Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sorbet - Sorbet. Sorbets on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Cranberry Sorbet with Clementines and Mint.

The sorbet in France.

France traditionally served sorbets twice during a meal to stimulate the appetite and clean the palate between courses; the purpose was to prepare the diner for different tastes. Nevertheless, modern French cuisine today often forgoes the sorbet that was usually included in the price; many sorbets have become a dessert or part of a dessert. Those who choose from a dinner menu and include at least the sorbet served before the main course will find the taste of their main course sharpened.  Of course, the serving of a sorbet or two during the meal also allowed the chefs another ten minutes to organize the serving and carefully timed service is a central part of French cuisine; serving all the diners at the same time is essential.

Sorbet is a type of water-ice served frozen. The sorbet will be made from sweetened water with frozen fruit puree or fruit juice and often includes a wine or liqueur. (The addition of alcohol reduces the melting point of ice, changes the taste and in many instances gives the sorbet a more delicate taste. Sorbet is usually considered the ancestor of ice-cream and is often confused with a granité the drink (sometimes called sludge). The general rule that distinguishes sorbet from ice-creams or a granité is that a sorbet never contains milk. N.B. That rule is, unfortunately, already being broken.

A strawberry sorbet with shortcake
and a poppy seed and sugar biscuit.

Sorbets when offered between courses on French menus.
Sorbet au Citron Vert – A lime sorbet

Sorbet aux Poires – A pear sorbet

A sorbet sampler.
Coulis Citron Vert et Sorbet Pamplemousse – A lime puree served with a grapefruit sorbet.

Sorbet au Suc de Fleurs de Pissenlits – A sorbet flavored with the juice of dandelions.

Cointreau and blood orange sorbet
Sorbet Citron Arrosé de Vodka – A lemon sorbet with a vodka accent.
Sorbet Citron et Basilic et Liqueur de Citron – A lemon sorbet flavored with basil, the herb, and enlivened with a touch of a lemon liqueur.

Sorbets as desserts on French menus:

Délice Poires Amandes, Biscuit Épicé et Sorbet Poire – A  délice notes a treat or a delicacy; often the chef’s view of his or her latest creation. Here this treat is made with pears and almonds, spiced biscuits and a pear sorbet.
Gazpacho de Légues et son Sorbet – A vegetable Gazpacho served with a vegetable sorbet. N.B. Légues is shorthand for légumes, vegetables.

Les Fraises de Marzan Confites, Meringuette, Sorbet Yaourt de Brebis - A preserve or jam made from the much-appreciated strawberries of Mazan in the department of Morbihan, Brittany. Here the strawberry preserve is served with a meringuette, that is a small cake made only with beaten egg whites and sugar and here it is served together with a sorbet made from sheep’s milk yogurt.  Mazan is a center for the farming of many different berries as well as strawberries. The strawberries most often seen in Mazan are the Plougastel strawberries that originated around the town of Plougastel just over the border in the department of Finistère. This menu-listing breaks completely with the history of sorbet that had always been milk free; a sign that reminds us that French cuisine does not stop progress.

Sorbet "Watermelon Cake".
Lime sorbet, watermelon sorbet, the "seeds" are miniature chocolate chips.
Salade de Poulpe, Mini Légumes et Sorbet Betterave – Octopus salad served with miniature vegetables and a beetroot sorbet.
Sorbet Mandarine, Citron Vert, Passion, Coulis de Fruits Rouges, Chantilly – A tangerine, or mandarin, sorbet prepared with limes, passion fruits and a puree of red fruits served with Chantilly cream.

Tartare de Fruits Frais et son Sorbet Kalamanzi  - A Tartar of fresh fruits served with a Calamansi Sorbet. The calamansi is a citrus fruit from Asia especially appreciated in the Philippines. The fruit has a flavor somewhere between orange and lemon.

Sorbets Mélanges – Assorted sorbets, this would usually be a desert.

A Sorbet Mélange, a pear and yellow plum sorbet.

