Untrapped: The French Pyrenees With Jamie Oliver

By: Sara Levine

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Jamie Oliver is taking a detour from major cities this week on Jamie's Food Escapes — check out his trips to Venice and Athens — to explore the charming, rustic towns of the French Pyrenees. On the French side of this mountain range that forms a natural border with Spain, the locals eat a healthy diet of rustic bread, truffles, cheese, sausages and duck confit. Miraculously, they also remain trim and have the lowest rate of heart disease among their French countrymen. “They live very, very long,” says Jamie. “There’s definitely something to be learned from these guys.”

Of course, Jamie dives into their cuisine head first, hoping some of that “French Paradox” will rub off on him. The locals welcome him with open arms — he’s even inducted into the “Brotherhood of the Crostilot Bread,” an artisanal sourdough made at one of the oldest bakeries in Cahors. “The brotherhood is about protecting brilliant food,” Jamie explains. “I told them I was a baker, and they said we’d love to initiate you!”

Then he heads out with a truffle-hunter and his trusty pig on the first day of the Perigord truffle season. Once piglet sniffs out a couple of golf ball-size treasures, Jamie cooks up a truffle-filled omelet right there in the woods. Does it get any better than that? You can almost smell it.

Jamie’s all about showing that you don’t need fancy cooking equipment to make amazing food. In one of the small villages, he makes a classic Tarte Tatin, swirling the caramel in his pan over a wood-burning fire.

Next, he's cooking “old-school” confit of duck in a fireplace, explaining how the duck legs are cooked and sealed in duck fat for preservation: “It’s surprisingly not fatty, that’s the really ironic thing. You’re left with crispy skin and really moist meat.”

Jamie makes sure to sneak a few vegetables into this French culinary adventure, deciding to make a big salad with Roquefort, the famous blue cheese that’s native to the region. But before you start to think this is the diet portion of his day, Jamie sets the record straight. He cuts thick slabs of bacon into lardons and cooks homemade croutons in the pork fat, then tosses it with mache lettuce and big lobs of cheese. “This ain’t no pretty boy salad,” says Jamie. “This is a proper, big, ass-kicking French salad.”

The locals in this area eat like kings for cheap and live long, healthy lives. What gives? The French Paradox remains a mystery…so simply follow their example and make Tarte Tatin.

Watch this delicious episode on Jamie’s Food Escapes tonight at 8pm/7c.

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