Friday, November 20, 2015

Sweetbreads in French cuisine, Ris de Veau (d'Agneau) on French Menus. When sweetbreads are on the menu in France do not pass them by.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Crispy fried sweetbreads served on top of morel mushrooms sautéed in butter.

Veal and lamb sweetbreads will be on many French menus. These uniquely delicate cuts with their clear and mild flavor and texture are highly prized by chefs and gourmands.
                              Where do these cuts come from.
Sweetbreads are the best of all the inside cuts like liver, tongue and kidneys. They are the pancreas and thymus glands with some gourmands preferring one to the other. Others prefer veal over lamb.  However, when these delicate cuts are served with a light sauce or fried I cannot tell the difference. Sweetbreads have a texture somewhat similar to the finest milk fed calf’s liver but there the similarity ends, and please note that I only said similar, not the same.

Large pieces of sweetbreads
dusted in flour and fennel seed powder until crispy on the outside and molten hot on the inside. The sweetbreads sit in a mushroom broth flavored with grilled scallions and duck bacon.
What does sweetbread mean
Sweetbreads contain no bread. notes the words comes from old English where “swēte meant sweet and “bræd” meant flesh; hence sweetbreads for sweet meat.
In North America and the UK, sweetbreads are rarely on the menu. Despite that sweetbreads are a delicacy and in France all good French restaurants will regularly have them on their menus. 
Sweetbreads on French menus:
Ris de Veau - Calf sweetbreads.
Ris d'Agneau- Lamb sweetbreads
Cassolette  d'Escargots et Ris d'Agneau à l'Oseille - A snail stew made with lamb sweetbreads and flavored with sorrel. A snail cassoulet is very different to the meat cassoulets of Southern France.
Ravioles de Ris d’Agneau au Gingembre et Citron - Ravioli stuffed with lamb sweetbreads and flavored with lemon and ginger.

Veal sweetbread ravioli served in a cream of artichoke sauce.
Ris de Veau à la Crème et aux Champignons – Sweetbreads with a cream and mushroom sauce.
Ris Braise - Lightly fried sweetbreads. The menu should indicate whether these are veal or lamb, if not ask.

Crispy veal sweetbreads
with diced parsnips, small potatoes and black truffle sandwiches.
Ris de Veau Croustillantes, Jeunes Carottes et Graines de Moutarde. Crisply fried sweetbreads served with baby carrots and flavored with mustard seeds.
Ris de Veau aux Girolles. Veal sweetbreads prepared with wild chanterelle mushrooms.
Ris de Veau Poêlée, Jus à la Cardamone et Panais. Lightly fried veal sweetbreads served with sweetbread’s cooking juices flavored with cardamom and parsnips. N.B. Cardamom is the spice with a heady aroma and a special taste that is often used with spiced hot wines.  In Western Europe, outside of France, cardamom is only occasionally seen in the kitchen and therein lies a small but important difference in European tastes. The Swedes; however, do use cardamom in pastries and cardamom is important for all of Scandinavia. Without cardamom there would be no Scandinavian Aquavit liquor with 40% alcohol to drink on festive occasions.

Maple sweetened sweetbreads on pancakes
Sweetbreads may be on the menu fried, poached, grilled, stewed, and even roasted in the oven.  Sweetbreads may also be served as hot or cold hors d’oeuvres. As a hors d’oeuvre then they may be served in a puff pastry vol-au-vent with a cream sauce and then they will be on the menu as “Bouchée a la Reine au Ris de Veau ” for veal or Agneau, lamb). Originally all Bouchées à la Reine were made with sweetbreads or sweetbreads and chicken; however that is no longer the case.  Bouchée means a small mouthful and are often on the menu as an amuse-gueule, a small complementary appetizer. Only occasionally will the Bouchée a la Reine on the menu be with veal or lamb sweetbreads.

Vol-av -vent

Why chefs love cooking with sweetbreads.
From my experience the best recipes for sweetbreads are the simpler dishes that do not include tastes that compete with the delicate flavor of the meat.  One of the great advantages of sweetbreads is that not too easy to overcook them.  Unlike many dishes that should spend, at most, one or two minutes in the pan or under the grill and then are forgotten for three extra minutes will see the dish become inedible.  Sweetbreads will forgive you. Sweetbreads will remain juicy for close to double the time indicated in a recipe. Fried sweetbreads will remain crispy on the outside while the interior will be bursting with the juices from the meat even if the recipe indicated frying for 3 or 5 minutes and the chef left them for 10 minutes.

Scallops and sweatbreads.

