The Cooking of Southwest France: Recipes from France's Magnificient Rustic Cuisine

The Cooking of Southwest France: Recipes from France's Magnificient Rustic Cuisine

by Paula Wolfert

"An indispensable cookbook."
- Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue

When Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France was first published in 1983, it became an instant classic. This award-winning book was praised by critics, chefs, and home cooks alike as the ultimate source of recipes and information about a legendary style of cooking. Wolfert's

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"An indispensable cookbook."
- Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue

When Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France was first published in 1983, it became an instant classic. This award-winning book was praised by critics, chefs, and home cooks alike as the ultimate source of recipes and information about a legendary style of cooking. Wolfert's recipes for cassoulet and confit literally changed the American culinary scene. Confit, now ubiquitous on restaurant menus, was rarely served in the United States before Wolfert presented it.

Now, twenty-plus years later, Wolfert has completely revised her groundbreaking book. In this new edition, you'll find sixty additional recipes - thirty totally new recipes, along with thirty updated recipes from Wolfert's other books. Recipes from the original edition have been revised to account for current tastes and newly available ingredients; some have been dropped.

You will find superb classic recipes for cassoulet, sauce perigueux, salmon rillettes, and beef daube; new and revised recipes for ragouts, soups, desserts, and more; and, of course, numerous recipes for the most exemplary of all southwest French ingredients - duck - including the traditional method for duck confit plus two new, easier variations.

Other recipes include such gems as Chestnut and Cepe Soup With Walnuts, magnificent lusty Oxtail Daube, mouthwatering Steamed Mussels With Ham, Shallots, and Garlic, as well as Poached Chicken Breast, Auvergne-Style, and the simple yet sublime Potatoes Baked in Sea Salt. You'll also find delicious desserts such as Batter Cake With Fresh Pears From the Correze, and Prune and Armagnac Ice Cream.

Each recipe incorporates what the French call a truc, a unique touch that makes the finished dish truly extraordinary. Evocative new food photographs, including sixteen pages in full color, now accompany the text.

Connecting the 200 great recipes is Wolfert's unique vision of Southwest France. In sharply etched scenes peopled by local characters ranging from canny peasant women to world-famous master chefs, she captures the region's living traditions and passion for good food.

Gascony, the Perigord, Bordeaux, and the Basque country all come alive in these pages. This revised edition of The Cooking of Southwest France is truly another Wolfert classic in its own right.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...Bold and indefatigable...Wolfert writes recipes with such vivid and explicit instructions you might think you were really cooking in Toulousse...." (New York Times Book Review, December 4, 2005)
Library Journal
When Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France, long considered a classic, was originally published in 1983, the American palate was far less sophisticated. Few people knew what confit (now practically "ubiquitous on restaurant menus," as she notes) was, and ingredients such as fresh foie gras and piment d'Espelette (a paprika from the Basque region) were unheard of. For this new edition, Wolfert has revised and updated both text and recipes, dropped a few dishes, and added 60 new ones. Some of the new recipes come from well-known French chefs in the United States and in France, as well as from the late culinary star Jean-Louis Palladin. Among their contributions are contemporary dishes such as Coquilles St. Jacques and Sauce Mandarin (Scallops in Tangerine Sauce). But the foundations of Southwest French cooking remain the focus, with separate chapters on foie gras and rillettes, for example, and on cassoulet and other hearty bean dishes. The introduction, "The Tastes of the French Southwest," covers essential ingredients such as the local Armagnac, garlic, and truffles, and an appendix lists mail-order sources for special ingredients. An essential purchase. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Completely Updated Revised Edition
Product dimensions:
9.48(w) x 8.34(h) x 1.44(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chicken With Garlic Pearls and Saurternes
Wine Sauce

Poulet aux Perles d'Ail Doux et au Sauternes

The original way to do this old Gascon dish is to rub a tasty barnyard hen with garlic and then stuff it with many garlic cloves. The hen is then cooked slowly so that the cloves become soft but do not lose their shape. Later the pan is deglazed with Sauternes (which has a high concentration of sugar), and the cloves are pulled out and left to caramelize in the pan juices. The following recipe is a sophisticated adaptation conceived by Alain Dutournier — more elegant, I think, than the original, and with a deep, rich flavor that is highly seductive. In the Dutournier adaptation, I believe this dish is truly great.

