TARBAIS BEANSCRUSTY BREAD & SWEET MUSCAT GRAPESROOTS AND SHOOTSRather than look this gift duck in the beak, I took home a deconstructed duck with which to start. Those ordering duck from D'Artagnan or one of the other internet sources can relate to this piece meal approach. Although I am missing a few of my favorite 'bits'- the gesier or gizzard, the tasty heart and succulent the wing tips, the bargain of getting 4 duck necks for 2 euros more then made up for the gap.So here is the take from this smiling enterprising Artisan Duck vendor:One carcass called a 'demoiselle'One 'manteau' or cloak- that is the legs and breasts removed in one piece from the carcassea big bag of fat and trimmings including the pure white inner fat from near the foie grasand four duck necks and heads- les cousThese ducks were the best; they were fresh, meaty, fatty. They had been carefully butchered and handled with care. The prices were reasonable and the total 'duck' came to 23 euros, about 6 kilos of meat and fat- less than 4 euros a kilo, or about 2.50 dollars a pound. there is very little waste or scrap so making confit here is a most economical way to preserve meat.Returning home I abandoned the duck to the refrigerator until I had a moment later in the day to salt and cure for the coming confit . Stay tuned. Salting comes next. It's the very important part."Patience demands, work rewards."[...]

Fat Ducks- everything you need to know from Confit to Foie Gras


Tis the season.Duck season. No, not hiding in a marshy blind, wet cold and waiting.The fatted duck season, le marche au gras is more like:hanging in a warm kitchen,fire roaring,cauldrons of duck fat burbling,friendly faces pouring hot spiced wine,sharp carbon knifes clacking against the steel,and the smell... the scent of toasted hazelnuts as the duck fat melts and the crispy skins becomes cracklin's- Gascon popcorn.For meat loving foodies, this is about as close as it gets to heaven. Gascon Heaven.I read a lot about confit. A lot. And I have read pages and pages of misinformation, both well-meaning and intentional about confit, both duck and goose, and foie gras, both duck and goose, and all the bits and pieces of succulent meat like gésiers (gizzards) and cou farci (stuffed neck) and coeurs en brochette (skewered duck hearts).I'm not THE authority here, not by a long shot. But I know a few and I thought I'd take you on a seasonal ride through my extended neighborhood of Butchers, Bakers, and Armgnac-makers to meet some of the pros, expert home cooks and above all the artisan food producers that rock my French Kitchen world. There is always room for more and new info and scientific proof, but tradition and authenticity are the foundations of what I teach here. Hang on to your duck lovin' hat because we'll be jaunting all over the Gascon countryside and then some to uncover the private kitchens, the artisan cooking studios and the traditional winter Marche au Gras or Fat Markets through out this fatted land.Be a voyeur or cook along for the ride! We'll all come together in the Virtual French Kitchen on Feb 24- le Mardi Gras for the Fat Tuesday Camp Cassoulet Cook-off where my version of Cassoulet features silky morsels of duck confit- the wings and sleeves, bite sized portions to infuse the cassoulet with salty nutty goodness. (I save the large meaty legs and breast for main course summer meals.)Recipes here are more like storytelling. Lean in, pay attention, and taste often. anyone wishing to join me for one of the Fat Duck Weekends this coming month (See Google Calendar on the sidebar) need only write me in a nice letter asking if there is still room.These pictures were taken with my phone last year in Cathou and France's amazing chateau kitchen in Montcuq. I love the slightly otherworld colors and focus of what appears to be another time and place. I have been invited again this year so stay tuned for more pix and details from this remarkable French kitchen.the weight of the five foie grasIn the meantime, hats off to Heidi B. who sent the first cassoulet picture of her first cassoulet in her brand new Not Poterie cassole.I do believe that is a leg of duck confit I spy! When asked how it was, a one-word description was enough. "Amazing!" That's all it takes to enter the Fat Tuesday Camp Cassoulet Cook-off. Send a picture and comments, recipes and anecdotes to me soon.[...]

French Weather- ouch!


I was going to write a lyrical little post this week called 'French Rain'.
You know the sort of thing I like to write, weather reports interspersed with nature observations, a little wistful, a little nostalgic.
Not tonight.
No photos, it's too dark.

What began in the dark this morning around 5 a.m. has subsided in the dark. I'm going to have a shot of armagnac and go to bed, exhausted but I wanted to let you know that when your read that little headline, just know that the reality was way worse.

