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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Dining in France – Do You Dream of the Perfect Meal in France. France’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Louis XIV dining table at the Louvre, Paris

When we travel to other countries, we allocate time to visit places that are part of a nation’s cultural and natural heritage. That may be the Pyramids in Egypt, the statue of Liberty and Grand Canyon in the USA,  the Historic Center of Florence in Italy, the Chateau de Versailles in France. 
The Sphynx and a pyramid
Photograph courtesy of Dan

Intangible cultural heritage.

Elsewhere we want to see, watch, take part in, or taste a country’s intangible cultural heritage. That may be the Samba in Brazil, Flamenco and Valencian Paella in Spain, Sushi and Kabuki Theater in Japan, riding on a Gondola and Neapolitan Pizza in Italy, Aubusson Tapestries and a gastronomic meal in France.
Pizza Margarita in Naples, Italy

France has registered its repas gastronomique
as part of its Intangible Cultural Heritage
To keep its intangible cultural history alive France has registered its Repas Gastronomique, its gastronomic meal. That meal is not linked to castles and chandeliers or famous chefs. It is part of meaningful moments in the lives of individuals and groups, such as births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, achievements and reunions that are celebrated with a meal. This celebration brings people together through the art of good eating and drinking. For the French, a meal emphasizes togetherness, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature.  

Great importance is given to the careful selection of dishes; the purchase of good, preferably local products, whose flavors go well together; the pairing of food with wine; the setting of a beautiful table.  During the meal, all take part in enjoying the aromas and the tastes at the table.
The French gastronomic meal is not a tasting menu with seven, nine or more courses, nor does it require a chef, cook or servers from outside the group. However, it does have a fixed structure, commencing with an aperitif  (drinks before the meal) and ending with liqueurs.  In between there are at least four courses, beginning with an entree, the French starter,  a main course of fish and/or meat with vegetables, a cheese course, and a dessert.  The meal draws the circles of family and friends closer together and strengthens social ties.
This is the idea of a meal shared with friends and family; it is the Repas Gastronomique, it is part the intangible cultural heritage of France.  It is part of French cultural identity.

The different parts of France.

Every part of France has different types of bread, agriculture, wines, animal products, recipes and methods of cooking. Different parts of France sit down to different recipes, ingredients and distinct wines, but the format will be the same. An hors d’œuvre may be added, a soup may replace an entrée, a sorbet may be served between courses and coffee or tea may be added, but the core idea remains.
The Aperitif, the pre-dinner drink.
Pastis 51

In the Grande Est, in North Eastern France, the aperitif may be a sparkling Cremant d’Alsace, close to Cognac it may be a Pineau des Charentes, while in Burgundy it will likely be a Kir made with a local white wine and Crème de Cassis, the alcoholic blackcurrant cordial.  In Provence, the aniseed-flavored Pastis will be the only choice.

The Entrée, the French starter

In Brittany, there may be oysters while in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes there may be a Crème de Lentilles du Puy, a crème of lentil soup. Around Bordeaux, in-season it may be Cèpes à la Bordelaise, made with the local, wild, cepes, the French porcini mushrooms. In the Basque country in Nouvelle Aquitaine, there may be Jambon de Bayonne, France’s favorite cured ham.

The wines will be local.

For fish in the north there may be a white Gewürztraminer, for meat and fish in Paris there may a Champagne, from a vineyard just 140 km (87 miles) to the North.  In Burgundy, the choice may a red Beaujolais Village, in Bordeaux a red Médoc, in Corsica  a red Patrimonio.
Barrels of Medoc

The plat, the main course.
Le plat principal.
In Normandy, the main course may be an Escalope de Veau à la Normande, veal cutlets prepared with onions, button mushrooms, and crème fraiche.  In the Alsace, it may be a Choucroûte Garnie. In the Savoy a Fondue SavoyardeFrom around Bordeaux may come a Carré d'Agneau de Pauillac, a rack of lamb from the label rouge, red label, lambs raised along the meadows close to the coast. In Provence it may be a Grande Aoili.

