PAU, France – A classic base camp at the Tour de France, the city of Pau is a food lovers’ paradise.
Visited on Friday by the Tour peloton for the 71st time after hosting the race for the first time in 1930, the birthplace of 16th-century king Henri IV is stuffed with restaurants serving dishes riders eat only in their wildest dreams.
After his tremendous effort in the time trial that strengthened his grip on the yellow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe might raise a glass of Jurancon Sec, the dry white wine so popular in the region.
Too bad for him, his nutritionist won’t cook a Poule au Pot. This traditional French dinner – literally “hen in a pot” – was one of the king’s favorite meals. Henri wanted his subjects to be able to afford a “Poule a Pot” at least once a week.
At Chez Laurette, a popular address in downtown Pau, Laurette Duthu has been fighting a tendency that transformed this pauper’s dish into an expensive gourmet delicacy. In her restaurant, travelers on a shoe-string budget can enjoy a Poule au Pot served with rice and a dessert for about 15 euros.
After spending decades meticulously watching over the cooking to ensure the hens she served every Tuesday remained juicy and tender, she has passed the baton to her son Cedric. He cooks it every Tuesday from October to May.
The 72-year-old Laurette learned the recipe as a young girl, watching her mother cooking deep in the countryside.
“I’m not cooking anymore, but my son respects the tradition, he uses the same recipe my mother taught me,” she told The Associated Press.
“Obviously you need a good-quality hen. To make the stuffing, I use minced pork, the hen’s liver and heart, and I mix them with eggs, onions, salt and garlic.”
Once stuffed, the hen is cooked with turnips, carrots and cabbage for about two hours.
“The cooking is the key,” she said. “You need to check it constantly. Once it’s ready, I serve it with a homemade sauce.”
The garbure is another classic. This peasant’s thick soup could be quite healthy in its simplest version based on cabbage, leeks, turnips and carrots. But locals love it during long winter nights in its traditional recipe, enhanced with pieces of ventreche –the French bacon – confit duck, or even foie gras.
To preserve the tradition and promote the garbure, local associations hold a yearly festival in the Pyrenean town of Oloron Sainte-Marie, southwest of Pau, challenging chefs to become garbure world champions.
Bread and butter
Inspired by his yellow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe held off defending champion Geraint Thomas to win the only individual time trial stage of this Tour, a shock victory to raise French hopes that he could go all the way in yellow to Paris next week.
Quote of the day
“He’s obviously going incredibly well, so he’s certainly the favorite and the one to watch at the minute” – Defending Tour champion Geraint Thomas on Alaphilippe. Thomas is in second place overall, 86 seconds behind his French rival.
Stat of the day
6:55. The gap between Alaphilippe and the last-placed rider, Andrey Amador, in the time trial. Alaphilippe clocked the best time at every check point and covered the 27-kilometer course at an average speed of 46.6 kph.
Next on the menu
Tour riders are getting in the thick of the action during Saturday’s Stage 14, a short but punishing trek to the mythical Col du Tourmalet, 2,115 meters above sea level. Expect some big gaps at the summit.
Local journalism is essential.
The journalists of The Spokesman-Review are a part of the community. They live here. They work here. They care. You can help keep local journalism strong right now with your contribution. Thank you.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.