The worst winds in French history (northern Spain got slammed too!), equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane, slammed the Atlantic coast. The BBC says it here but the map says it all; I live right where that red arrow to the east of Bordeaux is.

Lucky. We are very lucky as we have only minor damage. Lots of trees down. The roof of the chicken coop took flight, but the chooks didn't seem to bothered. A bucket of bird seed blew over and they just continued to harvest the spill. Bacon got to sleep in my cabin and sit with me on the couch under a blanket for comfort (his? or mine?), and Boudin (the barn cat) yowled her displeasure at the noise which sounded like a train coming down the canal. The new wheelhouse leaked as 100 mph winds drove the rain into the still unvarnished joints and the roof tarp disappeared over the side. There are days when I don't like living on a boat.

By late afternoon, the barometer starting rising, the clouds blew over revealing a weirdly blue sky and it is now blissfully still. Thank you. I have a good stock of candles and flashlights, oil for the lantern, and now the electricity came on.
I will sleep tonight. Peacefully.
Tomorrow, damage control.

Wish you were here.

Cassoulet- Kate's Basix French Kitchen Recipe


Cassoulet RecipeDeveloped at "Camp Cassoulet"-- a Kate Hill French Kitchen Adventure.This is the basic, bonafide, easy to prepare, authentic, traditional, real, regional version of cassoulet that I prepare, teach, cook and eat in my French Kitchen. The emphasize is on careful combining of very good ingredients, slow cooking and hearty enjoyment. I use duck confit and sausage de Toulouse, ventrèche ( salt cured pork belly), and pork rind for the meats. This is not gosple but pretty close. As much a state of mind as a recipe, this Cassoulet should feed your spirit as well as your belly. Invite a few friends- make it a party. That's what Camp Cassoulet is about. This makes a large cassoulet that fills a 4-liter cassole and feeds 8 people easily.Step 1: the beans Ingredients: beans -1 kg dried beans (tarbais, coco, lingots, or other plump thin skinned white bean (for dried beans- soak several hours, over night or cover with water, bring to boil and let sit one hour.)1 onion- peeledone whole carrot2 cloves 2 garlic cloves Thick slice of ventrèche (pancetta), salt pork, bacon or ham ends.Ham bone or hockFresh pork rind-(couenne) about a 4-by-12 inch strip or about 100gr, rolled and tied with a stringBouquet garni- bay, thyme and parsley peppercorns- a dozen slighty crushed Place all of the above ingredients in a large pot, cover with 2 litres of water; because of the addition of the ham bone there is no need to season with salt at this stage. The seasoning can be adjusted when the cassoulet is put together.Bring the bouillon to a boil then turn down to simmer and let cook gently for 1 hour or until beans are just barely tender. How do you tell if the beans are done? The skins go papery and begin to collapse and the cooking liquid is milky. Step 2: the meat- prepare while the beans are cooking. Ingredients: This is where you can be flexible using fresh sausage, preserved duck or goose, ham or cured pork, lamb shanks, etc. We used: Duck- confit de canard- one/half leg per person (note: after slipping off most of the softened congealed fat from the surface of the duck legs, we trimmed any excess skin so as to leave just a covering to protect the meat. We jointed the thigh from the drumstick and then teased the thigh bone out resulting in a neat little package of confit meat that is easier to cut in the plate.)Saucisse de Toulouse- about 500 grams or about 15 cm/6 inches per person. This is a fresh pork sausage made from primarily the shoulder meat and seasoned with salt and pepper. Nothing else.Saucisse de Couenne- I love how these succulent sausages made with lean pork meat and the soft rind taste. They sort of explode with flavour in the cassoulet.Brown all of the above; the duck confit in a sauté pan and the sausages we cooked over the grill, however, they could have been pan browned as well. You want a nice hot fire to brown the skins and it’s preferable to not cook the sausages 100% at this stage as they will continue to cook in the cassoulet and give their juices to the broth. Note: Because we buy the sausage in one long link we made a pretty spiral that may be browned as a whole on one side then turned over in one piece to cook the other side. We did this on a grill over the hot ashes of the log fire. Step 3: to assemble the cassoulet The traditional cassole bottom is just half of the diameter as the top, making a deep slant-sided glazed terracotta pot (see pictures). Remove the bouquet garni, ham bones, onion, carrot and rind from the beans. I chop the onion, carrot and rind into small bean-size pieces and take the tender meat off the ham bone then[...]

