The Tour de France was in Ardèche yesterday. Ardèche is a French département located on the Rhône right bank (it produces wines under the names IGP Ardèche, AOC Côtes du Rhône and AOC Côtes du Vivarais) and named after the magnificent river that crosses it. Canoeing the Ardèche river canyon is a must do if you are in the area... or not! This small mountain region has remained untamed and harsh as soon as you get away from the Rhône river and by many aspects, it reminds me of Corsica for its wildness, its traditions and... its chestnuts.
Alas, this is not yet the chestnut season! So, I decided to cook two other regional specialties, the crique and the caillette.
- The crique is no less than a thin potato galette made with starchy potatoes so that no egg or other "cementing" agent is needed. Just flavored with herbs and nutmeg.
- The caillette is a very interesting dish falling under the paupiettes or ballotines family, involving forced meat. But first, the stuffing is directly wrapped in a caul fat "lace" and second, it is made of an equal proportion of pork meat (I used pork shoulder and slab bacon, but it is normally made of jowl, liver and pork tripe) and herbs and leaves, a lot of herbs and leaves! Just for the record, I used for this recipe 1 lb. of meat and 1 lb. of herbs, meaning 1 lb. of herbs blanched, strained and pressed: Swiss chard, sorrel, arugula, dandelion, prasley, sage... from our garden/pastures, and red sorrel from the farmers'market. This represents an impressive volume! The good thing is that at this season the leaves are big and perfect for using them hashed in a stuffing. The result is a very moist and light stuffing, on top of being extremely flavorful. By the way, caillette means "little quail"... and you understand why when you see it.
- But after I served the crique and the caillette, and as I have some caillettes left, I had the idea today to americanize those two very traditional dishes. Hence my Ardéchois Hamburger: a flattened caillette, a yellow tomato, an onion slice between two criques, with homemade ketchup and pickles. Absolutely delicious.
I love to take two very traditional French dishes and to cross the Atlantic ocean with them!
* During the Tour de France, combining two of my passions, biking and cooking, I will try to present (almost) every day a recipe from the route followed by the peloton.
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