Dinner at La Tupina Restaurant in Bordeaux is like eating at a mythical southwest French farmhouse. The first thing you see as you enter is a huge open wood-burning fireplace where everything appears to be spit-roasting, baking, or stewing over live coals. I use the word mythical, because few people today still engage in open-hearth cooking on such a scale.
The restaurant, one of my favorites in Bordeaux, specializes in old-fashioned food— the recipes of chef Jean Pierre Xiradakis's French mother and grandmother, who come from the wine region of La Blaye. This food is true “comfort food.” People in Bordeaux refer to Xiradakis as the “keeper of the flame.”
Chef Xiradakis and I go back twenty-five years. On my last visit to his restaurant in Bordeaux, I eyed a beautiful, golden-brown chicken about to be cut up for a customer, and I decided to share an order with a friend. The chicken came accompanied by a delicious dressing of pork, mushroom, and bread. The bird had been slow-roasted in the oven and basted with the juicy dressing. Then the still-pale skin was lavishly rubbed with duck fat, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and set before the embers in the fireplace. The result was a deeply flavored, beautifully crisped chicken served with the very moist dressng. When my friend and I tasted it, we practically swooned at first bite.
In my recipe, I roast the chicken upside down on a vertical roaster to produce an incredibly succulent chicken. The porcini and sausage dressing below the chicken prevents splattering.
In winter, I like to serve Yukon Gold potatoes, roasted or sautéed in duck fat, and grilled radicchio as a vegetable accompaniment, because it has a strong and pleasantly pungent flavor, which goes well with the chicken. In spring, I offer grilled asparagus.
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert. Copyright © 2003 by Paula Wolfert. Photographs copyright © by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.