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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Coco de Paimpol - France's Famous Bean from Paimpol in Brittany. The Haricot de Cocos de Paimpol AOP on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
 Last updated 2017.
The Coco de Paimpol.
Photograph courtesy of marc kjerland.
The Haricot de Cocos de Paimpol AOC/AOP is the most famous bean in Brittany. The French love beans and this bean is the gourmand’s bean. The Cocos de Paimpol  took the slow boat from the New World to the Old World and only began to be recognized  for their special taste in the 1930’s
The Coco de Paimpol arrives.
Within one-hundred and fifty years of Christopher Columbus and the Conquistadors  discovering South America in 1492 beans and maize, were being grown all over France along with French produced hybrids.   However, no one is entirely sure when the original bean that would become the Cocos de Paimpol arrived in Brittany, but it did not arrive via Spain with other beans.  Cultivation began in the 1930’s and  by the end of the 1940’s  the Cocos de Paimpol was famous. 
The bean itself
This white bean has an oval shape with a pale yellow pod that has slight violet markings;  it is sold as a haricot demi-sec, a semi-dry bean. Semi –dry means the bean will be sold without the pod, but not dried like many of France’s traditional beans which require long soaking to rehydrate them before use. The Haricot de Cocos de Paimpol will be in recipes from soups to salads, accompanying  roasts and many other dishes and, of course, will be in stews and cassoulets.

On your menu in France:

Filet de Sole Cuit Meunière, Cocos de Paimpol aux Truffes, Beurre de Persil Plat. A filet of sole prepared with a Sauce Meunière; a Sauce Meunier is a simple but tasty butter sauce made with added lemon juice and flat parsley.   Accompanying the sole, the fish, are the Cocos de Paimpol beans flavored with truffles and a parsley butter made with the slightly stronger flavored flat parsley.  For decoration crinkly parsley is preferred but the flat parsley is used when more parsley flavor is required. 

The truffles offered in this dish will not be France's famous black Perigord  truffles otherwise  they would have  starred on the menu. Nevertheless, France has a number of truffles that while less flavorsome than the Perigord truffle do add their own  flavor to a dish, and are relatively inexpensive. The truffles offered here may be the Truffle d'Été, The Summer truffle; it is a lightly scented truffle.  It may also be the Truffe d'Hiver or Truffe Brumale, the Winter Truffle.  Both of these truffles look and, taste differently to their more famous and expensive cousin from Périgord.  Ask.

Dos de Haddock.Cocos de Paimpol.
A thick cut of smoked haddock accompanied by the Cocos de Paimpol.
Photograph courtesy of Hotels-HPRG.
Pavé de Thon Mi-cuit, Compotée de Coco de Paimpol  Frais – A large slice of very, very, lightly cooked tuna served with a compote made from fresh Coco de Paimpol beans. Fresh beans will only be on menus from the end of June through October.
RIs d'Agneau aux Cocos de Paimpol, Jus de Veau Réduit Lamb sweetbreads served with Cocos de Paimpol beans and a reduced sauce made from a veal  base.
Soupe aux Haricots Coco de Paimpol - Coco de Paimpol bean soup. A soup made with the Coco de Paimpol will be creamy and velvety, The soup may have a vegetable  stock to add to the flavor.
A Veloute de Cocos de Paimpol.
Photograph courtesy of Inspirational Food.

Souris d'Agneau Confite et Caramélisée, Haricots Cocos de Paimpol – Souris d’agneau is the fore shank and knuckle of lamb. Here it is served as a caramelized confit accompanied by the Coco de Paimpol beans.

Souris d'Agneau aux Flageolets.
Here the less expensive flageolet bean has replaced the Cocos de Paimpol.
Photograph courtesy of Le Yéti

 A Souris d’Agneau is nearly always prepared as part of a stew or, as here, as the confit.   Confits were, and are still, made by slowly cooking the meat on a low heat in its own fat and juices.  A slow, low, heat breaks down the muscle and other tissues so that the meat will, practically, melt in your mouth.   Duck and pork confits would be  preserved under a layer of the same fat in which it was cooked, this allows the flavors to mingle. Just as a soup or stew tastes better the day after it is cooked so these confits which were kept for the winter months in airtight containers and their taste improved with time. Today, a lamb confit will not have been kept, rather cooked very slowly. Confits are not served with the fat in which they were cooked.

A side dish of Cocos de Paimpol.
Photograph courtesy of bloggyboulga.
In this menu listing the lamb confit has been caramelized, probably  with honey and  wine vinegar. To a great confit caramelization will add additional texture and taste.
N.B.:When translating menus  with a traveler’s Engish-French dictionary you will find the word souris in French  also means a mouse or a rat.  However, worry not; this is a cut of lamb and no mice or rats are included.  In the days when French cuisine was in its infancy, culinary names were either traditional names or allocated without any need to be politically correct.  The uncooked cut was said to resemble a mouse and despite its unfortunate connotations, the name stuck. 
Choosing your aperitif and digestif in Paimpol.

