Charentaise cuisine (Charente and Charente-Maritime) is born of a region rich in both seafood and land products. The gastronomic emblem in the French country cuisine of this area is the “petit-gris” snail, the famous “cagouille” as the locals call it. It often appears in Charente cuisine, cooked in a “court-bouillon” with white wine, tomato, garlic and breadcrumbs.
Charente cuisine is mainly based on butter or oil: the region produces sunflower, corn and rapeseed oil. A great area for wine, the Charentes are the domain of cognac and pineau, as well as local wines. The Charentais “brule”, formerly very popular during the evenings, is a flambé coffee with cognac.
The region also produces sausage which is common throughout the South West of France, but is nothing like the UK sausage.
Porc is salted and eaten throughout the year, and makes delicatessen specialties. The Charentais fagot is a liver-based pâté enriched with cognac. Local ham traditionally accompanies melon and a glass of Pineau des Charentes.
Another regional specialty is foie gras (duck, sometimes goose). Duck is often served in a pineau and crème fraîche sauce. Chicken and rabbit are also often prepared with pineau, or with crème fraîche.
Beef is used to make stews, simmered in a local wine and cognac sauce, with a bouquet garni. Chalais veal, raised “by the mother” is renowned for its tender white or pinkish flesh. Other regional recipes – veal kidneys flambéed with cognac and crème fraîche, as well as tripe.
Lamb is often grilled on vine branches.
A local speciality is mussels cooked over a fire of pine needles, which give them a particular flavor – and a lot of ash! Sole meuniere, shrimps and oysters appear regularly on the menus. The Marennes-Oléron basin, which covers the Seudre estuary, produces some well-known oysters, with a slightly iodized taste and characteristic delicate flesh. They are eaten raw of baked …
Eel is simply grilled, or cooked with red wine and cognac. Fish and seafood are also used to prepare soups
Charentais stuffing consists of a spinach, leek, onion, parsley and chervil pâté, sometimes with a little pork, baked in. Melon, grown on sunny hillsides, can be served as a starter with ham, with pineau or simply plain, at the end of the meal.
The Charentes produce many cheeses, made from goat’s, sheep’s or cow’s milk. Among others, the “jonchee” is a fresh cheese made from sheep’s milk, very delicate.
The Charente galette is made with fresh eggs and butter. It differs from the Charentais cake, more fluffy and flavored with cognac – both are fairly dry and a far cry from what the Brits call cake.
Enjoy your meal !
Bon appetit !
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