To my Cassole waiters... a French moment.



Some days.
As I've written recently, French days in France are usually full. Varied. Rich. Full.
These are days when time moves to it's own clock, counting events and moments rather than minutes and hours. Time to stir the pot and cook slowly.

Tic, tic- 20 minutes to gather dried twigs for kindling.
Tic, toc- 30 minutes to drive across the frosty countryside to pick up more beans.
Tic, toc, tic- an hour goes by standing in line waiting for the phone shop to wait on me.
Ding, ding, dong, screammmmmmmmm. the village bells and siren announce lunchtime and EVERYONE must stop for 2 hours and close their doors- post office, banks, grocery stores. Oh, forgot? get back in your car and drive home to wait until after the 2 o'clock return rush hour to reopen!!!!
tic, tic, tic...clip, clip- the quiet time passing as 2 acres of fruit trees and roses get clipped one by one during a quiet 2 hour lunch of winter gardening.

See, that's how France works for me; harmonious units of time interrupted by screaming fits of being out of sync. Mostly it is the harmony and rhythm of these days that I so love. It takes an hour to prune an old crab apple tree. Another for the fig. Who cares? There is time enough in every season. right?

But what happens when culture clashes and the sound of a micro-digital chronometer meets the steel village church bells. It's like that old kids' game- rock, paper, scissors. The steel bells wins- every time. I call these the French Moments, the head shaking 'I don't get it' moments, when my American self gets taken off at the knees.

All this to try to explain why those wonderful Not Brother cassoulet pots that were mailed out before Christmas still haven't arrived? My local French La Poste Mistress assures me, "Madame, 12-15 days delivery time means 12-15 working days; no saturdays, no sundays and, mon Dieu, all those holidays, too. It was mailed economique, oui? (I can hear the Gallic shrug!) So this package you mailed to the Etats Unis December 19? Then it is only 4 days late. It's a long way. Don't worry!"

She smiled and I said, "Merci et au revoir, Madame". So please, in the ticking minutes of late deliveries and anxious mistrust of all involved, take a deep breath, think how many long weeks it took to throw, dry, glaze and fire the cassole pot, and think about who you will invite to help you make and eat that great cassoulet. When the cassole arrives. In a Long French Moment, thanks.

And to keep your cassoulet appetites whet and inspired, see what Riana is doing in her Slow Kitchen here at Garlic Breath!

A day in the life... ten things to do before making leftovers for dinner.


1. fix a broody henDuring the great Gascon communication blackout of the New Year- no phones, no internet, no blogging, and no telepathy since Dec 19, I fell into a rhythm of work and rest that has taken hold as a pattern as distinct as the soft llama wool sweater that I am finally trying to knit, one row at a time. Knit, knit, and knit some more. Really, I did miss your daily emails, the sorting and sifting of unbidden mail, and the friendly chats just to make sure that you are really still there.2 & 3. prune the cherry trees and sand & varnish 1/4 of the wheelhouseBut a funny thing happened when I wasn't writing it all down as I was trying to do it. Rather than seeming to drift from one task to the next, occasionally interrupted by 'urgent' messages, and justifying my right brain daily life with my left brain fictional life I found a sort of peaceful path of least resistance to the never ending chores and tasks that mark this French life.4. rake the boulodrome in the parkIt was only after I decided to write about and photograph 'my afternoon' that I 'stumbled on' (Google 'left brain/right brain') this simple test. Sure enough- right brain all the way- 60% except for that highly verbal left brain. Hmm, make's sense from this perspective. This is what my test results said:Dominant Random Processing. Random processing is a method used by the right hemisphere for processing information. The information that is received is processed without priority. A right-brained person will usually jump from one task to another due to the random processing by their dominant right hemisphere. Random processing is, of course, the opposite of sequential processing therefore making it difficult for right-brained individuals to choose to learn in sequence.5. & 6. trim the bay laurel and walk BaconNo surprises there! Then:You show a strong ability at random processing. You are good at completing tasks in an unspecified order, and don't waste time creating lists when they aren't needed. You are also able to make "leaps of logic" and make discoveries a sequential thinker could never dream of making.7. feed the birdsWhen students and guests arrive here at Camont, we cook and shop and cook until that is all that seems to matter. But as you can see today, this random processing of a day in the life of a French Kitchen led to little to eat of note. In fact, leftovers are the goal tonight: some spicy beans, an open tin of sardines, a hardboiled egg and some salad greens. The sweet finish to my dinner and day is knowing just how wonderfully diverse my life and days really are. No office commute, no time card, no ...paycheck. But I do have the daily University of Camont to attend-- learning about broody hens, soil chemistry, lunar cycles and historical nautical design.8. move the ash pileYou can take your own right brain/left brain test here, but looking at these pictures is proof enough for me that I like it mixed up and in no particular order. I am getting things done in my own Kate fashion.9. & 10. chop some wood and give thanks.Just another day in the life of...[...]

