I couldn’t possibly do Languedoc month without talking about the wine. There is as much, if not more, acreage in the Languedoc devoted to the growing of grapes and production of wine as in Bordeaux. Some of my very favorite French wines are from the Languedoc, including Fitou (rare, but if you find a bottle, pick it up, you won’t be sorry), Corbières, and Minervois. The wines of the region generally use a similar blend of grapes as is used in the Rhône valley, heavy on the Syrah, Mouvèdre, Carignane, and Grenache. The reds are fruity yet bold, with enough structure to make them worth lingering over, and usually very food-friendly, as well. The best part? They’re also some of the least expensive French wines! Chalk it up to a lack of name recognition, but you really get a lot of bang for your buck when buying wines from the Languedoc.
Another important product of the Languedoc is rice. The majority of rice grown in France is along the coast of the Languedoc, particularly in the marshy Camargue near the Rhône river delta. Camargue is also an important source of France’s salt.
I usually use sel gros de Camargue in my cooking, its crystals being roughly the same size as Kosher salt. It is slightly moist though, which gives me a feeling of indulgence – the stuff feels a lot more expensive than it is (around 1 euro a kilo). Of course, where there’s salt, there’s fleur de sel.
Fleur de sel is the crunchy, extra-white “flowers” that form on the top of the regular sea salt crystals under the right conditions. It’s a great finishing salt – try sprinkling it over a steak or salad just before serving, or even on bread with butter if you don’t have the butter with the salt crystals built in.
And now for an update on the duck confit. Last week, I rinsed and dried the duck legs while I melted all the duck fat in the house. There was a minor duck fat-related tragedy when I opened one of my three (!) jars and discovered that mold had sprouted inside. I set it aside, and to make up for the missing fat – I wanted to make sure the legs would be amply covered in fat as they cooked – I added a bit of lard. The smell of the garlicky duck as the confit did its thing for three hours was insanely good. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to make one giant batch of this to save all winter – I wouldn’t mind filling my house with that smell every month. Or every week, for that matter.
Now the confit, legs, fat, and all, is resting in the bottom of my fridge, waiting for the Thanksgiving hoopla to be over so I can turn it into cassoulet.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Originally published on Croque-Camille.