China was making sorbets and ice cream and probably water-ices in the seventh century BCE. Then Rome began, about the first century CE, doing the same with ice brought down from the Apennines to Rome. That required horsemen and mules with changes of riders and animals every 40 km (25 miles) along the 200 km (125 miles) road to Rome. The changing of riders and pack animals ensured that a least half the ice was still frozen when it arrived in Rome. This was the time of Nero, and at that time nothing was too much for the Emperor and his inner circle.

The French word sorbet comes from the Italian sorbeta, and the word sorbeta came from the Arabic word sherbet.  However, the sorbeta was in production long before the first sherbet and a sherbet was a very different creation to a modern sorbet.  The introduction of sorbet to France came from the Italians, and the Italians would also bring the first coffee and later the first ice-cream seen by the public in France.  According to tradition ice-cream was introduced to France by Francesco Procopius from Palermo, Italy.  Procopius’s coffee shop Café Le Procope opened in Paris 1686 and remains the oldest coffee shop still open in Paris today; though, now it is mostly a high-class restaurant. When sorbets first appeared in France in the latter part of the 17th-century, they would be served as a palate cleanser or as an iced drink or as an ice suitable for eating and drinking. Sorbets served between courses came with the changes in Haute Cuisine in the late 18th century; for that we may thank the most famous chef of the period Antonin Carême and also his friends.  For those interested in the American Revolution and the French Revolution, you may sit in Café Le Procope and enjoy a coffee and an ice-cream when the restaurant is not serving lunch or dinner. Possibly you will be sitting right over the spot where John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Pain, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, Danton, Marat or Robespierre may have sat.

Ice Cream and Granité is based on milk and cream with air copiously whipped in while a traditional sorbet has neither milk nor cream and very little extra air.  The method of sorbet preparation makes for a dense and full-flavored product. Granité is an Italian style of sorbet (Granita in Italian) that has not been churned; it's roughly mixed by hand with a fork or by a machine so it freezes as it forms larger granular ice crystals. The result makes a granité coarser and crunchier than a sorbet: that is apart from a granité nearly always being served as a drink.
Chestnut Profiteroles, Clementine,
Pinetree Sorbet and Chocolate Sauce

These differences in production and the fact that sorbets contain much more fruit than an ice-cream gives a sorbet its pronounced fruity flavor. Despite that, new uses for sorbets are being created; for example, changes in the traditional Tru Norman, a Normandy tradition of a shot of Calvados served between courses to aid the digestion. Today many modern Norman meals while shaming the traditionalists has the shot of Calvados replaced by a Tru Norman Sorbet made with crushed apples, water, sugar and a touch of Calvados.

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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, March 18, 2017

Escabèche ( Escabeche) on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Oysters à l'escabèche

Escabèche (à l' ) – A marinated fish and shellfish dish of South American, probably Peruvian, origin, served cold. Most versions of escabèche are made with marinated raw fish or seafood: nevertheless, some recipes call for smoked fish and smoked seafood, and others include meat, fowl, and vegetarian offerings.  Unless the menu indicates otherwise the fish or shellfish offered will have been marinated in wine vinegar; herbs and spices.

Partridge escabèche

Escabèche on French Menus:

Escabèche de Moules Servies en Coquilles, Trait de Vinaigre de Chardonnay Mussels Escabèche served in their shells with a  touch of Chardonnay wine vinegar.

Mussels escabèche

Huîtres (6 Pièces) en Escabèche avec Oignons Caramélisés et Anis. – Six oysters prepared as an escabèche with caramelized onions and aniseed.

L'Escabèche de Rouget Barbet à la Menthe – An escabèche of Red Mullet flavored with mint.

Escabèche of yellowfin tuna,
Aubergine (in the USA the eggplant) caviar, and coriander.

Légumes Croquants en Escabèche au Miel de Châtaignier de Mon Frère et Rafraîchis au Vin Jaune Crunchy vegetables prepared as an escabèche with honey from my brother’s chestnut trees and refreshed with the sweet yellow wine from the Jura.

Wrapped marinated turkey escabèche
Maquereaux de Méditerranée en Escabèche Safranée Craquant de Fenouil et Orange de Provence – Mediterranean mackerel in an escabèche flavored with saffron, crunchy fennel, and oranges from Provence.

