14 April 2010

A Culinary Journey in Gascony


So Kate Ratliffe lives on a 75-year-old barge that is 85-feet long and sails through Gascony, stopping at nifty little restaurants and markets and drags the fresh produce onto her barge and cooks and sails. We do, indeed, hate her.

The good news is she shares her recipes with us. The bad news is that we are in West Virginia and not on a 75-year-old barge that is 85- feet long sailing up and down the canals of Gascony.

Yeah, yeah, lovely recipes, great pictures of places we are not current AT (what bad grammar!), food, food, food. OK, maybe I'm just a bit jealous. For good reason.

"In late spring as the first of the new potatoes arrive in the markets with the black dirt of the river valley still clinging to them, Patrick (the husband) gets a sort of "potato fever." The symptoms appear as soon as we arrive at the market at Tonneins or La Reole. Patrick immediately disappears. within half an hour he returns... he holds out a lumpy plastic sack and I peer inside to find three or four dozen perfect, tiny, round potatoes the size of marbles. "Lunch!" he declares."
See, you might just be jealous, too.

Les Petites Billes

2 lb very small new potatoes, red- or white-skinned
1 to 2 tablespoons duck fat, olive oil or butter
1 tablespoon herbed sea salt (in her description she says they are' "encrusted with a layer of sea crystals from Île de . Clearly, Morton's will not do, but I digress...
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Wash the potatoes but leave their skins on. In a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat, place the potatoes, one-half of the fat and 1/2 cup water. cover tightly.
2. Shake the pan as if you were making popcorn and continue to cook until all the water has evaporated and the potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Lower the heat and continue cooking with the lid on, shaking the pan from time to time to prevent burning.
4. When the potatoes are done (test by sticking a skewer or fork into one of the largest), toss with the rest of the fat, the sea salt, pepper and parsley. With the lid off, shake the pan until the potatoes are well covered with herbs and spices. Use the flat of a large wooden spoon to help the salt adhere to the potato skins if necessary. Keep in a hot oven until ready to serve , or serve immediately.

I am pretty sure these taste better in France, but go ahead, give them a try wherever you are... pretend you are in Gascony.

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