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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Câpres – Capers, the Flavor Bombs. Capers in French Cuisine.

Behind the French menu
Bryan G. Newman
A jar of capers

Capers come as a flavor package and are mostly seen as pea-sized darkish green globes that are part of sauces and or salads.  In French cuisine, it’s their salty, slightly sour, lemon tang marks for them to be used with cream and butter sauces where their flavor, often with added lemon juice cuts down richness. It’s their tart flavor that enhances the taste of mayonnaise, salads and cold sauces, such as and tartar sauce or a tapenade. (A tapenade is an anchoïade with added capers, and the word tapena means caper in Provençal).
Steak tartare, fried capers, quail egg yolk.
N.B. You cannot make a real Steak Tatar without capers.
The capers are an important part of Mediterranean cuisine, and that’s where they probably originated though some in Southeast Asia may disagree. Capers were already part of Greek and Roman cooking and would have been introduced to France by the Greeks when they occupied southern France in the sixth century BCE. Dishes with capers are found in all parts of French cuisine but is most prominent in Provencal and other southern French cuisines. 
The caper is not a fruit they are a bud, which left alone become the attractive white and mauve flowers of the caper bush.  When these buds are picked from the bush they are pickled in vinegar or salt brine; they are rarely dried before pickling as that process loses some of the taste and much of the scent.
The caper flower
The caper flower, like the poppy flower wilts within a few hours.
In French cuisine capers are graded according to size and the caper size relates to taste. The smallest caper usually seen is less than 7mm across and called nonpareil. Nonpareil means unequaled and they are the most expensive. The smaller a caper is, the more delicate its flavor and aroma.  The next step up is the surfines, and that means superior quality, then come capucine and onwards and upwards for the largest sizes that are rarely seen in restaurants. The size of the caper is seldom mentioned on a menu listing but when it is it will be the nonpareil.  Apart from their taste and texture chefs prefer the smallest because their flavor is more easily controlled.

The caper bush also has berries, and caper berries are different from capers. Caper berries are larger and usually eaten like olives.  There is more on caper berries at the end of this post.

Capers on French Menus

Aile de Raie Façon Grenobloise, Pommes Vapeur – Skate wing prepared in a Sauce Grenobloise and served with steamed potatoes. Sauce Grenobloise is a clarified butter sauce made with lemon and capers and almost always used for fish; it originated in the city of Grenoble in South Eastern France. Grenoble is famous for many things, but in the food world it is this sauce and the Noix de Grenoble AOP, the Grenoble Walnuts AOP.  
Smoked salmon, cream cheese, bagel and capers,
Carpaccio De Boeuf Viande Limousine, Mariné au Citron et à l'Huile d'Olive. Parmesan, Salade, Tomates,  Câpres, Champignons -  A Carpaccio of thinly sliced Label Rouge, red label, Limousine beef, marinated in lemon and olive oil served with shavings of Parmesan cheese. accompanied by a salad, with tomatoes, button mushrooms, and capers.
With parsley and capers, slow roasted tomatoes with fennel seeds.
Dos de Cabillaud Lardé à la Tapenade Maison – A thick cut of fresh cod wrapped in bacon  prepared with the house’s take on a tapenade. The beloved spread of Provence called Anchoïade or Anchoyade is made with anchovies, olives, garlic and olive oil; added crushed capers brings forth the tapenade, Tapenades will be offered as a spread or like this menu listing used in cooked dishes. Tapenade’s name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas. 
Jarret d'Agneau Braisé Au Fenouil Et Céleri, Beignet De Câpres, Pommes Dauphine - A cut across a braised a shin or shank of lamb prepared with fennel and celery, deep fried capers and served with Dauphine potatoes. The meat on a lamb shank surrounds the bone and the same cut with veal is a jarret de veau, more than similar to the Italian Osso buco.
Potage de Trumeau de Bœuf.
The recipe above comes from page 19 of France’s earliest printed cookbook.
Le Cuisinier Francoise by La Varenne published in 1651.
A trumeau de bœuf. is an early French name for jarret de bœuf.
Mi-Cuit De Thon Rouge De La Méditerranée En Croûte De Sésame, Huile De Câpres, Mijoté De Poivrons Et Menthe Poivrée – A steak from the Northern Bluefin tuna from the Mediterranean very very lightly  braised on the outside  and left raw in the inside, in a covering of sesame flavored with caper oil, lightly simmered bell peppers and spearmint. The two tastes and textures of tuna prepared in this manner match each other perfectly. Every French chef will have his or her own method of preparing caper oil though none squeeze the caper; most take pickled capers add them to olive oil, usually with added garlic and after some 30 days or so a caper infused oil should be ready to use,
Mi-Cuit, lightly braised, tuna on a bed of tapenade.

