November 12, 2011


There is nothing like a French Road Trip.....especially when you don't know where you are going to end up......having absolutely no plans. Well, this is where we were. We started out on very familiar road where we have taken many a group but quickly after a couple of hours, we were in the back country of southern France. We traveled on our whims....saw a sign....interested...ok.....wanna go there....yeh.......and we were off. First? I saw the sign for Salin de Giraud and immediately knew that I needed to see SALT! OK. Quick exit and we were on our way.

THERE!  Looming in front of us was salt, salt, salt.
Trucks moving in all directions.....

and then there is a conveyer belt moving the salt from one side of the road to the other ......What happens when it rains?????  X says the salt is very coarse and it just washes/cleans it.....looks like to me that it would melt!

Seems a bit is a huge operation so I don't think I call it artisanal.....This operation would never fly in the US of A!

But thank goodness, I have my salt....the Fleur de Sel AND the Sel de Gris......I guess you could call me a salt snob.....
NEXT??? We passed field after field (should it be paddy after paddy) of rice. Harvest had already taken place so we saw the 'rice straw' and then lots of smoke where they were burning the field of rice straw.

Yes, we were in the Camargue.......

 Home of the 'Original Cowboy'

and where 'les taureaux' rule....the bulls are raised for meat as well as for the bull fights. Then there are also flamingos, wild horses, and, in some seasons, lots of mosquitoes.

You can't come to the Camargue without going to.....

...the story is that the three biblical Marys (Maries) arrived here from Palestine along with Sara, who became the patron saint of the gypsies.  And since medieval times, Saintes Maries de la Mer is the site of an annual  Roma (gypsy) pilgrimage.

Houses of the Camargue use a local resource.....the canes that are everywhere are the roofing material for their homes. Note the leaning cross at the peak of the roof. It is on all the houses.

Then it is a quick stop in ...

Aigues Mortes....

a walled village dating to 10th century AD and also a safe haven for Protestants in the 16th century.

The day is winding down and we make our way along the coast to

'the little Venice of the Languedoc"

Canals and fishing boats abound.....though it is one of the major fishing ports of France, it has kept its local character and quaintness.

Sun is setting...time for an aperitif.....

Picturesque spot! boats coming in with their catch.....

Now time to make a restaurant choice....we do our usual walk...peeking in and out of places...looking at posted menus....then we narrow it down.....not surprisingly, we both thought there were 2 choices.  One seemed to be a husband and wife team...not too big a menu.  But, the other, had lots of fresh seafood for sale (which had obviously just come off the boats) plus the restaurant..........a crowd was also gathering for dinner.... Chez Francois it will be...

I started with 'jols', a tiny fish done 'friture' style.  It is one of my favorite things.  Xavier had the 'couteux' (razor clams).  Both outstanding!

  As if that was not enough, we move on to the entree....
whole fish for X, and a combo of gambas (large shrimp), seche (kinda like calamari) and lotte (monkfish) for MJ.

Could not begin to finish.....would kill for it perfectly grilled.

Up early the next morning......stay tuned for Part 2.....the Aubrac!

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CHEESE STRAWS......a Southern Delicacy!

I am amazed how people in other parts of the country have no idea what a cheese straw is.  Ask around and see what you find out. Ya'll, it IS a 'Southern Thing'.....especially making your own!

I had planned to blog about cheese straws at some point but am hastened along by my friend, Nathalie Dupree.  Today she posted her cheese straw making video on Facebook and I shared with her my method.  Instead of a cookie press, I use my Simac Pasta Machine....It was a must have piece of equipment for me years ago and I did indeed use it to make pasta....but not any more.  This machine is now most valuable to me for making cheese straws.  You can generate hundreds in no time. Don't have a pasta machine....check out EBay.

Here is my great in the machine.


1 1/3 CUPS BUTTER, room temperature

1 1/2 TSP. SALT
1/2 TSP. CAYENNE or to taste

Using an electric mixer, combine cheese, butter and Tabasco.  Combine dry ingredients and then add to cheese mixture.  Mix until well blended.  Do NOT refrigerate.

Transfer to cookie press fitted with star pattern.  OR to Simac Pasta Machine (in batches) fitted with disk that has 2 straight ridged openings (see photo).  Extrude and cut into desired lengths.  Place on parchment lined baking sheets.  Straws can be placed close together since they do not spread. .

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  They should have a slight color change.  Cool completely before storing.  Store in tins.  

TIPS and VARIATIONS:  You should grate your own cheese because grated cheese has an anti-caking agent on it.  Also, I like to use Kraft Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp cheddar in the red foil package.  

Add 1-2 tsp. Dijon mustard (like Nathalie)   OR leave out the paprika and add 1 1/2 tsp. curry powder.