Saturday, December 3, 2016

Œufs de la Poule de Marans (L’). – The Eggs from the Marans Chickens. The French Chicken that Lays the Golden Eggs.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Eggs from Marans chickens.
Marans is an inland fishing port set along the River Sèvre Niortais. The sea fishermen and women of Marans sail 24 km (15 miles) to the Atlantic sea at the port of La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast.
Marans and its fresh fish and seafood restaurants.

Marans is famous among the locals who come from the coast and towns up to 50 km (32 miles) away to enjoy themselves in town's many excellent fish and seafood restaurants.  These restaurants offer the widest choices that are straight off the boats.

A really good seafood restaurant’s offerings.
This photograph is not from Marans, but in Marans, there is at least one similar display.
Marans it is also famous for its chickens; they are tasty chickens and unlike the average supermarket offering Marans chickens do have a taste.

A Maran rooster (a cockerel).
Photograph courtesy of elysianfields
Marans and Angelica
To add to the fish, seafood, and chickens the area around the town is the center for the herb Angelica. In French, that is Angélique or Herbe des Anges  (the Herb of the Angels).

A selection of Angelica products
Photograph courtesy of Niort Marais Poitevin Tourist Information Office
Angelica was brought to France by the Vikings and cultivated in their first large French settlement called Normandie, Normandy,  (Normandie means “North Man’s Land” nor-man-die). In French cuisine, the fresh leaves of Angelica may be added to salads, soups, fish dishes, vegetables dishes and fruit salads. Angelica will also be prepared candied, made into a confit, a jam (jelly), used in cakes and desserts and made into a liqueur. Angelica is also sold in French homeopathic pharmacies where they will suggest the herb for heartburn, intestinal gas, loss of appetite, arthritis, circulation problems and more. 
On a menu in Marans you may be offered an Angelica flavored dessert:

Croustillant de Fraises Gariguette à l'Angélique Confite Maison - Crisply cooked – Gariguette strawberries prepared with a home-made Angelique jam. Gariguette strawberries are a very tasty French strawberry  that you will see fresh in the markets between April and May.
After the meal, for your digestif you may be offered The Angélique Eau-de-Vie which is a 40% alcohol liquor, made by macerating, steeping, the plant in Cognac. The best of these liquors is considered to be the Liqueur d'Angélique de Niort, from the town of Niort just 45 km (28 miles) away from Marans.
Marans is above all famous for its amazing chicken’s eggs.
That is In addition to the fish, seafood, chickens and the herb Angelica.
Around the world, Marans is famous for its chicken's eggs.  The tasty Marans chickens are also miracle egg layers.  They lay eggs that vary from a light and speckled brown to a solid golden dark red brown.  Crack a Marans egg or order a boiled or poached Marans egg, and you will be welcomed by a bright orange yolk. These are eggs you have to see to believe.  The eggs’ color looks very different, but inside the yolk and white are those of a regular chicken egg. Nevertheless, the Marans eggs aficionados claim the eggs have a distinctive taste and are considered easily digestible.

The American Marans poultry farmers color chart.
 The USA Marans chicken growers have nine recognized colors in the Maran’s eggs standard.
James Bond has a Marans egg for breakfast very morning.
In the James Bond Movie: From Russia with Love” Bond is filmed enjoying his breakfast with his favorite, a boiled Maran egg. Every morning Bond had a single Marans egg boiled for exactly three minutes and twenty seconds. That was Bond in the early days.

 The secret behind the colors of the Marans brown eggs (called extra-red by the Marans farmers) is  their genes, not special food or additives. Additionally, Marans eggs are mostly larger than those laid by other hens.

The Marans Chicken was created some two hundred years ago by crossing local chickens with imports of fighting game roosters (cockerels) imported from Indonesia and India. Today the Marans chickens are a favorite at poultry shows and the roosters do not fight, they just strut. The Marans is a dual purpose fowl known both for its extremely dark eggs and its excellent meat qualities.  Today there are Marans' poultry farmers in the USA and the UK. So you may Google for local suppliers.

Wherever there are Marans eggs these dishes may be on the menu:

Brouillade d'Œufs de Marans à la Truffe Noire du Périgord -  A Brouillade of Marans eggs served with the black truffle of Perigord.  A brouillade is a Provencal take on scrambled eggs.  To make a brouillade the egg whites and yolks are beaten separately; they are only mixed while cooking. The result is a very light and airy version of scrambled eggs.   Most brouillades will be served with an additional ingredient, and here it is the very special, and expensive, black truffles from Perigord.  When ordering a dish like this, you will be paying a high price for scrambled eggs if there is little truffle in the dish.  Ask if the truffle can be added when the dish is served and not in the kitchen.  Caveat Emptor, I am warning you as I have had this dish which was served, as an entree, the French first course,  with just a few black specks; no truffle that could be seen or tasted.  There was little I could do as the Maitre D’ refused to add more truffle or even show me the truffle they used. What I and a friend who had ordered the same dish did was to pay my bill, take the ¾ full bottle of wine, and walk out. Unfortunately, most diners are unwilling to make such a statement of dissatisfaction and will just write the restaurant off for a second visit.   If you are very unhappy with the food or service in a restaurant let the staff know. .At the very least they should remove an unsuccessful dish from your bill. There was a good ending to the story, we happened upon a restaurant about 600 meters away and had a wonderful meal, albeit without the Brouillade.

