We invited our British neighbors-for-the-week over for drinks and hors d’oeuvres this evening, a reciprocation for their including us in poolside drinks on Monday. Initially, we planned on an assortment of sausages, cheeses and perhaps a tapenade to accompany bottles of local wines. Then Michelle had a moment of genius. Instead of serving French food to British people vacationing in France, why not instead serve them Southeast U.S. classics made with Southwest French ingredients?
Thus were born two marvelous appetizers: French pimento cheese, and duck confit “ham” biscuits—both delicious, and both sure to reappear once Gourmandistan has again reluctantly returned to its home in the Bluegrass. Sure, we took some liberties with traditional ham biscuits and pimento cheese—but those liberties paid off handsomely.
We used thin slices of toasted baguette instead of store-bought white bread to hold our pimento cheese, which was made of a mixture of two aged sheep’s milk cheeses and a semi-hard cows’ milk cheese and seasoned with shallots and garlic.
We filled mini biscuits with succulent duck breast confit instead of ham, and slathered the bread with apricot jam-spiked mayonnaise instead of mustard.
But these changes only made the dishes more sublime—and greatly impressed our temporary neighbors. It was a wonderful way to show some Southern hospitality in Southwest France, while taking advantage of the wonderful local ingredients. We think these innovations combine the best of France with the best of the South—something we hope Gourmandistan does on a regular basis.
GASCONY PIMENTO CHEESE
Grate various firm local cheeses. We used a somewhat-aged brebis (sheep’s milk cheese), a slightly blue brebis and a semi-firm cows’ milk cheese. Each of these had a texture not unlike American “Swiss” or cheddar cheese.
Roast a red pepper over a gas flame, turning. When black all over, place in a bag. After it has rested a while, take out and remove blackened skin by rubbing with a paper towel. Chop the roasted pepper fine, and add to grated cheese.
Add some finely diced shallot and garlic. Season with pepper.
Stir in enough mayonnaise to make the texture you want.
GASCONY “HAM” BISCUITS
Crisp a confit duck breast (or legs) in a skillet over low heat. Cool, then slice.
Make your favorite biscuit recipe, and cut the biscuits into small circles (an inch and a half or so for cocktail bites). Bake.
Once cooled, cut the biscuits in half lengthwise and slather on some mayonnaise mixed with apricot jam. Fill with duck slices.