Category Archives: Cooking and Baking

Produce Baskets in Paris

If you’re unable to get to your neighborhood markets during the week or are frustrated with the quality of produce at your grocery store, signing up for a produce basket is an easy, affordable option for getting your weekly fruits and vegetables. A produce basket is an even better option if you’re interested in getting organic, local sourced produce that’s in season.

There are several online companies that offer produce delivery services to the Ile de France, including residents of Paris’s twenty arrondissements. While many companies provide similar products, they differ in the size of baskets offered, price, subscription options, organic versus non-organic, and delivery method. Depending on your needs, you may also decide to go with a company that does more than just fruits and vegetables. A handful of the companies listed below also sell specialty items, just as cheese, meat, and even oysters!

Bio Culture
Green Republic
Le Panier Paysan
Mon Pre Bio
Local Bio Bag
Ze Blue Box
Fruit Bureau
Dans Mon Panier Bio
Tous Primeurs
Les Paniers du Val de Loire
Panier Paysans
Le Campanier

Once you choose the company you’d like to use, signing up online for a weekly basket is quite simple. You select the size and type of basket you’d like (fruits, vegetables, mixed), the duration of your subscription (with options ranging from one time to one year), your delivery method, and finally you pay for your purchase. The companies will bring the basket to your home or office for a fee or you can choose to pick it up from a point relais on a specific day between set hours. The pick-up points are typically small stores, such as a local organic markets or health food boutiques. Most companies have more than one pick-up point in Paris and there’s often at least one per arrondissement. For example, Bio Culture delivers its customers’ baskets to a handful of pick-up points on Monday, different pick-up points on Tuesday, etc. After picking up your basket, all that’s left to do is whip up a delicious meal using the fresh ingredients!

Time constraints on grocery shopping, a desire to eat seasonal food, or a commitment to buy local are just a few of the reasons produce baskets are an appealing option to Paris residents. The vocabulary list below makes it especially easy for Anglophones to navigate the ordering process and take advantage of this alternative shopping opportunity.

Helpful Vocabulary

basket le panier
organic bio
to order commander
fruit le fruit
vegetable le légume
fresh frais, fraiche
mixed mixte
home delivery livraison à domicile
pick up ramasser
pick up point point relais

Paris Supermarket Souvenirs

Ellise Pierce, otherwise known to foodies as the Cowgirl Chef , is a Texan transplanted in Paris.  Although she hasn’t given up her love for cowboy boots and Tex-Mex cooking, she also writes lovingly about the cuisine and quirks of her adopted home town. 

Her recent post, Paris Supermarket Souvenirs, unearthes the culinary treasures that can be found in a typical Parisian supermarket.  (She refers to her own neighborhood store as “the stinky stinky Franprix.”  And yes, she still shops there.)  No Fauchon, Hediard or La Grande Epicerie for this gal.  Just eleven must buy items that a) make great gifts for folks back home and b) you should try out yourself, that is, if you haven’t already discovered these classics.

Ellise’s list includes:

  1. Mousse-worthy chocolate
  2. Drinking and baking chocolate
  3. Sea salt
  4. Piment d’Espelette
  5. Nut oils
  6.  Tuna in olive oil
  7.  Sugar
  8. Real French mustard
  9. Lentilles du Puy
  10. Powdered veal stock
  11. Speculoos paste

For all the details (including pictures with brand names), go to Ellise’s blog.   Bon shopping y’all.

Cooking Classes

Living (and eating) in Paris has a way of making you want to upgrade your cooking game.   Whether you want a one-shot class or a semester long course, big budget or small, taught in English or French, there are lots of options out there.  Here are just a few that are getting good reports from expats.

L’Assiette de Paris

With classes taught at the proprietors’ homes in the western suburbs of Paris, these relaxed cooking demonstrations and classes are taught in English.  Spend a morning learning about French cuisine and local ingredients, and then enjoy a glass of wine and conversation with other expats over a leisurely lunch.  Special classes focus on wines or holiday meals.

L’Atelier de Chefs

Why just eat lunch when you can learn how to cook it yourself?  With six locations in Paris, L’Atelier de Chefs offers multiple sessions each day, including a 1/2 hour lunch class focusing on a single dish to a two hour workshop focused on a particular region or theme or a 4 hour master class.   Economical, flexible, and fun.  Reserve on-line up to 28 days in advance.  In French only.  Be careful: if you switch the Web site to English, you can access only the offerings at their London location.

