For years when we lived in Toronto, our “barbecuing” was done on a snazzy gas-fired grill. But since we’ve moved to France, I wanted to go for a more natural approach, using charcoal.
Sadly, if you like charcoal grilling your food, you will not be all that pleased with the charbon de bois that’s available here. In this part of France, at least, bags of charbon de bois (or charcoal) are full of bits and pieces and twigs of lightweight charcoal that burns too quickly, or unevenly, or not at all. Fortunately, I’ve found a store in Gourdon that sells Weber grills and, more importantly, Weber charcoal briquettes. I just checked the bag, by the way, and it turns out that the briquettes are actually made in France (which proves that it can be done).
In any case, with summer upon us, we are now regularly using our charcoal grill (with real, actual, French-made briquettes that are easy to light, burn cleanly, and last a long time). And we’ve made some really good, charcoal-tasting stuff. Here’s a look at a recent lunch, featuring salmon done over charcoal, as well as roasted cherry tomatoes that were also done on the grill, although in aluminum trays.
The salmon? Marinated about an hour in (gluten-free) Tamari soy sauce, salt and pepper, and five-spice powder. Then cooked directly on the grill. The rice? My wife Jan’s Indian-flavoured saffron rice, first sautéed in butter with a multitude of spices, then cooked with chicken stock and saffron threads until the rice is done. The tomatoes? Beautifully ripe cherry tomatoes that we drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast on the barbecue (draped in fresh thyme) until they are soft. The result? A wonderful lunch, with the salmon as tender and moist as any fish I’ve ever had. Here it is:
Then on Sunday, we did tandoori chicken over charcoal. Starting the day before, Jan marinated chicken drumsticks and thighs in a mix of Greek yoghurt, lemon juice, and tandoori spice. On Sunday, I put aluminum foil on the grill, because I didn’t want the chicken to burn. After 30 minutes or so of cooking, we gingerly removed the foil and let the chicken brown a bit. Here it is:
That lunch, as well, was delicious. And now that I have your attention, here’s my weekly attempt to let you know what’s happening in the Greater Daglan Area (admittedly with a special focus on food).
Coming events: A review of what’s happening in the GDA, brought to you for the benefit of holiday home owners and tourists.
Tuesday: Tuesday evening brings another in the series of summertime night markets in Bouzic, the tiny hamlet near Daglan. This is a fun event, because all (or most) of the vendors are producers, and you buy your own meat and cook it over grills. All the rest — salads, desserts, wine and so on — you buy from various stalls. But be prepared: Bring your own picnic kit, including plates, cutlery and glasses.
Friday: Consider the night market in Saint-Cybranet, about seven kilometres north of Daglan. You’ll sit on picnic tables while you munch on whatever goodies you buy from the stalls — from roast chicken to pizza to Brazilian food. We were there last Friday night (there were six of us in a group) and thought it was fine — but not great. That Friday was the start of the village’s festival, so there was a bit of a carnival atmosphere, which made our meal seem like we were at a carnival or county fair almost anywhere (not necessarily France). Maybe this Friday night will be different, since the festival is over.
Saturday — the night market: Every Saturday night, the village of St. Pompon just south of Daglan has a market that we quite like. There is reasonably loud but not unpleasant music over loudspeakers, and a lot of good food — from oysters on the half shell to roast chicken to mussels and French fries to vegetarian foods.
Saturday — the pizza truck: Each Saturday evening, a pizza truck called La Strada drives into Daglan’s main square for business. Here it is, just parked:
And here’s what it looks like when it’s open for business. I ordered my pizza around 7 p.m., and asked that it be ready for 7:30. No problem. (No, the guy at the counter is not me. He’s another villager with a hankering for pizza. And he wasn’t super-amused when I pretended to be taking his pizza from him.)
How is it? Well, it’s not the best pizza I’ve ever had, and in Toronto it would be relegated to the bottom third of the pizza league. But in southwest France, it’s not bad. And for 9.50 euros, it’s a reasonable deal, so if you’re not headed out on Saturday night, and feel like having a pizza, this is a reasonable choice. This particular pizza is the Espagnole, featuring chorizo sausage, black olives and peppers:
The Saturday night special: Remember that Daglan will be hosting a Bodega — food, drinking, music, drinking, more music, more drinking — on Saturday night (July 13). Be there, or be square. (Or don’t care.)