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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Gratin – Browned. Unfortunately, Browned is a Poor Translation Even if it is Correct. Gratin, Au Gratin, Gratiné, and Gratinée are Treasured Techniques and Tastes in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
 Au gratin

Our taste buds are activated by memory long before we visit a restaurant offering a favorite dish. So French diners considering memorable dishes with names that include Gratin, Au Gratin, Gratiné, or Gratinée will have their sensory buttons pushed.
Recipes with Gratin in the name have been part of French cuisine since the late 1600’s. While any dish that is browned in an oven or under a grill may be called a Gratin, even the simplest Gratin dishes will have a French chef adding cheese, breadcrumbs, cream and or butter to help it along.

Le Cuisinier  François - The French Cook,
The earliest French cookbook, written close to 1650 by 
François Pierre de La Varenne, (1618 – 1678).
Page 259 above includes a recipe with a Gratin.
Vegetable and fish dishes that are served Au Gratin are usually made with a cheese sauce that includes Parmesan and or Gruyere, or with Sauce Béchamel.  Some chefs add a light touch of mustard or possibly horseradish to accent the dish.

Gratin and Au Gratin on French Menus:
Chou-fleur au Gratin Cauliflower cheese.  The cheese will usually be Gruyere with a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Effiloché d'Aile de Raie Gratiné à l'Échalote, Pomme Duchesse – Sliced skate, the fish, served with a browned shallot sauce and duchess potatoes. The dish will, just before serving, have a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese added on top of the sauce and then be lightly browned under the grill .and immediately served. Duchess Potatoes are mashed potatoes mixed with butter, egg yolks and flavored with nutmeg and browned in the oven.  While no one is too sure after which Duchess this dish is named after the betting has high odds on Isabella the Duchess of Angoulême. Isabella, became Queen of England when she married King John (1166 – 1216).  This was the bad King John who lost most of England’s French lands; consequently, for the French, he was a good English King! This King John would also sign the Magna Carta giving up many of an English King’s privileges. (BTW Angouleme in the French culinary world has excellent restaurants and is also famous for the tasty eels that come from nearby marshes, but even more meaningful for many is Angoulême’s close proximity to the town of Cognac).
Gratin Dauphinois - Thinly sliced baked potatoes cooked with olive oil and garlic and layered with cream and milk. Some versions add onions and nearly all add grated cheese, usually, gruyere with the dish browned under the grill before saving. This dish originated in the two departments of Savoie and Isère in the Rhone-Alps and in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.  Dauphiné translates as a dolphin, that seagoing mammal but that will not be on the menu, neither will the dolphin fish. A dolphin was the symbol of the counts who ruled the area until they were conquered by France some 600 years ago.  Then the Kings of France adopted the title Dauphiné for their eldest sons, the first in line for the throne.  N.B. Pommes de Terre Dauphine is not a dish made Au Gratin, it is potato Croquettes mixed with choux pastry and fried.  

The flag of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.
Gratin de Fruits Rouges A dessert dish of berries including strawberries and or cherries baked in the oven. Dessert dishes like this will be made with sweet cream or crème fraiche and will often be served with ice-cream.
Gratin de Pomme de Terre Potatoes sliced and cooked with cheese.
Gratin Savoyard - Boiled potatoes baked in butter and beef stock then sliced and interleaved with Beaufort or another of the famous local cheeses and then browned. The gratin, together with a salad, maybe a lunchtime main course as part of a fixed price menu, or it may be the garnish for the main course. The dish is traditional in the region of Savoie.


The most well-known dishes with Gratinée in the name will announce one of France’s famous onion soups when topped with browned cheese.
Gratinée à l'Oignon or Soupe à l'Oignon Gratinée - Onion soup with a grilled cheese topping; the name used for the Parisian version.
Gratinée Lyonnais The classic onion soup from the city of Lyon.

Gratinée de Halles - The traditional Parisian version of onion soup; complete with a grilled cheese topping and today the classic way to serve onion soup. Les Halles was Paris's central food market, and until 1971 when it was moved out of the city a place of pilgrimage for those seeking the perfect onion soup.
Gratinée Tradition
Gratinée Tradition - Another way that a menu may announce onion soup with a traditional grilled cheese topping.

Soles au gratin et vin de Champagne.
No translation required.

While Gratin was part of many French recipes before the French revolution of 1789 it was Antonin Carême in the early 1800s who began writing down and creating,  for posterity the recipes that would become Haute Cuisine.  ( notes Gratin's English usage from 1806 as “a  light crust over a dish,” from the French gratin "crust" (16c.), from gratter "to scrape, scratch).

If you visit a French home or rent an apartment with all the kitchen equipment, there will be a platter called a “gratin."  Like many other French cooking bowls or containers, the Gratin took its name from the dishes made with it. French cooking gratins are shallow pans that vary in size from individual portions to oven-sized dishes.
Gratin dishes on sale
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, June 30, 2018

Œufs – Eggs. A Short Introduction to Eggs on French Menus, and Buying Eggs in French Markets and Supermarkets.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Œuf or Œufs - Pronounced erf or erfs.
Œ –  For more about these two letters linked together see the last paragraph in this post.
  Œuf – An egg.  Unless otherwise qualified this will be a chicken egg.

Jaune d' Œuf – An egg yolk.
Blanc d'Œufs – Egg whites.

Œufs de Caille - Quail eggs. A quail egg tastes exactly the same as a chicken egg; despite that, if you were planning to make an omelet the size of a normal two chicken-egg omelet you will need about 10 quail eggs.

A quail and chicken egg.
Une Œuf - One egg.
Deux Œuf - Two eggs.
Œuf de Canard – A duck's egg.

For egg sizes and free range and organic eggs see the paragraph below marked Buying in the Market or Supermarket.

Œuf de la MaransThe naturally dark brown eggs from the chickens of Marans.
Œufs de Poisson-  Fish eggs.  See Caviar and Botargue.
Œufs de Pâques  - Easter eggs.
Œufs de Poule  –  Another way to describe a regular chicken’s egg.
Œufs Frais – Fresh eggs.
Buying Eggs in a Market and Supermarket.

On the box:

XL -Extra large.  Over 73 grams (2.6 oz).
L - Large.  Between 63  (2.20 oz) and 73 grams (2.6 oz).
M - Medium.  Between 53 (1.90 oz) and 63 grams (2.20 oz) .
S - Small.  Less than 53 grams (2.20 oz).

Fresh and Extra Fresh Eggs:

Extra Frais - Eggs laid in the past nine days.
Frais - Eggs laid in the past 28 days.

The Letters and Numbers on an Egg’s Shell.
A series of 8 numbers and letters

The first digit is one of four numbers; either  0, 1,  2, 3 and these numbers indicate how the chicken that laid the egg was raised.  Following those numbers, there are two letters that indicate the country of origin. Finally, comes a five-digit code that identifies the farm where the eggs were produced.
0 - Œufs Bio - Eggs from free-range Label Rouge, red label, chickens raised on poultry feed that is at least 95% organic. These are free-range chickens with  4 sqm (43 sq ft), for each chicken The Green AB logo on the box is the French government guarantee that the eggs are organic.  These eggs are the most expensive and hold about 1% of the market.

Organic eggs
 For more about Label Rouge, label rouge, click here.

1 – Œufs au Plein Air - Eggs from chickens that are, like the organically farmed chickens, raised with at least 4 sqm (43 sq ft), for each chicken.  These are not organic eggs, but the chickens are free range and they hold 25% of the market.

2 - Œufs au Sol or Œufs en Volière - Eggs from cage-free chickens. However, these eggs come from chickens raised inside a building. That means the chickens while having access to natural light do not have access to the open air.  These eggs hold 6% of the market.

3 – Œufs en Cage - Eggs from battery chickens, chicken in cages. These eggs hold 68% of the market.
Eggs on French Menus:

I have included alternative menu listings for ordering one or two fried eggs in the first five examples. The same usages are used elsewhere.   The most popular menu listing is highlighted, nevertheless if you are not 100% sure ask. 
Fried Eggs.
Œuf au Plat – One fried egg.
Un Œuf  Sur le plat.

Œufs au Plat - Two fried eggs. N.B. Read carefully my own experience when ordering Deux Œufs au Plat !!!
Œufs sur le Plat 
Œufs Sauté à la Poêle

Œufs Sur le Plat Tourné  - Two fried eggs, over easy.

N.B. The French do not usually order fried eggs over easy; however, chefs will understand the request shown above, but then the eggs may be served well done.  I suggested a solution for a friend, and in one particular café it worked; so try: Œufs sur le plat tournés pour une minute, fried eggs over easy for just one minute, pronounced erfs oh plat tour-nee por oon minoot.

Œufs au Plat avec Jambon avec Pain Beurré -Two fried eggs with a slice of cured ham, and buttered bread on the side. Unless otherwise noted jambon, ham, in France will be thinly sliced cured ham. The ham that is usually seen in ham sandwiches and sold as canned ham in France is called Jambon Blanc, white ham, or Jambon de Paris, Parisian ham.

One fried egg.

Eggs Benedict.

Œufs Benedict or Œufs à la Bénédictine.
The legendary New York restaurant called Delmonicos is credited with the creation of Eggs Benedict. Sadly Delmonicos is no longer around. While Eggs Benedict is definitely not a French creation they are quite often on French menus. Eggs Benedict is poached eggs served over an English muffin and Canadian bacon and covered with Sauce Hollandaise. There is no connection between Eggs Benedict and the Bénédictine D.O.M. liquor.

Scrambled eggs

Œufs Brouillés.
The French prefer their scrambled eggs, very slightly runny If you want your scrambled eggs well done then request them bein cuit, pronounced bien kui.
Œufs Brouillés Nature - Plain scrambled eggs .