Sweetbreads in French country restaurants
On village and country restaurant menus there will be ris de porcelet, piglet sweetbreads, ris de bœuf, beef sweetbread or ris de chevreauu, kid’s sweetbreads.  These animal’s sweetbreads have a stronger taste than lamb or veal and among the big city cognoscenti they are not appreciated.  Nevertheless, these sweetbreads will be on menus in restaurants outside the big cities. These are country comfort foods and I have enjoyed kid’s sweetbreads on more than one occasion.
Connected Posts:

Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010. 2015

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Romarin - Rosemary, the Herb in French cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Unlike diners in many other countries, most French diners want to know in detail which herbs and spices are used in menu listings.  As a result few French chefs will omit the details of how a dish was cooked and how it is flavored. Seeing the herbs and spices used on the menu tells the diner much about how the dish will taste.
The wide variety of herbs and spices in French cuisine.
French cuisine uses a wider variety of herbs and spices than any other European country. Initially, this was due to Catherine de Medici when in 1553, at age 15, she came to marry Prince Henry of France, (later King Henry II). Catherine came with a unique wedding retinue that included chefs, cooks, vintners along with market gardeners who brought new herbs and the ways to use them from Florence, Italy. Later, would be added other herbs and spices from the New World, India and Africa. Then, France’s wars and colonies would bring even more herbs and spices. When French colonists came back to visit France, they often brought their foreign cooks with them. To those cooks add the French chefs who had gone to serve the overseas French administration and returned to France with new ideas. They brought into French cuisine the flavors and aromas of these new herbs and the way they are prepared.

Cultivating Rosemary.
Rosemary in French cuisine
Rosemary; however, is not an import, it is native to the Mediterranean.  Rosemary would have been part of French culinary tradition long before the Romans, with their own refined cuisine, occupied and settled in France 2,000 years ago. Apart from Rosemary’s use as a herb on its own it is part of France’s most important herb groups Les Fine Herbes and the Herbes de Provence.

Tartelettes au Mirabelles et au Romarin
Small tarts made with France’s popular Mirabelle plum flavored with Rosemary.
Using Rosemary in French cuisine.
French chefs always prefer fresh herbs, usually because dried herbs loose much of their flavor and aroma when dried.  However, fresh Rosemary is used as a fresh herb because its fresh leaves provide a much gentler flavor than the dried variety.   In France, obtaining fresh Rosemary is never a problem as it is an evergreen plant.  Wild Rosemary and that grown by market gardeners assure French consumers of a plentiful supply all year round. Mediterranean wild Rosemary is naturally abundant as it is able to withstand heat and requires little water. In France, and many Mediterranean countries, Rosemary is also cultivated as an ornamental shrub that may be seen in hedges alongside roads.

Rosemary hedges in the Mediterranean.
Rosemary on French menus:
Carré d'Agneau Rôti au Thym et au RomarinA rack of lamb roasted with Thyme and Rosemary.

Rosemary Roast Chicken
Compote de Mangues au Romarin A mango compote flavored with Rosemary. 
Mignon de Veau à la Fondue d’Oignon, Jus de Viande au Romarin -   A cut from a veal fillet, the veal tenderloin, served on a bed of very well cooked onions, practically an onion jam.  The veal is served with the juices from the meat flavored with Rosemary.
Filet d'Agneau aux Senteurs d’Ail et Romarin, Écrasé de Patates Douces.  A lamb fillet, the tenderloin, scented with Garlic and Rosemary and served with crushed sweet potatoes.  Écrasé or Écrasées in French may be translated on your menu as mashed; however, the word for mashed in French is purée. Écrasé indicates a rougher  texture.
Fraîcheur de Melon et Mousse de Chèvre au Romarin – Chilled melon served with a goat’s cheese mousse flavored with Rosemary.
Calamars Grillés au Romarin, Salade de Roquettes et Copeaux de Parmesan – Calamari, squid,  grilled with Rosemary and served with a rocket salad flavored with shavings of Parmesan cheese.
Pêche Rôtie au Miel et Romarin – Peach roasted in honey and Rosemary.

Selle d’Agneau de Lozère,
Févettes et Petit Pois Primeurs Juste Ėtuvés, Gnocchis au Romarin.
A saddle of lamb from the department of Lozère in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. The lamb is served with lightly steamed fava beans, also called the Windsor, butter or broad bean, and young petit pois peas, accompanied by Gnocchi flavored with Rosemary.
Dishes prepared with France’s most important herb groups:
Les Fine Herbs and Les Herbes de Provence.
Both herb groups include Rosemary.
Feuilleté de Tome de Limousin aux Fines Herbes et Piment d'Espelette - Thin leaves of puff pastry made with the Tome de Limousin cheese and flavored with the Fine Herbs and the unique chili pepper from in and around the town of Espelette in the Basque country. There are many fine tomme cow’s milk cheeses in the region of Limousin,  but the Tome de Limousin is different and not only because it only has one M in its name, the Tome de Limousine is a goat’s cheese.