Frosty Wishes for a New Year


In 20 years I have never seen the canal outside my wheelhouse frozen.

Yesterday I awoke to a silent frosty flat surface, floating leaves frozen in place. The gentle hum of water flowing beneath the hull silent. A grabbed the closest thing at hand, an apple, and heaved it onto the ice to see what happened. It bounced, skidded and then pinged across the canal coming to rest 50 feet away. Frozen. Half-an inch thick.

The kingfishers are curious. The little grebes are hiding. The moorhens are walking on the banks. I, too, wonder how long this will last and when will 'global warming' please start?

So until my internet connection is repaired (10 days to two weeks) I remain quiet, cold and thoughtful- reading, knitting and ...playing cards.

(image) (image)
1956 Canal du Midi- Toulouse

Here's to all good things in a brand New Year.

Sunday Thanks for a great year of friendship


Tuscan Black Kale **While you home-friends are thinking of leftovers and retail therapy on a big scale (aka day after Thanksgiving), here on the French Kitchen ranch in Southwest France, we are just getting ready for the big day. Just like extended and distant families have to rearrange Christmas and school holidays, this bi-cultural life means accommodating the American mindset within a French framework. Sunday is a better day to invite 12 bi-cultural people for a mid day meal.So I did order a turkey from the village butcher, have yet to find cranberries (I've got an alternate idea...see later*) and I am scouring the last of the potager for some bebe romanesco- those goofy green pointed outer space cauliflowers.Like a pin-striped muscle car, the potager is lined in frosty threads. After an unusally mild and long Indian summer, the famous Garonne River Valley fog has just arrived with the first frosty nights- resulting in that most ephemeral visual morning treat- a hoar frost. So as I sing 'chick, chick, chicka, che' to my ruffled feathered friends who are busy discovering the freshly arrived kitchen peelings, I ran around the garden in my nightdress, jeans and hoodie to gather a few ideas for Sunday Thanks and these first winter images.Sunday Thanks Menu Ideas-fennel fronds and boats with hot anchovy and black pepper dressingThree Greens(wilted collard greens, black kale and savoy cabbagetossed with crispy lardons and garlic)Armagnac-caramelized Sweet Potatoes wedgesTurkey Roti(just salt, pepper and duck fat inside and out)My mother's cornbread stuffing(the only reason to eat all this!)Just Pumpkin Pie& other sweet fantasiesHowever, the most important ingredient, usually buried beneath the parades, the football games, the piles of colorful sweaters, the too many too early Christmas toys, is the friendship that has gathered around this French Kitchen table during the last year.During 2008, dozens of new and old friends have stopped, cooked, learned, taught, inspired and been inspired in my simple French Kitchen. On this 2-acre 'American' island of good food and convival gatherings in the most French part of France, I count my blessing, small and grand.I thank all of you who have made your way to my woad blue door, put up with Bacon's exhuberent greetings and contributed your own good energy and laughter to making the French Kitchen table so memorable.this is just a sampling...* French Vodka Cranberry Martinis**And thanks to Judy for her own kale post![...]

