Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated August 2017.
Bœuf de Bazas – The Bazas beef
Photograph by courtesy of Bruno Compagnon.
The Bazardaize Beef.
Boeuf de Bazas or the Boeuf Bazadais, Label Rouge, IGP, the Red Label Bazas Beef is a very special breed. Whether as a steak, stew or a roast this is a uniquely flavored beef. Adult Bazadais beef cattle do not go to the market under 36 months. That is the age when beef will be naturally well marbled. Organically raised Bazadais beef is also available.
The breed developed from Aquitaine and Spanish breeds and developed into an easily recognized breed 700 years ago. However, towards the end of the Middle Ages, the Bazas had been pushed back to being bred for milk and as a work animal. With modern farming techniques, one hundred years ago the few farmers who did breed the cattle decided to organize. Today the breed is raised in the Gironde and other departments of Aquitaine. The beef is named after the town of Bazas in the department of Gironde just 45 km (28 miles) from Bordeaux.
The Bazadais cattle brought back from extinction.
From just 700 animals that could be certified as real members of the Bazas breed fifty years ago, the breed was brought back from the brink of extinction. Twenty plus years ago, they were commercially reintroduced for their highly rated beef, though the Bazas milk is also considered excellent. The association has just 300 farmers in the Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, and Gers including those who raise organic beef.
The Label Rouge, the Red Label
The Label Rouge, the red label, is awarded by INAO, the French Government office that controls and continually inspects all Label Rouge rated foods. To meet the requirements for the Label Rouge, all the beef must be of a unique and consistent quality and raised with modern forms of animal husbandry. Calves must be raised by their mothers and allowed to graze freely, and no antibiotics or growth hormones may be used.
In the winter, Bazas’ cattle are kept in barns; however, then they are fed grasses that were collected from their pastures during the summer. That, along with natural cereals is their complete diet. No animal additives may be part of their diet.
Boeuf Bazadaise on your menu:
Le Marbré de Bœuf de Bazas au Poivre Verte et Moutarde à l’Ancienne – A well-marbled green pepper steak from the Bazas beef served with a traditional mustard.
Green pepper is the chef’s pepper of choice for most pepper steaks; these are the same peppercorns that produce black and white pepper, but picked before they are fully ripened and then pickled in brine and dried. The result is a pepper with a slight herbal flavor, that is much less pungent than black pepper.
Steak au Poivre.
Moutarde à l’Ancienne is mustard made in the traditional manner. That usually indicates that the chef is making his or her own mustard. Dijon is the most famous of French mustards: however, there are a number of regional mustards. Two examples of regional mustards include the Moutarde de Reims, the mustard of Reims, the hometown of Champagne and the Moutarde de Meaux, the mustard of Meaux, the hometown of one of the two most famous French Brie cheeses.
A chef who makes his own mustard in Dijon told me that good mustard depends on the freshness of the grinding. He mixes white and black mustard grains, and to the ground mustard seeds, he adds a fruit vinegar, sugar, and a little salt. He lets his creation mix its flavors in the refrigerator for a day or two. When ready to use he achieves the final the taste he desires by adding more vinegar, fruit juice, sugar or occasionally Worcester sauce. The final taste will depend on the dish that the mustard will be served with. Since he doesn’t sell his tasty mustard outside his restaurant, its pale brown color is of no commercial importance. This chef makes fresh mustard, three times a week and no preservatives are used; anything older than three days will be thrown out. When you see, Moutarde à l’Ancienne on the menu ask the waiter or Maire D’ for more information. The mustard they offer may be something very memorable.
Bœuf de Bazas en Pot-au-Feu, Brochette de Légumes, Bouillon à l’Huile de Truffe – A beef stew made with the Bazadaise beef. Here the traditional beef stew has been upgraded by preparing the broth with truffle oil and the dish is accompanied by skewered vegetables. With a menu item like this, always ask for more explanations from your waiter. Some pot-au-feus can be two stage servings, a meal in itself. Truffle oil may be a step down from real truffles, but it should provide a hint of what a fresh truffle can add to a dish.
Joue et Queue de Bœuf de Bazas, Effilochée en Salade d’Huile Vierge. The cheeks and tail of Bazas beef thinly sliced and served with a salad made with virgin olive oil. Beef cheeks and beef tail are a traditional bistro dishes; this menu listing makes the traditional dish into a salad. The meat will cook for hours until it is really tender. The word effilochée which is part of the listing means ripped apart, however, here the word effilochée indicates the meat is so tender that it will fall apart. The virgin olive oil will be added just before serving; using olive oil to cook destroy the flavor of virgin olive oils.
Pavé de Bœuf de Bazas au Pinot Noir d’Alsace – A thick slice of Bazas beef served with a sauce made the light red Pinot Noir wine of the Alsace. When a menu offers a Pavé de Bœuf that will be a French rump steak. This cut is usually the USA sirloin or the UK rump steak. French rump steaks are very well prepared, certainly much better than similar steaks in the USA or the UK. The meat will have been chosen by the chef or the sous chef and personally prepared by them. French chefs cannot order beef by grades like US prime, choice or select, etc. The chef or his or her sous chef will personally choose the meat that the restaurant will serve, and that is all to the diner’s benefit. All the beef will be carefully prepared and marinated before being grilled or fried. The Pinot Noir d’Alsace wine is a light red, and its taste will not interfere with the taste of this unique beef. N.B. The Pinot Noir from the Alsace is a very light red and so for a red wine to accompany this dish choose a good red from elsewhere in France.
