Saturday, July 23, 2016

Fleur de Sel - The flower of salt

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
The crystals of Fleur de Sel.
Fleur de Sel  -  The flower of salt.
Crystals of dried sea salt, hand-harvested for its unique qualities. These are thin salt crystals, that together with other minerals have risen to the top of the salt pans that hold the rest of the drying sea salt.
In the kitchen Fleur de Sel’s unique attributes are its texture as well as taste; when Fleur de Sel is used, as it should be, it will be added at the last moment before a dish is served and eaten just before it melts. If it melts in a dish, all that is left is a taste of salt; however, when the  thin crystals of Fleur de Sel touch your tongue their thin and format and taste affects your taste buds differently to ordinary salt.

Collecting Fleur de sel
Photograph courtesy of ernie.else
Most Fleur de Sel will be slightly gray, but the best contains flashes of violet and other colors.  The Fleur de Sel will have dried on top of the salt pans  and the salt harvesters identify the crystals by eye; it is the flashes of color in these crystals that indicate the added minerals. When properly served Fleur de Sel crystals will pop in your mouth; they add a new taste and a new texture to the dish with which this salt is served.

Fleur de sel on sale.  FF
The most well-known of France's Fleur de Sel producers are along France's Atlantic coast.  The top three are Guérande, the Island of Noirmoutier, and the  Island of Ile de Ré.  Of these Guérande in the department of the Loire-Atlantique, just over the border from Brittany is the most famous. On the Mediterranean, the most well known is the salt field of the Camargue. All these may be visited.
Visiting the salt fields of Guérande.
(Next to the Parc Naturel régional de Brière).
The salt fields of Guérande may be visited by car, but they also have an interesting option that allows a real understanding of their use of the sea marshes and rest of the salt industry by taking a barge tour. Both tours may stop at their  Maison du Sel, their House of Salt Museum for more information on this unique industry.  When you have seen and heard all you wish to know it is a five-minute drive, 6 km (4 miles) to relax on the beach in the nearby coastal resort of La Baule. La Baule is also very well known for its many seafood and fish restaurants. Guérande is 79 km ( 49  miles) from Nantes and  21 km  (13 miles) from Saint-Nazaire.

You may also enjoy the beautiful National Park of Briere that is next to Guérande. It has a French language website, but that is easily understood using the Google or Bing translate apps.

Fleur de Sel sprinkled on caramels.   FF
Fleur de Sel on French Menus:
Carpaccio de Saumon à la Fleur de Sel - Carpaccio of salmon served with Fleur de Sel.
Chèvre Frais à l'Huile d'Olive et Fleur de Sel – Fresh goats' cheese served with olive oil and fleur de sel.  The Fleur de Fel will be served separately to the cheese and olive oil. With a piece of bread dip a small piece of goat’s cheese in the olive oil and then in the fleur de sel before popping it into your mouth. The taste and texture of the cheese and the olive oil is tasted and then accented by the texture of the salt melting in little pieces on your tongue.  The combination creates a fresh appreciation for both the cheese and oil. Wonderful!
Chipirons à la Plancha Fleur De Sel - Small calamari, squid,  cooked on the plancha and served sprinkled with Fleur de Sel.
Contre-filet Simplement Tranché a La Mignonnette De Poivre et Fleur de  Sel – A USA strip steak, a UK Sirloin, simply sliced and served on pepper mignonette with Fleur de Sel. (Pepper mignonette is grossly ground or crushed pepper).
Dark chocolate with Fleur de Sel  FF
Le Pavé de Rumsteck Grillé a la Fleur de Sel Frites Maison et Salade. -  A large cut of rump steak grilled with Fleur del Sel and served with the chef’s special French fries and a salad.  Here the salt will not have been rubbed into the steak, rather added to steak and fries just as they are ready to be served.
Os A Moelle et Ses Toasts, Fleur De Sel De Guérande - Bone marrow on toast served with Fleur de sel. This is a true delicacy and if it is on the menu do not pass it by.
 Pavé de Bar Rôti à la Fleur de Sel de Guérande – A thick cut of European sea bass, the fish, roasted over the Fleur de Sel from Guérande on the Atlantic coast.   The Fleur de Sel should be added just before serving.  
Collecting Fleur de Sel   FF
 Fleur de Sel may be on your menu in many forms; for example fish or meat may be baked completely surrounded by a thick coating of Fleur de Sel.  After cooking this salt crust is cracked open, and the dish served. The taste will not be salty, and the restaurant theater here is impressive.  The menu may also offer a simple hors d’œuvre of fresh uncooked vegetables to be dipped in Fleur de Sel and then eaten as they are.  Here the salt crystals popping inside your mouth affect the taste and texture of the vegetables in a manner that cannot be repeated with regular sea salt.

