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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Ragoût – A Traditional French Stew. Ragoûts in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
A mushroom ragoût.
Photograph courtesy of My Recipes.
Ragoûts hold a very important place in the history of French cuisine and the word has always meant a stew. Ragoûts began as stews of mushrooms or vegetables; then meat and poultry, and fish were added. France's first printed cookbook came from the mid-1600s and it included Ragoûts. Over the next four hundred years Ragoûts have remained as important, but not heavy, stews of meat, poultry, fish and or shellfish. A Ragoût is rarely a thick and heavy stew;  heavy stews have their own descriptive names in French cuisine.  Outside of France, a Ragoût may have little connection with stews, the word sounds nice and so you may find the word Ragoût on a variety of "would-be" French menu listings.
Ragout of beef, potatoes, and carrots.
Ragoût on today’s French menus:

Ragoût d'Agneau aux Lingots du Nord -  A lamb ragoût served with France's favorite haricot blanc, white beansVery few French lamb or mutton stews are made without France ubiquitous haricots blanc, white beans, and the Lingots du Nord, the "white beans of the north"  are considered the best of the best. This particular strain of white bean is grown under the name Lingot du Nord which holds the Label Rouge, the red label for quality.  These beans are mostly grown on family-owned farms in the departments of Nord and Pas de Calais that are part of the super-region of Hauts de France.  The farmers took the name Lingot from their local dialect, to differentiate the best from the runners up.
Ragoût de Coquillages -  A ragoût with shellfish. This will include mussels, cockles, clams, etc.,
Fish and seafood ragoût.
Le Ragoût de Queue de Bœuf à la Bourguignonne, Racines Frites - An oxtail stew prepared in the manner of Burgundy accompanied by deep-fried root vegetables. Root vegetables include Turnips, (Navets) Parsnips (Panais) and Swedes (Chou-Navets or Rutabaga).  In the manner of Burgundy on a menu listing indicates local produce and here that includes local beef and a red Burgundian wine.

Ragoût de Ris de Veau aux Girolles A stew of veal sweetbreads and wild Chantarelle mushrooms.

Ragoût de Tomates et Fèves - A vegetable stew of tomatoes and fava beans. The fava bean is also called the Windsor, butter or broad bean. The Fève may also be on French menus as Févettes and Haricots d'Espagne,
Ragoût de Sanglier aux Champignons – A stew of farmed wild boar and button mushrooms. France farms wild boar and so it is available all year round.  When the menu reads Sanglier Sauvage that indicates a genuine wild boar; it will be on menus during the two-month licensed hunting season. 
Crab ragoût

Ragoûts were only for the wealthy.

The original recipes for Ragoûts were either lightly stewed mushrooms, vegetables or stews with beef or mutton.  In the beginning, only those who could afford kitchen staff ate a variety of dishes at every meal, and those meals always include meat, poultry or game at every meal except on Fridays when fish was served.  Ordinary people, if they were lucky enough to eat something other than bread they ate a single course of vegetable stew, with the well-to-do adding bits of meat, poultry or fish.
Until the 1800s the wealthy ate in the French manner, that meant that everything from the soup to the dessert was displayed on a  display table when all the diners walked in. Unfortunately, by the time the diners sat down to eat the soup would be lukewarm and the roast meat or roast pheasant cold. Vegetable Ragoûts did not include tomatoes until the late 1700s.  Until then tomatoes were considered a decorative plant that was often given as a gift, though the fruit was considered poisonous and never eaten.
Following on the French revolution came France’s most famous chef Antonin Carême.  Carême made dining in the “Russian manner” popular with the aristocracy; here separate courses would be served one after the other in the manner that we dine today. Ragoûts then included delicacies like sweetbreads and were often served as an appetizer, the French Entrée.

Following on Careme came other French chefs with their cookbooks offering recipes for a Ragoût Brun, a brown ragout. That would be beef or game that was braised for color before being stewed in a meat stock and often a red wine.

At the same time came recipes for a Ragoût Blanc, a white ragout, would be veal, lamb, rabbit, hare, poultry, fish, shellfish and have cream or crème fraîche, white wine and a light stock in the recipe. A fricassee and a blanquette are different names for a ragoût blanc.

Today, many meat and game ragoûts begin with only a few vegetables;  the vegetables listed will be cooked separately and added just before serving. Cooked for too long they melt away.

The earliest recipe for Ragoût is in the first printed cookbook  Le Cuisinier  François, the French Cook,  written close to 1650 by La Varenne (François Pierre de) (1618 – 1678).
The book may be searched, in the original French, online on the website of the French National Library. There is no charge for reading online, and most of the works may be downloaded for a minimal fee. English translations of some early cookbooks are available at online booksellers.

La Varenne’s book was followed by Le Nouveau Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois, written by François Massialot (1660 - 1733)
from the French National Library.

Page 351 from the Le Nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois
This page includes references to Ragoûts of celery, chicory, cucumber, and small onions.
The Ragoût effect on the Italian Ragù,

Then as now a Ragoût is pronounced rag-oo, do not pronounce the T. 
The Italian Ragù, an Italian meat sauce, (pronounced rar-goo) comes, like Ragoût from the French word ragôuter meaning to restore the appetite ( The Italians give the credit for the original meat sauce called Ragù to the Italian chef Alberto Alvisi in the 18th century. That was almost two-hundred years after the first published recipe for a Ragoût.
French-Chinese and French-Vietnamese cuisine.

French-Chinese and French-Vietnamese restaurant menus will often translate light stews on their menus into French as Ragoût. The original Asian recipe will not have changed, but the easiest way to convey the idea of a light Asian stew into French is to use the French word Ragoût. 

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Searching for the meaning of words, names or phrases
French menus?
Just add the word, words, or phrase that you are searching for to the words "Behind the French Menu" and search with Google. Behind the French Menu’s links include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 400 articles that include over 3,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright © 2010, 2018.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Cahors AOC Wine and Cahors the Town. Cahors Wine in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman
The Valentré Bridge in the town of Cahors.
The locals called it the Pont de Balandras.
The Cahors dark red wine, its vin noir, black wine, is one of the best red wines of France.  The wine took its name from the town of Cahors which is a small, but pretty town of 20,000 in the department of Lot, set in one of the most beautiful areas in the South-West of France. The area round about Cahors is the ancient province of Quercy that borders the Dordogne and is famous for its food products. (When visiting Cahors avoid offending the locals, remember that the name of the wine and the town is pronounced CA—ORS, do not sound the H).
Château Pinerale, Cahors AC 2007.
Like nearly all of France’s AOC wines, Cahors is a blend. The taste of the wine from different vineyards changes with the soil, the sun, the age and changes in the blend. At least 70% of the blend must come from Malbec grapes, that are nearly always called Auxerrois in this area, along with Merlot and Tannat.  But each vintner has, like Coca-Cola, his or her secret blend and its method of aging. To taste the difference take a trip along Cahor’s Route de Vins, their wine road, and enjoy the wine tastings offered by different vintners. The Cahors Route de Vins provides an interesting twist as you may choose road or river. The Lot River runs through the town of Cahors and connects many of the vineyards and the vineyard tours by boat or road run regularly.

There are nearly 100 different names for the Cahors wine.
History and tradition explains most of them
You will not go hungry in the town of Cahors or for that matter anywhere around the town. Dining anywhere in the old province Quercy where Cahors is the departmental capital is a very special treat. This area is also home to the tasty Quercy Melons; the best French Kiwi fruits;  the Truffe du Périgord; France’s most famous and expensive truffle; the Chasselas grapes AOP;  the Périgord Walnuts AOP; the Rocamadour AOP goat’s cheese and some of France's most delicious red label strawberries

If you want other red, rose and or white wines then not far from the town are other vineyards that produce the Coteaux du Quercy AOC  wines and the Cotes de Lot IGP wines. (IGP for wines is a relatively recent addition that replaces the Vins de Pay classification).

The Cahors wine on French Menus:

Civet d’Oie au Vin de Cahors, à l’Ancienne, Pain Aillé, Écrasé de Pommes de Terre. A civet is a traditional stew that was initially only used for small game including rabbits, hares, and young wild boar. Good recipes change with the times, and here the civet is made with goose accompanied by garlic bread and hand mashed potatoes.

Coq au Vin de Cahors et ses Pommes Sarladaises - Coq au Vin is the most famous of France’s poultry stews. Initially created for flavorsome roosters, cockerels, but now often prepared with large chickens marinated in wine. Alongside this Coq au Vin prepared with Cahors wine are Pommes de Terre Sarladaise. Pommes de Terre Sarladaises are sliced potatoes fried in duck fat and flavored with garlic and parsley. They are named after the town of Salart in the Dordogne. Salart is the home of the cuisine of Perigord Noir, Black Perigord, famous for its forests.

Coq au Vin de Cahors.
 The color comes from the old cockerel in the pot and the wine.
Poire Williams, Pochée au Vin de Cahors, à la Cannelle et son Sorbet Poire – A Williams, Bartlett in the USA,  pear poached in the Cahors wine and flavored with cinnamon and served with a pear sorbet. The pear sorbet served alongside this poached pear will have an alcoholic liquor, most probably a pear liquor added so this can be quite a heady dish; Cahors wine and a pear liquor. N.B. The Williams pear owes its name to a nurseryman who popularized the pear in England.  In the USA the first of these pears were grown in an orchard owned by a man called. Bartlett and took his name.

Fraises au Vin de Cahors et Sorbet Basilica Strawberries prepared in the Cahors wine and served with a basil flavored sorbet. The departments of Lot and Lot-et-Garonne are home to more than 20% of France’s Label Rouge, red label, strawberries so enjoy them when visiting.
Filet de Truite BIO Sauce au Vin de Cahors – A fillet of organically raised trout served with a Cahors wine sauce.

Filet de Boeuf au Poivre Noir, Beurre d'Estragon et Jus Corsé au Vin de Cahors A beef fillet, a cut from the tenderloin, cooked with black peppercorns and tarragon-flavored butter and served with a sauce made from the dish’s natural juices, which is its  Jus Corsé, along with the Cahors wine.  Tarragon, the herb, is very popular in French cuisine and is one of the five herbs used in the spice group called Les Fine Herbes, the fine herbs. Tarragon’s flavor is also at the heart of Sauce Béarnaise.

Buying a bottle to take home or to enjoy in a restaurant.
From the time of the Romans who conquered and settled France over 2,000 years ago. Cahors was famous for its wines; that is long before the first grapes were planted in Bordeaux.  Today, some 80 different vintners are producing Cahors wines with many factors affecting the taste.  Age is far from everything and to know what you are buying you need a handy and very knowledgeable friend, an up-to-date wine book or in a restaurant an excellent sommelier, the wine steward. Most Cahors wines are aged in oak though you will also find new wines in the shops and that is why you need that friend or up-to-date wine book.

The town of Cahors, its fantastic bridge, and its cathedral

The town of Cahors is famous for its 11th-century Cathedral and its Pont Valentré, the Valentré Bridge, locally called the Pont de Balandras.  The bridge is the Cahors town symbol and a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The bridge dates from 1378 and was rebuilt in 1879. Look for the symbol of the devil on one of the towers and then ask why!

The devil is in the details.
The devil on the Valentré Bridge, the Pont de Balandras.

If you cannot find the answer to Why the Devil is on the Bridge?  Write to me via the comments section at the bottom of this page.
The Cahors Cathedral.

When this cathedral began to be built in the 11th century the town had more than 600 families and that made it a city. All cities of that time were supposed to have cathedrals.
The Lot River
Apart from visiting vineyards by road or boat, there are trekking paths all over the area, and you may rent canoes and kayaks on the Lot River for a few hours. If you choose to avoid hotels, there are self-drive boats at budget prices or cabin cruisers.  With over 100 km (62 miles) of navigable river and with 17 locks each way that's two or three days of leisurely travel.
Rent your cabin cruiser or kayak.
Connecting to Cahors
When visiting the town look ahead in the English language website of the Cahors Tourist Information Office. Use the websites for opening and closing times of everything including farmer's markets.
The Cahors wine's website is in French only  but easily understood using the Bing and Google translate apps:
Both of the websites above show the dates of the next Fete du Vin de Cahors, the Cahors Wine Fete. The fete is held at the end of July or beginning of August in one of the villages close to Cahors.  This wine festival is also one of the few that allows visitors to book online a place at their celebratory luncheon. Caveat emptor: The luncheon comes along with long speeches in French only.
Cahors is the préfecture, the departmental capital, of Lot and there is an English language website for the department:

The other rated red, white and rose wines from this area have French only  websites, but they are easily understood with the Bing and Google translation apps:

The Coteaux du Quercy AOC wines have celebrations in the department of Lot at different times of the year with wine competitions and harvest festivals.

The Cotes de Lot IGP wines previously called the Vin de Pays de Lot have their own celebrations that may be seen on the French Language website:
Connected Posts:




Searching for the meaning of words, names or phrases
French menus?

Just add the word, words, or phrase that you are searching for to the words "Behind the French Menu" and search with Google. Behind the French Menu’s links include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 400 articles that include over 3,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.
Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright © 2010, 2018.

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