Maurel Coulombe, a favourite producer of mine, featured in the Chef’ domain show (the cutie ducks) I did recently, whom I’ve been meaning to write about for some time now..
Maurel et Coulombe is an artisanal duck and foie gras producer in St-Jean de Matha, in the most beautiful part of the Lanaudière countryside, 45 minutes north of us, deep in the woods.
After a visit with the young dynamic French couple behind the operation, Yvanne Maurel et Martin Coulombe, I am happy to report happy ducks listening to traditional Quebec folk music, and that ultimately, I wasn’t shocked or horrified out of serving duck or foie gras. This is a small production of 180, or 1000 annually (instead of the 150 000 typical of other more industrial Quebec producers), raised according to traditional methods from the southwest of France (where Yvanne comes from). They are fed a diet of whole corn, no filler, and no antibiotics. They have them on a 4 mo cycle, longer (and more expensive) than the customary 2-3. Their integrity and care is evident on many levels. First of all, they allow their ducks (see the two month olds below) to be outside, despite a fight with the govt agency that wants to forbid it on the grounds of avian flu threats. There is no automation or machinery here, even the gavage is done personally and manually by Yvanne and Martin. They are proud and committed to artisanal methods, but sadly, can’t quite yet make a living at it, making a ‘real’ job on the side still necessary for Martin. We buy a good chunk of their magret production, their foie goes into their signature torchon which is already sold out; but they are starting to jar a variety of terrines for the retail market.
They could never supply the growing demand for artisanal foie gras without expanding, but for now, they choose to keep the control their small size allows them in order to ensure quality, a relatively ethical product, and to make the most of that. In their work and disposition, they are as inspiring as the quotes that mark certain landmarks on their property. Above the doorway of one shed, reads ‘La destiné des nations depend de la manière don’t il se nourrit’, by Brillat Savarin, and emblazoned along the duck feeder, there is a Rousseau quote, ‘Le premier et le plus grand des arts est l’agriculture’.. Yes, I love my quotes.
Back in her kitchen, Yvanne offered me a taste of her coveted torchon made by a secret recipe handed down from her grandmother in Toulouse . Cooked whole in cheesecloth in a super-flavourful broth (the key), this was the duckiest, most savoury torchon I have ever tasted, and what François called the best torchon of his life. Listen, I could not be insulted in face of a hundred plus years of tradition. Not to mention the good kitchen karma residing in the walls of this place to be sure- you see, their farmhouse was once owned by Henri Bouchard, Quebec’s much loved original celebrity chef who had a popular cooking show in the 50’s that was filmed here …
In face of the foie gras wars and sensational headlines that keep popping up in the news, remember that there are real, good people and ducks like these, hardly something we should be fighting off, more like cherishing and holding dear. Look for them and their products, and if you’re in the Joliette area, you can always go for a visit, just follow the foie gras signs.
Domaine Maurel-Coulombe, 450-886-2544
P.S. I have to say that when it comes to duck, I am still a Ferme Morgan girl too, in that I haven’t stopped loving their Barbarie ( Muscovy ) duck, which is certified organic. I never really wanted another duck producer after discovering them when I was at l’Eau à la Bouche. But now I am in the Lanaudière and so should be favouring the producers closest by, and it’s hard not to be charmed by Yvanne and Martin. You know, we are lucky to be graced with the quality of choice we have in Quebec ; it’s too bad more people don’t know enough to be seeking these guys out. I wish I was big enough to make a difference, but I can’t support anybody, no matter how much I believe in them. These are two duck producers I want to promote and to keep (who needs two duck producers you say?). For me, it’s like apples and oranges anyway - different breeds, different products. For my last duck dinner event, I used both - the Moulard for the foie gras and magret for smoking, and Morgan’s Babarie for roasting and confit.. By the way, Ferme Morgan also has terrific guinea hen, wild turkey, sanglichon, as well as some lamb and beef, and they even market small cuts (as opposed to the whole beasts restaurants buy) for the average consumer, with drop offs at La Maison Verte and other specialty stores.. www.fermemorgan.com