Choose a glass of ice cold Chouchen, the alcoholic mead that the Celtic Druids who came from Britain to France brought with them.  You may also choose a Kir Royal in the manner of Brittany as your aperitif. That is a Kir made with Brittany’s sparkling cider replacing the original champagne.  Your digestif in Brittany will be  their famous apple brandy Calvados. Over that there will be no discussion. There are three different AOP types of Calvados so you may choose from those.
Around Paimpol and within Côtes-d'Armor
Around Paimpol and within the department of Côtes-d'Armor you will see the names Goëllo, Penthièvre, and Trégor again and again.  These are the names of the old Brittany  Provinces that today make up the department of Côtes-d'Armor.  The names came from the hereditary Counts who held these areas as their personal fifes. The department of Côtes-d'Armor was created during the French revolution, but many businesses and place names still have the old names linked to them.

Visiting Paimpol
Paimpol is not only famous for its beans. Long before the beans arrived it was an important fishing port and a vacation center. Paimpol and  the area around  have excellent beaches and today there is a lot of activities, restaurants, fetes and celebrations in town.  However, in July and August, you will have problems finding even one hotel room if you did not book the year before. During the French holiday season in July and August  the area’s population increases by more than 300%. Nearly all of the population growth comes from French citizens who know a good thing when they see one.

In Paimpol
If you are in the area during the first weekend in August make sure that you are ready for the Fête du Coco de Paimpol, the bean from Paimpol celebrations. Apart from opportunities to taste the bean and to pick up some recipes you may join in traditional competitions such as the ramassage, bean picking, and  the all important d'écossage, bean podding.  Who knows the fabulous  prizes you may win?

Apart from the celebration and fete connected to Paimpol’s famous beans there are other celebrations, concerts, and fetes every month. An example  is the bi-annual  "Fête des Chants de Marin".  This is a sea shanty festival with groups bringing shanties from all over the world. It attracts thousands of visitors during three days in August.
A Breton procession in Paimpol.
Photograph courtesy of muffinn
 In the summer, there are often two events  in the same week. That is in addition to a Tuesday morning street market, night markets, and the  "Mardi du Port" - where locals and visitors enjoy music beside the port every Tuesday. There is also a weekly farmer’s market where everything from beans to ciders, local cheeses, seafood, sausages, poultry and more are on sale.

Paimpol Port.
Paimpol apart form being an active fishing port has a large harbor for the growing number of visitors who arrive in their own yachts.
Photograph courtesy of pmeance
Paimpol’s English language Tourist Information website:

To see the calendar of  events for the whole year in Paimpol click on the box on the lower left on the home page. It is entitled  “Events: Diary of the Paimpol Country”. 
Tasting local products close to Paimpol
Within a short distance from Paimpol, you may visit oyster and mussel farms, cider mills and Calvados distilleries. From the Tourist Information Office get addresses for those who accept visitors and make a morning visit to the seafood farms and taste their products for lunch. 
Photograph courtesy of fabcom.
In the afternoon the visit producers of Brittany’s famed cider, chouchen,  pommeau, and Calvados, but with a designated driver!
 Paimpol  is also  home to the first Label Rouge, red label, sea-farmed turbot, the fish. The Label Rouge level of excellence requires adherence to humane farming methods apart from the quality of the product.
Rent a fishing boat and catch your own turbot.
Photograph courtesy of Mags_cat.
The coast around Paimpol
Along the excellent beaches close to Paimpol  are a wide range of fish and seafood restaurants. When you have had too much fish, and seafood  you will find other restaurants  a few miles inland where  the local Label Rouge free range chickens, turkeys, pork products, veal, and pre-sale lamb will be on the menu.
Pêche à Pied.

This part of the coast of Brittany  has many places to join in one of the more popular  Breton  sports,  La Pêche à Pied.   La pêche à pied is  fishing while on land, literally it translates as fishing on foot. Whenever there is a high tide,  buy a net, a hand rake, a bucket and gloves and join the locals and other visitors at low tide, which is in the afternoon. There among the rocks and sand pools look for and collect crabes, crabs;  crevettes, shimps;  amande de mer, dog cockles, langoustines, Dublin Bay Prawns,  and coques, cockles,  If you are lucky  you may find a langouste, the rock lobster and owner of the lobster tail.   All may be collected  for dinner.
Pêche à pied, fishing on foot.
Photograph courtesy of kawa0711.
Paris to Paimpol
Paris to Paimpol  is  450 km (281 miles) and  just three  hours by TGV train to St Bruec the Prefecture, the departmental capital, of Cotes d'Armor. From St Bruec there is a forty-minute drive, bus or train journey for the 46.0 km (30 miles) to Paimpol.
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Bryan G. Newman

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