Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sauce Bercy, the Classic Sauce for Fish; Sauce Bercy for Meat Dishes and Beurre Bercy for Steaks and Roasts.


Sauce Bercy is the classic French sauce for fish.
Sauce Bercy is in fact, is three different sauces.
To confound us, two have the same name.
from
Behind the French Menu
by
Bryan Newman
        
The first Sauce Bercy was a white wine sauce served only with fish. The second Sauce Bercy was a response to the original sauce’s popularity and the demand for a similar sauce for meat dishes.  The third sauce is Sauce Beurre Bercy is more accurately called Beurre Bercy. Beurre Bercy is a thick butter, a condiment, not actually a sauce, created  to melt over steaks and roasts as they are served.
        
Sauce Bercy for fish.
       
The original recipe for Sauce Bercy for fish was based on Sauce Béchamel, one of France’s mother sauces. The Sauce Bechamel was used to thicken the sauce Bercy; however, Sauce Bercy  is only rarely thickened in the original manner. Today Sauce Bercy for fish is allowed to thicken naturally by reduction, that is allowing  any excess liquid to boil or simmer away. The recipe for Sauce Bercy for fish is white wine, butter, shallots, parsley, fish stock; a light touch of garlic, parsley, sometimes added thyme, and salt and pepper. 
    
 
   
Salmon and asparagus, sauce Bercy.
       
Sauce Bercy for meat dishes.
          
The Sauce Bercy for meats still uses white wine though obviously the fish stock is replaced; and the replacement is veal stock and bone marrow. The shallots, parsley and a light touch of garlic and parsley remain; thyme, sometimes seen in  recipes for Sauce Bercy for fish is omitted.
      
 
      

Duo of Beef, red wine braised beef cheek and roast beef fillet, Sauce Bercy.
Photograph courtesy of avlxyz
                 
Beurre Bercy  or Sauce Beurre Bercy for steaks and roasts.
  
Beurre Bercy is not truly a sauce; rather it is a condiment; that is a thick flavored butter like Beurre Maitre d'Hotel and or Beurre d'escargot.  These thickened flavored butters are used to flavor steaks and roasts and added only when serving the dish.  Beurre Bercy  will be decoratively placed on a steak or slices from a roast and allowed to melt over the meat.
     
 
               
Steak frites with Beurre Bercy
Photograph courtesy of arnold | inuyaki        
The origins of the name for Sauce Bercy.
                
The original Sauce Bercy  for fish dishes was not, as may be expected, named after a French Prince, Duke, Marquis, Cardinal, or even after a famous playwright or intellectual. Sauce Bercy was named after a village outside Paris on the banks of the River Seine; the village of Bercy had been there at least since the 11th century and probably much earlier.  In the 15th and 16th centuries the village of Bercy gained importance as it became one of the important ports along the River Seine that supplied the needs of Paris.
       
Bercy supplied Paris with wines, oil and lumber from the Atlantic coast to the west,  and from the Mediterranean via the Canal de Deux Mers via Bordeaux to south, from Burgundy to the east and from the Rhine to the north.  Close to Bercy are  the rivers Marne and Oise that join the River Seine nearby and they  were important contributors. By the 16th century, Bercy was the largest wine and oil market near Paris. When the wine and oil market of Bercy was in full swing, it was also a tax free zone, outside of Paris.  Only when you brought wine into Paris did you pay tax; that is unless your business was sneaking the barrels over the walls.  By 1829 Port Bercy was the larges wine market in the world.
        
The first Sauce Bercy was the sauce for fish dishes and we have no name for the original creator, the sauce was simply given the French wine dealers' place of business as its name.
 
