Merguez Mongetade

Merguez Mongetade


Where I am from in the French Pyrenees, and especially in the Comminges Region, when  people need to get together for an annual or a perennial event they throw a mongetade party.  In Occitan language mongetes means beans, so a mongetade will always involve a bean dish and an unlimited number of people. There is as many recipes as there is villages, however there is two consensus: the use of white beans –preferably coco tarbais— and couennes, that is porc rind. The meats varies from pork, duck or geese confit, lamb and/or mutton stew to pork sausages and a piece of cured ham wouldn’t hurt. Never would it be served with merguez —lamb sausage— but why not? and I can guarantee you it is delicious. I made this dish for the graduation dinner of our friend Dr. Randall Horton, I think he liked it, he had several helpings! You will notice that I skipped the pork rind, I didn’t have any available, but I will sure use them for the  famous bean dish often served at mongetades and dear to my heart & stomach: la Pistache Luchonnaise. Stay tune for that post when I go home this summer, meanwhile enjoy this one!

Soak 1 lb of Coco Tarbais over night — you can substitute for Lima beans.
2 lbs of fresh Merguez (Mediteraneen lamb sausages. I buy mine
at Aunt Halime’s Halal Meat on 3rd Avenue and Ovinton in Bay Ridge but you can get them on line at….yes! d’Artagnan! )
1 big onion, sliced thin.
1 red pepper, 1 green pepper
1 teaspoon of
piment d’Espelette (medium hot fragrant hot pepper grown in the Basque Country. Can be substitute for hot paprika.)
3 Tbsp of duck fat ( or olive oil)
Salt/Fresh ground pepper to taste

Optional for the hachi:

2 cloves Garlic
1 cup fresh Parsley
1 piece of Fatback

After soaking the beans overnight, drain the beans, change the water bring to a boil, reduce heat once it boils and simmer for about 1 hour or until beans are tender. Do not salt the water. Once the beans are cooked, drain and cool them, drizzle some olive oil on them to prevent them to dry if they are going to sit for a while.
Preheat oven 400º.
Meanwhile in a roaster type pan mix the fat, the onion, the pepper and the sausage, the chili pepper, the salt & the black pepper. Mix thoroughly and put into the oven for 20 minutes, once the vegetables and sausages are sizzling and have rendered all their juice add the beans. There should be juice from the mergez and the veggies in the roaster but make sure you add some liquid if needed; you need about 1/2 inch of liquid in the pan , it can be vegetable or chicken broth
and you can even add 1/2 cup of dry white wine, if you have none of these just add water. Mix well, lower the oven temperature to 320º, put the dish back in the oven and let simmer for 30 minutes so all the flavors can bind together.

Take out the oven and taste, if you find it too blend -which would be surprising- you can add a hachi of parsley, garlic & fatback (optional). To make a hachi blend all the ingredients to  paste in a mortar or food processor (much easier!). Garnish with a sprigs of parsley and serve with good bread and Southwestern French wine; a Corbières  or a Spanish Tempranillo would be perfect.

Quick Apple Rabbit or Lapin aux Pommes

Quick Apple Rabbit or Lapin aux Pommes


This rabbit recipe is quick, easy and tasty. I buy rabbits from d’Artagnan at the Park Slope Food Coop, you can get the same product on line, click here for details and order. D’Artagnan offers either whole rabbits or a choice of cuts.  At the Park Slope Food Coop no choice, the rabbits come as whole, above is my rabbit cut in 5 pieces, though I ended up cutting the saddle into two pieces later on.


Voilà la recipe:
Preheat oven 350º
1 rabbit- cut into 5/6 pieces
1 big onion-slivered
1 apple -diced
1 cup of apple ice wine — it is an alcohol made from frozen apples, I am not a big fan of it as a drink but love to use it in cooking. Can be substituted for Calvados or any other apple brandy .
2 cups
dry white  wine
3 Tbsp duck fat —you can substitute for olive oil and a dollop of butter or lard or drippings.
1 cup heavy cream

Sauté onions in a skillet coated with duck fat until golden—
Remove onions and brown the rabbit, add some fat if needed.
Flambé the rabbit with apple ice wine, or other brandy.
Return onions to the pan, add apple and combine with the rabbit.
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste.
Add the white wine, stir and, either cook slowly on top of the stove covered or, as I prefer it,  cook into preheated oven
for about 40 minutes, the skillet should be covered.

Once the rabbit is cook take out the skillet out of the oven, remove the pieces of rabbit from the pan, keep them warm. Meanwhile pour the heavy cream into the skillet and yes! Do keep the onions, apples & juices in the pan and bring it to a boil.
Reduce the sauce  until it thickens; stir frequently with a wooden spoon and when the sauce coats the back of the spoon it is a good indication the sauce has the perfect consistency. Adjust seasoning if necessary, return rabbit into the sauce, garnish with fennel sprigs,  serve with homemade french fries or chips and a green salad with thinly sliced fennel bulb.  Enjoy!

