Saturday, April 29, 2017

Civet – A traditional French stew associated with small wild game. Civet on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Civet de Lapin au Pommes de Terre Puree
Rabbit stew with mashed potatoes.

The traditional civet would be a wild rabbit, wild hare, and sometimes young, wild boar.  Today the animals will mostly have been farmed, and other animals will often be prepared in a similar fashion. The traditional civet took tough, stringy, wild animals and marinated them in wine for 24 hours or more. After they were well marinated, they would be slowly cooked with lardons, bacon pieces, wine, and herbs.
Most French chefs prefer farm-raised rabbits, hares and young farmed wild boars for their tables. Yes, even wild boars are farmed in France.  The rabbits, hares, and wild boars are larger and meatier than those caught in the wild.  They are generally available all year round for whenever the chef decides to put them on the menu. Also, the chefs’ choices have expanded beyond rabbits, hares and young wild boars.

In the case of the wild boars, it is interesting that they do not even know they’re being farmed. They are kept in a large forested area where the always have enough food.
A mixed litter of a farmed wild boar. The piglets are being fostered.
Civet on French Menus

Civet de Chevreuil au Vin de Bourgogne A stew of roe deer made with wine from Burgundy.
Civet de Chevreuil
Civet de Lapin – Rabbit stew.

Civet de Lapin au Sang The traditional rabbit stew cooked with some of the rabbit’s blood.

Civet de Lièvre – Hare stew.
Freshly frozen farmed hare from the UK
on sale in a French supermarket.

Civet de Lièvre au Sang – The traditional hare stew cooked with some of the hare’s blood. 

Civet de Lièvre au Sang

(The most famous hare dish is Lièvre à la Royale – Hare in the Royal manner. It is a dish that outside of specialized restaurants usually has to be ordered a day or two in advance. For this dish the hare, and traditionally this was a wild hare, is marinated for two or three days with thyme, cognac, and red wine and then cooked with pork, foie gras, red wine, onions, garlic, shallots, and truffles if available.

Sometimes Lièvre à la Royale is mistranslated on a French menu into English as Jugged Hare. Jugged hare is a traditional English dish, and they are not the same   Jugged Hare is wild hare marinated for a few days in red wine, garlic, and herbs and, then served fried with salt pork prepared in its own wine marinade.  Alas, the jugged hare misses the cognac, foie gras, shallots, and truffles that are part of Lièvre à la Royale). 
Lièvre à la Royale
Photograph courtesy of Inspirational Food

Civet de Marcassin. - A stew of a young farmed wild boar. A wild young wild boar would be a marcassin sauvage.

Civet de Tripes d'Oies A stew of goose tripe, red wine, onions, shallots,  flavored with bacon pieces and garlic. On a local menu in the department of Gers, Armagnac country, I saw a listing offering Civet de Tripes d'Oies Au Armagnac.  The addition of Armagnac should not be too surprising as the old province of Gascogne includes the departments of Gers. The departments of Ger, Landes, and Lot-et-Garonne are the heart of Armagnac country.
Baron de Sigognac XO Platinum Armagnac
The civet, your chef, will prepare today will often be marinated the night before.  Marinating, as opposed to the old days, is today done for the flavor and not because the meat is tough.  After being marinated the meat will be lightly fried together with bacon and onions along with additions for a new recipe that the chef has created. Then the meat will be slowly stewed with the wine and herbs. Shortly before serving vegetables may be added 
Nevertheless, during the hunting season, some restaurant will be offering Menus de Chasse;  a menu dedicated to wild animals caught during the regulated hunting season.  If the menu only offers a single wild animal the chef will add the word sauvage; for example, a  rabbit is a lapin, and a wild rabbit is a lapin sauvage.

The traditional civet recipe for hares was Civet de Lièvre au Sang; that meant the hare’s blood was used to both to flavor and to thicken those stews. Chefs know that the old recipe is now considered politically incorrect, and so now many chefs add the rabbit or hare’s liver and kidneys to the stew instead and by so doing so they claim the same flavor is achieved. The stew itself will be reduced, thickened further, if required, by longer cooking, that allows the sauce to thicken without any added blood or other additives. 

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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2017.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Paleron – A French cut from the center of a shoulder of beef or veal and occasionally pork

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

The paleron, a French beef center shoulder fore cut.

 This cut, for beef, is often used for Provencal Daubs and other stews. Within the rules of French cuisine, it comes from the center of the shoulder.  This cut is full of flavor, a well-cooked steak in 90% of all restaurants is exactly that, but a well-cooked stew, when not overspiced allows to you taste the full flavor or the meat. The better restaurants will identify the origins of the beef they offer. Their knowledgeable clientele with return when they see  a named  and highly rated addition to the menu.

There is no exact UK OR USA cut that matches a paleron.

There is lots of confusion with the French and the UK and USA cuts from the shoulder.  Many shoulder cuts make excellent steaks, and the whole shoulder area is often referred to in the UK and USA as chuck or chuck steaks along with quite a number of other names for local cuts,  The paleron is a French center shoulder cut and is rarely used in France for steaks. Now steaks may be prepared from this cut; nevertheless, in France, tradition is tradition, and the paleron is nearly always used for some of France’s best-tasting beef and veal dishes along with the occasional pork dish.

UK fore cuts.

Paleron on French Menus:
Ravioles de Paleron de Bœuf,  Toast de Moelle et Mousseline de Carottes à l’Orange, Émulsion Réglisse – Ravioli stuffed with meat from a daub or another stew served with toast with bone marrow and a moose of carrots flavored with orange and a thick licorice sauce.
Brochettes De Paleron De Bœuf Marinées – Skewers of marinated beef from the paleron.

Cuts from a paleron.

Le Paleron De Bœuf Irlandais Aux Champignons Et Lard Gras, Pressé De Cèleris et Carottes Confites A stew of the paleron from Irish beef prepared with button mushrooms and fatty bacon and served with a jam (confit) made with celery and carrots.
Paleron de Bœuf Servi Avec son Jus, Risotto aux Truffes et Croûtons de Pain – A beef paleron served with its natural cooking juices, a risotto flavored with truffles and accompanied by bread croutons

Paleron de Bœuf à la Crème d’Échalotes
et Risotto aux Topinambours
A braised beef paleron prepared with a cream of shallots
 and a risotto with Jerusalem artichokes.
Paleron de Bœuf Charolais Braise Doucement au Four, Jus au Poivre de Java, Legumes Glaces, Galette de Patate Douce.  Paleron of beef slowly braised in the oven with a natural gravy flavored with the Balinese long pepper and served with glazed vegetables and a sweet potato crepe.

Paleron de Porc aux Légumes de Saison – A paleron cut from a pork shoulder and served with the season’s vegetables.

Salade de paleron de bœuf
Le Paleron De Veau Français Confit À Basse Température Jets De Houblon, Garniture Maraichère – A paleron of French veal confit (slowly cooked) at a low temperature and served with hop shoots and market garden vegetables.

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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2017
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

Haricot Tarbais – The Bean from Tarbes is one of France’s Favorite Beans. The Haricot Tarbais on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
The Haricot Tarbais

The Haricot Tarbais Bean

The Haricot Tarbais bean, like all beans, was discovered in South America and brought back by the conquistadors. The area around the town of Tarbes is called the Commune of Tarbes and it is a very important farming community in the department of the Hautes-Pyrénées in the new super region of Occitanie. In Tarbes, they have been selecting and improving on this strain of imported bean since the 18th century.  The dried white Haricot Tarbais was, in 1997, the first dried bean to be awarded the Label Rouge, the red label, for its unique and consistent quality.

Buy the Haricot Tarbaise in the supermarket.

Photograph courtesy of the Cooperative Haricot Tarbais.
If you are close to Tarbes during the picking season, from Mid-August to October, it is worth visiting the town for many excellent and tasty reasons that include the fresh bean. Elsewhere in France, the Tarbes bean will still be on your menu but then it will be the rehydrated dried white bean.  The town of Tarbes has a population of 47,000 and is one of the oldest communities in France; continually settled for at least 1,500 years.

The Haricot Tarbais on French Menus:

Bar De Ligne, Purée De Haricots Tarbais, Jus Au Pécharmant, Rouelle d’Oignon Doux Des Cévennes Wild European Sea Bass served with a Tarbais Bean puree prepared with a sauce from the Pécharmant wines (wines from the North East of Bergerac) and onion rings from the AOP Sweet Onions of Cevennes.
Roast lamb with Tarbais beans
Pécharmant is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, AOC/AOP wine produced in the hills to the North-East of the town of Bergerac, in the Dordogne-Perigord in France's South-West in the new super region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.  (The new region of Nouvelle Aquitaine includes the old departments Aquitaine, Limousin, and Poitou-Charentes. The change was made on 1-1-2015 when France reduced the number of mainland departments from 22 to 13).
Souris d'Agneau à l'Échalote Confite, Purée de Haricots Tarbais Lamb shank prepared with a shallot jam and served with a puree of the Tarbais beans.
Tarbais beans with quinoa

Coques et Haricots Tarbais en Salade  - Cockles, that popular member of the clam family served in a salad with the Tarbais Beans.

La Dorade Croustillante, Mousseline de Haricot Tarbais, Palourdes, Piment Doux -  Crisply cooked Gilthead Sea Bream served with a moose of Tarbais beans, clams, and sweet peppers.
The Confrérie of the Haricot Tarbais.
Carré de Porc des Montagnes Braisé au Jus et Haricots Tarbais -  A braised pork chop from the pigs raised in the mountains and cooked with their natural cooking juices and the Tarbais beans.
Tarbais is the center of one of France’s major agricultural centers.
So much is grown and raised within the area of the Commune Tarbais that they have their own annual agricultural exhibition every March.  Within the Hautes-Pyrénées department of Occitanie, where Tarbes is situated they also raise the famous Mouton Barèges-Gavarnie AOC, the only AOC mutton in France. The local farmers also raise the Label Rouge, red label, Blonde de Aquitaine cattle as well as other breeds for both beef and milk. Apart from beans, mutton, and beef, you will also find on local menus the pork and ham from the unique Porc Noir Gascon pigs. These Black Gascony Pigs also called the Black Pigs of Bigorre, the Noir de Bigorre AOC/AOP pigs, were nearly extinct until brought back from the brink less than thirty years ago.  With the area of Midi-Pyrenees are also the Label Rouge Poultry of Gers, Lauragais, Tarn, and Quercy. Tarbes is also not at a loss for many other fruits and vegetables, from potatoes and lettuce to tomatoes, clémentines, and lemons; Tarbes supplies much more than just beans to the rest of France.  In local restaurants expect fresh farmed trout as well as wild trout from local rivers and streams. 

The website of the Tourist Information Office of the city of Tarbes is in English if you click on the British flag as you enter the site:

The cheeses produced around Tarbes include:
 Bleu des Causses AOP,
 Tomme des Pyrénées IGP.
Roquefort Cheese,
There are many restaurants in and around Tarbes with excellent chefs and most with prices that are half those be found in the big cities.  Local wine lists include the Madiran AOP red wine and the uniquely named Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec AOP, a dry white wine. Both these wines are grown around outside the small village of Madiran which itself is just 12 km (7.5 miles) away from Tarbes. 
The lemons of Tarbes
 If you are visiting the area around Tarbes and are interested in food products in general and the products of Tarbes, in particular, visit the Halle Brauhauban with its daily morning food market. Also of interest may be the Grand Marché, the grand market; here in the Place Marcadieu, they have a flea market every Thursday morning and farmers' markets twice a week.The local Tourist Information office will supply days and hours.
The market at Halle Brauhauban.
For visitors to the area, the pilgrimage town of Lourdes is just 50 km (31 miles) away.  In the winter Tarbes and Lourdes are both fully booked as they are short distances from important skiing areas. The city of Tarbes is close to the Parc National des Pyrénées. The website of the National Park of the Pyrenees is in French but easily understood using the Google or Bing translate apps:

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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2017

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