Foix is the gateway to the Pyrenèes, and this stage marks the entry into the second mountain section of the Tour. The town of Foix is topped off with a striking Medieval castle, visible from all directions. Foix is also capital of the picturesque Ariège department, one of France’s least populous areas.

The fine food continues: this region is famous for Foie Gras - the fatty, bloated livers of ducks or geese force-fed corn. I must admit - with apologies to the faint-hearted - that I have never had a problem with eating Foie Gras. I can still recall the first time I tried it: its amazing, melt-in-the-mouth texture, its sweet smoothness, and almost chocolatey 'mouth-feel'.

Other specialities of the region include confit de canard (duck legs encased in fat), black truffles, Roquefort cheese and wines of Cahors, Gaillac and more. The blanquette is a popular dish from region. Its name means "white" and the meats in the stew (pale-coloured meats such as veal or pork) are not fried first. My mum used to make blanquette de veau in the 1970s, before veal went out of fashion with the anxieties about its production. It is becoming popular again, with rose veal now available in many supermarkets. Jamie Oliver's mate Jimmy Doherty has campaigned quite voceriferously for supermarkets to stock rose veal, and to prevent the "useless" slaughter of male calves. More here.) Veal has a delicate, sweet flavour and is very tender, but if you are anxious or put off using it, pork works well, or chicken. Veal is very popular in France, and is readily available in French butchers' shops and supermarkets.

Julia Child
I remarked in a Twitter post recently that this Gastro Tour de France is my version of 'Julie-Julia', a project which is encouraging me to cook new things and learn new culinary techniques. And so, in a hommage to the book and the film, here is Julia Child's recipe for Blanquette of Veal (quantities are American measures).

Blanquette de Veau à L’Ancienne
Serves 2

lbs. stewing veal cut into 1" pieces
2 to 3 cups chicken stock
1/2 an onion studded with 1 clove
1 half of a large carrot, peeled and cut into several pieces
a bouquet garni consisting of 1 stalk of celery, 4 parsley stems (with leaves removed), 1/2 bay leaf, &  2 thyme sprigs
9 small white onions
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp butter
9 mushrooms
3 tbsp double cream
1 egg yolk
  1. In a heavy casserole dish (Le Creuset style) or dutch oven, place the veal and cover with water by 2 inches (you may want to season the veal with salt before this step). Simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the water and veal through a strainer. Rinse off the veal and clean out the cooking pot.
  2. Return the veal to the pot and add the chicken stock to cover the veal by 1/2 inch. Bring the veal to a simmer. Skim any remaining scum from the surface. Once the scum has subsided, add the onion, carrot, and bouquet garni. Season the sauce lightly with salt. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and cook the veal at a simmer for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  3. While the veal is cooking, cook the onions: Peel the onions and cut a cross in the root end. Place the onions, a 1/4 cup of the stock from the cooking veal, 1/2 tbsp of butter, and a pinch of salt in a sauce pan. Cover and lightly simmer for 50 minutes.
  4. When the veal is finished cooking, pour the contents through a strainer into a bowl. Return the veal to the dutch oven and discard the vegetables. In a sauce pan, over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp of butter and then whisk in 1 tbsp of flour. Cook for 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in the stock from the veal and any remaining liquid from the onions once they have finished. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the mushrooms with a few drops of lemon juice. Add the mushrooms to the sauce mixture and simmer for another 10 minutes. Check the seasoning of the sauce.
  6. Pour the sauce into the dutch oven with the veal. Add 1 tbsp of cream. Place the dutch oven over medium heat.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk with 2 tbsp of cream. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot sauce from the cooking pot then add the mixture back into the dutch oven.
  8. Simmer the mixture for a few minutes to warm the contents.


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