Carpaccio de Boeuf de Bazas, Chutney de Figues et au Parmesan. A beef Carpaccio served with a fig chutney and a creamy Parmesan sauce. Carpaccio is so much a part of French menus that few French citizens realize that it is a relatively new Italian creation. However, the French have never refused great recipes brought from other countries. Another Italian, Catherine de Medici, a Florentine, came to France in the 16th century to marry Prince Henry, later King Henry II and then French menus changed. France exports its creations and imports others.
Entrecôte Bazadaise– An entrecote from the Bazadaise beef, Entrecôte is a rib eye steak in North America and the UK the rib-eye, forerib and may also be a UK sirloin. The French entrecôtes cover a wider area than the UK or USA rib-eyes.. The name entrecôte is French and means between the ribs, and that it is. A French entrecôte steak is usually prepared without the bone, and is one of the tastiest steaks that any restaurant can offer.
Photograph courtesy of Malmaison Hotels and Brasseries.
Faux Filet de Bœuf de Bazas, Mousseline de Carotte, Blettes au Citron. Faux fillet or Contre Fillet is, cut just below the entrecote. In the USA, this may be called a Strip Steak, a Kansas City Strip or a Delmonico among other names. In the UK, this would be a UK sirloin steak. (UK and USA sirloins are different cuts). Here the steak is served with a very light carrot puree and Swiss chard flavored with lemon. (The word mousseline used here comes from the material muslin. Until the arrival of very thin metal sieves muslin was used to prepare very light purees). These are very juicy steaks; order yours as thick as possible. A contre-fillet will be grilled, or lightly pan-fried, and never well done. Well done, this cut would be very tough. For ordering a steak the way, you like it click here:
Apart from the winter the only time the Bazardais cattle are not allowed to range freely in the summer is just before they go to market.
The Town of Bazas
Bazas is a small but pretty town in the department of Gironde with its history going back to Roman times. The town still has late medieval houses and narrow streets along with a Cathedral built in the 13th and 14th centuries
The Bazas Tourist Office English website:
The Confrérie Bazadaise du Bœuf.
To improve the local menus and keep out the competition there is the Confrérie Bazadaise du Bœuf, the brother, and sisterhood of the Bazadaise beef. The Confrérie was formed way back in 1995 when the Bazas began to be a significant commercial enterprise. Confreiries are a unique French idea where those who work with or enjoy a particular food or wine form an organization to promote their chosen product. There are hundreds of confreiries including those that support fresh mayonnaise, the real Tart Tatin, pink garlic, and more. They dress up in would be ancient costumes and organize fairs and dinners. For many members, their primary job apart from the Mardi Gras celebrations is to have a good time, as well as holding banquets for their members and choosing a good wine to accompany the beef. N.B. The most famous French Carnaval and Mardi Gras celebrations are in the city of Nice on the Cote d’Azur.
Members of the Confrérie Bazadaise du Bœuf.
The brother and sisterhood of the Bazardais beef
The celebration of the Bazardais beef.
A butcher and a member of the Confrérie Bazardais du Bœuf getting ready for the parade.
Photograph courtesy of Boucherie–lucbert
This brother and sisterhood claim they reintroduced a tradition dating back to when the English ruled Aquitaine. Remember that Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II of England in 1154 making Henry II the ruler of Aquitaine and Eleanor Queen of England; nevertheless, the English finally lost Aquitaine in 1453. Even if you argue with the dates the tradition is certainly over 300-years-old. The confrérie’s fete coincides with Carnival and the celebrations begin with a parade the day before Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday, in French). On Mardi Gras, special meals for carnivores are served, and at the same time a large amount of wine will be drunk. For observant Christians, Mardi Gras is followed by the days of prayer and fasting of Lent, when no meat was eaten, so everyone ate as much as they could afford before those 40 meatless days.
The Fête des Boeufs Gras de Bazas.
The fete of the fat beef of Bazas.
Children on stilts leading part of Mardi Gras parade.
Photograph by courtesy of Lezzles.
The only problem is that Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) moves around each year as it linked to Easter. So Mardi Gras can be anywhere from March 22 to April 24. To check the dates, click on the Union Jack for the English language website of the Bazas:
In the modern Fete, the Confrérie organizes a parade where the bulls are paraded through the town.. The parade is led by horses followed by children playing on fifes and drums with others on stilts. Parades and contests end with the finest specimens wrapped with flowers and ribbon on their horns with the smallest specimens weighing in at least 800 kilos. To win an 800-kilo bull to take home and show the folks buy a lottery ticket when you arrive.
Decorated bulls getting ready for the parade.
Bazas is a small and beautiful town with a long history Today, with less than 5,000 inhabitants, its restaurants and happenings are important for they bring additional visitors and income. Many visitors come to the town not knowing anything about the very special Bazadais beef. They may be on their way to Bordeaux or have come to see the Bazas Cathedral. The Cathedral of St Jean Baptiste de Bazas was built in the 13th and 14th centuries and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Bazas Confrérie will try to have these tourists stay for lunch or dinner! Bazas has other fetes and celebrations that may interest you, and the Bazas English Language Tourist Office website has them all registered.
The Bazas Tourist Office English website:
The IGP label stands for Indication Géographique Protégé, the English PGI, Protected Geographical Indication. This is a Pan European geographic area of Protection. Outside the registered area, you cannot have authentic Bazadaise beef. The farms that raise the Bazas beef are all within the agreed geographical area and with less than 300 farms raise these cattle, and that allows for easy inspection. Being only 45 km (28 miles) from Bordeaux will make the choice of a good Bordeaux wine to accompany the beef easier than in other areas.
The French language IGP Label
The English language PGI Label.
The Italian language IGP label
Cathedral of St Jean Baptiste de Bazas in Bazas
Photograph courtesy of Lezzles.
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu.
Copyright 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman