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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Pot-au-Feu or Pot Bouilli – Pot on the Fire - France’s Most Famous Stew.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
The pot-au-feu, a beef stew, was part of France’s culinary heritage long before Haute Cuisine.  Then, with the rise of a robust middle class after the French Revolution the pot-au- feu was raised to the heights of gastronomic art. Today’s well-schooled chefs remember their grandmother’s heavenly recipe for pot-au-feu that was served on a cold winter’s night; they have added the dish, and its wondrous tastes and smells to their Michelin starred restaurant’s menus.
The traditional pot-au-feu includes beef, marrow bones, carrots, turnips, leeks, celery, onions, potatoes, a clove-studded onion, garlic and a bouquet garni. There will be at least three different cuts of beef and the ingredients will be slowly cooked for hours.  
Occasionally the beef soup may be served first followed by the boiled beef served with vegetables and gravy from the stew as the plat principal, the main course. Whether or not the soup is served separately is not that important, but the best traditional pot-au-feu’s are accompanied by fresh country bread, mustard, cornichons and those tasty small French pickled white onions.
Depending on the region and the chef’s tradition the recipe may be the traditional beef, or it may be veal or lamb; some versions may include chicken, duck, pork or sausages.  Many fish restaurant menus offer a pot au feu de la mer, a stew of sea fish and seafood. 
Pot-au-feu on French menus:

Pot-au-feu Albigeois - Pot-au-feu from the department of Tarn; it is made with added goose or duck confit. There are many regional versions of pot-au-feu, and the name of the region indicates the difference in the recipes. (Tarn is part of Languedoc- Roussillon now included in the super-region of Occitanie).
Pot au feu de Canard et Légumes Anciens – A duck stew with heirloom vegetables. The heirloom vegetables may include Jerusalem artichokes, multi-colored carrots, turnips, parsnips, and kohlrabi.
Pot-au-feu, Sauce Ravigote – A beef pot–a-feu served with a Sauce Ravigote.  Sauce Ravigote is a thick vinaigrette sauce made with mustard, eggs, olive oil, shallots, spring onions, chives, parsley, and chervil.  This sauce is served with many fish, shellfish, poultry and meat dishes.

Sauce Ravigote.
Pot-au-feu de Fruits de Mer au Bouillon Safrané – A seafood stew made with a saffron-flavored broth.
Pot au feu de Lapin– A rabbit stew.

Pot-au-feu- de la mer – A fish and seafood pot-au-feu.
Similar dishes with traditional names:
Azinat Ariégeois -  A pot-au-feu from Ariege. Ariege is a department in Midi-Pyrénées that became part of the new super-region of Occitanie that was created on 1-1-2016 when the regions of Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillon were joined.
Baeckeoffe or Potée Alsacienne  - From the Alsace; now part of the new super region of the Grand Est. This dish includes cuts of beef and pork or lamb and possibly goose and Alsatian sausages. The vegetables will include France's ubiquitous white haricot beans, onions, carrots, leeks, and potatoes.
Boeuf en Hochepot de Légumes Printaniers – Ox-tail stew with spring vegetables.  Here a meaty oxtail will be adding to or replacing the beef in the pot-au-feu. Oxtail stew is a traditional dish in Normandy and parts of the new super-region of Hauts de France as well as Belgium where it will be a Hochepot Flamand.  William the Conqueror came to England in 1066 and brought the French connection to the English kitchen including the hochepot. A hochepot includes all the leftovers in the kitchen and gave its name to odds and ends called a hodgepodge in the English language.

Bouilli or Pot bouilli – Another name for a pot-au-feu.

Garbure Gasconne - From the old province of Guyenne and Gascony now included in parts of the new super-regions of Nouvelle Aquitaine and Occitanie. Garbures, are thick vegetable soups that include ham, bacon, and duck, or goose confit. Gascony was home to the semi-fictional figures of  D’Artagnan from the Three Musketeers (born in Gers) and Cyrano de Bergerac (born in the Dordogne).
Kig ha Farz –  A pot-au-feu in the manner of Brittany.  The name comes from the Breton language which is related to the Celtic languages of Cornwall and Wales and used for many of Brittany's traditional dishes.  Here to the meats and vegetables of a pot-au-feu is added the “farz brujun” made from crumbly blé de sarrasin, buckwheat flour.  Buckwheat flour has a distinctive, mild, nutty taste and a dark color. Buckwheat is gluten-free. The French name for buckwheat flour, farine de sarrasin, stretches back to the crusades.
Potée Auvergnate - From the Auvergne, now part of the new super-region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.These potées will include duck, ham, salt pork, and pork sausages.

Beef and other meat or poultry stews were never part of the French peasant's food; the peasants lived on bread and vegetable soups with the occasional piece of meat or poultry added on religious holidays. 

The name Pot-au-Feu.
Pot-au-feu only reached French dictionaries in 1785-1795 according to Dictionary.Com: then the French revolution began, and France’s first restaurants were opening.The words pot-au-feu translates as a pot on the fire, and apart from the stew indicates the traditional earthenware casserole in which the ingredients were cooked. In French homes of the period, these casseroles would have been left to cook slowly on the heated stove all day and night with ingredients added to and taken out as needed.
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Searching for words, names or phrases on 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, January 13, 2018

Pralines, Pralines Roses, Belgian Pralines and Pralulines. Pralines in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Pralines Roses.

Pralines began in the home of the French Count of Plessis-Praslin (1598 – 1675). The accepted tradition has the Count’s chef Clément finding the count’s children roasting sugar-dipped almonds over an open fire with the heat caramelizing the sugar.  Clément took the children’s recipe and served them to the Count and his guests, who loved them.  While this is unlikely to have been the first time that anyone roasted almonds dipped in sugar this time they received a great deal of publicity.  Over time the Praslin became Pralines.

(In the middle of the 17th century in France sugar would have been very expensive.  At that time France and most of Europe still used honey for sweeteners.  While cane sugar reached the mainland France regularly, it would have been too expensive for most.  It would be the middle of the 18th century before the process of extracting sugar from sugar beets was formulated; thank you Andreas Marggraf and Karl Achard).

Modern pralines recipes still use whole almonds and sugar, though to the original recipe have been added crushed walnuts and walnuts mixed with hazelnuts; other recipes use France’s favorite nut, the walnut.  Some recipes add crème fleurette, whipping cream, or crème fraîche

The Praline on French menus:

Crème Brulée aux Pralines Roses – A Creme Brulée decorated and flavored with pink pralines. Pink pralines are made with a drop of edible red food coloring added to the recipe.The creation of the pink praline is claimed by the city of Lyon. Amazing.
Croustillant Praliné, Sorbet au Citron de Menton à l’Anis Vert – Crispy pralines served with a sorbet made with lemons from Menton flavored with anis.
Menton on France’s Mediterranean coast borders with Italy and there citrus fruits are grown in its unique micro-climate that produces some of the best lemons in France. Menton has a lemon fete every year; it is held during a two week period from mid-February to early March. The exact date can be checked at the Fête Du Citron English language website: N.B. While driving to Menton on the coastal road you have to drive through Monte Carlo.
Soufflé Glacé à la Praline et Ananas Confits à la Vanille – An iced souffle flavored with vanilla served with pralines and pineapple confits. Fruits confit were created hundreds of years ago when the French preserved fruits through the winter by replacing their water content with honey. The ancient Egyptians already used honey to prevent infection of open wounds, and when the French used honey to replace the water in fruits and vegetables, they knew they the fruits and vegetable would not rot;  in a cool room fruits confit could be kept for years.  Today, sugar is used instead of honey
Praline tarts on sale.
 Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, Lyon, France.
La Douceur aux Deux Chocolats Croustillant Praliné – A sweet petit fours of two chocolates made with crispy pralines. Douceurs is an old French term for sweets or desserts.  Douceurs is used on menus in the same way a shop may try to make itself more interesting by calling itself Ye Olde Shoppe.
Le Malakoff aux Pralines Roses  Malakoffs served with pink pralines.  A Malakoff is a Gruyere cheese flavored donut whose origins date back to the Crimean War and a successful combined French-British attack on the Russian Fort Malakoff in 1855. (Malakoff is today within the city limits of Sevastapol, Ukraine).
Tarte Fine aux Pralines Roses, Rhubarbe Pochée, Glace Vanille Bourbon.  A tarte fine is a disk of puff pastry.  Here it is served with poached rhubarb and ice-cream flavored with Bourbon vanilla. Bourbon vanilla comes from the Indian Ocean islands of Reunion, Madagascar, Comoros, and Mauritius.  (The French island department of Reunion was called the Île de Bourbon until the execution of King Lous XVI in 1789 in the French revolution. The House of Bourbon produced all of France's kings beginning with King Henry IV  (1553 – 1610). Bourbon whiskey’s name is also linked to the name of the French kings just as the US State of Louisiana is named after the French King Louis XIV (1643 to 1715)). 
Mille-Feuille aux Fraises, Glace aux Pralines  - A mille-feuille, thin leaves of puff pastry separated by slices of strawberries glazed on top with pralines. 
Pâtisserie in Châlons-en-Champagne
Soufflé Glacé a l'Absinthe, Gaufre aux Pralines Roses – An iced soufflé flavored with absinthe and served with a waffle flavored with pink pralines.
The fame of pralines spread when the Count’s chef Clement retired from the Count’s service. Then Clement opened a shop in a village called Montargis in the department of Loiret, in the Centre, the Val de Loire;  it is just 70 km (43 miles ) from Orleans and about 110 km (68 miles) from Paris.  The shop is now called Confiserie Mazet. The present owners purchased the shop from the founding family in 1903. Mazet also has a shop in Paris.
If you are visiting the area, Montargs is a pretty, walkable town with canals and flowers. Every year from the beginning of October they have a Mois de la Gastronomie, a month of gastronomy, during this month the local restaurants produce special locally sourced menus and desserts built around pralines.

The website for Montargis is in French only but easily understood using the Bing and Google translate apps:
Belgian pralines

Belgian pralines began to be sold at the beginning of the 20th century.  They are filled chocolates, and the best are made by top of the line Belgian chocolatiers though only a few are filled with nuts; most are filled with soft chocolate and liquors, etc.
Belgian Pralines

American pralines

 American pralines have their history linked to French immigrants who brought the recipe to Louisiana.  Today most American pralines are made with brown sugar and pecans. (The United States acquired the territory of Louisiana in 1803 for $15 million, and that purchase joined the East and West coasts of the USA).
American Praline Cookies


Praluline  - A brioche cake made with butter and filled with pink pralines; it was created by Auguste Pralus in 1955 in his chocolaterie in the city of Roanne, in the department of the Loire in the new super region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
A Praluline may look odd but they taste terrific, and you may buy originals at Pralus owned chocolateries scattered around France. If you visit Roanne, there are many excellent imitations. The Praluline is now considered a specialty of Le Pays Roannais, the area in and around the city of Roanne. 

A Praluline

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Searching for words, names or phrases on 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