Câpres à queue - Caper berries
Pickled caper fruits mostly called caper berries may be part of some dishes, but their flavor is more like an olive.
Caper berries
The official caper sizes:
Lilliput (3-5 mm.) non-pareil (5-7 mm), surfines (7-8 mm), capucines (8-9 mm), capotes (9–11 mm), fines (11–13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm). If the caper bud is not picked, it flowers and produces a caper berry. The difference is that capers are the early flower buds, while the berries are what forms after they have bloomed and been pollinated. The largest that may be the size of an olive hang from a cherry-like stem and they are pickled with the stem.  The fruits have tiny seeds inside (the size of kiwi fruit seeds), the tiny seeds are soft and pop when chewed, and so their texture is very different to capers.  Caper berries have a strong smell that comes from ingredients also found in mustard and wasabi, but they less acidic and have a milder flavor than capers, which makes them edible on their own much like olives and pickles.
Caper Plant, buds, fruit, and flower.
Otto Wilhelm Thome (1840-1925)

In France, the most highly rated capers come from Provence, but the capers bought outside France will mainly come from Morocco, Turkey, Spain. India and Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia also competes for the origin of the plant and capers are included in their cuisines.
The caper bush is a thorny shrub that can grow up to two meters tall though most are less than one meter, The shrubs branches have thons at the base of each leaf and so when the capers and caper berries are picked a great deal of care, and thick gloves are needed; capers are still picked by hand as caper picking machines are still a work in progress

Capucine, Cresson d’Inde - Nasturtium, Indian cress
Nasturtium fruits can be pickled and used as a substitute for capers and sold at much lower prices under the name of "nasturtium capers.”

Capers in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan - taparera ), (Dutch - kapers), (German – kaper), (Italian - cappero), (Provencal - tapeno, tapero), (Spanish - alcaparra, caparra, tápana and the caper berry is alcaparrón), (Latin – capparis and the plant is capparis spinose).


Bryan G. Newman
Behind The French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2019.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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 450 articles that include over 4,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.

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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Dining in Limousin, France. The Departments of Corrèz, Creuse, and Haute-Vienne.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G, Newman
A herd of Limousin cattle.

Limousin may not be on France’s main tourist routes, but it influences all of French cuisine and the city of Limoge is the historical center of fine porcelain and the birthplace of Auguste Renoir and the town of Aubusson is a world heritage site for its tapestries.  Limousin’s three departments, Corrèz, Creuse, and Haute-Vienne are green and forested with hills, rivers and lakes set close to the center of France and since 1-1-2016 part of the new super region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.
Autumn in Limousin
Limousin’s produce and products star on menus all over France whether named on the menu or not.  Limousin’s Label Rouge, red label, beef, is the most popular IGP beef in France and the only French apples with an AOP rating are the Pomme du Limousin AOP. Limousine is also home to many farms that grow the Noix de Périgord, AOP, the Périgord Walnuts and a large part of Limosin has thick chestnut forests.

Famous Inside and outside France are Limousin’s favorite tarte the Clafoutis (pronounced in the singular or plural form as kla-fou-tee). Tarts made with a crepe-like batter and originally with Limousin’s abundant sour cherries. Clafoutis are now famous all over  France, and they will be made with other fruits and ingredients and served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The flaugnarde (pronounced with the letter g silent, so flaugnarde is pronounced flo-nyard) is Limousine’s other famous tart and very similar.
While very little wine is produced in Limousin it is close to the Loire valley and those wines will, along with the wines of Burgundy, be on all the wine lists. Limousin’s oak forests have provided all the oak for the barrels used in Rémy Martin Cognac for more than 100 years,

Limousin on French menus:
Boudin Noir à la Châtaigne du Limousin et sa Purée de Pommes – France’s version of the UK and Ireland’s black pudding (a pig’s blood sausage) prepared with Limousin chestnuts and apple puree.  Dishes like this may be on the menus as “à la Limousin,” in the manner of Limousin and are often recipes with made with its abundant chestnuts or AOP apples.
Emincés de Magrets de Canard aux Pommes Du Limousin AOP et Gelée de Coing – Slices of duck breast prepared with Limousin’s AOP apples and quince jelly. 
Farcidure or Farcidure de Pommes de Terre – This winter dish from Limousin is made with grated potatoes cooked with salt pork or fatty bacon and flavored with onions, shallots, and garlic.  The exact recipe may change as local variations add or remove one or other of the ingredients. 