Œufs Brouillés à la Tomate – Two scrambled eggs with tomatoes

Deux Œufs Brouillés et Deux Tranches de Bacon Grille - Two scrambled eggs and two rashers of grilled bacon. NB – In French there are two words that mean bacon:  Bacon and Lard.  Lard in English is pig fat but in French the word means Bacon.

Scrambled eggs on toast with bacon.


Brouillade is a light version of scrambled eggs and originated in Provence, France. In a brouillade the eggs whites are beaten separately and only then mixed with the yolks; that provides a light and delicate form of scrambled eggs.
La Brouillade d’Œufs aux Morilles et Trompettes De La Mort - Eggs brouillard served with morel, and black trumpet mushrooms.
Œuf Cassé
Œuf Cassé or …à l’Œuf Cassé – Directly this translates as a broken egg, but that is not what the recipe calls for or what you will usually be served.  Œuf Cassé on your menu indicates a dish made with a traditionally poached egg that will be part of another dish.  A traditionally poached egg is made by simply lowering the egg, on a spoon, directly into boiling water, not in a poacher; the egg will only be in the water for two minutes or so.  Then this lightly poached egg will be placed on top of your salad or mushrooms, or whatever dish you ordered. Unfortunately, not all restaurants follow the tradition. In a restaurant with lots of tourists as customers, I have seen a œuf cassé reduced to a shelled medium-boiled egg. 

Œuf or Œufs Cocotte

Œuf or Œufs Cocotte – Eggs baked in a casserole.  The word cocotte will be part of the title of a dish on the menu when the egg or eggs are cooked in the oven and served in a casserole. For breakfast you may be offered bacon and eggs "Au Cocotte," and for a light lunch, the eggs may be baked on top of a vegetable. Despite being baked œufs cocotte are cooked to arrive with a semi-liquid yolk.

Œufs Dur - A hard-boiled egg.

Poached Eggs

Œufs Pochés.
Œufs Pochés or Deux Œufs Poché - Two poached eggs

Œufs Pochés au Bacon - Two poached eggs and bacon 

Poached eggs on toast with bacon.

Other popular egg dishes      
Œufs Mimosa – Part of a salad or another dish. Hard-boiled eggs that will have been cut in half and the yolks removed, then depending on the recipe the yolks are mixed with herbs, mustard,  mayonnaise.  The yolks and other ingredients and decoratively replaced in the white egg halves.

Œuf Mollet - An œuf mollet will be cooked in its shell and is a soft boiled egg.   However, this is not the way eggs are usually served for breakfast.  A œuf mollet on the menu will be a soft boiled egg, shelled, and will often be served as part of another dish or salad.
Œufs Mornay – Hard-boiled eggs prepared with a Mornay cheese sauce served on top and then baked in the oven. A Mornay sauce is a Sauce Béchamel with added egg yolks and Comte cheese. Sauce Béchamel is a white sauce flavored with nutmeg and like Sauce Hollandaise is one of France's "mother" sauces. 
Œufs en Meurette – Eggs, often poached eggs,  served with a Sauce Meurette.  Œufs en Meurette is one of Burgundy’s most popular entrées, the French starter. It will be on many lunch and dinner menus; it is not a breakfast dish. The sauce is made with a red Burgundy wine flavored with meat stock, shallots, herbs, and lardons, bacon bits, that are added for flavor.  Sauce Meurette will also accompany other dishes.

Un Omelette - An omelet.
Une Omelette Nature – A plain omelet.  
The French prefer their omelets slightly runny on the inside, that’s called baveux; I have learned to prefer them cooked that way.  However, if you want your omelet well done ask for your omelet: Non-Baveuse or Bien Cuit, pronounced bien kwee.
Omelette aux Lardons - An omelet with lardons, fried bacon pieces. Lardons are small bacon pieces and a popular flavor fixture in French kitchens.
Omelette aux Fines Herbes -  An omelet with France’s favorite herb group Les Fine Herbes  - Omelette aux Fines Herbes offers an excellent introduction into French dishes that include a variety of herbs. The Fine Herb group has a very mild taste and is composed of five herbs: cerfeuil, chervil; ciboulette, chives; estragon, tarragon; persil, parsley, and thym, thyme.

The Fine Herbes.
Omelette aux Champignons – A mushroom omelet.
Omelette au Fromage – A cheese omelet.
Omelette de Blancs d'Œufs - An egg white omelet.

The letter Œ in the word Œufs and elsewhere,

Œ – The two letters O and E linked together have a history much longer than the few grammar lessons that I participated in in school. I believe you can blame the Romans and Greeks for this strange letter or ligature as it is properly called. When the letters are separate, they have their individual sounds, and in English, you mostly hear the letters sounded separately as in beachgoer and poet.  In French, linked together, o and e form their own unique sound and so œuf is pronounced erf.

To type  Œ  in capital letters on a PC keyboard hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys and them type & and 0…Voila… Œ.
To type œ in lower case hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys and type &, remove your fingers from the Ctrl and Shift keys and type o……Voila… œ.
I am sorry that I cannot offer any suggestions for Mac keyboards.

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