Cherry tomato salad finished with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel.  FF

 Fleur de Sel On the Mediterranean coast.
Visit the lovely town of Aigues-Mortes at the edge of the Camargue on the Mediterranean and from there visit its salt industry. Wherever you are on France’s mainland coastline, you will not be far from salt farms and sources of Fleur de Sel. Salt is, in any case, essential to our well-being, so enjoy.
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016

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

Jambe d’Agneau in French Cuisine.The foreleg or lamb shank.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
De-boned slices of roasted lamb shank.
Jambe d’Agneau -  A foreleg leg of lamb.  Also a cut from the leg, a cut across the bone.  Cuts across the leg, with the bone left in, may come from the front or rear legs. Larger cuts will be treated like lamb steaks or chops, and the smaller cuts; cuts from lower down the leg may be on the menu as another cut completely.  These cuts may also be made as an Osso Buco d'Agneau, a lamb Osso Buco.  While Osso Buco is traditionally made with veal, lamb does qualify even in Italy. (For the link to Osso Buco click here).

A lamb sandwich with the meat cut from a jambe d’agneau.
This lamb sandwich is served on toasted bread with lightly pickled red onion, watercress, and rosemary aioli.
Côtelettes de Jambe d'Agneau – Lamb steaks cut across the foreleg.
Jambe d'Agneau au Four  - A roast foreleg of lamb.

Jambe d'Agneau Braisé –  Braised foreleg of lamb.

Jambe d'Agneau Cuit à la Broche. 2 –  Lamb shank grilled on a spit. (For 2 persons).

Lamb shank.
Jambe Braisée Tendre d'Agneau avec de la Sauce à Vin Rouge et la Purée de Pommes de Terre - A braised tender cut from a foreleg of lamb, prepared with a red wine sauce, and accompanied by mashed potatoes.

Deboned lamb shank.
Ragoût de Jambe d'Agneau –  A ragoût d'Agneau,  a lamb stew. Usually, a hearty stew cooked with turnips, and or Swedes, carrots, beans, onions, carrots, and whatever else the chef decides to add. In a stew like this if the cut from the leg and includes, the bone it will improve the gravy, which will be enriched with red wine and herbs.  If you, like me, are interested in what goes in the pot, it may be worthwhile asking for more information.
Ragoût de Jambe d'Agneau

Connected Posts.
Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010,2016
For information on the unpublished book behind the blog contact Bryan Newman

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Plancha or Planxa in French cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G.Newman
Cooking on the plancha
The plancha/planxa is part of many southern French and French Basque recipes and provides unique tastes that cannot be obtained with traditional frying or grilling. The plancha is an iron sheet, almost one and a half centimeters  (0.6”) thick that provides a very even method of cooking that uses very little oil and results in a taste of its own. The invention of the plancha is claimed as their own by the Spanish, the Basques, and the French.  
Dishes cooked on the plancha on French Menus:
Mesclun aux Agrumes, Pavé de Saumon à la Plancha – A mixed green salad with citrus fruit accompanied by a thick cut of salmon cooked on the plancha.
Crevettes Ail et Persil a la Plancha Shrimps cooked with garlic and parsley on the plancha.
Côtes d'Agneau des Pyrénées à la Plancha – Pyrenean lamb chops cooked on the plancha,


Octopus on the plancha with eggplant, tomato, crispy panisse, basil oil.
Steak de Thon Rouge Frais à la Plancha  - A fresh Northern Bluefin  tuna steak cooked on the plancha

Swordfish and courgettes on the plancha
Calamars Grillés à la Planxa, Persillade aux Herbes Calamari, squid, cooked on the planxa with persillade, a mixture of garlic and parsley along with herbs,

Cooking on a plancha

Le Magret de Canard à la PlanxaDuck breast cooked on the planxa.

Dos de Morue à la Planxa en Persillades – A thick cut of fresh cod cooked on the Planxa with a sauce made with a mixture of garlic and parsley

Filet of salmon and asparagus cooked on a plancha.
Chorizo à la Planxa au Cidre Basque – Chorizo pork sausages cooked on the planxa with Basque cider.
Who really created the plancha, planxa?

The original creation, at least the one that sounds the most probable has the idea down to a blend of early Mexican, Aztec and Maya cooking methods mixed with the addition of Spanish ideas.  Their corn bread was cooked on flat clay plates heated from below, then with the arrival of the Conquistadors, an iron plate was placed on top.  So the Spanish French and Basque probably owe the Plancha to the Central and South Americans and the Conquistadors.   In Spanish, the word plancha means iron or metal or metal plate. In modern Spanish, a plancha is also a clothing iron, just as the word iron means a clothing iron in English.  In Catalan, the language of Catalonia, (an autonomous part of North-Eastern Spain) the word is Planxa. In Basque planxa has the same meaning.  

Chorizos on the plancha.
So, white the plancha/planxa may not be an original Spanish, French, Catalan, or Basque creation it does provide delightful dishes.

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016.

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

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