Sauce Bercy on French Menus:
     
Entrecôte Grillée Sauce Beurre Bercy, Purée de Salsifis – A grilled entrecote steak served with the Bercy butter sauce for steaks and roasts; the entrecote is accompanied by a puree of salsify, also called  the oyster plant. Salsify’s second name, the oyster plant, was given by those who consider the plant to have a taste like oysters; I disagree with that, but, then I am naturally argumentative, especially as I have had this plant served like asparagus!  On this menu listing the salsify is served as an alternative to potatoes as it is a white root vegetable. Salsify for those who have no met up with the vegetable before looks rather like a thin parsnip. For more about entrecote steaks read the post: Searching for that Perfect Entrecote Steak in France

      
         
  Salsify.
Photograph courtesy of Ibán    
  
Filet de Flétan Sauce Bercy – Halibut, the fish, served with the fish Sauce Bercy. The fish served here will be a filet, as halibut  are the largest of all flounders, flat fish. Most halibut weigh over 10 kilos and  some weigh much much, more.  Halibut have a white, firm, meat with a delicate taste, and it is perfect when served with Sauce Bercy. The halibut on this menu listing will have been fried, though halibut may also be grilled. However, grilled halibut will not be on too many menus as it must be basted continually to prevent it drying out; a few orders for grilled halibut could hang up an entire kitchen. Halibut is also often on French menus when baked and poached; it is a popular fish.
         
If the menu had noted flétan noir, that would have been the smaller Greenland halibut, also called the black halibut, which is an equally tasty fish.  Most of the halibut on French menus will have been flown in to France chilled, or brought in frozen.  The Atlantic halibut has been over-fished, and with severely depleted stocks, virtually no halibut fishing is allowed anywhere in the Atlantic.
             
Pièce de Boeuf, Sauce Poivre ou Beurre Bercy   This menu listing translates as a piece, or a portion of beef; often called in French the steak des bouchers, and in English the butcher’s cut. This steak will be a cut from the rump and offered here served with either a pepper sauce or the Beurre Bercy, the thick Bercy butter. If the pepper sauce is chosen that will almost always be made green peppers; green peppers are milder than black peppers and allow the chef control the taste.  If the steak is chosen with the Bercy butter sauce a thick portion of the butter will be placed on top of the steak;  as it melts it flavors the steak. For more about the Pièce de Boeuf, on French menus read the paragraph headed the steak des bouchers in the second part of the post: Ordering Steak Frites in France .
      
Saumon Grillé Sauce Bercy –  Grilled salmon served with the Sauce Bercy for fish.
      
Bercy the village, yesterday and today.
     
Bercy as the largest wine market in the world.
        

 
                
Avenue de Terroirs de France
Photograph courtesy of Payton Chung 
        
As Bercy became more prominent by the 17th century it was Paris’s main wine market, and its streets were named after renowned French wines; for over 150 years it remained Paris’s largest wine market.  By 1820, Bercy was also the largest wine market in the world; no longer did Bercy only bring in wines for Paris alone; it exported French wine all over the world.
    

Bordeaux wines
       
All wines, including Bordeaux wines, were brought to Bercy in barrels, not bottles.  Bottles were made by hand and easily broken.  The average size of a bottle depended on the amount puff that a bottle maker had, and that could be anywhere from 600 cl to 800cl.  Hand-blown wine bottles were reserved for the finest wines and only in the late 19th century did mass-bottling machinery become available. Before automated bottling-manufacturing machinery and bottling plants 95% of all wine was sold by the barrel; to buy  a few liters of wine you took your own flask, usually a large pottery jug, and filled it up at the wine merchant’s shop.
   
The wine dealers in Bercy often first tested blends of wine in their cellars and gauged public response before sending the details back to the growers; some of those wine blends became well-known and remain famous.  The wine dealers of Bercy had immense cellars where their wines were stored and blended, and from the end of the 19th century Bercy also bottled many of its wines; even then it was still cheaper to bring in wines by train in massive barrels, the precursor of tanker trucks and have the wine bottled and labeled after arrival.  One building in Bercy had the largest wine cellar in the world with a capacity of over twenty million gallons.
     

    
 Wine strorage in Bercy.
Photograph courtesy of EVRT studio
     
In 1860, Bercy was made part of Paris; today it is part of the 12th arrondissement and from then until the 1960’s Bercy still remained Paris’s premier wine market and its main bottling center.  As the smaller vintners in Bordeaux began buying or renting equipment for bottling their own wines the needs for most of Bercy’s additional services diminished; with the end of the bottling plants so ended the need for a central wine market.
    