Pappardelle and shavings from Perigord truffles.
That is a how a large addition of Perigord truffle may be seen.
L'Œuf de Marans Poché, Crème d'Oignons, Poêlée de Trompettes de la Mort -   A poached Marans egg served with cream of onions and lightly fried black chanterelle mushrooms, also called the black trumpet or horn of plenty mushroom.
L'Œuf de Marans, Burrata, Citron, Café et Champignons de Paris  - A Maran egg served with Burrata cheese flavored with lemon and coffee and served with button mushrooms. Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream; when the Burrata is sliced open, a spurt of thickened cream flows out. Here I imagine the cheese is being offered when mixed with coffee and lemon flavorings. Barratta on its own has a rich, buttery flavor.  The Barratta offered here is must be made in France as this is a fresh cheese that is best when eaten within 24 hours.

You can buy these in the USA

Mousse d'Asperges aux Œufs de Poule de Marans et d'Escargot – An asparagus moose made with Marans eggs served with snails.
Œuf  Mollet de Poule de Marans et Son Crémeux d'Asperges Vertes -   A soft boiled Marans egg served with creamy green asparagus.
Œuf Pôché de Poule "Marans" aux Pleurotes  - A poached Marans eggs served with oyster mushrooms..
Marans and its canal.

As a fishing port, Marans' fishing boats reach the Atlantic via the River Sèvre Niortais. In the 18th century, the port was also reached by the Canal de Marans à la Rochelle.  (That canal is no longer navigable but is a great place for walking and picnicking). The canal was started in 1806, but only opened in 1875; that was just in time for the trains to arrive as well!   With the establishment of a local train service, the canal  could not compete in freight prices and travel prices and quickly fell into disuse; the canal was closed after the Second World War.   Today the canal is today not navigable but is renowned for its flora and fauna.

Fishing boats in Marans
Where is Marans
Marans is in the department of Charente-Maritime. Until 31-12-2015 the department of Charente-Maritime was part of the region of Poitou-Charentes. Since 1-1-2016 the region of Poitou-Charentes together with regions of Aquitaine and Limousin joined together as part of the new super region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.
The four departments: Charente, Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sèvres, and Vienne that were part of the old region of Poitou-Charentes are the home of many excellent food products. That includes most of France’s goat’s milk and many private branded goat’s cheeses as well as the Chabichou AOP goat’s milk cheese, superb melons and every bottle of Cognac sold anywhere in the world. To the agriculture, add are some of France’s top rated oysters and excellent fish and seafood.  Now that Poitou-Charentes is included in Nouvelle Aquitaine there are hundreds of miles of open sandy beaches along with managed beaches.  At managed beaches for a small or large contribution to the local economy, you may spend the day with private cabins, lounge chairs, umbrellas and hot and cold running food and drink merchants.
France reorganized its mainland administrative regions, which are somewhat similar to States in the USA and or Counties in the UK.  They hope, by so doing,  to reduce excessive bureaucracy and administrative costs. Mainland France, which had 22 departments, now has 13. The change will not affect the foods in the regions, but it may cause some confusion in the short term.
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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

Saint Nectaire AOP Cow's Milk Cheese. The Town of Saint Nectaire in Puy-de-Dôme in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Sainte-Nectaire Cheese
The small town of Saint Nectaire is in the department Puy-de-Dôme in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.  The town was known as a spa in Roman times and today offers modern spa facilities, the ancient roman spa may be visited.  The cheese called Saint Nectaire is, obviously, named after the town, and has been produced since the 17th century. Some of the cheese is also produced over the department border in the department of Cantal.    

Saint Nectaire Cheese
The cheese is a 45% fat, cows’ milk cheese aged for at least 28 days for the original cheese and 21 days for the newer and smaller Petit-Saint-Nectaire.  Despite those ages being the legal minimums it takes four to five weeks to really age a Petit-Saint-Nectaire and six weeks to age a farm-made full-size cheese. Some cheeses will be aged for two to three months. The aging is of great importance since the matured Saint Nectaire is soft cheese  with little-ragged holes throughout; the cheese should be spreadable at room temperature   Better to buy a farm aged cheese in a Fromagerie, a cheese shop, than a dairy produced cheese that may have been placed too early on a supermarket shelf. A properly aged cheese has a soft, spreadable paste, of a creamy color with a hint of hazelnut and mushrooms and a memorable smell. The farm made cheeses are all made with unpasteurized milk; the dairies produce the cheese with pasteurized cheese and unpasteurized cheese for export. The pasteurized cheese may be taken into the USA. For information on buying cheese in France and taking it home, with all the French you will need, click here.
The cheese is made in two round-shaped sizes, the regular Saint-Nectaire weighs some 1800 gms (4 lbs) and the  “Petit-Saint-Nectaire”  weighs about 600 grams  (23 ounces).

The cheeses are washed regularly in salt water on rye straw mats on which the cheese ages. Depending on how old the cheese is, the rind can be white, brown or gray, and with orange, yellow, or red patches. If the cheese's rind has a uniform color, it may not be sold as a Saint-Nectaire cheese.

The Fermier,  farm produced cheeses are marked with a small oval label in a green frame and  a white square label marks the dairy, Laitier, cheeses. In 1996, an AOP, a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)  rating was given to "Saint-Nectaire and later to the Petit-Saint-
A Fermier Saint Nectaire

Photograph courtesy of  the Fromagerie "Les Alpages" Saint Nectaire

In Saint Nectaire there is a museum, which shows the history and the methods of production of Saint-Nectaire. It is called La Maison du Saint-Nectaire”, the House of Saint-Nectaire. Their website is in French but is easily translated and understood using the Bing or Google translation apps. The Museum is located in the village of Saint-Nectaire, on the main road to Murol
Saint Nectaire on French Menus
Fondue au St Nectaire, Jambon d'Auvergne et Saucisson, Salade Mêlée A  Saint-Nectaire cheese fondue accompanied by Auvergne cured ham, an  Auvergne sausage, and a mixed salad.  A traditional Auvergne sausage is a small salami type sausage, about 100 grams (3.5 oz), made with pork, pork fat and beef. When served in a dish like this the sausage is often grilled though it may be eaten cold.

The winter road to Saint Nectaire
Visiting is best done in the summer.
Les Poires au Saint Nectaire  - Pears served with Saint Nectaire.  This may be on a restaurant instead of a cheese plate which will include three or four different cheeses.

Tarte Chaude aux Pommes et Saint Nectaire  - Hot apple pie served with Saint-Nectaire.

Cœur de Ris de Veau Braisé Pomme Fondante au Saint Nectaire A center cut of braised veal sweetbreads  served with roast potatoes covered in Saint-Nectaire. (Your French-Engish travel dictionary may translate "fondante" as melted, but in French cuisine "fondante" also indicates roasted when mentioned with potatoes).
Pavé de Rumsteck au Saint Nectaire – A Rump steak prepared with Saint Nectaire. For ordering a steak cooked the way you prefer click here.

The small town and  the Church of Saint Nectaire.

The La Maison du Saint-Nectaire,  cheese is a neighbor.
The town of  Riom-ès-Montagnes, the home of the Auvergne’s Bleu d”Auvergne AOP cow’s milk strongly flavored blue cheese and the center for growing gentian plants in France is just 60 km (38 miles) from Saint Nectaire   The other AOP cheeses of the Auvergne are the Cantal AOP and Salers AOP,  both hard, yellow, cow’s milk cheeses and  the  Fourme d’Ambert  AOP, a blue veined, mild, cow’s milk cheese.  Apart from these five AOP rated cheeses, there are many other excellent cheeses in the Auvergne.  Among these other cheeses are some that are very tasty with unique methods of manufacture; however, alone that  is not enough for an AOP. These other cheeses either do not have a large enough production or enough years of inspection to apply for an AOP. While you are in the area I extol the pleasures that are found in many other local cheeses, AOP or no. The local Fromagerie may make recommendations and allow you to taste a sliver before buying.  For information on buying cheese in France and taking it home, with all the French you will need, click here.

Murol and Chambon-Sur-Lac are neighbors.

Just 5km away from Saint Nectaire are the towns that  are famous for the Murol or Murol du Grand Bérioux cheese.  The Murol or Murol du Grand Bérioux is a mild, creamy, 45% fat yellow cow’s milk cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk; the cheese is matured for a minimum of five weeks before being sold. This is a relatively new cheese created in the 1930’s by a local cheese maker, Jules Bérioux; his name is still on many of the labels.  The cheese is produced in the area around the villages of Murol and Chambon sur Lac next to the beautiful Lake Chambon. As a new cheese, Murol du Grand Bérioux is less than 100 years old and probably to young to apply for an AOC!

Local English language websites:

Lac Chambon by Marc Chagall.

Saint Nectaire,  Mural, and Chambon-sur-Lac are all close to the heart of the Regional Natural Volcano park of the Auvergne.  Close by is the highest dormant volcano in France: the Puy de Sancy 1,886 meters ( 1,17 miles) in height.  This is a huge park comprised of outstanding landscapes, fauna, and flora and some 80 extinct Volcanoes.
The park’s English language website is:


Inside the Volcano Park.
Dining in the Auvergne  will show a broad range of enjoyable and unique dishes for all tastes. Among the special dishes of the Auvergne is the Coq au Vin de Chanturgue – The original Coq au Vin. Most chefs accept that the original coq au vin was prepared with the Chanturgue AOC/AOP red wine of the Auvergne.  For more about ordering a traditional Coq au Vin see the post: Coq au Vin, the Traditional Version is Much More Than Just a Chicken Stewed in Wine.

Connected Posts:
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman