“Salmi? Oh, no, no, we don’t eat! »
On this Wednesday, November 16, a seemingly innocuous weekday, about sixty enthusiasts surround a funnel-shaped bird in a casual, somewhat categorical, Lafitte restaurant (2). We are in Saint-Palais, the sanctuary of the Capuchin saints. Here, in every address of the territory, we offer this delicious and traditional way of cooking wood pigeon. Bruno Lafitte, who together with his partner Yvette took over in 2007 from his father Jean-Louis, himself heir to Jean-Pierre Pecorena’s original recipe in 1990, also has the peculiarity of cooking in front of the table of followers.
“Seeing his work, his know-how, is huge, it’s jaw-dropping”
The visual appeal in the eyes of this group of retired Landes: “To see his work, his know-how, it’s huge, it’s mouth-watering,” Allen and Jean-Michel salivate over an aperitif. Together with their friends from Isose (40), near Dax, they delight the net and ship at least once a year, for ten years, during the wood pigeon season. Be sure to book early. “At least a week in advance,” they warn. From October 29 to December 16, the sign is never empty. “A lot of people come from Bordeaux or the Landes, we have a regular clientele,” confirms Bruno Lafitte, who prepares the fire.
It’s almost 1:30 p.m., most of the guests are finishing their start. The chef is warming up, the pyrotechnic show can begin. The flame crackles, and a few flashes from the customers. Pre-plucked, peeled, cut in half and lightly fried (salt, pepper, espelette pepper), the stripped migrants are grilled, in batches, under the embers. Bruno Lafitte controls the cooking, adjusting the grill with knobs. It goes fast, don’t get distracted. Cappuccini in the oven, these ground iron cones, so called.
Now for the second step, bending. The wild fowls removed from the fire are thrown into the melted lard passed through the funnel. The fire and smoke combine to produce a mini firework display. The action is repeated six times, up to 3 hours. Bruno Laffite sweats profusely with his head in the chimney almost from beginning to end. He warned us: “It’s quite physical. And so it takes quite a bit of time. Patience is one of the watchwords of the wood pigeon fancier.
It tastes like brown crab. There is a lot to learn, a little in the teeth. But for the sizzling taste buds, the delicious combination of the softness of the meat – the work of the cappuccino – and the character of the game. A circular glance at the end of the service: only emaciated bones in seventy plates. Capuchin devotees are not going to turn into Salmis.
(1) Salmis de dove is a roasted wood pigeon stew cooked in a spicy wine sauce.
(2) Restaurant Lafitte, at 35, rue Thiers in Saint-Palais.