Pork & Beans- a very faux cassoulet


When the Diva, Judy Witts asked me 'what are you making for supper?' I was almost embarrassed to say not Cassoulet. And when she suggested that we post a 'come one, come all' let's cook together on our ongoing, occasional Whole Hog blog, I realized that a simple 'you too can do this tonight' version of French Pork & Beans was the answer.When not cooking a full-blown Camp Cassoulet version (see the official recipe here!), I sometimes just wet the beans, add anything vegetable lying around and toss in some artisanal bacon at the end. Eh Voila! my version of pork and beans. Next, toss some leftover cheese in a pan with a slice of baguette on top and this is a simple supper that stands up to a bottle of new wine, Beaujolais or otherwise.My non-recipe recipe goes like this:Take 500 grams or about 1 lb of dried beans ( I used the fat pillowy Coco beans we grow here in Southwest France), put them in a pot of water to soak during the day.Drain the now plump beans and put them in a pot. Cover with just enough water, about 3-5 cm or 1 1/2 - 2 inches. Put over a medium hot burner.Add a couple of carrots, an onion, a few shallots, and two cloves of garlic chopped in small bean-sized pieces. Add a bay leaf, some fresh or dried thyme, a few black pepper corns and some lovage or celery leaf. Cover, let come to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 45-50 minutes or until the beans are tender. Taste and salt as desired.While the beans are getting done, fry up some good thick pieces of bacon, a hunk of ventreche, salt pork, ham or a couple of sausages. That's the Pork part. Then toss the meat and any fat into the Beans, stir and serve.Too simple, too delicious. And it takes about 5 real minutes of chopping, and 45 minutes of cooking. That's less than an hour; less than the time it takes to run out to the store or order mediocre takeout. While the beans are cooking you can read a book, take a walk, or just watch the leaves drop from the trees. And you don't even need a can opener.As I said, it's not cassoulet, but it is very tasty. And the next day there are leftovers for lunch with an egg dropped in the pan to poach in the bean liquor.Buy good beans, use good water, kiss your butcher, pay attention. That's what makes the difference!This is Simple French Food.beans at the Santiago de Compostela market[...]

Season Changes- weekend cooking breaks from Cassoulet to Confit de Canard


Gotta love the l'ete Indienne we've been having this year. If there could be a more perfect fall, it would have to be like this one in a favorite painting of Monet's little studio boat that he rowed along the Seine and her tributaries.Here along the Canal de Garonne, my own canal has been aglow with turning leaves that rolled from acid green to yellow, from gold to deep ochre with a splash of plum and bright red thrown in for fun.It's just as well the weather held, as this was the time to do a bit of boat repairs.Taking advantage of the bluer skies and still warm nights, Mark Wiggs, master marine carpenter and boatwright from Angleterre, has been sorting out 50 years of failing plywood and rusty screws.As you can see, what that really meant is that Mighty Mark took the entire wheelhouse down with his trusty hammer and saw! Now he is building, from the steel frame up, a brand spanking new traditional solid red cedar and glass room perfect for winter morning cafe-au-lait and late summer evening suppers.Here are a few pix for posterity and just to prove how mad I truly am. Twenty-two years of the Julia Hoyt and we're both ready for a facelift!Stay tuned for the final unveiling soon!Along with these structural changes, the season has changed, too, from the gastronomic overload of Fall's abundant markets and menus to the quieter space between the plates, the mid-week pause and to the gracious unhurried weekends. To celebrate Winter's tardy arrival, I am offering a handful of weekend retreats, culinary quiet time and just enough good food and market color to usher in the festive time ahead. Interested in a weekend break in the French Kitchen? Just click here at French Kitchen Adventures for more details! In the meantime, just keep drifting on the current...[...]

