We both enjoy a tasty breakfast, especially now that we are home every morning. We completely enjoy our version of the French breakfast: fresh toasted baguette with butter, fromage blanc (consistency of yogurt but without the tang), fresh fruit (such as, so far, strawberries, cherries, currants, apricots — we follow the seasons), a little honey from this region (the latest comes from bees that have spent time among the chestnut tree flowers in the high valleys of the Pyrénées near Carcassonne).
But variety is good too. An egg-based breakfast, with some fresh boulangerie bread and a breakfast meat hits the spot a few times a week. The eggs we buy at the Saturday town market are fresh and delicious — all free range, and perhaps organic — and the bread comes right from the boulangerie’s oven. But breakfast meats, at least resembling our American experience, are a bit harder to find. The English word bacon is usually translated as les lardons, but these are really little cubes of ham like pancetta — tasty, but better dedicated to salads and pastas. We finally discovered that we can buy la poitrine fumée at the charcuterie, or pork butcher’s shop or stand; la poitrine fumée is smoked ham similar to the preparation and cut of American bacon. The charcuterie case always includes an unsliced slab of la poitrine fumée, so we ask for it cut in tranches, or slices. Each time, the charcutier, or butcher, asks us how thick to slice it: I’ve learned pas trop épaisse (not too thick) and plus fine (a little thinner). La poitrine fumée cooks up more like Canadian bacon because it has less fat than American bacon. Probably better for our health, but sometimes you just miss good old murderous bacon.
You’d think in the land of sausages (Europe in general, and France specifically) we’d find lots of breakfast sausages. There are definitely candidates, and we’ve tried a few. Some simply contain the meat from which they are made, with very little additional flavor. Some others include local Mediterranean herbs and spices, like rosemary, thyme, garlic, bay leaf and fennel seeds. However, our chef (Mike) is clear that the most satisfying breakfast sausage is made from pork and prominently flavored with sage. We haven’t found this combination yet.
Mike announced that this is not a problem. “I’m retired, I have more time now, the internet (bonappétit.com specifically) provides all the answers. I’ll make my own breakfast sausage!” And so he has.
The first step was to find fresh sage. When we began this quest, it was still winter. There was no fresh sage at the town market or in the supermarkets. There wasn’t even any dried sage, which stumped us. Solution: buy a sage plant from the local nursery and establish it in our fledgling herb garden. Which only took a few months, since we needed springtime to get everything lush and productive. Happily the herb garden is now thriving, with, in addition to sage, thyme, chives, tarragon, lemon thyme, rosemary, chocolate mint, basil, lavender and cilantro.
Then some ground pork from the market, some salt, garlic, ground spicy pepper, thyme and sage. Formed into perfect patties.
Sizzling from the cast-iron skillet. Perfect. This morning was the inaugural offering, with some brioche French toast, and fresh fruit. Très bien: international breakfast is going strong at our Carcassonne table.