Cherry Coke Foie Gras

Cherry Coke Foie Gras

Cherry Coke Foie Gras
photo: Josh Stansfield

“She is making Cherry Coke Foie Gras!” says Ariane, nodding her head, pursing her lips, and cracking a demi-smile. She looks at my face and quickly adds: “she always wanted to do it. Ariane Daguin, the Foie Gras goddess and childhood friend, is talking about her daughter Alix.  Rose, Ariane’s best friend, and I have just been picked up at the corner of Madison ave. & 52nd street, and the  three of us are now en route to Ithaca (N.Y) for the last Underground dinner of the season organized by an independent group of talented and inventive students from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. Alix Daguin is a founding member and one of the main emulator of the smart and energetic Underground cohort.
So we are excited to attend the Underground #3 dinner installation and the last event of the season. The five hour drive passes very fast despite traffic, weather, anxiety to be late — and all that thanks to Rose & Jacques’ interaction. Jacques is Ariane’s French speaking GPS, who is much better at keeping us entertained than at giving accurate directions!

The premise for tonight’s dinner:  six of the Cornell students work on six separate courses mentored by a master chef; each has to create one dish to be served to forty guests (2 servings of 20). The mentor chefs were: Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain, Drew Nieporent, Rick Tramonto, and Francois Payard. The location is the beautiful private home of Ann Druyan and the late Carl Sagan on Cayuga Lake (all dinner proceeds are going to the Carl Sagan Foundation). Cocktails are  served outside, overlooking the lake; there we meet Ann Druyan who graced the evening with her generous and caring hospitality —Ann is a writer, and also the founder and chair of the Carl Sagan Foundation. We are now called to dinner. We are taking our seats in the impressive below ground glass veranda. We look down at the kitchen, we look up at the trees, we are in a dreamscape like setting and the Nicolas Feuillate champagne helps!


The level of attention for details and care is very impressive. The chefs and waiters show total command throughout the soiree. The menu is creative, exciting, balanced and imprints my memory with beautiful flavors. I will not give a detailed review of every dish but I do need to return to the Cherry Coke Foie Gras. Yes! The idea is provocative, and I have to admit that for once the evil ingredient made itself discreet and (to me) it is it’s best usage ever!  The Cherry Coke is used in the reduction, and acts as a gastrique (If i remember correctly I think that 2 cans are used for 40 servings), then the Cherry Coke demi-glace is spooned out under a perfectly pan seared slice of Foie Gras, accompanied by preserved black cherries, and garnished with a few slivered almond. The combination of the Foie’s silky texture, the fleshy tartness of the cherries and the light crunch of the slivered almond created a subtle balance of flavors and textures. Bravo! Alix, you sure are carrying on the family tradition with style and inventiveness. Bravo! to the entire Underground team,  I hope that I will be asked back, I heard that not everybody makes the guest list. For more info read the review in the The Cornell Daily Sun of the Underground Dinner #1 and do not miss the video below. Meanwhile drool while reading the menu! & Thank you Ariane for taking me along.

Cherry Coke Foie Gras
Alix Daguin mentored By Rick Tramonto

Rabbit and Chanterelle Tamales with  Mole Trio
Nicole Leong and Anna Bauer Mentored By Anthony Bourdain

Finger Lakes Schuyler Cheese filled Ravioli with Green Peppercorn
Kevin Relf Mentored By Daniel Boulud

Pan Seared Halibut with Shellfish Emulsion and Spring Vegetables
Max Kellman Mentored By Eric Ripert

Beef Tenderloin with Marrow Parmentier and Spring Garnish
Peter Roumanis Mentored by Drew Nieporent

Lemon Verbena Sorbet
Katherine Kiess

Chocolate Toffee Cake
Danielle Tsuzuki Mentored By Francois Payard

Creamy & Cheesy Potatoe Gnocchi

Creamy & Cheesy Potatoe Gnocchi


My grandfather, Joseph Peyrafitte, would always make Gnoki à la Romaine —French 20th century spelling— which are made with semolina. It was later in life that I discovered potato gnocchi and I love them. Below is the recipe I use, it is quite simple and though I served it here with with bacon & Parmesan cream sauce, you can use any sauce you like (for example tomato sauce). It is a very filling and soul comforting dish that will please many.

For 2:
2 lbs of potatoes (russet)
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups flour
salt, pepper, nutmeg
1 shallot
4 slices of thick bacon
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup of grated Parmesan
(I didn’t have fresh sage that day, but I used some in an earlier version and it is very tasty, just make sure not to put too much, sage can be overwhelming)

Boil the potatoes; when thoroughly cooked, drain them very well.  Put them through the potato ricer. Add the flour, the beaten egg yolk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix the ingredients until you have a nice flexible ball of dough (gets a little messy but it is fun!).

Dust flour on a flat clean dry surface, take one piece of dough at a time  and using the palms of your hands make each piece into a thin long roll. Then cut roll into small pieces.

Cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water, let them simmer for a minute. Do not crowd them, cook them in batches, they need to “swim” comfortably in the water.  Scoop them out with a slotted spoon.

Sauté the (cut) bacon in a skillet, add the shallot, and sauté until translucent. Remove excess of fat. Add the cream, bring to a boil, reduce until it thickens. Reduce heat, add grated Parmesan, mix well, adjust seasoning, dump cooked gnocchis in the sauce and serve.

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