Bercy village from the 17th century was also the entertainment center for Paris.
           
From the mid-17th century onwards, wine was not taxed outside the wall of Paris; Parisians could ride out of the city and get drunk for half-the price in the city. It was said that difference in prices at least paid for hiring a wagon for those too drunk to ride home. 
   
During the 18th and 19th centuries Bercy also had large pleasure houses with beautiful gardens that reach to the Seine; these were the largest drinking, dancing and dining taverns inside or outside Paris.
      
Bercy as a port in Paris.
    
By the 16th century,  Paris was the largest city in Europe with a population of over 500,000;  80% of the city’s supplies came into the city daily by water as most roads were unusable for carriages in winter, and even ox-carts were limited in the quantities they could carry long distances in the summer. From the late 16th century and onwards France built canals all over France to provide connections between its seas, river systems and towns; trains did not arrive until the late 19th century. Good national roads arrived after the trains; the waterways ruled the economy of France.

   

Part of the old port of Bercy that has been reconstructed.

Photograph courtesy of fredpanassac
       
The ports on the river Seine developed their own specialties and these ports were the life blood of Paris.  Large ships from the Atlantic could reach the city of Rouen on the River Seine in Normandy, just over 100 kms from Paris, and  from there smaller boats and barges would take the products, produce and livestock to dock at Paris’s river ports..
      
Paris’s ports, quays and docks are now mostly just names on maps. Next time you look at a map of Paris consider how many working ports, docks and quays there were, and even then not all  the names of Paris’s ports remain on maps.  Of the many that are no longer on the maps, I will mention just the port of the Hotel de Ville, the city hall, which had a working port next to it, and the Port Saint-Nicolas which was in front of the Louvre.
     
Bercy was ideally positioned even before the canals were built, it is a relatively short distance from the River Marne and  the River Oise; and then  from the mid 1800’s there was also a Marne canal.  The Marne and its canal linked Paris to the East, and onto the Rhine; the River Oise linked Paris to the North and onto Belgium and Holland.
       
Bercy today.
   
From the 1960’s until the beginning of the 1990s the area of Bercy  decayed;  then in the 1990s the area began to be gentrified with major entertainment centers, restaurants, boutiques and much more. 
    
Much has been preserved or reused in protected buildings; however, on the maps only four streets remain with the names of wines: the Cour St Emillion, Rue de Pommard, Rue de Reuilly and the Terrace de Champagne. At a stretch I could add the Avenue de Terroirs de France, for a fifth.  I may have missed another one or two streets with wine names that have remained, and I will be happy to have them added to the list.
   
  

    
Bercy Village today.
Photograph courtesy of Matthew Black
     
One of the largest parks in Paris is the Parc de Bercy; the park was built from three magnificent interconnected gardens. This park is linked directly to the Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir a footbridge,  that also accepts cyclists,  and connects the 12th  arrondissement directly to the National Library of France across the River Seine.
    

    
Bercy Park.
Photograph courtesy of Jonathan Koo.
       
Bercy as an entertainment center today.
     
 France’s cinémathèque  is situated at 51 Rue de Bercy.
   
The UGC Ciné-Cité Bercy, the largest or second largest multiplex cinema in Paris with 18 screens is at  2 Cour St-Emilion.
   
The Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy is a sports hall also used for large concerts; it seats,  depending on the sport or concert anywhere from 7,000 to 17,000. Its address is:  8 Boulevard de Bercy 
    




          
Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy.
Photograph courtesy of Philiippe Berdalle
        
Set in old wine warehouses  is the  Musée des Arts Forains, the Museum of Fairground Arts, a private museum  with a huge collection of merry-go-rounds, and restored fairground attractions.  Its address is:  53, Avenue des Terroirs de France.
       
Two metro stations serve the area, one called, of course, Bercy, and the other called Cours St Emilion. 
    

Bryan G Newman       
       

Behind the French Menu

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