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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Agneau de Pré- Salé -The unique lambs raised on the salt meadows along France's Atlantic coast. Ordering Lamb in France.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman
Updated 2017
An Agneau de Pré- Salé lamb
Agneau de Pré- Salé -  The salt meadow lambs
(Pré- Salé is pronounced pray-salay).
For the tastiest lamb in France look, between July and February for menus offering Pré-Salé lambs.  These lambs will have been raised on the salt meadows, some are salt marshes on France’s Atlantic coast. Pré-salé lambs go to market when 5 - 9 months old, before then will have been raised by their mothers for at least 60-90 days and when weaned will spend at least another 75 days grazing in the salt meadows on France’s Atlantic shores.
The sea-air and the sea salt flavor the grasses on which the lambs feed; that creates a uniquely tasting lamb without even the slightest trace of salt.  Groups of Pré-Salé lamb farmers are now giving their lambs brand names, and more French menus are noting the particular village or the area around the town where the lamb are raised. For lamb, successful branding and recognition mean higher prices for the farmer, and hopefully, guarantees a better product for the consumer. The salt meadows for the Pré-Salé lambs are mostly found in Brittany, Normandy as well as in Hauts-de-France in the department of Somme around the Bay of Somme. 
L'Agneau de Pré-Salé de la Baie de Somme AOP.
Photograph courtesy of Claude Valette
(The region of Hauts-de-France is the new name for the combined regions of Nord, Pas-de-Calais, and Picardy. To combat bureaucracy and lower costs in 2016 France reduced the number of mainland regions from 18 to 13. French Regions may, in certain ways, be compared to US States or UK Counties.
Ordering lamb in France
Lamb will be on many more restaurant menus in France than those of North America or the UK; French menus will also offer a far wider variety of recipes. If you enjoy roast lamb or grilled lamb, which the French prepare very well, they will expect that you prefer lamb slightly rare, rosé in French.  When roast lamb or grilled lamb dishes are on the menu, French waiters, unlike with beef, will rarely ask how you want your lamb cooked. If you have ideas that do not include lamb rosé, then advise and discuss your preferences with your waiter when ordering.

Agneau de Pré-Salé du Mont-Saint-Michel AOP.
The island of Mont-Saint-Michel is in the background.
Pré-Salé lamb on French menus:
Carré d’Agneau de Pré Salé Rôti aux Fines Herbes – A rack of Pré- Salé lamb roasted with the France’s most famous herb group called Les Fine Herbes.

Roast leg of lamb
Gigot d’Agneau de Pré-Salé du Mo nt St Michel au Cidre AOP de Pays d’Auge –Roasted leg lamb from the Island of St Michel prepared with the AOP cider from the department of Calvados in Normandy.
Navarin d'Agneau de Pré Salé – A lamb navarin is a lamb stew traditionally carrots, haricot blanc, white beans, and potatoes. The navette, a turnip, is considered the source of the name navarin, a turnip stew.  The same stew when made with young spring turnips and other early vegetables will become a navarin printanier; that is a springtime navarin. 
Côtes d'Agneau de Pré-Salé Grillées aux Herbes – Grilled Pré- Salé lamb chops flavored with herbs.
Barbecuing lamb chops.
Agneau de Pré-Salé de Baie de Somme En Canon Rôti- A roasted canon of Pré- Salé lamb from the Bay of Somme. A canon is traditional French cut, originally created for veal, and then adapted for lamb and more; for lamb, this is usually a cut from the loin, the upper leg, with the bone removed. The cut is usually stuffed and almost always roasted. The name Canon comes from the shape of this cut; the way that it is rolled does end up looking somewhat like a small canon.
Agneau de Pré- Salé lambs AOC in the fields below the island of Mont-Saint-Michel.
The very best of the Pré-Salé lambs
Two Pré-Salé lamb groups have been awarded AOC and AOP ratings for their unique and consistent quality. In alphabetical order, the first is the Prés-Salés de la Baie de Somme AOC, named after the Bay of the Somme in Haute-de-France. The Bay of the Somme is also famous for its famous hand-picked saffron, the herb, the Safran de la Baie de Somme. The second is the Prés-Salés du Mont-Saint-Michel AOP from close to the island of Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy. Mont-Saint-Michel is also famous for its unique and also AOP rated Moules de Bouchot, small farmed mussels.   All Pré-Salé lambs are raised without antibiotics or growth hormones; they are all raised until weaned by their mothers and will be on French menus between July and February.
Nevertheless, do not let every French title impress you
Pré- Salé Agneau Gallois may also be on your menu; however, these are a tasty Gaelic import from Wales in the UK.  Wales in French is Pays de Galles, and their fine Pré-Salé lambs are an important Welsh export; they will be excellent, even if they are not from France.
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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
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