Not long ago, I hopped on the TGV in Paris and zipped down to Agen, in the southwest of France, to visit American Kate Hill, who’s made a name for herself as the queen of Gascon cuisine, offering workshops for pros and ambitious home chefs who want to learn about one of France’s duckiest — and perhaps luckiest! — regions.
Located smack dab in the middle of Bordeaux and Toulouse, Gascony is unspoiled, rugged, and slightly wild — it is, after all, where the rascally non-royal king, Henri IV, came from — and it’s also the capital of all things canard (confit, cassoulet, fois gras, etc.).
In her fabulously restored 18th century farmhouse kitchen, Kate showed me how to cook, Gascon-style, and I wrote all about it for the April issue of Cowboys & Indians magazine — including her recipes for Pulled Pork, Caramel Apple Croustade, and White Bean and Sausage Chili — and we decided to do a little video on the last day, too.
We got so involved in our video-making and Armagnac-sipping that I missed my train (!), and had to stay another night, which I was actually quite happy about. I’m hoping to get back down to Camont, which is the little hamlet where she lives, this spring (OK, Kate? I’ll do dishes, tend the garden, anything!).
Here’s the little how-to that we did on how to barbecue, Gascon-style, and the recipes are below. For more about my visit with Kate, and her recipes, check out the current issue of Cowboys & Indians magazine, or pick up her cookbook, “A Culinary Journey Through Gascony: Recipes and Stories from My French Canal Boat” (Ten Speed Press).
Enjoy the show.
Gascon Wet Rub
“This is an easy way to infuse the flavors of the Southwest of France using Armagnac and fennel pollen, which is a lighter, more aromatic way to use fennel.” – Kate Hill
¼ cup Armagnac (or Bourbon)
2 teaspoons fresh fennel pollen*
WHAT YOU DO
1. Splash a bit of the Armagnac onto the pork chop and massage it in a bit. Do this on both sides.
2. Now rub in the fennel pollen, salt and pepper. Let marinate for 30 minutes or so, while the grill’s heating up.
*If you can’t find fennel pollen locally, go to www.earthy.com.
Miel de Poivre
“This is magic in a jar – a miracle sauce that will change your life. Drizzle it on top of meats, cheeses, and fruits.” – Kate Hill
2 cups sugar
¾ cup water
2 handfuls black peppercorns
1 large lemon
WHAT YOU DO
1. With a vegetable peeler, zest the lemon and put the pieces of rind aside. Juice the lemon. Set aside.
2. In a medium-size saucepan, add the water and the peppercorns and bring to a boil. Then cook 5 more minutes.
3. Strain and reserve the peppercorns.
4. Add the sugar to the now dark-colored hot water, the lemon juice and rind pieces. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is thick, about 5 minutes.
5. Now, add the peppercorns back to the syrup, and cook on low heat for another 5 minutes.
6. Remove from heat, bottle and enjoy!