Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
The Apricot or Abricot. The Wonderful Fruits of France.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Photograph courtesy of wildexplorer.
Apricots are a cherished part of
French cuisine and have been grown in France for thousands of years; today they
are considered a native French fruit. However, the apricot's origin is
South-Eastern Asia. When you visit France in the apricot season look out for
dishes made with fresh apricots; they have become a uniquely French fruit.
Where apricots grow in France
France’s apricot growing regions include Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence and the Rhône-Alps. The season
is June through August, and at that time dishes fresh apricots
will appear on all local menus all well as all over France. In
the regions where apricots are grown, in season, few restaurants have less
than two or three dishes made with fresh French apricots on their menus.
Dining on Apricots
During one French whole apricot
season I was traveling a long way away from France. To make me realize error a friend
brought me a copy of a wonderful apricot-centric menu that he and others had enjoyed in the south of France. I had been traveling to Japan and
back at that time and while I do love
Japanese cuisine, after seeing this menu I knew that that year I had lost out.
In this menu, from Languedoc-Roussillon the chef had really honored that
year’s crop. If you wish to see how to order apricots in France during the
season read on.
A menu designed around the Apricots of
Vin de Pêche et Abricot – A cold peach and apricot wine; the apéritif.
An aperitif of cold peach and
apricot wine. Photograph courtesy of Dispensa Pani
e Vini Franciacorta, from Flickr.
The hors d'œuvré:
Bouchées de Brie aux Abricots– Mouth sized bites of
apricot stuffed with brie cheese; the hors d'œuvrés.
Salade de Magrets Fumés,
Abricots et Légumes d'Été –A salad of smoked ducks’ breast, apricots and spring vegetables
Médaillon de Veau
aux Abricots– Round, or oval, cuts of veal. Prepared
and served with the apricots in which the veal was cooked; the main course.
The salad course
Salade – A small mixed green salad.
Fine Tarte Sablée aux Abricots et
Amandes, Sorbet Framboise– An apricot and almond tart made with a shortcake pastry and
served with a raspberry sorbet; the dessert.
courtesy of Ruby's Feast
The cheese course:
Un Plateaux de Fromages du
Terroir avec Abricots Secs– A plate of local cheeses served with dried
apricots; the cheese course.
The fruit course:
Plateau de Fruits Frais,
Abricots, Pêches, Raisins Blanc – A fresh fruit plate
including apricots, peaches and white grapes; the fruit course.
Coffee or herb tea:
Coffee ou Tisane de Arômes d'Abricot et de Pêche– Coffee or herb tea; the
herb tea offered is an apricot and peach tisane; a tisane is often
translated as a fruit tea.
The Petit Fours:
Petit Fours aux Abricots–Those little pastries often served with
your coffee; here they all were made with apricots.
The digestif- The after-dinner drink.
Liqueur d'Abricot –Aneau-de-vie d’abricot, an apricotbrandy
With a once in a lifetime menu like that who
could have chosen anything else?
According to my friend, who, together with all his fellow
diners enjoyed and survived this meal; it was served over a period of three
hours. The only wine they drank during this dinner was a dry Cremant de
Limoux AOC/AOP,a sparkling white cremant from Languedoc-Roussillon.
Cremant de Limoux .
Photograph courtesy of jamesonf.
Outside of the French apricot
season fresh apricots are still available nearly all year
round as French citizens are used to having fruits imported out of
season. Most out of season apricots come from the USA and Turkey;
for France importing apricots from the USA is practically an obligation as many
of the original cuttings planted in the USA came from France.
courtesy of maaco.
Despite the wide availability of freshly imported
apricots many French chefs prefer French apricots; they wait for them to
be in season. Many chefs consider, with a degree of certainty that French
apricots are better. Apart from fresh apricots, dried apricots, and,
of course, French apricot eau-de- vies, locally made apricot
brandies, are available from a quite a number of excellent producers. The
whole year-round French apricot conserves, jams, will be on many breakfast
As usual it was the Romans
The usual suspects, the Romans,
brought the apricot tree to France. In France the Romans brought more
than just their usual boring selection of aqueducts, roads, temples and
stadiums. They brought many trees, plants, vines as well as the secrets behind
farming snails and the unique and oft-criticized method of feeding geese for
the preparation of fois gras. Well, you may well ask, apart from all
that what did the Romans do for France? Well, they brought the apricot tree.
Sec – Dried apricots. The
Armenians passed the art of drying apricots to the Greeks and Romans; that was long before refrigeration and the
Romans or possibly the Greeks brought that art to France. I was told that,
drying apricots removes some of their vitamins. However, dried apricots
are still an important addition to the French kitchen.