The region of Limousin is also home to the city of Limoge -  The home of some of the world's most fabulous porcelain creations.

Flowering Rosemary.

Filet de Dorade Royale Rôti aux Herbes de Provence et Son Beurre Blanc. A filet of gilthead, the fish, roasted with the herbs of Provence and served with a white butter sauce.

Gilthead with lemon and sprinkled with Rosemary.
Rumsteck Mariné aux Fines Herbes (Salade ou Légumes du Marché et  Frites)  -  A marinated rump steak flavored with the Fine herbs. (Served with a salad or the season’s vegetables and French fries).
Tartare de Saumon aux Petits Légumes et Fines Herbes, Bouquet de Salade – Salmon tartar with young vegetables flavored with the Fine Herbs and served with an attractively displayed salad.
Rosemary as a homeopathic medicine.
Rosemary, in French homeopathic medicine, is used for many aches and pains. All French homeopathic pharmacies, and there are nearly as many as regular pharmacies, will offer Rosemary in many forms and explain their uses. There are Rosemary herbal teas, tisanes in French and Rosemary creams and more.
If you travel a great deal you will find Rosemary all over the world, especially in Asia, where it is just as much as home as it is in the Mediterranean. 

Rosemary in the languages of France's neighbors:       
(Catalan -  romaní ), (Dutch -  rozemarijn), (German – rosmarin), (Italian – rosmarino), (Spanish – romero).
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2015.

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Julienne on French Menus. Ling, the fish, in French cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Julienne, Lingue, Lingue Blanche or Lingue Espagnol.
Ling, European Ling, White Ling or Spanish Ling.

My first experience with the fish, Ling, in France, was in a restaurant in the town of Beaucaire; it was on the menu as Julienne. I had no idea what fish a Julienne was and would later learn that over the past years Julienne had become the preferred commercial French name for the fish that  I had until then, and still occasionally do see on French menus as Lingue.  I had enjoyed ling in France before and I only knew of Julienne as a traditional cut used for vegetables.  My pocket French-English dictionary offered Julienne as a “long fish,” but that is not a very helpful description for a diner.  Fortunately, I was in a restaurant where the Maitre D’, knew his fish. While he did not use the name Lingue or Ling, he told me that it was an excellent fish from the cod family. There are many different fish from the cod family and I have enjoyed many of them under a variety of names so I ordered the Filet of Julienne with a Sauce Beurre Nantaise. The dish was well prepared and the fish was excellent, and as expected it had a similar taste and texture to cod.  N.B. Cod is neck to neck with salmon as the most popular fish in France. 

Face to face with a Ling.
Ling have long, tapered, tubular, bodies which, at first sight, may be thought of as a large fat eel.   These fish often reach 1 meter (3.3’)  in length though you will rarely see a whole Ling on sale at a fishmonger’s. Ling mostly reach the French markets as chilled, filets.   Since Ling are members of the cod family, their meat is white, firm and slightly flaky. Its taste and texture are easily mistaken for cod, especially when served with a sauce.
N.B. The name Julienne for this fish is confusing as one of the traditional cuts of French vegetable is called Julienne. All French chefs must learn the exact cuts of vegetables before they graduate and a Julienne de Légumes will be vegetables, cut as oblongs about 5cm by  2mm x 2mm.

A Julienne de Legumes.
The word Julienne or Lingue on French menus, in fact, covers two very close members of the Ling fish family. There is no practical way to tell the difference when these two fish are cooked and so no harm is done.  N.B. There is a third member of the Ling family fairly also seen on French menus; and that is the Lingue Bleue, the Blue Ling.  This is a somewhat smaller fish and has a slightly different texture and taste and is not the included in this post.
Julienne (Lingue) on French Menus:
Dos de Julienne au Cote du Jura –  A thick cut from the back of the fish served with a sauce made from a white wine from the department of Jura in the Franche-Comté that borders Switzerland. The Cotes du Jura wines include whites, roses, and reds as well as their unique corail, coral, colored wines and their excellent and mostly inexpensive sparkling Crémant du Jura.

The Cotes du Jura include its acclaimed Vin Juan, yellow wine, made from Savagnin grapes. Vin Jaune tastes somewhat similar to a fino Sherry, though it is not fortified like sherry, and usually has 13% alcohol. Vin Juane is also only sold when it is over six years old.  For more about the Cotes du Jura see:

Catch your own Ling.
Filet de Julienne à la Nantaise – A filet of ling served with one of France’s favorite sauces for fish. Sauce Nantaise is also called Sauce Beurre Nantaise or Sauce Beurre Blanc; it is named after the lovely City of Nantes in the Pays de la Loire region. Nantes itself is set on the River Loire.  The menu listing above was my introduction to Ling under its now more popular French name Julienne.
The English language website of the Nantes Tourist Information Office is:

The City of Nantes.
Médaillon de Lingue Poché et sa Crème aux Poireaux – A ling filet poached in a cream of leek sauce.  The term medaillon indicates a round or oval cut; however, with fish it will usually be an alternative name to a filet.  

Grilled Ling.
Photograph courtesy of Prayitno
Pavé de Julienne à la Crème d'Amande et Féve Tonka. A thick cut of Ling served with a cream of almond sauce flavored with the Tonca bean.  The Tonca or Tonquin bean is a plant of South American origins with a strong vanilla aroma. If you sniff a little more, you will find the scent of cherries and cinnamon. In France, the Tonka bean is mostly used in Anis flavored alcoholic drinks.  N.B. The Tonca bean is not a real bean, in fact, it is from the pea family.  In the USA, for reasons as yet unclear to me, the sale of the Tonka bean is controlled. The background to the Tonca bean was checked using Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages:

Ling Sushi
Suprême de Julienne Sauce Champagne – A filet of Ling served in a champagne sauce.  The cut called suprême will usually be on menus listings for  breast of chicken, pigeon, Guinea fowl and other birds. Nevertheless when a chef gets bored using the word filet for fish then suprême (supreme) may appear on the menu.
 The town of Beaucaire.
The small town of Beaucaire where I was introduced to Ling under the name Julienne is in the department of Gard in Languedoc-Roussillon in southeastern France.  Beaucaire is less than 25km (16 miles) from Avignon in Vaucluse in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and  19 km (12 miles) from Arles. From Beaucaire, you may take rent a self-drive motor cabin cruiser, with bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom and sail down the Beaucaire Canal to the Mediterranean, which we did. If you have more time, then you may continue via the Mediterranean fishing port of Sete along France’s canals and rivers all the way to Bordeaux. Beaucaire may seem like a small, sleepy town today, but it held a vital role in French commerce before the arrival of the railways. The English language website of the Beaucaire tourist information office is:

A Beaucaire parking lot.

The day after enjoying the Julienne in the restaurant in Beaucaire I took the opportunity to visit the central fresh produce market in Arles.  The city of Arles is the gateway to the Camargue.  and a 25-minute drive from Beaucaire. Arles is also famous for the pictures of sunflowers that Vincent Van Gough painted there.  Unfortunately, none of  Van Gogh’s  original paintings remain in Arles.  It was here that Van Gogh invited Paul Gauguin as a guest to his home and would later cut off his own ear. You may visit the home of Van Gough in Arles and view the hospital where he was taken.   

The Arles Produce Market

In the Arles market among some other food research I was engaged in I asked a fishmonger about the fish called Julienne. Fortuitously, I had found a knowledgeable fishmonger, who also put up with my problematic French. He said that Julienne is the fish called Lingue in commercial French; but Julienne was a more marketable table name. He also confirmed Ling’s fishy family relationship to cod. The fishmonger showed me the marked boxes of chilled, but not frozen, filets of Ling that he had just received.  He told me that he receives a shipment every two days from his wholesaler.  From the dates on the box, I could see the fish were packed in Norway and had taken four days from ship to shop. The fishmonger also told me that he occasionally receives whole fresh Ling from the Mediterranean, but his restaurant and fishmonger customers prefer the chilled variety as mostly they want the fish skinned and deboned.
Roman Arles.
Apart from fish, Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin Arles has the best preserved Roman amphitheater in Europe.  The Arles English Language Tourist Information Office website is:
The Roman amphitheater of Arles.
Another fish from North America called Ling.
There is a fish called Ling or Red Hake caught off the East coast of the United States; however, this is a much smaller fish and from a different family to the Ling seen in Europe and the Mediterranean.
The names of the European Ling (Julienne) in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Dutch – leng), (German – leng, blauleng ), (Italian – ciclopi, molva),  (Spanish – barbada, maruca).
The names of the Spanish Ling (Julienne) in the languages of France’s neighbors.”
(Dutch - middellandse-zeeleng),(German - mittelmeer-leng), (Italian - molva occhiona), (Spanish – arbitán, llengua de bacallá). 
Thanks for help with the names of Ling in other languages go to  Froese, R., and D. Pauly. Editors. 2015. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication., version (08/2015).
Connected Posts:
The Camargue, France. The Land, its People and its Own Unique Cuisine.

Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu

Copyright 2010, 2015
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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