Stage 14 – Basque-ing in the Mts.

by Jeanne


This effort is becoming a test of time and knowledge for me.  What keeps me going is the cyclists. As Lance said today, "You either fight back or go home."  And this from a man who fought without his team again.  If they can power themselves up and over these ascents I can certainly keep writing about the food. What’s up with T-Mobile today?  It was the oddest attack strategy.  Why were they chasing down team member Vino? They are the only team now that has the strength and position to threaten Discovery. Every year the spectators drive me crazy. There’s a rule (so many in this sport.) that if a rider is pushed by a fan that are hit with penalty points–do fans not know this?  As thise Bicycling report states, "Loony fans: Ullrich was nearly knocked from his bike today by an overexuberant fan, and too many other fans tried to “help” by pushing or pouring water on the racers. Stand by the road, cheer on your guys, but Get. Out. Of. The. Way."  P.S. The Red Sox destroyed the Yankees 17-1 moving the Sox 2 1/2 games up over the Yankees.

Agde to Ax-3 Domaines Distance: 220.5km/137mi

Region: Languedoc Roussillon – Midi Pyrénées

Situated at the intersection of the Mediterranean, the “Midi” Channel and the Hérault River, this region is actually comprised of two regions: the Languedoc, stretching westward from the bottom of the Rhone down to the Pyrenees hugging the Mediterranean coast, and that of Roussillon, which curves southward from north of Perpignan to the Spanish border.

The Roussilion region is also known as French Catalonia.  It’s here that Catalan is spoken before French.  You’ll hear it but you’ll also see it in signage and on menus. Basque cuisine famous for its use of tomatoes and chili, or the cuisine of Roussillon akin to Catalonian cuisine

Chefs have the best of both worlds–mountain and sea.  Bullinade, (garlicky bouillabaisse), cargolade (grilled snails), pa amb tomaquets (bread smeared with olive oil and fresh tomato), conill amb pebrots (rabbit and pepper stew) and paella.  This area is also where you’ll find the home (Toulouse) of cassoulet made with slow-cooked white beans, sausages and smoked pork. A good cassoulet has to include 70% of haricot beans, juice and aromates and 30% of meat. It simmers for a very, very long time.

Clifford Wright, Mediterranean food historian best describes the food of this region:

"The dishes of the Roussillon and Languedoc range from the Catalan snail, pork sausage, and lamb chop grilled repast known as cargolade to the Camarguais gardiane, a bull, red wine, and black olive stew. Other dishes are smoked tuna; fricassee of wild girolles (chanterelle mushrooms) with garlic and herbs; crème catalane, a lemon, vanilla, and fennel seed custard; moules de Bouzigues, the cultivated mussels of the lagoon; boules de picolat, seasoned meatballs with white beans; salade Catalane or Co llioure, greens with anchovies, peppers and tomatoes; cigalle de mer, sea cricket, a tiny crayfish-like creature, served grilled; and l’ollada, a stew.

This stew, a hearty one-bowl stew, is also referenced as ouillade, a mix of cabbage, beans, bacon and finished with the Roquefort cheese. 

Lanrou_1 The area is incredibly fertile and is also France’s oldest wine region primarily producing red wines based on the Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache grapes. Today it is in the midst of a renaissance with a lot of experimentation taking place with Mourvedre, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These varietals are non classics of the region. With five major appellations–Corbières, Coteaux du Languedoc; Côtes du Roussillon; Saint Chinian; Costières de Nimes–listing all of them is beyond my abilities–I leave that to a better source (French). These red wines are ready to drink 12 to 15 months after the vintage.  The Table Wine site is a content rich site that has tasting notes if you want to learn more.

Given the geography of the area herds of goats are present. One benefit is pélardon, a highly sought out small, round and flat goat cheese is made in the Cévennes. An AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) coveted cheese it wasn’t always so.  It took a bit of time and persuasion. First but goat was once believed to be the devil incarnate but over the years the goat became know as the poor man’s cow. After maturing for at least 11 days, the young cheese has a creamy crust, often marked with a blue or white mold on the outside. It’s fine and richly smooth, with a nutty, melting taste. With three weeks of further maturation it’s exterior darkens, becomes firmer and a stronger more goat cheese taste is present.

Basque Poulet Basquaise

adapted from The Basque Kitchen: Tempting Food from the Pyrenees by Gerald Hirigoyen


1 5-lb chicken

flour (for dredging)

1/2 cup olive oil

4 1/2 oz slice pancetta

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 red peppers, peeled, cored & thinly sliced

10 garlic cloves, crushed

6 tomatoes, cored & coarsely chopped

1 bouquet garni (2 springs of parsley, thyme & bay leaves tied together)

1 tbsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

1/4 tsp. piment d’Espelette


Cut the chicken into parts, you should have 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 4 breast pieces and 2 breast-wing pieces. Discard the carcass. Dredge the chicken pieces in flour.

In a very large saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on the olive oil on both sides, about 5 minutes each (you may have to do it in batches). Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside and drain the fat from the pan.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers and garlic, sautee for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, the pancetta, tomatoes, bouquet garni, slat, pepper and piment d’ Espelette. Mix, cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the chicken breasts are cooked, around 15-20 minutes.

Remove the breast pieces and set aside. Continue cooking the rest of the chicken until done, about 20 minutes. Return the breasts to the pot and warm, about 3 to 4 minutes. Discard bouquet garni and serve.