Atelier Guy Martin
35, rue Miromesnil
75008 Paris
Phone: 01.42.66.33.33

Many many different offerings from 1/2 hour (cook your own lunch!) to half a day including techniques, pastries, French cuisine, global cuisine, and wine.  Courses are also offered for kids and for parents and kids working together.  The prices begin at around 16 euros for the lunch courses (there may be extra fees for wine or dessert) and move up to around 100 euros for the most intensive classes.  Taught in French only.

Le Cordon Bleu
8 Rue Léon Delhomme
75015 Paris
Phone: 01.53.68.22.50
In addition to its diploma and certificate programs for professional chefs, Le Cordon Bleu also offers an array of workshops and demonstrations for English speakers that range from 2 hours to 4 days in length. Demonstration courses include tasting and a listing of ingredients but you will have to work fast to take notes if you want to replicate the recipes at home.

Cowgirl Chef

From salsas to souffles, tortillas to tarts, Ellise Pierce, aka the Cowgirl Chef, offers cooking classes on Tex-Mex and “French-Mex” cuisine. She also hosts cooking class fiestas for larger groups. For upcoming classes, go to the calendar on her Web site.

 

La Cuisine Paris
89, boulevard Saint Michel
75005 Paris
Phone: 01.40.51.78.18
La Cuisine Paris offers a variety of courses, in both English and French, from every day French cooking to cuisine of the world.  Market classes take students to open air markets first and then back to the studio to prepare what they’ve purchased.  Most classes are either 2 hours or 4 hours.

At Home with Patricia Wells

Renowned cookbook author Patricia Wells offers lessons in chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés.  Each weeklong course is limited to just seven participants.  This is a pricey option, targeted mainly at high-end tourists: $5,000 for the week (with a $1,500 deposit) and you must book well in advance.

A World in a Pan

A homey option for those who’d like to learn more about French cooking and ingredients but don’t have the time, budget, or inclination to become expert in formal French cuisine.  A World in a Pan founder Laura Neulat is upfront that her team is made up of amateur chefs but what they lack in rigorous training, they make up for in their love of cooking and sharing with others.

In Search of the Right Ingredient: Ethnic Groceries

Many of the larger Paris supermarkets have international aisles.   Sometimes you can find what you need for that special recipe but most of the time, it’s just a pale shadow of the real thing.   Take heart.  There are a lot of specialized groceries in Paris and environs, perhaps one that speaks to the cuisine that’s close to your heart.  Here’s a list of some of my favorites and those recommended by friends from around the globe.  If you know of others, leave a comment with the details and we’ll add them to the post.

BRAZILIAN

Coisas do Brasil
22 rue Daniel Stern, 75015 Paris
Métro :  Dupleix
Phone:  08 92 70 18 64

CHINESE

See “Southeast Asian” below.

COLOMBIAN

La Tienda Nueva
57, rue Rodier, 75009  Paris
Métro: Anvers
Phone : 01 45 26 11 80

EASTERN EUROPEAN/POLISH

Adriana & Margot
14, rue des Goncourt, 75011 Paris
Métro: Goncourt
Phone: 01 47 00 64 50
Pastries, meats, herrings, prepared foods, and alcohol

GERMAN

Chez Tante Emma Laden
Marché de la Porte Saint Martin
20 rue Bouchardon, 75010 Paris
Métro: Chateau d’Eau, Jacques Bonsergent
Phone: 01 42 46 51 17
Sausages, beers, cookies, and other German products

GREEK

Heratchian Freres
6, rue Lamartine, 75009 Paris
Métro: Cadet
Phone : 01 48 78 43 19, 01 45 26 11 54

Mavrommatis

Chic, slick and delicious, it’s at once a fine foods boutique, traiteur (vendor of premade dishes), and restaurant featuring all your Mediterranean favorites.  Multiple locations including :

18, rue Duphot, 75001 Paris
Métro : Madeleine

89, rue de Rocher, 75008 Paris
Métro : Villiers

47, rue Censier, 75005 Paris
Métro : Censier Daubenton

In addition to the main locations, you will find a Mavrommatis counter inside the upscale Inno supermarket in Boulogne (5, rue Tony Garnier), les Galeries Gourmande in the Palais des Congrès at Porte Maillot, and in gourmet section of Galeries Lafayette (48-52, boulevard Haussmann).