The sauce base and the garlic cloves are prepared ahead of time, and the chicken, quartered, is broiled just before serving, Thus one has an elegant dish with a minimum investment in last-minute work. The sauce is really the key: chopped vegetables and bones are cooked in an open pan; the Sauternes is added gradually and allowed to boil away and caramelize before more is added, so that the color deepens; the taste of the vegetables and bones mellows; and the bouquet of the wine becomes intoxicatingly intense. The garlic cloves, cooked separately, are added at the last minute. This sauce can be made up in quantity and frozen, for use whenever you wish.

A pleasant and unexpected beginning to dinner could be Old-Fashioned Rabbit Soup. Serve the chicken with buttered ribbon noodles. For dessert, I'd serve a crisp, warm Gascon Croustade — a flaky Pastry Cake Filled with Apples and Prunes inArmagnac.

Serves 4
Active Work: 30 minutes
Partilly Attended Cooking Time For Sauce: 2 1/2 hours
Partilly Attended Cooking Time For Garlic: 2 hours
Broiling Time: 20 to 25 minutes

1 chicken (3 pounds)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2/3 cup Crème Fraîche (do not substitute sour cream or yogurt)

Sauternes Sauce

2 1/2 tablespoons oil or rendered poultry fat
1 3/4 cups thinly sliced onions
1 2/3 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 leek, split, well washed, and thinly sliced
2 pounds meaty veal neck bones or riblets, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bottle (750 ml) Sauternes, sweet California Semillon Blanc, or other sweet white wine
1 1/2 cups unsalted Chicken Stock, degreased
Herb bouquet: 3 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 celery leaf, and 1 bay leaf, tied together
2 fresh heads garlic (preferably with large cloves, but not elephant garlic), cloves separated and unpeeled
1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 carrots, scraped
Salt and freshly ground pepper 1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons (or more) strained fresh lemon juice (optional)
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  1. Cut chicken down the back along both sides of backbone; remove backbone. Cut wings off at second joint. Quarter chicken. Rub with salt, pepper, and Crème Fraîche Refrigerate until I hour before serving. Can be left to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Using a heavy cleaver, chop chicken neck, backbone, and wings into very small pieces. Peel and slice gizzard and set aside. (Reserve liver for another use.)
  3. To make the sauce, heat oil or fat in a large deep skillet, preferably copper or enameled cast-iron, over medium heat. Add onions, sliced carrots, and leek. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Remove cover and continue cooking, stiffing frequently, until vegetables are lightly browned around the edges, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add veal bones and reserved chopped chicken bones. Raise heat to medium high and cook, stiffing often, until bones are evenly browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Drain off fat and discard.
  5. Pour 1 cup wine into skillet and cook until liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 20 minutes. Continue adding remaining wine 1 cup at a time, reducing to a glaze after each addition (bones and vegetables should begin to caramelize and turn orange-brown). Reduce heat to low. Add stock, herb bouquet, and reserved gizzard to skillet. Cover and cook I hour.
  6. Transfer mixture to a sieve set over a deep bowl and strain, pressing down on vegetables with back of spoon to extract all liquid; discard bones and vegetables. Strain sauce through fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan. Skim off fat that rises to surface. Bring to a boil and set saucepan half over the heat. Cook at a slow boil, skimming, 10 to 15 minutes, or until reduced to 1 cup. Set aside. Sauce can be prepared several days ahead up to this point; keep refrigerated or frozen.
  7. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  8. To make garlic pearls, bring 3 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Drain garlic well; peel off skins. Melt 1 1/2 teaspoons butter in heavy ovenproof pan over very low heat. Add garlic, sprinkle with sugar, and cook in oven, uncovered, until garlic is very soft and golden (but not brown), about 2 hours, shaking pan two or three times-do not stir or garlic will fall apart. Garlic can be prepared several hours ahead; set aside at room temperature.
  9. Meanwhile, make carrot garnish. Notch whole carrots with lemon zester or stripper; cut into thin flower-shaped rounds. Blanch 30 seconds, then drop into ice water to stop cooking; drain. Cover and refrigerate.
  10. Bring reserved chicken to room temperature. Preheat broiler. Lightly coat broiler pan with oil. Arrange chicken skin side down on pan. Broil 10 minutes about 6 inches from heat source. Turn chicken over, baste once with Crème Fraîche marinade and continue broiling until skin is crisp, meat is cooked through, and juices run clear when chicken is pierced with fork, about 5 to 7 minutes for breasts and an additional 10 to 12 minutes for legs.
  11. Meanwhile, place reserved sauce over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add cream and continue boiling until sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and swirl in garlic. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding lemon juice to taste if sauce is too sweet. If sauce is thin, swirl in up to 3 tablespoons butter, 1/2 tablespoon at a time. Remove from heat.
  12. Cut chicken into serving pieces. Remove as many bones as possible. Arrange chicken attractively on heated platter. Spoon sauce over top. Place carrot rounds in sieve and dip into boiling water for a second to reheat. Garnish with parsley and carrot rounds. Serve at once.

