Stage 18 Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux
After four days in the high Pyrenees it is a flat straight stage on the agenda today. This is one for the gutsy sprinters that have survived the mountains for just these moments. Only one more stage after today separates us from the end of the 2010 Tour de France and the Champs Elysees. I can barely write those words, be strong, be strong! A stage like todays into Bordeaux won’t do much to the overall standings of the top finishers, but they do need to be aware to not lose any time. Saturday will be the Individual Time Trial, the race against the clock will be the final test. Andy Schleck isn’t as good at the TT’s but Contador could make a mistake, it will be one to watch.
The starting town of Salies-de-Bearn, has seen the Tour de France only once before, in 1939. Known as the Salt City, it dates back to the Middle Ages and sitting on a geological salt water source that contains ten times the amount of salt as there normally is in the nearby Atlantic Ocean. The great legend of the town dates back to the 17th century when some local boar hunters wounded a boar that was able to run off into a nearby swamp where he would meet his end. After a few days the hunters found him and was amazed at how preserved his carcass was and realized the boar was immersed in very salty water. Finding salt during these times was like finding a diamond mind. You’ve heard the phrase “worth one’s salt” before, during Roman times it is said that solders were paid in salt and it is also the basis of the word salary. The town was quickly populated and a group of local dignitaries set up a group known as the Salty Fountain Neighbors that own and manage the salt waters and local thermal baths and still do so to this day.
If you watched the Tour today you will notice that a lot of the 123 miles passed through the forest. Known as La forêt des Landes stretches out through three departments, Landes, Gironde and Lot et Garonne. The majority of the trees are tall pines that began to be planted in the 18th century to help stop the erosion caused by the marshes and moving sand dunes. On December 26 & 27, 1999 two cyclones named Lothar and Martin blew through Europe and France with winds up to 90miles per hour and destroyed a large number of the trees in the forest. On January 24, 2009 with the wounds of Lothar and Martin still so fresh, cyclone Klaus raged through at 100miles per hour and destroyed the trees again.
Sabres is the village within the forest and until the 19th century was sitting atop the moving dunes until they were stabilized by the planting of the pines. One of the few villages that dates before the trees were planted is home to the Eco-Musee de Marqueze. The open aired museum shows what it was like to live in the area in the 19th century with examples of the traditional buildings, bread making and the shepherds on their stilts and the stilt making. The shepherds would stand on the stilts in the field so they can watch over their flock on the large vast of land, now covered with pine trees.
The stage finishes in Bordeaux but let’s save that for tomorrow when the Time Trial starts in Bordeaux and goes past the most famous names in wine, in the world.
Although Bordeaux is known for its wine, it does not have its own cuisine like Burgundy does. Burgundy may have the most popular French cuisine alongside Provence but Bordeaux is lumped into the Gastronomy of the Southwest. With the location near the ocean the Gascons have discovered a liking of the anchovy and with lamb and garlic it is known as the agent de marriage. This recipe for Lamb or Gigot as it is known in France has very few ingredients as you can see but is very flavorful and the anchovies give it an extra zest of amazing flavor. One pound of garlic may seem like you are trying to fend of vampires but it will cook down and is not overpower full at all.
La Gasconnade Gigot
12 anchovy fillets
1 lb. Garlic
¾ cup beef bouillon
Wash off the lamb, dry and cut little slits all over the top. Slice 5 or 6 cloves of garlic into thin pieces and slide them into the slits of the lamb. If your lamb is tied at all, cut off and discard. Lay the anchovies fillets across the top of the roast. During the cooking they will melt over the meat and give it the same effect as if it were roasted revolving on a spit. Cook the lamb in a pre-heated oven, 450 F for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 F. Allow to cook for 15 minutes per pound from start to finish. While the lamb is cooking, peel the rest of the garlic and blanch in boiling water until the cloves are almost cooking, then throw them into cold water for 20 seconds and drain. Heat the bouillon in a saucepan, add any pan juices and the garlic, and reduce the sauce until it is nearly a puree. Serve as a garnish to the gigot.
What goes better with a lovely roast then some potatoes and since I have loads of duck fat lying around from the Confit it was an easy choice. Les Pommes an l’Echirlete or Potatoes in goose fat is a very traditional recipe of the Dordogne.
Les Pommes an l’Echirlete
2 pounds small new potatoes or Yukon golds
2 ½ cups chicken broth
2 cloves of garlic chopped
3 tablespoons duck fat
Salt and pepper
Peler les pommes de terre, et les couper en cubes de trois centimètres de côté environ.Peel the potatoes and slice in half or quarters depending on the size, they should be about the size of an unshelled walnut. Parboil potatoes in a pan with chicken broth and garlic cloves until just tender about 20 minutes.
Bien égoutter les pommes de terre, vider l'eau, faire fondre dans la sauteuse la graisse de canard (en récupérant par exemple celle d'un confit), et y faire dorer les pommes de terre.In a large skillet heat the duck fat until melted and add the potatoes and garlic, gently sauté turning from time to time until nicely browned all over this may take up to 30 minutes, don’t turn the heat to high or they will burn. Season with salt and pepper and serve.