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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pigeon and Pigeonneau - Pigeons and Squabs on French Menus.

Pigeon or Pigeon Biset   
The common pigeon.
This is the pigeon seen on most French menus.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Last updated February 2017.

Carving a Pigeon.
Photograph by Food-micro through Dreamstime.
The pigeons on French menus are all farm-raised, except during the 30-day hunting- season when the pigeon ramier, wild wood pigeons, may be hunted and then they may be on some menus.  Farm-raised pigeons have meat that is darker, tenderer, and tastier than chicken.  Pigeons were on nearly all restaurant menus in the UK and North America throughout the 19th century and then in the early 20th century, they lost popularity among mainstream chefs.  Nevertheless, younger chefs have become interested in pigeons again and so pigeons are on more UK and North American menus. Farm-raised pigeons have always remained a favorite on French menus and never lost their popularity.  Farming pigeons for food began with the ancient Egyptians and were brought to France by the Romans and the Greeks.

On your menu, in France, a serving of pigeon is usually a suprême de pigeon, half the breast and a wing, or a baronnet de pigeon, half the breast and a leg. Even large pigeons do not have a great deal of fat so a roasted pigeon will be barded, wrapped in fat, so that it does not dry out in the oven.

From my experience, in France, always ask about the size of the pigeon portions offered; pigeon portions vary considerably.  I have had a serving of pigeon that was minute and that was offered as the main course; others servings were larger but were on the menu as the starter, the French entrée. Check the weight with the server, a whole cooked adult pigeon may weigh 400 grams (14 ounces); though there are larger ones.  Without the bones, your half portion, with the bones, will be 200 grams (7 ounces) and that may offer 125 grams (4.4 ounces) of meat. With the garnishes that will be adequate for a single diner; if it is less you may still be hungry at the end of your meal. Farmed pigeon with its darker meat, and, slightly stronger taste than chicken, will partner well with light red wines as well as white wines.
Half a roast pigeon.
Photograph courtesy of kphua 

   For pigeonneau, squabs, young pigeons, see the second part of this post.

The name of the farm or the area where the pigeon was raised will often be on the menu, especially in areas where there are many pigeon farms.  Where the pigeon comes from and who raised it is important to the cognoscenti, and that will certainly affect the price.  In any case, worry not, none of the pigeons on the menu will have come from the village or town square, or bell tower, that afternoon!

 Pigeon choices on French menus:

Le Pigeon de Vendée Rôti aux Châtaignes et Betteraves Chioggia  - A farmed pigeon raised in the département of Vendée, in the region of the Pays-de-la-Loire, roasted with chestnuts and Chioggia beetroots.  Chioggia beetroots are unique; they have alternating red and white rings when cut.
Chioggia is the famous agricultural land that faces the Venetian lagoon in Italy; Chioggia is famous for its many unique vegetables including the Chioggia beetroot, and the Radichio Rosso di Chioggia, the Red Chicory or Chioggia Chicory,  the best-known member of the radicchio family. All these vegetables are now also grown in France.

The département of Vendée is in the Pays de Loire and has many small farms that specialize in unique and high-quality food products, including pigeons. Apart from its many fabulous food products Vendée also has 200 km (165 miles) of glorious sandy beaches on France's  Atlantic coast.

  Sandy Beaches in Vendee.
Photograph  courtesy of Gordon McKinlay.

Baronnet de Pigeon Farci aux Cèpes Half the breast and a leg of the pigeon stuffed with French Porcini mushrooms.
 Pigeonneau Fermier de Mr Chabert, Rôti, Jus de Carcasses aux Épices de Cacao,  Le Suprême Rosé et la Cuisse Désossée, Fine Purée de Haricots Tarbais -  Half the breast and a wing from a pigeon raised on the farm of  Mr Chabert, served in a gravy made from the bones of the pigeon flavored with cocoa beans.  The breast is served slightly rosé, pink, and the wing is deboned. Pigeon breast, like duck breast, in France, is usually lightly cooked, rosé, pink; so if you want your pigeon cooked differently advise your server; unlike steaks, you will rarely be asked how you want your pigeon cooked. The garnish is a fine puree made from the label rouge, red label graded, beans, grown around the town of Tarbes in the département of Hautes-Pyrénées. 
The haricot Tarbais beans were, originally, like all beans, a South American import. If you are close to Tarbes during the picking season, from Mid-August to October, you may try the fresh beans at nearly all the local restaurants. Otherwise, this bean will be on your menu as a rehydrated dried white bean.  Tarbes and the area around has been selecting and improving on the original bean since the 18th century and was, in 1997, the first dried bean to be awarded the Label Rouge, the red label, for its unique and consistent quality.
This menu listing comes from département of Drôme in the south-eastern région of the Rhône-Alpes, here there are many well-known pigeon farms, and the farm of Mr Jean Louis Chabert is considered among the very best; the farm is recognized by the local clientele and so Mr Chabert's name is on this local menu.