Note to the Cook

In the recipes for Chicken with Garlic Pearls and Sauternes Wine Sauce and Chicken Breasts with Mussels and Asparagus Flans, an innovative basting medium for broiling is used: Crème Fraîche. To simulate the crème fraîche so widely used in French cooking, see Appendix.

Prune and Armagnac Ice Cream

Glace aux Pruneaux a l'Armagnac

This is a variation of a marvelous creation by André Daguin. It is perhaps the most elegant ice cream I know. It should be made with prunes that have been soaked in Armagnac for at least 2 weeks. To give an illusion of extra richness but not too many extra calories, I add a little heavy cream when the ice cream has nearly solidified. This way the butterfat in the cream will "glide" into the chilled ice cream, endowing it with a satiny texture.

Makes 2 Quarts/ Serves 10 to 12
Prepare 1 day in advance
Active Work: 25 minutes

1 quart milk, heated
1 small piece vanilla bean, split down one side, or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
10 egg yolks
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
Pinch of salt
30 Prunes in Armagnac (see recipe), pitted, plus 1/4 cup of the syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 plump Prune in Armagnac per serving for garnish (optional)
  1. 1 Day Before Serving, in a heavy enamel saucepan scald the milk with the vanilla bean; set aside, covered. (If using vanilla extract, add in Step 4.)
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar together until thick and a ribbon forms when the whisk is lifted. Whisk in a pinch of salt.
  3. In a second heavy enamel saucepan, heat the beaten eggs over very low heat, stirring constantly Gradually add the hot milk, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the mixture thickens, the back of the spoon is well coated, the froth on the surface has disappeared, and the mixture registers about 165' F. on a candy thermometer. The mixture must not be allowed to boil. Immediately remove from heat.
  4. Strain through a fine sieve into a chilled mixing bowl set over ice. Cool down quickly, stirring constantly Add vanilla extract, if using. Pour mixture into container of an electric ice cream maker and freeze according to directions.
  5. In the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, chop the prunes fine with an on-off motion. When the ice cream is half frozen, add the prunes and the Armagnac syrup.
  6. When almost frozen, add the cream. When the ice cream is done, pack into a 2-quart ice cream mold and set in freezer overnight.
  7. 30 Minutes Before Serving, transfer the ice cream to the refrigerator to soften slightly Invert onto a serving plate. To help loosen the ice cream, soak a kitchen towel in hot water, wring out, and wrap around the mold. If necessary tap the mold lightly with your fingers and shake it to loosen. If the surface needs a little patching up, smooth it with a spatula dipped in hot water. Return the ice cream to the freezer for 5 minutes to firm up. Place a whole. soaked prune on top of each portion and drizzle with a teaspoon or so of the syrup.
The Cooking of South-West France. Copyright © by Paula Wolfert. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

PAULA WOLFERT is an expert on Mediterranean food and the author of seven other cookbooks, including Mediterranean Cooking, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, and The Cooking of Southwest France. Her work has received the Julia Child Award, the M. F. K. Fisher Award, the James Beard Award, the Cook's Magazine Platinum Plate Award, and the Perigueux Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2008, the James Beard Foundation inducted her work into the Cookbook Hall of Fame. A regular columnist for Food & Wine magazine, Wolfert lives in Sonoma, California. Her Web site is Her fans can also follow her via her Facebook/Clay Pot Cooking page and on

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