Stirring the Pot at Departures Magazine- Cassoulet Cassoles


November is a funny month.Funny Strange.Changes seems to begin at the end of the Fall season. New Presidents for some- Nov 4, Remembrances of past peace efforts for others- Nov 11, Turkey and Thanks- Nov 27, and yet another year under the belt- Nov 29. For better or for worse, November is my month. The last couple of years I have been celebrating its gloomy and drizzling arrival with the warmest of all French regional dishes...Cassoulet.Camp Cassoulet continues to be a popular cooking weekend program here at the French Kitchen and abroad. Lisa and Tony Geer of the Mendocino Coast's Ledford House restaurant joined Tiffany and Michael from Seattle and Olivier and Carole from NYC and Paris at the end of a wonderfully warm Indian Summer October to market and cook yet another great Cassoulet. Here, even the experts can learn a new trick or two.My Fall season started early over 18,000 kilometers away with teaching and cooking cassoulet for over 400 people in New Zealand in August. In September, I returned home to Southwest France for another round of convivial weekends in front of the French kitchen cheminée and enough beans to flat a raft of saucisse de Toulouse and duck confit.But the fire really started to blaze when I got the news that Departures Magazine, that arbiter of all things luxe for American Express Platinum cardholders published an article 'Cassoulet Style' by Sylvie Bigar, New York journalist and delightful culinary snoop, about cassoles and mentioned a new little scoop of my own.It's time to reveal what's been cooking on the French Kitchen back burner. The Hill Sisters (my little sister Stephanie and I) are opening our own, on-line French Kitchen Piggery Pantry & Boutique. And guess what's in stock now?Cassoles, cassoles and more cassoles! Authentic, traditional, purpose-built clay pots, hand thrown by the Poterie NOT Freres along the canal du Midi near Castelnaudary. In her article, Sylvie gives a good argument for a rounded bean pot, but I must agree with Jacques Pepin that the shape is not as important as what goes in it. (click here for the official Camp Cassoulet recipe and cooking trucs here!) However, as far as cassoles are concerned, what is important is the actual quality of the pot- be it clay, enamel cast iron or stainless steel.Fortunately you can now have your beans and eat them, too. Because these clay cassoles that the Not family have been throwing for since 1830 are hand-crafted from a special mix of local clay and silica, blended and fired at high temperatures to produce a rock-hard natural terre-cuit or French stoneware. Unlike softer terracotta pots, these are meant to be baked in hot ovens for long hours; they ring like glass when tapped.The thick glaze is a rich earth color like the well-baked crust of a cassoulet. there are glaze drips and thumbprints that speak of the atelier and roughened hands that make these sturdy bowls. Cooking only deepens the colors and ages the bowl in a duck fat sort of glow. My own cassoles are over 20 years old now and a deep dark brown.I love these pots; and the men who make them. Like the Artisan Food School teachers we work with, Ton-Ton Robert and the next generation of potters infuse their hand-built cassoles with the sort of love and attention we use when cooking here at the French Kitchen. At the Not Potterie, the cook with clay.Interested in owning your own authentic Poterie NOT Freres Cassole?The price is 75 euros (approx 100 US$) plus shipping and handlin[...]

French Kitchen News- Autumn Cooking Classes


I have, at last, solved the age old question.What comes first, the chicken or the egg?Here at Camont, where once all sorts of farm animals roamed at large alongside the canal, there is no doubt. It's the chicken.Well, actually it not THE chicken, it's SEVEN chickens. So first we got some chickens and THEN we got some eggs. It's that simple. First chickens and THEN eggs.New to Camont, a simple movable chicken coop placed in one of the garden squares in the potager. Painted woad blue with natural pigment from my friends at Bleu de Lectoure, who also graciously offered the French Kitchen a beautiful pair of black Gascon chooks. They joined a Chilean couple of Araucanas, single White Sussex and two work horse Cou Nu (Naked Necks) laying hens who are doing all the work at present.It is absoulutely silly how long one can stand and watch the friendly flock scratch and peck. When I can't stand at the stove any longer, just wheel me out to the garden and let me be a chicken voyeur!So after pulling myself away from the new kids on the farm, I take a stroll around the lower French forty, just to see the changes happening as October takes control.The canal side trees reflect a varied palette in the still water.The mother fig tree is still bent over with hundreds of small but sweet fall fruit.Poplar leaves are beginning to breakdown into compost next to the orchard bridge.Wild watercress is beginning to dominate in the spring run off and promises winter greens.A dozen new raspberry plants have taken hold and offer the promise of jars of next summer confiture.and the beans... the Tarbais beans are heavy with pods drying in this warm fall and have produced just enough beans for this month's Camp Cassoulet cooking classes.Camp Cassoulet begins October 24 and runs for 5 weekends. For more information click on and consult the calender at the bottom of this blog. Authentic original NOT Poterie cassoles will be available for sale beginning November 1.Now, what does one do with two beautifully fresh eggs? Just ask my good friend Robert Reynolds at the Chef's Studio in Portland Oregon. mmm...oeufs en meurette.[...]

Home Sweet Gascon Home


Travel days suck the minutes out of the day and here I am, a month later having returned from la belle NZ still trying to catch up. We've been cooking, cooking, cooking at the French Kitchen nonstop since I returned and there is a several more weeks of Camp Cassoulet and private classes to come.

The fall days color this private corner of my French world with a luminous haze, a golden silver net of spiderwebs and dew, red rosehips and falling leaves. Five new hens are pecking in garden and a tentative crow from a young rooster trails in the morning mist. The Autumn equinox descends on Camont leaving Orion as its calling card hanging above the pigeonnier tower. Pumpkins and mushrooms fill our baskets while the last figs simmer into yet another jar of confiture des figues epices.
This might be my favorite time of year.
In France.
Wish you were here...