I have to come clean on one thing. My idea of gourmet is much like most people's ideas of good home cookin'. Recipes that have been handed down, have peasant roots and fill the stomach and the plate. None of your decorative wimpy tiny tall pile of skimpy ingredients in the middle of a huge plate with a drizzle of some colorful sauce around it. What makes a dish gourmet is that it is lick-the-plate-yummy. It is gourmet also if it comes from someone else's culture, made with ingredients which are common and readily available in the country of origin.. I guess I should stop using the term gourmet, and label the cooking I like as "exotic" instead.
Example:From France, POULET LUTER AUX QUARANTES GOUSSES D'AILS Translation: Chicken sealed in a pot, cooked low and slow with 40 garlic cloves. This is definitely peasant fabulous food that predates the pressure cooker.. the pot was sealed shut with a rope made of flour and water (luter). The chicken is then slow cooked for about 3 hours. You shouldn't fear the roasted garlic. It is totally different than what you are used to experiencing. Roasting it makes it sweet, mild and not too pungent.
Example: From Lebanon: LAMB TAJINE Translation: Lamb Stew slow cooked in a clay tall domed pot which makes all the steam collect at the top, cool enough to become liquid again, and drip back into the stew. Like distilling... The Arab cultures puts elements that are common and relatively cheap where they live such as dates, raisins, prunes apricots and various types of nuts as well as meat and vegetables into their stews. To us, that makes it exotic, but it's still peasant food.
Example: From Italy: OSSO BUCCHO Translation: Hearty stew made from what used to be a dirt cheap cut of meat, veal shank. When I was a newlywed 35 years ago, butchers practically gave it away! Not like that anymore! Wine and tomatoes are part of the culture and as common as corn and beer are to us.. ergo it is still peasant food. The GREMOLATTA is a condiment typical of the Milan area. It is made of very finely chopped lemon zest parsley and garlic. Short of breakfast they put it on everything, like we do with ketchup.
From New Orleans: SHRIMP GUMBO Translation. Cooked with what is found and/or can be grown in the swamps of Louisiana: crawdads as big as lobsters, shrimp, fish, rice, saffron, Tobasco, hot peppers, okra, wild fowl etc... The style of cooking comes from the cultures that they spring from: Escaped slaves, Spanish pirates, disenfranchised aboriginals, and the French immigrants that were driven out of the Canadian maritimes, all seeking refuge from persecution. Over a couple of centuries, these cultures blended. The people, the music and the cuisine that resulted are fabulous. But it is most definitely peasant.
From Germany or Austria: SAEURBRATEN Translation: Pot Roast with a cultural twist.
What makes these dishes sometimes unatainable in our neighbourhoods is that the ingredients are sometimes rare, difficult to find and/or expensive at our local markets.
STOCKING INGREDIENTS TO INDULGE IN MY PASSION Until this year, when I had a huge walk in pantry built, I had a weird arrangement of mouse-proof boxes under the beds in the guest bedroom. This was my "gourmet" supply pantry. My freezer was and still is always stuffed with odd stuff..keffir lime leaves, lemon grass, chilpotles in adobo sauce, frozen coriander paste, goose fat, corn tortillas etc... I made quarterly runs to the city of Montreal to get this stuff.
It seems that the locals around here are developping a far more sophisticated palate, or the city folks that have cottages in the area are influencing the buying for the chain grocery stores. Most of the items for which I used to make the 5 hr. return trip to Montreal are now available in St-Jovite/Mt-Tremblant. Bourassa's is a small chain of grocery stores for restaurant and hotel owners. Ten years ago the owners gave in to the general public's clamor to get in. Most things are sold in huge quanties and bulk lots, so It only makes sense to shop there if you have made a deal with your friends to share stuff.
My fridge was so stuffed with condiments from a dozen countries and cultures that there was hardly any room for normal food. When I had my kitchen remodelled this year to make allowance for my handicap (can't stoop, can't kneel), I added a bar sized fridge to hold the condiments.
I LOVE INTERNATIONAL COOKING! And my passion drives me to go to great lengths to indulge this pastime. Watch for the recipes I post regularly.
MY PHOTO ALBUMS. Please come see my photo albums and do click on the photos to see the labels and comments. My home, gardens, vegie plots and much more, all explained in the labels are there.