Saturday, December 3, 2016

Marans - the Eggs from the Marans Chickens. The French Chicken that Lays the Golden Eggs.Œufs de la Poule de Marans (L’).

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Eggs from Marans chickens.
Photograph courtesy of George Wesley and; Bonita Dannells
Marans is an inland fishing port set along the River Sèvre Niortais in the department of Charente-Maritime.  The sea fishermen and women of Marans sail 24 km (15 miles) to reach the Atlantic at the port of La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast. Marans is also famous for its wonderful fish and seafood, its excellent tasting Marans chicken and its place as France’s center for the herb Angelica.
Above all Marans is famous for its amazing chicken’s eggs.
The Marans chickens lay eggs with shells that vary from a light and speckled brown to a solid golden dark red brown.  Crack a Marans egg or order a boiled or poached Marans egg and you will be welcomed by a bright orange yolk. These are eggs you have to see to believe.  The eggs’  outer color looks very different, but all tests have shown that the inside the yolk and white are those of a regular chicken egg. Nevertheless, the Marans eggs aficionados claim the eggs have a distinctive taste and are considered easily digestible. Wherever you are and hear that Marans eggs are available I recommend going out of your way to try one, preferably a boiled egg; otherwise, ask to see your egg  before it is poached or fried; then you may enjoy the egg and its amazing shell.  A uniquely colored Marans' egg will never be forgotten.

The American Marans poultry farmers color chart.
The USA Marans chicken growers have nine recognized colors in the Maran’s eggs standard colors.
James Bond had a Marans egg for breakfast very morning.
In the early James Bond Movie: From Russia with Love” Bond is filmed enjoying his breakfast with his favorite, a boiled Marans egg. Apparently, every morning Bond had a single Marans egg boiled for exactly three minutes and twenty seconds. That was Bond in the early days.

The secret behind the colors of the Marans brown eggs (called extra-red by the Marans farmers) is the chickens' genes, not special foods or additives. Additionally, Marans eggs are mostly larger than those laid by other hens.
A Maran rooster (a cockerel) strutting his stuff.
Photograph courtesy of elysianfields

The Marans Chicken was created some two hundred years ago by crossing local chickens with imported fighting game roosters (cockerels) from Indonesia and India. Today the Marans chickens are a favorite at poultry shows and the roosters do not fight, they just strut. The Marans is a dual purpose fowl known both for its extremely dark eggs and its excellent meat qualities.  Now there are Marans' poultry farmers in the USA and the UK. You may visit Google or Bing for local suppliers of Marans eggs.

Wherever there are Marans eggs these dishes may be on the menu:

Brouillade d'Œufs de Marans à la Truffe Noire du Périgord -  A Brouillade of Marans eggs served with the black truffle of Perigord.  A brouillade is a Provencal take on scrambled eggs.  To make a brouillade the egg whites and yolks are beaten separately; they are only mixed while cooking. The result is a very light and airy version of scrambled eggs.   Most brouillades will be served with an additional ingredient, and here it is the very special, and expensive, black truffles from Perigord.  When ordering a dish like this, you will be paying a high price for scrambled eggs if there is little truffle in the dish.  Ask if the truffle can be added when the dish is served and not in the kitchen.  Caveat Emptor, I am warning you as I have had this dish which was served, as an entree, the French first course,  with just a few black specks; no truffle that could be seen or tasted.  There was little I could do as the Maitre D’ refused to add more truffle or even show me the truffle they used. What I and a friend who had ordered the same dish did was to pay my bill, take the ¾ full bottle of wine, and walk out. Unfortunately, most diners are unwilling to make such a statement of dissatisfaction and will just write the restaurant off for a second visit.   If you are very unhappy with the food or service in a restaurant let the staff know. .At the very least they should remove an unsuccessful dish from your bill. There was a happy ending to the story, we discovered a restaurant with an interesting menu about 600 meters away and had a wonderful meal there, albeit without the Brouillade.
Pappardelle and shavings from Perigord truffles.
That is a how a large addition of Perigord truffle may be seen.
Photograph courtesy of Edsel Little
L'Œuf de Marans Poché, Crème d'Oignons, Poêlée de Trompettes de la Mort -   A poached Marans egg served with cream of onions and lightly fried black chanterelle mushrooms, also called the black trumpet or horn of plenty mushroom.
L'Œuf de Marans, Burrata, Citron, Café et Champignons de Paris  - A Maran egg served with Burrata cheese flavored with lemon and coffee and served with button mushrooms. Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream; when the Burrata is sliced open, a spurt of thickened cream flows out. Here I imagine the cheese is being offered when mixed with coffee and lemon flavorings. Barratta on its own has a rich, buttery flavor.  The Barratta offered here is must be made in France as this is a fresh cheese that is best when eaten within 24 hours.

You can buy Marans' eggs in the USA
Photograph courtesy of George Wesley and Bonita Dannells
Mousse d'Asperges aux Œufs de Poule de Marans et d'Escargot An asparagus moose made with Marans eggs served with snails.
Œuf  Mollet de Poule de Marans et Son Crémeux d'Asperges Vertes -   A soft boiled Marans egg served with creamy green asparagus.

Œuf Pôché de Poule "Marans" aux Pleurotes  - A poached Marans eggs served with oyster mushrooms.
In addition to Marans’ famous eggs there is much more:
Consider the fresh fish and seafood restaurants and the herb angelica.

Marans is famous among the lovers of fresh fish and seafood.  They come from the coast and towns up to 50 km (32 miles) away to enjoy themselves in the town's many excellent fish and seafood restaurants.  These restaurants offer the widest choices that are straight off the boats.

A really good seafood restaurant’s offerings.
This photograph is not from Marans, but in Marans, there is at least one similar display.
Photograph courtesy of Jay Galvin
Marans and Angelica
To add to the fish, seafood, chickens and eggs the area around the town of Marans is the center for the herb Angelique, Angelica.  (Angelica is also called the Herbe des Anges, the Herb of the Angels).

A selection of Angelica products
Photograph courtesy of Niort Marais Poitevin Tourist Information Office
Angelica was brought to France by the Vikings and originally cultivated in their first large French settlement called Normandie, Normandy, (Normandie in old Norman French means “North Man’s Land” ). In French cuisine, the fresh leaves of Angelica may be added to salads, soups, fish dishes, vegetables dishes and fruit salads. Angelica will also be prepared candied, made into a confit, a jam (jelly), used in cakes and desserts and made into a liqueur. Angelica is also sold in French homeopathic pharmacies where they will suggest the herb for heartburn, intestinal gas, loss of appetite, arthritis, circulation problems and more. An Angelica tisane, a fusion or herbal tea may be offered in restaurants. N.B. The Vikings also imported their cows which developed into the Norman Cows so famous for their milk, butters, creme fraiche and cheeses that come from Normandy.
On a menu in Marans you may be offered an Angelica flavored dessert:

Croustillant de Fraises Gariguette à l'Angélique Confite Maison - Crisply cooked – Gariguette strawberries prepared with a home-made Angelique jam. Gariguette strawberries are a very tasty French strawberry that you will see fresh in the markets between April and May.
After the meal, for your digestif you may be offered The Angélique Eau-de-Vie which is a 40% alcohol liquor, made by macerating, steeping, the plant in Cognac. The best of these liquors is considered to be the Liqueur d'Angélique de Niort, from the town of Niort just 45 km (28 miles) away from Marans.
Fishing boats in Marans
Photograph courtesy of mariesophie Bock Digne
Where is Marans
Marans is in the department of Charente-Maritime, one of the four departments that until 31-12-2015 were part of the region of Poitou-Charentes and are the home of many excellent food products. These include most of France’s goat’s milk and many private branded goat’s cheeses as well as the Chabichou AOP goat’s milk cheese, superb melons and every bottle of Cognac sold anywhere in the world. To the agriculture, add some of France’s top rated oysters and excellent fish and seafood.  Poitou-Charentes, Limousin  and Aquitaine are included in the new super region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. Apart from wonderful foods, wines, Cognacs and cheeses there are hundreds of miles of open sandy beaches in Nouvelle Aquitaine. There are also managed beaches;where for a small or sometimes large contribution to the local economy, you may spend the day with private cabins, lounge chairs, umbrellas and hot and cold running food and drink merchants.
Marans and its canal.
As a fishing port, the Marans' fishing boats reach the Atlantic via the River Sèvre Niortais. In the 18th century, the port was also reached by the Canal de Marans à la Rochelle.  (That canal is no longer navigable but with its wonderful flora and fauna it is a great place for walking and picnicking). The canal was started in 1806, but only opened in 1875; that was just in time for the trains to arrive as well!   With the establishment of a local train service, the canal could not compete with the freight and passenger prices of the trains and quickly fell into disuse; the canal was closed after the Second World War.  
N.B. France reorganized its mainland administrative regions, which are somewhat similar to States in the USA and or Counties in the UK.  They hope, by so doing, to reduce excessive bureaucracy and administrative costs. Mainland France, which had 22 departments, now has 13. The change will not affect the foods in the regions, but for the visitor to France it may cause some confusion with local addresses in the short term.

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu.
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