22 December 2009

Bordeaux wine and duck fat biscuits

We didn't have Bordeaux wine and duck fat biscuits at the same meal, but we could well have done.

Last summer when our late friend J-L, who passed away a couple of months ago, came over for a couscous lunch out in the back yard with his partner S. and other friends of ours, he and S. brought us a bottle of Bordeaux wine with the name Le Chevalier Marteau — The Knight "Marteau"— on the label.

Le Chevalier Marteau Bordeaux red wine, 2006

Marteau was J-L's last name, but as far as I know his family has no particular connection to the Bordeaux region. It was just a funny coincidence. There are a lot of people named Marteau — which means "hammer" — around the Saint-Aignan area.

In fact, Marteau is an old and venerated name in France. Charles Martel (that's the old French spelling), who ruled over the Francs in the 700s A.D., defeated the Arabs (a.k.a. Saracens, Moors) in a decisive battle not far south of the city of Tours in 732. He was named "Charles the Hammer" because of the way he crushed the enemy armies and sent them retreating south into Spain.

Walt's birthday cake: Glazed Pumpkin-Walnut Bread.
He made it himself.

Walt and I decided to open and enjoy the Chevalier Marteau wine yesterday with Walt's birthday dinner of steak au poivre. Another reason for drinking the wine now is that J-L's birthday was December 19, just two days before Walt's, and he would have turned 53 if he had still been among the living. The wine was good and made the meal all the more memorable.

Meanwhile, on Sunday I decided to take up my own challenge and make a batch of U.S. Southern-style biscuits using a quintessential French shortening: duck fat. I have quarts of it in the refrigerator from all the ducks I've cooked over the past few years. It keeps forever in sealed jars in there, and it is good for making sauteed potatoes and for flavoring vegetables.

U.S. Southern-style biscuits made with duck fat

It is also good as a substitute for butter and vegetable shortening in baking savory breads and cakes, I now know. The duck fat biscuits, using Tom's recipe as far as proportions of flour, leavening, salt, and liquid go, were excellent, as you can see from the picture above. Walt liked them. He said they were nice and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

Instead of half a cup of buttermilk, I used 60 ml of plain low-fat yogurt mixed with 60 ml of skim milk in these biscuits. The biscuits were good at lunch with some garden-grown mustard greens (also flavored with a little duck fat) and some boiled potatoes of the Charlotte variety that we get here in France. The potatoes are similar to Yukon Golds.

Tender inside

This is more fusion cooking for me, but for once it is American technique combined with French ingredients. Usually it's French techniques applied to cooking American foods. I just recently started making U.S. Southern-style biscuits after eating them all my life. I wonder what shortening they were made with when I was growing up in the 1950s and '60s? Crisco? Margarine? Lard? My mother could tell us.


  1. OMG, those biscuits look yummy. So does Walt's cake. I can feel myself gaining weight looking at them. Must get out and go for a walk.

  2. Ellen, walking is the key. A dog is a good idea. Makes you walk every day. Even in the rain and snow.

  3. Crisco or lard, certainly! Yours look wonderful :)


  4. Somehow looking at the delicious food from both your pictures and getting airplane food in few hours doesn't cut it. I am sure Jean-Luc was with you during the celebration.

  5. i cooked my goose & ate it last nite....i did use a rack & a very deep roasting pan & just used s&p & covered it in foil....then for last bit of roasting, removed foil....it was perfectly brown (or golden i guess i should say)....there is not a whole lotta meat on these guys, but it was tasty...also had wild rice & cranberry chutney

  6. Those biscuits look perfect- have never thought of adding yogurt. Will give that a try soon. We probably grew up with biscuits made with Crisco, but our parents's biscuits had lard, bien sur.

    My dad used to bake with lard that he hid from my mom since she thought it was bad for his health. It didn't hurt him much since he lived to be 98.

  7. QUARTS of duck fat in your fridge! I wish I had one quart. It's good to know that it keeps so long.

    Those biscuits look fabulous--my grandmother used lard, my mother those little Pillsbury cans that pop open...

  8. P.S. Happy birthday to Walt! I celebrated a bigger round number earlier this month.

  9. Melinda, Sounds a bit like the method I described a few days ago? So it worked, didn't it? Martine

  10. Ken - I have often wondered - what are biscuits ? And what do you eat them with ? They look like what we would call scones in England, which can be either sweet, plain, or savoury (cheesey).
    To me a biscuit is a thin crispy thing that is usually sweet and had with a cup of tea !!

  11. Jean, I think that scones are of a different consistency inside than biscuits are. Scones are a little more dry and crumbly. Biscuits have more of a bread-like interior, and you usually eat them very warm, so they're somewhat like warm bread-- sort of :)

  12. A very happy birthday to Walt, and Joyeux Noel!

  13. Take it from an Alabama girl...it was Crisco! These look fabulous, though!

  14. Recently I attended a cooking class at a famous North Carolina purveyor of find foods called A Southern Season located in Chapel Hill. The chef taught us to make biscuits as her grandmother had, using equal amounts of butter and crisco. They were the best I've ever eaten. Ken, do you know that store?

  15. Jean , it depends where in the world one lives :-)

    Across the pond going west:
    cookie is a small, flat baked pastry.
    biscuit is a small baked bread ( halfway between a dumpling and a scone)

  16. Libbie, I've heard of that store but don't spend much time in N.C. these days. I know that butter + Crisco is the "classic" biscuit (but Crisco is a 20th century invention so not that old).

    Harriett and Evelyn, it makes sense that lard would have been the original shortening for biscuits. As it was for pie crusts too. I think my mother mentioned bacon grease to me the other day when I told her about using duck fat. Bistuits are also good made with (French) butter only.

    Melinda, I'm glad the goose was tasty. You'll have to tell me how big it was and how much goose fat you ended up with. I'll blog about my goose cooking experience over the next few days.

    Hi Monet, I'm thinking of going to N.C. in late March/early April. Merry Christmas to you.

    Vickie, yeah, probably Crisco, or margarine.

    Chris, you should take back a couple of little jars of duck fat next time you come to France. Buy them at the supermarket.

    The Beaver, right. Our biscuits are a quick bread leavened with baking powder and/or bicarbonate of soda. They are softer and moister than the scones I've had, but otherwise resemble them, as Judy said. Biscuits are savory, not sweet.

    Jean, I'll have to make some U.S. biscuits for you and Nick when you are next in France.

  17. re my goose....yes, ladybird, it did work .....and ken, i think it was a 12 pounder....i had one of those deep foil roasting pans & got a good 3" of liquid fat) which i ended up pitching, pan & all (it would have sat in my fridge forever)

  18. Here in Guernsey, Channel Isles we have 'Guernsey biscuits' which, when I first arrived here, thought were like the English flat hard sweet type, but discovered are a flattish bread roll, quite distinctive from any others you buy in the shops, with a unique texture and delicious buttery flavour.

  19. Ken - how kind of you. I am looking forward to them already. !!!


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