Escaoutoun landais is a dish similar to the Italian polenta, blended with ewe’s-milk cheese and topped with chanterelle mushrooms lightly sautéed in some duck fat. This delectable recipe is an old, traditional dish from the French region called Landes, where Chef Helene Darroze comes from. This regional dish is based on corn flour, which replaced bread a long time ago in the Landes region, a region where there were more cornfields than vines.
Like polenta, escaoutoun is traditionally a peasant staple food. It was a lot more affordable than bread since corn was more readily available and cheaper than wheat, as in many parts of Europeduring that time. Normally, the corn flour is cooked only with water. But in her restaurant, chef Darroze uses chicken or poultry stock to give the dish more flavor. Whether its stock or water you use, the important thing is that the liquid should be cold when it is mixed in with the corn flour so that the mixture does not turn into glue. When it is well cooked, the texture should be like pâte à choux or choux pastry dough, which is a light paste used to make cream puffs. The ideal consistency is similar to stiffed mashed potato.
This version by Chef Darroze is a bit lighter. She often serves it with wild mushrooms. At times she serves it with black truffles and hazelnut butter, depending on the season. For this recipe, chanterelle mushrooms were used. But other types of mushrooms may also be used such as cepes, oysters, trompettes de mort, porcini or hedgehogs. Peasants often serve this dish with a neck of pig. Other possible toppings include roasted asparagus, grilled sardines, and even fresh chocolates. Whatever the topping, the escaoutoun has to taste good enough to eat plain. Sprinkling a good amount of shredded Basque sheep’s milk cheese will often do the trick.
3 tablespoons corn flour
1 ¼ cups fowl bouillon
2 tablespoons mascarpone
8.8 oz. mushrooms
8.8 oz. Basque sheep cheese
13 ½ tablespoons fowl gravy
bunch of parsley
1. Use a saucepan to mix the cool poultry broth and the corn flour and whisk together until fully incorporated. Cook on the stove for about five minutes to get rid of the excess water. Add mascarpone and a little bit of the white sauce base to give it the right texture. Add the grated basque cheese.
2. With some duck fat fry the chanterelle mushrooms for three or four minutes. The mushrooms should be cooked by then. Season with salt and pepper and sprigs of parsley.
3. Put the warm escaoutoun on the plate. Top the dish with the sautéed chanterelle mushrooms. Finish off with a drop or two of poultry broth.