Limousin has learned from the AOP wineries, and they have a Route de la Pomme du Limousin, an apple road in the department of Correze. The French language website is easily understood using Bing or Google translate apps.  The route will take you through magnificent scenery allowing stops at farms (on Thursdays in season) and of course past many restaurants.
Slices of duck’s breast
N.B. Duck in France will be served rosé; if you prefer it well cooked, ask.
Filet de Bœuf Limousin, Sauce à la Lie-de-Vin de Touraine – A cut from the tenderloin, the fillet, from Limousin beef served with a red wine from Touraine sauce. Limousin Label Rouge, red label, beef is well marbled and not from cows fed in feeding lots. The cows are at least 28 months old and will have been free range for six months of the year.  The red wines from the Touraine appellation in the Loire Valley are known for their strongly colored, almost violet-red wines and the term Lie de Vin is also a color.
Pavé de Veau Limousin, Tranche de Lard Colonnata et son Jus Corsé A particular cut from the rump of Limousin’s Label Rouge, red label, veal prepared with a cut of Lard Colonnata, and a sauce made from the cooking juices. The Label Rouge veal from Limousin come from calves raised until weaned by their mothers while completely free of antibiotics or growth hormones. The Lard Colonnata (Lardo de Colonnata) was originally part of an Italian quarryman’s daily meal in the small town of Colonnata in Tuscany, Italy; today it is a gourmet flavoring. It is made from a cut of cured pig fat cured with garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, and sage in baths made of marble; the result is a firm lard with a truly unique taste. French chefs, like the Italians chefs, use the Lard Colonnata for flavor and even serve it directly on toast though that has made me consider my cholesterol.
Salade Limousin –  A limousin salad will be on many menus and the salad greens used will vary with the season but will always include Perigord walnuts or Limousin chestnuts, and the vinaigrette may be made with walnut oil.
Souris d’Agneau Limousin Braisée à la Crème d’Ail Douce – Braised Limousin lamb shank served with a cream sauce made with sweet garlic.  This dish is always prepared and served with the bone left in; the bone and bone marrow provides lots of flavors. Limousin’s Label Rouge, red label lambs, are raised until weaned by their mothers and are free of antibiotics and growth hormones.  Souris d’agneau is a dish designed for restaurants; they have the time and the staff to control the slow process required to prepare this dish. The souris d’agneau will be cooked for hours, so the slow, low, heat breaks down the muscle and other tissues. The meat will practically melt in your mouth with all the taste locked in, and that’s the beauty of a souris d’agneau.
Souris d’Agneau
Tarte Façon Bourdaloue Pommes Du Limousin AOP, Pignons Dorés -  Tarte Bourdaloue is classic fruit pie made with a pâte brisée pastry; here it is made with Limousin’s AOP apples and browned pine nuts over an almond or frangipane based cream.  (The name comes from Rue Bourdaloue in Paris where the Patisserie that first made tarte was situated in the 1850s). 
Tarte Bourdaloue
The cheeses of Limousin.
Limousin has many excellent cheeses made with cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk though most have limited production, and so despite their excellence they are only available locally. One that I recommend is called the Corrézon au Torchon; this is a traditional cow’s milk cheese with 45% fat, that is produced much like a fresh cheese but is in fact aged for anywhere from one to three months.

Other cheeses that will be on restaurants cheese trolleys or on sale in the fromageries, cheese shops include:
Brayo, cow’s milk
Foissac Saint Hilaire, sheep’s milk.
Gouzon, cow’s milk.
Leconet, goat’s milk.
Millevaches, cow’s milk.


The City of Limoges was home to the world’s first fine porcelain industry before it lost out to the Far East, but before that loss, it created amazing products and designs that are part of France’s unique art history. The National Museum of Porcelain Adrien-Dubouché has the world’s most significant collection.
From the Adrien-Dubouché collection


The town of Aubusson is home to the Cité Internationale de la Tapisserie d'Aubusson that has nearly 1,000 examples of Aubusson, tapestries, carpets, and furniture from the 17th century.

The picturesque old town of Guéret has a Museum of Art and Archeology with a fabulous collection of Limoges painted enamels but is now being redecorated for the first time since it opened in 1905 and will reopen in 2021
Limousin has many fetes connected to various culinary specialties from cheese to ham and sausages etc.,  the local tourism office will be able to supply dates and subjects along with market days for all the local villages and towns.

Limousin and Limousines.

Of course when in the region of Limousine everyone tries to find a connection between the name of the region and those top of the line automobiles, the limousines. Well, some answers have been offered, but nothing that seems plausible is on my list. Maybe once upon a time, there was a connection.

Racing in Limousin
Chateau de Pompadour is a castle famous throughout France not for so much for its architecture as its beautiful Hippodrome racecourse and stud farm

Bryan G. Newman
Behind The French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2019.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman
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 450 articles that include over 4,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.

Connected Posts: