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Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Basses Côtes on French Menus. These are Cuts from the USA and UK Chuck and are the Tastiest Cuts of Beef.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Provençal Daube
The best parts of the chuck are the Basses Côtes
Dining in France on fabulous meat dishes means much more than an excellent fillet and or an entrecote steak from grass fed beef served with perfect French fries.  French chefs use their knowledge of the tastiest cuts for stews and other dishes. An example is the French use of part of the cut called chuck in the USA and the UK. Chuck comes from the end of the entrecote and the rib eye steaks and in the USA continues towards the neck. In France, the first five ribs of the UK or USA Chuck are the Basses Côtes; these are the cuts that offer the best flavor.

The French Cuts.
Before they graduate from cooking school French chefs must be able to buy, choose, cut and prepare all cuts of meat.  France has no equivalent of the USDA Choice, Select or Prime and so all French chefs must learn how to select meat themselves. They look for the required marbling, they know how to eliminate tough cuts and to check the thickness covering the bones, etc. Many French chefs know nearly as much about the different cuts as their butcher does.
A menu list offering a Boeuf Bourgeonne or a Provencal Daube will rarely tell you which cut is used, but a French diner will know these are from the Basses Côtes.  The Basses Côtes offer more flavor than any other cut and North American and UK chefs will agree.

The British Cuts
On your menu in France:
Basse Côte de Boeuf Black Angus, Effeuillée d'Ėpinards, et Pommes Anna.  The best part of the chuck from Black Angus beef served with spinach with the stems removed and Anna potatoes. The meat will be cut thinly and marinated overnight; that will produce a tasty and delicate cut that will be lightly fried. The Basses Cotes produce some excellent steak but they cannot be cooked more than medium-rare.  For more about ordering steaks in France cooked the way you prefer click here
Pommes de Terre Anna

Pommes de Terre Anna are sliced potatoes baked in butter in a casserole and is considered a potato dish with an indiscreet the past. The chef Adolphe Dugléré, who created this dish, was the Chef de Cuisine at a famous Parisian restaurant called the Café Anglais in the middle of the 19th Century.  An important restaurant customer was Anna Deslions, who was one of Paris’s most famous courtesans; she entertained her wealthy customers in one of the upstairs rooms of the restaurant. Adolphe Dugléré who was a pupil of France’s most famous chef Antonin Carême, named the dish after this important customer.

Anna potatoes
Cœur de Basse Côte de Bœuf aux Baies de Séchouan – The heart of the chuck steak flavored with Sichuan Pepper Berries. Sichuan berries while not a real pepper can be as hot as chili. Sichuan pepper is also one of the spices used in Chinese five-spice powder.

Basse Côte Steaks
Basse Côte de Bœuf, Façon Bourguignonne Revisité - Here the beef is prepared and cooked as Bœuf à la Bourguignonne and  “revisite” means revisited. Revisiting on any menu listing indicates that the chef will be making some change in a traditional recipe. Here you should ask the waiter what the changes are.
Basse Côte de Bœuf Black Angus de U.S.A. Sauce Choron – Chuck steak from imported USA Black Angus Beef served with a Sauce Choron.  Sauce Choron is a child of Sauce Bearnaise, itself a child of  Sauce Hollandaise.   Many sauces were developed from Sauce Hollandaise, and that is why it is called a mother Sauce. Sauce Choron is Sauce Béarnaise with added tomatoes.
Basse Côte de Black Angus à la Plancha, Jus Vin Rouge et Moelle, Frites.  The middle rib from the chuck served with a sauce made from the natural cooking juices flavored with red wine and bone marrow. French fries will be served on the side. The Plancha or planxa is a very thick iron sheet.  It is, at least, two centimeters (6/8”) thick and claimed as their own by the Basques, the French and the Spanish.  This traditional method of cooking provides a very even heat and uses very little oil;  the result is a taste somewhere between frying and grilling.

Basses Côtes roast cut into cubes
Basse Côtes Farci de Boeuf Braisé aux Trompettes de la Mort. Here a cut from the Basses Cotes is stuffed with wild Black Chanterelle or Black Trumpet mushroom.  The first name for this mushroom in French translates as the “Trumpet of Death” though this mushroom is not poisonous; the second name sounds much better and means “Horn of Plenty". This mushroom is mostly called the black trumpet mushroom in English. The Horn of Plenty mushroom is an important member of the Chanterelle mushroom family which are all wild mushrooms; they will be on the menu in season, which, depending on the area in France, runs from the end of June through September.

Black trumpet mushroom washed and ready for the pan.
Basse Côtes d'Agneau Rôti aux Girolles – A Basses Côtes of lamb roasted with wild Chanterelle Girolle mushrooms. Lamb does not have a cut called chuck in English; nevertheless, the placing of the Basses Côtes is still the cut between the shoulders. The Girolle Chanterelle mushroom on this listing will be gathered in the wild.  Most restaurants have yearlong agreements with professional ramasseurs, professional gatherers; all year round they gather wild mushrooms, herbs, and spices and sell to restaurants. Despite that, sometimes the chef is a mushroom addict and it is he or she that is up early for a long walk and search in the woods after the rain.

Wild Chanterelle/Girolle Mushrooms on sale in the market.
In French supermarkets, as in the USA and the UK the parts of the chuck used in France will carry different suffixes. However, the Basses Cotes cover a smaller area than the USA or UK chuck and that the part of the list will be much shorter.  The Basses Cotes cuts come from marbled meat and makes excellent stews. Thinly sliced and marinated, they can be grilled or fried as steak; these are cuts that are neither tough nor fatty.

The USA Cuts
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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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