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The Tour de France is now on the horizon to Paris and it will all come to an end soon. While I take deep breaths and try to come to terms with this, I will enjoy the final few days before they reach the Champs Elysées for those last eight epic circuits. But we can look back from where we left off last and see what sort of treats we have had on the Tour de French Cuisine.
Stage #11 from Sisteron to Bourg-les Valence was a short visit through the “Gateway to Provence” town of Sisteron and straight into the Drôme department of the French Alps. Tarts filled with a custard base may be what the Lorraine is known for, but they can also be found in the Alps region as well. Just make sure you use the cheese of the area to keep it authentic. This Tarte aux Asperges is simple and delicious and is just as good cold as fresh out of the oven and would be the perfect light lunch with salad or appetizer at the beginning of a lovely outdoor dinner.
Stage #12 left Bourg-de-Peage to Mende. Passing through the Ardèche department and home to the Le Mont Gerbier de Jonc is the large rock formation that sits at the mouth of the River Loire. Rising from three springs, the longest river in France begins at this eight-million-year-old landmark. The second most visited spot in the Ardèche shoots up to 5,088 feet and separates the Loire and Thone basins. Volaille des Gourmets Ardèche, or Sautéed chicken with tarragon served on a bed of homemade croutons, mushrooms and small onions.
Stage #13 Rodez to Revel, a glimpse of the amazing 11th-century Notre-Dame de Rodez with large rose window, through the village of Lautrec the ancestral home of French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and on to the Canal du Midi, all sites along the thirteenth stage. Revel was a part of the former province known as Rouergue that also incorporated Vabres. The Rouergue had a Daube they made in the area during the holidays that was all their own, Le Coufidou ou La Daube Aveyronnaise slow cooked and laced with garlic and simmered in red wine. What’s not to love?
Stage #14 left Revel and headed into the first stage of the Pyrenees to Ax Trois Domaines, but first passed through the Castelnaudary, the “capital” of Cassoulet. The French novelist Anatole French described it as “God the father may be the Cassoulet of Castelnaudary, God the son the Cassoulet of Carcassonne and the Holy Ghost that of the Cassoulet of Toulouse.” The Castelnaudary might be the most straightforward and simplest. Some top the Cassoulet at the end with bread crumbs or croutes, but that is frowned upon in the Castelnaudary. The most important ingredient in Cassoulet is time; it takes days to prepare if you want to do it right. Soaking the beans the day before and then the assembly and finally the cooking that can be up to 7 hours, but all the time is well worth it when you taste the first bite.
Stage #15 Pamiers to Bagneres-de-Luchon, now into the Pyrenées, the official 100th anniversary of the mountains being a part of the Tour de France. With the Pyrenées being so close to the Basque region and Spain, this influence is seen in a lot of the cuisine. A fantastic make-anytime dish is Piperade Basquaise, a slow-cooked dish of peppers, onions and tomatoes that is perfect on scrambled eggs à la Julia Child or chicken, fish and pork. I served it over pork medallions and is fantastic.
Coming soon: the final five stages through the Pyrenées, Bordeaux and into finally into Paris. For full recipes and historical information on every stage please stop by my blog.
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