Running on the Aubrac Plateau, a practice I started four decades ago, have always been a source of inspiration for my cooking. Long runs in open space bring an amazing sense of well-being and fluidity. Aubrac is inhabited by silence and saturated with light, a perfect setting to feel the ever changing cycle of nature. Sounds, colors, fragrances fill each moment with wonder, and every run takes me on an « inner trip ».
My « gargouillou » was inspired by one of these inner trips, when the fields were covered by flowers and the air filled with fragrances. I see this dish as one of my maturity, both as a man and as a chef.
An ever-changing fireworks display, the « gargouillou » offers almost infinite possibilities. A wide assortment of vegetables, flowers, seeds, herbs, leaves, punctuated by the « niac » (Bras’s own spice combinations), a musical piece, a palette of colors, a poetic celebration of the season. Using only ingredients full of vitality, the «gargouillou » breathes life itself.
Traditionally, the name « gargouillou » rooted in local Auvergne tradition, refers to a dish made of potatoes, flavored with a slice of ham. The melody of that name, my love for the kitchen garden, and my fascination for nature have guided to this culinary interpretation.
Since its creation in 1980, Michel Bras emblematic gargouillou has been a major source of inspiration for generations of chefs around the world. A feast for the eyes and for the palate, it can include up to 80 ingredients, fresh from the season, and keeps evolving every day without a definite recipe…The only constant ingredient is a slice of dry-cured ham « jambon de pays » for a tasty base.
Here is a spring version as a base for you to improvise according to your own inspiration from the season. No need to prepare all ingredients, the idea is to pick from different categories, perennial, bulbs, leaves etc, and prepare some raw, some cooked. You can cook some of them together in separate strainers,
using just one pot but watching the right time for each.
Asparagus, fiddleheads, hops,…
Remove the base of the stalk, break it or simply scrape it. Depending on the vegetable, cook in boiling water or blanch. Refresh in cold water.
Remove all the leaves of the artichoke, retaining only the bottom. Remove the strings of the cardoons and cut into sections. Cook in a broth flavored with coriander seeds, orange zest, shallots, and a few drops of aromatic oil.
LEAFY VEGETABLES WITH FLOWERS
Wild beet, blond or red orache, spinach, Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, Good-King-Henry spinach, comfrey, parsley…
Remove the stems from most of these ; when necessary, remove the hard central stalk. For most of these,cook the leaves directly in butter or oil. You can also cook them in boiling salted water.
Cabbage, Chinese cabbage, Bok choy, white cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens
Proceed as above.
Swiss chard, borage, Pascal celery
Separate the greens from the stalks. Remove the strings from the stalks with a knife. Cook in boiling salted water.
May Turnip or navette, broccoli rabe
Tie in little bunch. Cook in a large quantity of salted boiling water.
Separate the florets from thestalks. Select tender stalks, peel them, and cut into fine slices. Cooks the tops and stalks separately in salted boiling water. Refresh.
Watercress, clover, ice plant, chickweed, salads of various colors and tastes
Remove the stems. Prepare raw or cooked.
Garlic, Bear’s garlic, Rocambole garlic, sallots, small onions
Peel and blanch. Cook in salted boiling water, or in a broth flavored with coriander seeds, orange zest, wild thyme and bay leaf with drops of aromatic oil. Or roast them in their skin.
Chives, scallions, leeks, white onion
Sort and wash. Separate the white parts from the green. For better results, cook the two parts separatly in water.
Remove the stalks, fronds and the membrane. You can use the bulb raw, cook it in water or slowly in a little fat.
Peel, then oven-roast the onions wrapped in aluminum foil.
Carrots, turnips, turnip-root chervil, water parsnips, wild parsnips, parsley root, pink radishes, Jerusalem artichoke
Peel with a knif, leaving a short length of the tops on the smaller vegetables. Cut lengthwise using a knife or a mandolin, to 1/8 in. thick. Cook in boiling salted water. Parsley root and turnip-root can be prepared into a puree.
Usually cooked, beets can also be served raw, grated or sliced.
Black radishes, long or round
Rub with a brush and cut into very fine slices 1/8 in. (3 mm) with a mandolin.
Cook in butter.
Celeriac, salsify, black salsify
Peel and cook in salted boiling water where you add a few drops of oil to avoid oxydization.
Clean by rubbing with rock salt. Pan fry.
Burdock, bell flowers, rampion…
Scrape and use raw or cooked.
VEGETABLES WITH PODS
Green beans, Pole beans, snow peas, snap peas…
Snap off the stems, remove the strings, cook in a large quantity of salted boiling water.
Shell and cook in salted boiling water. Refresh, then peel.
Shell beans, flageolet beans, lentils chick peas, okras, soy beans
The best way to cook those is slowly with aromatic vegetables and herbs.
Chayote, pattypan squash, summer squash, zucchini…
Slice finely, 1/8 in.(3mm) and cook in salted boiling water or pan fry with oil.
Clean and place in a drainer with salt for a few hours to release some water. Rinse and prepare with butter or aromatic oil.
Red or yellow tomatoes
Blanc in boiling water and remove the skin. Remove the seeds and use raw or cooked.
Peel with a knife, remove the seeds, cook into a marmelade.
Red, yellow or red bell peppers
Lightly oil the skin and roast in a hot oven. Remove the charred skin and preserve in oil.
Pumpkin, hard squash
Peel the thick skin and prepare a puree.
Burnet, yarrow…and other plants, edible flowers or roots.
From a wide variety of seeds : cereal, cruciferous, leguminous, oleaginous, mucilaginous…for example alfalfa, wheat, fenugree, green soy beans, lentils, chickpeas.
A slice of ham (such as Bayonne style)
Cooked vegetables, raw vegetables
Garden herbs, country herbs
Fry slices of ham in a deep frying pan. Skim off the fat and deglaze with vegetable broth. Add a pat of butter, to blend with the ham juice.
Place the vegetables on the plate, arrange them nicley to express movement. Decorate with chopped herbs and sprouts.