Demi Pigeon et Ris de Veau Rôti - Half a pigeon served together with roasted veal sweetbreads.
 Soupe de Pigeon à l'Ail Garlic accented pigeon soup. 

 Suprême de Pigeon de Champigné Rôti au Sautoir -  The breast and wing of a pigeon from a farm in the commune of Champigné. The community of Champigné is in the département of Maine et Loire in the region of the Pays de la Loire  The menu notes the breast is roasted/braised in a sautoir, a sautoir is a high-walled frying pan; French restaurant tradition allows for advising the diner of the equipment used in preparing different dishes. N.B. The department of Maine et Loire is the historical home of Anjou and the Angevines,

 The common pigeon or rock dove in the languages of France's neighbors:

(Catalan - colom; colom roquer), (Dutch: rotsduif, duif ), (German -  haustaube), (Italian  piccione selvatico), (Spanish paloma domestica),

The common pigeon or rock dove  in other languages:

( Arabic  -   حمام جبلي ), (Chinese - , 鸽子, (學名),  (Greek -  περιστέρι ), (Hebrew -  yona hasela    -  יונת הסלע_). ( Japanese  -  kawarabato  -  0  -カワラバト(河原鳩、学名),( Korean  -비둘기), (Portuguese:  pombo-doméstico, pombo-comun),   (Russian   - голубь, cизый голубь ), ( Latin - Columba livia domestica).
(Corrections to translations, free of payment, are welcomed along with additional languages.).

Pigeonneau, a  squab, on French menus.
Pigeonneau, a  squab, is a young pigeon that has never flown; it has a milder, and tenderer meat than an adult pigeon.  Squabs are usually served whole as most weigh less than 250 grams (9 ounces), bones and all; that is, maybe, 125 grams (4.4 ounces) of meat.

Roasted squab

Photograph by Ktphotog through Dreamstime

Pigeonneau de Saint-André de Messei Rôti au Citron, Anis Étoilée, Petites Endives Confites - A squab from the commune of Saint-André de Messei, roasted with lemon and flavored with star anise and served with a confit, a jam, made from small endives. Saint-André de Messei where these squabs come from is another well-known pigeon farming community in the département of Orne in the region of Normandy.  The small farms in this area are frequently visited by chefs, from Paris, and their farming methods are examined and published; many of these farms also allow tourist visitors. The department of Orne is also famous for the Calvados Pays d'Auge AOC  apple brandy produced there.

There are many different endives and the one used for the confit  here will almost certainly be the Belgian endive also called the white endive or chicon.
Pigeonneau Rôti au Parmesan A squab roasted and then, before serving, sprinkled lightly with Parmesan cheese and then browned under the grill.
Pigeon Ramier or Palombe on French Menus.

Pigeon Ramier or Palombe – The wild wood pigeon or ring-dove, called the palombe in the Basque country.  The wood pigeon will only be on menus in France between 15 October and 15 November when their hunting is permitted. The wood pigeon will be the subject of a separate post and, by the way, Palombe is also the name that Picasso gave to his daughter. 
The wood pigeon in the languages of France's neighbors:

(Catalan -  tudó ), ((Dutch- houtduif),  (German –ringeltaube), (Italian –colombaccio), (Spanish -  paloma torcaz).  

The wood pigeon: in other languages.

(Arabic - حمامة الغابة ), (Chinese -  斑尾林[编辑]), (Greek – Φάσσα), (Japanese - モリバト

Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013, 2017
For information on the unpublished book behind this post please contact Bryan Newman

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