Sea bream with Yucatan escabèche marinade

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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

Marmite – Marmite on French menus. In France, a Marmite is Usually, but not Always, a French Fish Soup or Stew.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Marmite de Poissons aux Coquillages
A fish and crustacean marmite.
Marmite –  Marmite in traditional French cuisine is a seafood and or salt water fish soup or stew as well as the name of the traditional French cooking pot used for making these soups and stews. Petit marmites are smaller cooking pots and are often used for serving the soups or stews they contain. Marmites made with vegetables, meat or poultry are exceptions, but they will be seen on some menus.
Marmite de Poissons – A fish marmite
Photograph courtesy of Blog de mihibou
(French Marmites and petite marmites have nothing to do with the UK Marmite vegetarian spread and flavoring that was first produced in 1902 by the Marmite Food Company. French marmites were on French menus over 100 years before. See the end of this post for more on British Marmite).
Marmites on French Menus
Marmite aux Poissons et Fruits de Mer: – A shellfish and sea-fish soup. There is no single recipe for a marmite with fish and shellfish so ask for more detail about what’s being offered.

La Marmite de Poissons
Marmite Dieppoise  A traditional fish soup from the port town of Dieppe in Normandy. This marmite will be mostly sea fish; some will include mussels and the occasional scallop for good luck.  The soup, when made locally, will be made from that day’s catch; the catch may change daily and then so will your soup’s taste. The Marmite Dieppoise generally has a white wine and cream or crème fraîche base; additional flavor will be added with herbs, shallots, and vegetables that the chef considers suitable. 

Cassoulet petite marmite with Toulouse sausages.

Marmite du Pêcheur – A fisherman’s marmite from the North-East of France.  From my experience, it is somewhat similar to the Marmite Dieppoise.   On a visit to Lille, in Northern France, I had a perfect Marmite du Pêcheur and was told that the fish were whiting and plaice. The soup was excellent and came with lots of mussels, some cockles, and small clams all cooked with white wine,  carrots, onions and what seemed like a lot of garlic; excellent.

Marmite de Saint Jacques et Lotte à la Bretonne – A marmite of king scallops and monkfish in the manner of Brittany. This is a marmite with the best of Brittany shellfish and seawater fish with the Brittany accent coming from crème fraiche and quite probably their excellent cider.
La Marmite Bretonne
Marmite de Ris de Veau à la Bière d'Ardennes Ambrée et Champignons Frais – A marmite of veal sweetbreads made with the amber colored beer from the Ardennes and fresh button mushrooms.

Petite Marmite de Homard aux Girolles A petite marmite of the two-clawed European lobster and girolle chanterelle mushrooms.

La Marmite de Poulet Fermier aux Girolles – A stew of farm raised chicken prepared with chanterelle mushrooms.
Marmite de Bouillon de Poule
A marmite made with a chicken bouillon
Petite Marmites
Petite marmites are the name given to similar and smaller, cooking pots than those called a marmite without any prefix. The stew cooked in a petite marmite will often be served in it. The traditional shapes used for the pots called marmites and petite marmites have long gone, but the recipes remain.

The British vegetarian spread and flavoring called Marmite,
Before Louis Pasteur realized that the cells in yeast were, in fact, living plants, people just discarded the yeast as a by-product of the brewing process. Then the German scientist Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) went on to make yeast into a concentrated vegetarian food product that was said to taste like meat extract. This is the discovery that laid the groundwork for the production of British Marmite some thirty years later. Following on Marmite’s commercial success came the discovery of vitamins in 1912; that gave Marmite another boost as it was found to be a great source of five important B vitamins.  Much later, in 1929, the Nobel Prize committee award the prize for the discovery of vitamins to two among the many deserving researchers who were still alive: Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins from England and  Christiaan Eijkman from Holland.  The Marmite factory in Burton-on-Trent, on the River Trent in East Staffordshire, England was established in 1902,  it is still there today.
A jar of British Marmite

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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