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!
domesticated Mexican turkey, and that was in the 16th
The turkeys on
most French menus are descended from a different bird to those on most North
American and UK menus.
Behind the French Menu
The Mexican wild turkey -meleagris gallopavo mexicana
Photograph courtesy of Al_HikesAZ
turkey, even a wild turkey, is too large for a single family meal and so like
geese, the first whole turkeys began to be associated with celebrations. Then
the butchers began to sell turkey parts and already two hundred years ago many recipes
created especially for turkey began to be seen on French menus.
Dinde– A turkey; a hen
Dindo – Turkey in Provencal.
Dindon - A male turkey, a
turkey-cock, a tom turkey.
Dindonneau - A young turkey..
French menu today you may be offered:
– A blanquette is stew that was originally made with white meats meaning
veal, pork or rabbit.The word blanc means
white in French and is the origin for the name blanquette and today blanquettes
include fish and poultry.Most recipes
for blanquettes include mushrooms and a cream sauce with some including
white wine. When the menu listing is like this one and gives no information,
Farcies au Jambon de Dinde Fume – Crepes, pancakes, stuffed with smoked
turkey.Jambon de dinde fume translates as
smoked turkey ham; however do not confuse French smoked turkey with the UK or
USA turkey ham. The US and UK turkey ham may be cured but is not usually
smoked;it is also often shaped to look
like a ham. Smoked turkey ham in France has a taste somewhat similar to ham; the
taste of smoked turkey, as well as smoked duckand smoked goose allows them to be used by observant Jews and Moslems as
a replacement in recipes that use real ham and or bacon.
de Dinde à la Crème – A slice of
turkey breast served with a cream sauce. An escalope is a cut that is boneless
and usually more or less round or oval shaped. The English names used in
translating escalope include a cutlet, a
scallop and an escalope. On French menus, an escalope may be a cut from fish
and some meats, except veal..
Escalopes of turkey breast
Similar cuts come from
veal will rarely be seen with the name escalope, the terms paillard or
paillard de veau will be used. N.B. The meaning of the English word
scallop for an escalope refers to the shape of a scallop’s shell, not
the meat inside.
de Dinde Fermière de Loué Cuisinées Comme un Coq au Vin- Turkey legs from the
farm-raised turkeys of Loué cooked in the manner of coq au vin. Coq au vin is a unique dish with a long history. .The turkey and other
poultry raised by the farmers in Loué are known all over France. Loué is in the département ofSarthe in the Pays de la Loire. Nearly
every chicken, turkey, duck and guinea hen from Loué will either have a label
rouge, the red label for their consistent qualityor they will have the French AB organic
label. For poultry, the red label ensures that the birds are all free range
until two weeks before being marketed.
Farcie aux Marrons – Turkey with a chestnut stuffing. French chestnut
stuffing will normally have a sausage meat base and include the addition of
wine or Cognac; the stuffing will be cooked as it should be, inside the
roasting turkey. Around Christmas time and on other festive occasions some
unique French turkey breeds appear on restaurant menus.
courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org
The first turkeys to
be raised in France were the domesticated Mexican turkeys which arrived in the
16th century; the UK and USA domesticated their cousins, the wild North
American turkeys. .
For four-hundred years many of
these unique French breeds of turkeys have been raised as free range birds for most of their life; they have a far better taste than most turkeys offered at home. Look out for menus
offering Dinde Blanche d’Auvergne, the white feathered turkeys of the Auvergne
or the Dinde Noir de Gers, the black feathered turkeys of Gers. There
are at least twelve unique French turkey breeds all with accepted claims to
exceptional tastes. The French turkey considered the best, even head and
shoulders above all others, and it iscertainly the most expensive, is the Dinde de Bresse AOC, it is
the only turkey with an AOC. If you are in the area of
Bresse in mid- December, check ahead with the French Government Tourist
Office and see which towns are having special events at the dinner table.This is when the farmers have competitions
for the best poultry in the towns of Bourg-en-Bresse, Pont-de-Vauxand Montrevel-en-Bresse in the département of
Ain and in the town of
de Dinde Rôtie Farcie aux Herbes – A whole turkey breast stuffed with herbs
and roasted.With a dish like this on
the menu, you will be served slices cut across the breast.
Stuffed turkey breast
Photograph courtesy of 3liz4
French accepted the Spaniards assumption that they had discovered the western
part of India; even today the Caribbean islands are called the West
Indies.When in the late 15th century
the first domesticated Mexican turkeys arrive in France they called the turkey
the poulet d’Inde, the hen or chicken of India.That; however created a problem as Guinea
fowl had been brought to France from Africa a short while before by the
Portuguese. The Portuguese did introduce these birds as the poules de
Guinée, the Guinea hens, but with some confusion as to the bird’s origin
the French calledthis bird the poulet
d’Inde, the Indian chicken; I imagine they assumed that the birdswere actually brought to Portugalfrom its South American colonies.
The North American Wild Turkey - meleagris gallopavo
the error in the origin was quickly discovered; the name had already been
accepted, and so with the arrival of the domesticated turkey the Guinea
fowl, the first poulet d’Inde, was renamed the
Pintade, which refers to its coloring.The French may have got the turkey’s name wrong but so did everyone
else. At least the French admitted the error, and in the 18th century they changed
the name of the turkey, then called the poule
d’Inde to dinde, and that is name used now; it is a neutral name that
acknowledges the original mistake.