Plateau de Fromage,
Ready for the cheese plate
The cheese platter, of three or four cheeses, will be chosen from among France’s 400 registered cheeses, possibly with the addition of a local cheese only made on a single farm. From the North-West may be chosen Maroilles, Mimolette a French copy of Dutch Edam, and the Boulette d'Avesnes. From Savoy, it may be  Abondance, Beaufort, and Tomme de Savoie.  From the Centre Pays de la Loire may come the Crottin de Chavignol, Valençay, Sainte-Maure de Touraine     From the South-West may come Roquefort,  Ossau Iraty, and Laguiole. 
The desserts

The desserts from the Centre- Val de Lore may include a Tarte-Tatin, while from the Languedoc-Roussillon area in Occitanie may come a Fine Tarte Sablée aux Abricots et Amandes.  From around Dijon in Burgundy might come a Crème Brûlée au Pain d'Épices de Dijon,  a Crème Brulee with the gingerbread of Dijon.  From Provence, in season, a Cavaillon Melon.
The digestif, the digestive.

From the North will come Calvados, from France’s center will come Cognac and from the South touching Basque country will come Armagnac. That may seem a simple division but there are plenty of contenders such as the Lambig Cider brandy of Britanny,  the Marc de Bourgogne from Burgundy, or Grappa from Corsica.
France has more visitors than any country in the world, 83,000,000 in 2016, more than its own population. What do most of these visitors think of when they consider France’s cultural history. Somewhere in a corner of everyone's mind's eye, is a picture of French cuisine.  
See the Lists of other parts of our Intangible Cultural Heritages that are already registered/

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

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Cerf - Venison. Venison in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Red deer
Cerf means venison and venison means deer. Deer will be on many French menus and available in the supermarket and butcher’s shops all year round.  Nearly all French venison comes from farmed deer, and with a lower fat and cholesterol content than beef, pork or lamb it is enjoyed as a healthy alternative. 
French farmed deer include the Chevreuil, the roe deer; the Daim Européen, the fallow deer and the Cerf Rouge, red deer.  In the hunting season the Cerf Sika, the sika or Japanese deer may be on some menus. 
Wild and farm-raised deer feed on grass, lichens, vegetables, fungi, and fruit with wild deer adding tree bark to their diet in winter.  Farmed deer have a distinct,  tender, mild flavored meat while wild deer needs a great deal of preparation. Wild deer will be marinated and usually prepared as roasts or stews and may have a gamey taste. Apart from special Menus de Chasse, hunting menus, when wild game of all types may be on the menu the word sauvage, wild, is added to indicate wild  deer.

Cerf Rouge, Cerf Élaphe or Cerf Noble – The European red deer.
Red deer are the largest mammal in Europe, they can reach 200 kilos (442 lbs). An adult red deer is a cerf, a young male, under six months of age, is called a faon; from here comes the English word fawn. At two years a young female red deer is considered mature and called a biche.  The English word bitch comes from the French biche. When a menu uses the word cerf alone, then it will be the red deer.
Red deer on French menus:

Carpaccio de Cerf Sauvage à la Roquette et au Parmesan – A Carpaccio of wild red deer served with rocket and Parmesan cheese
Rôti de Cerf Rouge, Purée de Betterave Blanche, Crosnes, Shiitake et Pulpe de Canneberges –  Roasted, farmed, red deer served with pureed white beetroot, Japanese artichokes, shiitake mushrooms and European cranberry pulp. The crosne, the so-called Japanese artichoke are small knobby tubers and look like a small Jerusalem artichoke. They have become an interesting addition to many French menus.
Civet de Cerf Sauce Grand Veneur et Polenta – A farmed, red deer stew served with a Grand Veneur sauce accompanied by polenta. A Grand Veneur is a great hunter, and the sauce with that name is traditionally served with game. The sauce's recipe has changed over time and now is usually made with red wine, wine vinegar, stock, butter, fresh berries, dried juniper berries, and crème fraîche.  The polenta, cornmeal cake, on this menu listing was never a uniquely Italian dish; it was a basic food all around the Mediterranean and saved millions of peasants from starvation.  Today polenta has become a fashionable side dish though today’s French farmers, no longer peasants, mostly ignore polenta and buy pasta, rice and or potatoes in the supermarket.  Civets are stews primarily associated with rabbit, hare, and sometimes young, wild boar, but tasty recipes are for sharing, and so here we have a red deer civet.

Filet de Cerf Sauvage Choux de Bruxelles Pommes de Terre Confits, Thym, Citron – Fillet of wild red deer, a cut from the tenderloin, served with Brussel’s sprouts, and potatoes baked with olive oil and garlic and flavored with thyme and lemon.  
Saucisse de Cerf Rouge sur Choucroute et Pommes Vapeur -  Red deer sausages served on the juniper berry flavored pickled cabbage of the Alsace accompanied by steamed potatoes.

Tournedos de Cerf au Foie Gras Poêlé, Sauce au Cassis   - A thick cut from a fillet of red deer accompanied by lightly fried fattened duck liver served with a redcurrant sauce.
Red deer in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan -  cérvol or cérvol comú), (Dutch -  edelhert ), (German - rothirsch  ), (Italian -  cervo nobile), (Spanish - ciervo europeo, ciervo rojo).
Chevreuil – The European Roe Deer.
Roe deer.
The roe deer is the smallest of European deer; a large roe deer may weigh 35 kilos (77 lbs). The male is called a brocard, and the female is called a chevrette.

Roe deer meat is the leanest of all deer meat and when grilled or roasted will need to be barded, wrapped in fat.
Roe deer on French Menus:
Carpaccio de Chevreuil et ChanterellesCarpaccio of roe deer served with wild chanterelle mushrooms.
Noisette de Chevreuil aux Poires Rôties et Airelles –  A small round cut of roe deer steak barded and grilled served with roast pears and European cranberries.  A noisette in French is a hazelnut and the word often used to indicate a small size or a particular color.
Gigue de Chevreuil Grand Veneur  - The haunch, the upper part of the leg, from the roe deer roasted and prepared with a  sauce Grande Veneur, a great hunter’s sauce made with red wine, wine vinegar, stock, butter, fresh berries, dried juniper berries, and crème fraîche.
Venison with Grand Veneur Sauce and Chestnut Puree.
Paté de Chevreuil Sauvage de Sologne aux Chanterelles - A pate made with the meat from wild roe deer and chanterelle mushrooms from the Sologne.   The Sologne is in North Central France and includes parts of the departments of Loiret, Loir-et-Cher and Cher in the region of Centre-Val de Loire.  This part of France covers 5,000 square kilometers (1,900 square miles) and while nearly all is private land it is well-known for its fishing and wild game.
Roe deer in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan - cabirol), (Dutch - ree), (German - reh), (Italian - capriolo), (Spanish – corzo). 
Daim – The fallow deer.
Fallow deer.

The mail fallow deer is a daim, the stag, the female a daine, a doe, and the young are faons, fawns.

Fallow deer on French menus:
Daim Rôti à la Broche – Fallow deer roasted on a spit.
Médaillon de Daim, Purée de Pommes de Terre – A round or oval cut from the rump of fallow deer served with pureed potatoes.
Pavé de Daim, Sauce au Poivre – A rump steak from the fallow deer served with a pepper sauce.  A pepper sauce in France is nearly always made with green peppercorns.  Chefs want the ability to control the heat in a pepper sauce, and green pepper is much more manageable than black peppercorns.

Pavé de Daim, Sauce au Poivre
Pavé de Daim aux Cinq Baies – A thick cut of fallow deer steak; prepared with a sauce made with five different berries.  The berries used will include the Baie de Genièvre, dried juniper berries; Baies de Cassis, blackcurrants, the Bleuet, Myrtille, the billberry, the Airelle or Canneberge, the European cranberry, and the Groseille, the redcurrant.

N.B. On a dessert menu, the word daim will be indicating a tart or a sweet, a candy, with a caramel crunch, covered with a thin layer of milk chocolate.

Gibier is the French word for game, but since France farms nearly all game from sanglier, wild boar, to faisan, pheasant, menus need to be read carefully. Wild game, in season, will be on menus described as a Carte de Chasse, a hunting menu.   Wild game on a regular menu will be noted as sauvage, and that includes fish such as turbot which may be farmed but when wild it will be listed as turbot sauvage, wild turbot. When it is not clear how the game is served or its origins it is best to ask as an old wild duck can have a fishy flavor, and a mature red deer can be very gamey.

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