The cuisine of the Pays d’Oc is just as rich and varied as its wines. Seafood is available from the fishing ports of the Mediterranean while the plains and mountains inland are used to rear lamb, pork and beef as well as for cheese production, mostly from goat’s and ewe’s milk.
A wide variety of vegetables and fruit is produced on the irrigated plains, including aubergine, chard, courgettes, white haricot beans, peaches, pears, apricots and melons. Olives are grown and the olive oil of Nimes has its own appellation. Wild mushrooms can be collected and are widely used when in season.
The signature dish of the region is cassoulet. To call it a bean stew is to do it a serious injustice, but it is based on a ragout of white haricot beans, cooked long and slow so that they melt in the mouth. The other ingredients vary somewhat from one version to another: there is local rivalry between the towns of Carcassonne, Castelnaudary and Toulouse, each of which has its own recipe.
In general cassoulet contains goose or duck confit, pork rind, ham hock, sausage and lamb or sometimes, in the Carcassonne version, partridge. Some versions contain tomato, celery or carrot.
Fish soup is popular around the port of Sète, usually made from several different species including gurnard, scorpion fish, conger, hake and monkfish. Brandade de morue is an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil. Bourride à la sétoise is the Languedoc version of bouillabaisse, made only from white fish and accompanied by the garlic mayonnaise aioli.
Sardinade is simply very fresh sardines grilled over embers, head on and not gutted, served with a dash of olive oil and a sprinkling of herbs.
A wide variety of charcuterie is produced, including the celebrated ham from the Montagne Noire (Black Mountain). Duck is ubiquitous in the region, in the form of foie gras, magret and confit. Sanglier, or wild boar, is hunted and makes a delicious civet when cooked slowly in red wine.
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