Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served. Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
The turnip has always been popular in France; it was never just another root vegetable to throw in a stew.Turnips are often the garnish of choice when served mashed with butter or served together with carrots. After I triedturnips mashed with butter for the first time, I changed my mind about turnips completely. I now agree with the French; a turnip is a serious vegetable. Mashed turnips are rarely on menus at home so look out for them in France.
Filet de Pintade du Gers Rôti, Purée de Navets – Breast of roasted Guinea fowl fromGers, served with turnip puree. Gers is a department in the region of the Midi-Pyrenees and famous for its Label Rouge, Red label, free range poultry. The Guinea fowl from Gers are considered among the best in France. (The Midi-Pyrenees since 1-1-2016 are included in the new super region of Occitanie, together with Languedoc-Roussillon).
A Navarin is a ragoût, a stew, traditionally made with lamb, fish or shellfish and the navet, the turnip.Ragouts, and in this case a Navarin, require slow cooking in stock, with or without wine.Other vegetables, besides turnips, in a Navarin, are usually carrots, parsnips or Swedes (rutabagas) and potatoes. The same stew when made with young turnips, and other early vegetables, will become a Navarin Printanier; a springtime Navarin.The name Navarin is probably linked to a dish that originated in the country of Navarre. Navarre is now divided into the Province of Navarre in Spain and the Pays Basque, the French Basque Country. More about the name Navarin towards the end of this post.
Boulette de Bussy – A light green colored navette, a turnip, from the area of Champagne-Ardennes.It will be on local and other menus from September through November. The Boulette de Bussy is considered sweeter than other turnips.
Noix de St Jacques au Sésame, Boulette de Bussy – The meat of the King scallop cooked with sesame and served the Boulette de Bussy turnip.
N.B.: Navettes de Provence are not to be confused withnavets,turnips, they are sweet biscuits. The traditional Navettes de Provence are flavored with lemon or orange zest, but you may find other flavors being offered. The Navettes de Provence took their name from the shape of a navette, an oval with pointed ends; however do not be surprised if today’s Navettes de Provence have other shapes
Panais – The Parsnip.
Raw parsnips look like rough, ivory-colored, large carrots. Despite the similarities, parsnips are not carrots, though they are from the same family.Parsnips are slightly sweet and when properly cooked have a firm and pleasant texture. The parsnip ’s texture is one of the reasons French chefs have always appreciated them and the reason they add them to many dishes. Parsnips are one of the few vegetables whose origins are wholly European and grow well in cool climates. Parsnips were already starring on menus, over 2,000 years ago, at Roman banquets.
Turbot Sauvage Poché en Blanquette à la Vanille, Purée de Panais– Turbot, caught in the wild and served poached in a blanquette flavored with vanilla and served with a parsnip puree. A blanquette is a traditional stew and its recipes generally include mushrooms and a cream sauce along with white wine.
Filet of Kingfish, parsnip puree, smoked bacon and sweet pickled white onions.
Photograph courtesy of clara-maya.
Filet de Biche, Navet Acidulé, Panais et Griottes Purée de Panais –A fillet steak from the female Red deer, served with pickled turnips, parsnips, sour cherries and pureed parsnips. An adult male Red deer is a cerf, an adult female deer is a biche.The English word bitch comes from the French biche.
The menu listing above gives the diner no indication that the red deer is wild game. In France, many animals usually associated with the wild game are farm raised. Unless otherwise indicated the pheasant,wild boar, red and roe deer on your menu will have been farm raised.
Photograph courtesy of KMJPhotography Australia
Rutabaga orChou-Navets or – Swedes or Rutabaga.
The Swede or Rutabaga is a vegetable that often looks, to me and many others, a lot like a parsnip; however, they are not related. I am no expert on plant genetics and when I see Swedes, in a market next to parsnips all I can say is that they look very similar if generally a little larger. When both are in a stew, I am not sure where they significantly differ. Swedes, in France and elsewhere, are often used instead of parsnips. In France, Swedes are often listed on French menus as panais, parsnips.To confuse us even more, one of the French names for Swedes is Chou-Navets and that relates to the French word Chou,cabbage. The Swede, it turns out, is a member of the cabbage family. The other name rutabaga used in both French and English comes originally from the original Swedish.
Swedes, Rutabagas in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan – nap de Suècia), (Dutch – koolraapm kohlrabi, rutabaga),(German – schmalzrübe, steckrübe, unterkohlrabi,kohlrüben), (Italian – cavolo rapa, cavolo da foraggio), (Spanish – colinabo, col nabo, nabo sueco).
Raviolede Paleron de Boeuf, Rutabagas, Bouillon de Lard des Pyrénées – Ravioli made with beef shoulder and rutabagas served with a broth made from bacon from the Pyrenees.
Filet de Cannettedes Dombes Servie Rosé, Cubes de Rutabaga Rôtis au Miel, Jus à la Genièvre.Breast of duckling from the Dombes served rosé, pink, with cubes of rutabaga roasted in honey; served with a juniper berry sauce.
Duck in France is traditionally served pink, rosé; unlike a steak, you will rarely be asked how you would like your duck cooked. If you prefer duck cooked differently tell your waiter when ordering.
The Dombes is a plateau outside the city of Lyon with a long history of combined usage for agriculture and freshwater fish farms. The Dombes covers more than 30,000 acres and is a center for ducks and other waterfowl. The duck on this menu listing is a female, a cannette, a male duck is a canard. When the type of duck from the Dombes is not mentioned then, it will usually be the Canard Colvert, the wild mallard duck. The mallard is the most common wild duck in Europe. In France, as elsewhere, ducks may be hunted in season with a license.
Another claim for the origin of the name Navarin.
Some chefs link the Navarin’s name to the Greek War for Independence.Then the combined French, British, and Russian navies fought the Turkish and Egypt navies in the Battle of Navarino in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1821. The Turkish defeat in that battle was the turning point in the Greek search for independence. In 1832, Greece won its independence after nearly 400 years of Turkish rule.I have looked, without success, for recipes, or menus for Navrin published close to the time of the Battle of Navarino. That search follows the French tradition of naming new dishes after great events or great people. However, the appearance of Navarins on French menus doesn’t link to the right dates.. Escoffier has recipes for Navarins, but that is close to 100 years after the battle of Navarino. I side with those who link the Navarin to a dish that originated in, or was credited to the country of Navarre
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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
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