Indian/Pakistani/Sri Lankan

VT Cash and Carry
11-15 rue de Cail, 75010 Paris
Métro: La Chappelle or Gare du Nord
Phone: 01 40 05 07 18
The area around Gare du Nord is thick with South Asian restaurants, sari shops, and groceries.  But you may be able to take care of all your shopping needs in this one shop, stuffed from floor to ceiling with spices, grains, beans, sauces, breads, and cooking equipment, all for very reasonable prices.  Also a good resource for British favorites.

Velan
83-87 passage Brady, 75010 Paris
Métro: Strasbourg-St. Denis, Château d’Eau
Phone: 01 42 46 06 06
Spices, herbs, lentils, rices, and much more.

JAPANESE AND KOREAN

Hi Mart
71bis, rue Saint-Charles, 75015 Paris
Métro: Charles Michels
Phone: 01 45 75 37 44
Stocks both Japanese and Korean products

Jyujiya
46, rue Sainte Anne, 75002 Paris
Métro:  Pyramides, Quatre Septembre
Phone: 01 42 86 02 22
Open seven days a week

Kanae
118, rue Lecourbe, 75015 Paris
Métro :  Cambronne, Vaugirard
Phone : 01 56 56 77 60

Kioko
46, rue des Petits-Champs,75002 Paris
Métro: Pyramides
Phone: 01 42 61 33 65
Good products but rather expensive

K-mart
6-8, rue Sainte Anne,  75001 Paris
Métro: Pyramides
Phone: 01 58 62 49 09 / 01 42 96 40 91
Open every day; a relatively new store with both Japanese and Korean products. Big, clean, and you can get sashimi, thinly sliced beef and pork, and Japanese delis.   (You can also eat sur place.)

MEXICAN

Mexi and Co.
10, rue Dante, 75005 Paris
Métro: Cluny Sorbonne
Phone: 01 46 34 14 12
Tortillas, salsas, and more

http://mexico.canalblog.com/archives/2007/09/04/1501979.html
Go to the link above for a long article (in French) detailing where to find ingredients used in Mexican cuisine in Paris.  The author recommends a number of different stores for different products (flours, spices, peppers, etc.)

MIDDLE EASTERN

Les Délices d’Orient
52, avenue Emile Zola, 75015 Paris
Métro : Charles Michels
Phone: 01 45 79 10 00
In a city with many Lebanese traiteurs, this large shop in the 15th is among the best: plenty of prepared foods ready to serve and all the unique ingredients to make your own.

Sabha
140, rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, 75012 Paris
Métro: Ledru Rollin
Phone: 1 40 01 01 04
Great selection of Middle Eastern and north African ingredients.  Tons of grains, beans, spices, nuts, pastas, and condiments at terrific prices.  Just around the corner from one of Paris’s great open air markets, Marché d’Aligre.

PERUVIAN

Inti Peru
17, rue de Picardie, 75003 Paris
Métro :  Temple, Republique or Filles du Calvaire
Phone : 01 42 78 25 82
Peruvian handicrafts and a modest selection of foods (no fresh foods)

PORTUGUESE

Ferreira
2, rue au Pain
Carré aux Herbes, 78000 Versailles
Phone :  01.39.51.08.78

Transmontana
8, route des Fusillés de la Résistance, 92800 Puteaux
Pasteis de bacalhau and leitao assado are house specialties.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN

Tang Freres
45, avenue d’Ivry, 75013 Paris
Métro: Porte d’Ivry
Open Tuesday through Saturday ; free parking
If you like southeast Asian food, seek no further.  Although there are several Tang outlets around town, this giant warehouse is the mother ship.   Canned, bottled, bagged, frozen, or fresh, Tang Freres has everything you need for your favorite southeast Asian meal at a fraction of the price of anywhere else in town.   A large bottle of soy sauce, for example, will cost you no more than 1.35 euros here compared with about 3.50 for the same bottle in the “international” aisle of larger supermarkets.  The meats are also excellent and well priced.  The array of fresh Asian herbs, fruits, and vegetables is amazing.   Bring your own bags; no free bags and the ones for sale at several centimes apiece will likely break before you reach your destination.

Asia Store
81, avenue d’Ivry, 75013 Paris
Métro: Maison Blanche

SPANISH

Bellotta Bellotta
18, rue Jean Nicot 75007 Paris
Metro : Pont de l’Alma, La Tour Marbourg
Phone : 01 53 59 96 96
Ham, wines, cheeses, and seafood products

Cap Hispania
23, rue Jouffroy D’Abbans, 75017 Paris
Metro :  Malesherbes, Pont Cardinet
Phone : 01 46 22 11 60

El Bierzo
29, rue de l’Ouest,  75014 Paris
Metro : Pernety
Phone. : 01 43 20 41 52

SWEDISH

Affären
17, rue Duperré 75009 Paris
Phone: 01 42 81 91 75
Metro : Pigalle

Gustaf
13 rue Danes de Montardat 78100 St Germain en Laye 
Phone : 09 62 39 91 91

Maison LeBon
13, rue Lebon 75017 Paris
Phone : 01 45 74 29 17
Metro: Ternes, Perreire, Porte Maillot
In addition to the usual French products, this bakery also sells some fresh-baked Swedish specialties like kanelbulle (cinnamon rolls), princesstårta (a marzipan covered cream cake, knäckebröd (crispy bread, like Wasa), and smörgåstårta.

OTHER

Agha
21 rue Montorgueil, 75001 Paris
Métro: Sentier
Phone: 01 42 33 72 39
Spices, grains, beans, nuts, a little bit of everything.

La Grande Epicerie de Paris, Le Bon Marché
38, rue de Sevres, 75007 Paris
Métro: Sèvres-Babylone
A little bit of everything and sky high prices.  Still you might find just what you’re looking for, and it’s worth a visit even if you’re not in a buying mood.

Izraël
30 rue Francois-Miron, 75004 Paris
Métro: St. Paul
Phone: 01 42 72 66 23
This spice shop, tucked in between the rue St. Antoine and the Seine River in the Marais district, carries a little bit of everything. In the front room, you’ll find barrels of nuts, dried fruits, and grains. The shelves are stacked with oils, condiments, sauces, and spices from all over the world. Beware: some of the more exotic bottled and canned items may be a bit dusty.

Resources

Paris Culinaire

Italian traiteurs in Paris

Coping with Food Intolerances in France

by Karin Bates Snyder  

Do you have food allergies or other health conditions that prohibit your eating foods with wheat, dairy, nuts, or other ingredients? How easy is it to find food to eat in Paris for a food allergic or intolerant person? Here are some tips for traveling to or living in France from a food-intolerant person trying to find sustenance in the gourmet capital of the world.

After my first year of living in Paris, I developed some health conditions that led me to eliminate gluten and dairy, and reduce my use of cane sugar and some other ingredients in my diet. While this has not always been easy, in the process I have learned a lot about how to find food in Paris that I can eat and which won’t make me feel sick. I have also traveled to the south of France and discovered things I’ve learned in Paris apply there, too.

On scale of one to ten, with ten being the easiest place to travel or live with food intolerances, and one being the most difficult, I would rate Paris and the rest of France at about a 4 to 5 at the moment.  As elsewhere, food allergies and intolerances are on the rise in France, and I have seen improvements in awareness and understanding of food-related health conditions in even the relatively short time I have been dealing with these issues myself.

Culturally and historically, cuisine is very important to French people – maybe the important thing in the culture here. It is taken quite seriously. There is also a kind of cultural understanding that all things are fine for a body in moderation, and so the idea of eliminating something from one’s diet voluntarily is counter to how many people in France approach food and eating.

This is not to say that the French are inflexible about understanding people who have genuine health problems related to food. Since coming to France, I have met several people (French and foreigner alike) diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes destruction to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. I also know lactose intolerant people, and vegetarians and vegans, who may not have a health reason for eating differently than the bulk of the French population, but whose deep personal convictions lead them to eat differently than most. All manage to eat well in Paris, but it does take some creativity, fortitude, and patience.

Here are the key issues.

First, assess your own situation. 

Do you have only one major food intolerance, it’s not that severe, and you have experience handling it elsewhere?

If so, you are probably going to have a good food experience in France. Finding food in stores and restaurants that eliminate a major ingredient such as gluten-based grains or dairy is pretty much a piece of cake. Health food stores carry gluten and dairy-free goods, including baked goods and snacks. The average café will likely have at least one meal you can eat, even if you wind up ordering salade Niçoise each time you go out.   I have and do eat out – it is possible. My favorite restaurants are vegetarian or macrobiotic ones where foods are often organic and made from simple, whole ingredients, and also places like Léon de Bruxelles, a chain that serves mussels and frites (French fries).

There is also good information in phrasebooks (my Lonely Planet French phrase book has an entire section dedicated to food allergies) and on-line about expressions you can use in French to ask about whether a dish has an ingredient to which you are allergic or intolerant, and tips on how to befriend your waiter and finesse the entire dining experience. (See links below for more information about how to eat out in Paris or France.)

On the other hand, do you have multiple food intolerances or severe reactions to certain foods?

If this describes you, I would highly recommend that if you are visiting Paris or other places in France, you find an apartment to rent and cook for yourself instead of trying to eat every meal in a restaurant.

French waiters and chefs do not tolerate a lot of what they consider “finickiness” from diners who require special preparation of dishes. In French cuisine, the prepared dish is seen as a work of art, and is not to be deconstructed into something else.  The idea that the needs and desires of the customer are always first and foremost isn’t part of the cultural milieu here; instead, diners are seen more as guests in a home.  Would you be demanding towards friends if you were visiting their home, insisting that they prepare you a special dish just for you, even after they already prepared an elaborate meal for all the other guests? Probably not. You’d either eat first, bring your own dish to eat, or pick and choose from what is already prepared that seems “safe” and hope for the best.   That’s the kind of attitude you need to dine out in France.

Moreover, if your issues are severe, you won’t want to take the risk.  Some people have such severe gluten intolerance that they experience severe cramping and diarrhea from even the slightest cross-contamination of a few crumbs of bread that got dusted onto their plate, or from the chef using the same pan to cook an item with gluten as the item without.

Plus you do not want to risk being out and about and having an intestinal attack: another thing Paris is infamous for is the lack of easily accessible and free public toilets.  Your visit is not going to be a good one if you are constantly in search of a toilet as you are touring, or holed up in your hotel room.

Second, take action.  There are a number of good Internet resources to help you experience Paris and the rest of France gluten free, dairy-free, or any-other-food-free. The tips can apply to eating vegan and vegetarian as well.

David Lebovitz on Eating and Dining Gluten-Free in Paris.  The information in this post is still very relevant nearly three years after its original posting. Even though it is written for people who need to avoid gluten, it is, hands down, still the best and most complete post I have ever read about eating and dining in Paris with food allergies and/or intolerances. The links at the end of the post are very helpful, and I note that new comments are continually being written on this post, some of which have additional helpful information.

For example, the most recent comment has a link to a gluten-free B&B in Paris – one where the host prepares gluten-free meals: Gluten Free Paris.

Celiac Chicks on gluten-free travel. A Gluten-Free Guide to Paris is another good read about traveling and dining gluten-free in Paris.

Compile a list of the French equivalents for all the ingredients to which you are allergic/intolerant so you can read labels on packaged foods.  Try these resources: 

  • Allergy Translations is a Web site dedicated to helping people find the vocabulary they need to avoid allergens.
  • Select Wisely has food and travel translation cards you can print up and carry with you.
  • Allergy Free Passport has multiple resources to help you out on their website.

Note that labeling of major allergens contained in foods and their possible presence does exist in France. Ingredients that may be problematic for people are clearly labeled, usually just after the ingredient list.  Also look for the catch phrases traces éventuelles de… and présence possible de… followed by the name of the allergen.

Know where to go to shop. Make lists (in French) of foods you can eat as well as those you can’t.

All of the major grocers have at least a section of aisle that is dedicated to organic or eating allergen-free.  Realistically, however, you will probably have to visit more than one store to shop for foods you can eat.

Monoprix is a popular grocery chain carrying soy milk, soy-based yogurts, some gluten-free baking mixes and ready-to-eat foods or snacks as well as nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables.  Bring your list for reading labels, though. As with snack and prepared foods in the U.S., filler ingredients containing allergens are in some of these foods. Amidon transformé, for example, is modified wheat starch and is found in many snack foods.

Franprix, Leader Price, and Ed are discount grocers. They also have fresh fruits and vegetables, and the basics for preparing many dishes. Leader Price has its own line of organic products (look for the terms biologique or bio) including soy milks, rice cakes (which contain sesame, however), and jams made with organic cane sugar, among other items. These Leader Price items are sold in Franprix as well.

In the outlying suburbs of Paris, hypermarkets such as Carrefour and Auchan have large aisles of gluten and dairy-free baked goods and other foods.   Many of these stores also have ingredients for grain-free baking such as almond and hazelnut flours, but note that these products are not produced in allergen-free manufacturing plants, and may contain traces of gluten or other allergens.  I have not had much of an opportunity to shop in these stores, but know of people who find plenty of foods at these French equivalents of Wal-Mart.  

Overall, however, your best bet at finding allergen-free foods are at health food stores.  In Paris, there are three major health food store chains: Biocoop, Naturalia, and La Vie Claire.  (Check their Web sites for a location near you.) There are also independent stores in some neighborhoods.  These stores typically have dedicated shelves or areas for gluten-free products. (On the other hand, dairy-free equivalents (such as dairy-free chocolate-hazelnut spread, like the Nutella brand) are often next to their allergen-containing counterparts).  A quick read of the labeling will tell you which products are certified to be gluten-free, dairy-free, or free of other allergens. Much of the labeling is also multilingual, and some have ingredient listings in English, too.

Finally, if the prices at health food stores are too high, go to one of Paris’ districts where Asian communities have set up shop. The Marais (3rd arrondissement), Belleville (20th arrondissement), and the area around Avenue d’Ivry in the 13th have Asian-based markets and grocers where you can find rice flour, bean thread and rice noodles, and tapioca starch for a lot less than at health food stores.

I have yet to find ingredients such as coconut or sorghum flours, but new things are continuously showing up on shelves, and it seems I find something new each time I visit. Different stores carry different products, too, so exploring all of the chains frequently yields new discoveries.

I am fortunate in that my intolerances are fairly mild compared to some. Once in a while, I decide to try something that has an ingredient to which I know I will react, but the trade-off of trying something unique to France’s incredible cuisine is often worth a few of days of feeling unwell. Like anything, it is a choice. I hope, however, that if you have no choice in what you consume because of an allergy or intolerance, that you have found this information helpful.

If you have information to add or other questions, please leave it in the comments below. Or stop by my blog and leave me a note in the Contact Me section.  

Karin Bates Snyder never expected to wind up living in a place like Paris after turning 40. She also developed several food intolerances shortly after moving to the City of Light. These events have contributed to her feeling like a duck out of water, like An Alien Parisienne, the name of the blog where she writes to come to terms with being a stranger in a strange land.

Cookware Shops in Paris

David Lebovitz, pastry chef and Paris blogger extraordinaire, has gone and done it again.  Honestly, if you are in Paris and you like to cook, you should just sign up for his e-mail notifications or put his blog in your Google reader because you won’t want to miss his hysterical observations on life in Paris, his great recipes, or his sage advice on where to go for the best ingredients and tools for your culinary masterpieces.

This time, he’s gone and written what must be the definitive guide to Cookware Shops in Paris.  He’s got all the big names like Dehilleron, Mora, and La Bovida but he also has great suggestions for those of us on a budget.   Knives, cookbooks, pots and pans, cutlery, glassware:  it’s all there complete with addresses, phone numbers, and links.  Now get your map and get going.   Dinner’s only a few hours away.

Making Sense of the Supermarket Part V: Cuts of Meat

Something else they didn’t tell you about when you were learning all about France in French IV in high school:  they cut up beef, lamb, and pork here differently than they do in North America.  So today, a quick overview of some of the major differences or at least some guidance in getting dinner on the table.

For starters,  be prepared for the fact that French and North American beef taste different.  How’s that?  French cattle are primarily grass fed and thus the meat is less marbled.   Moreover, there is not as much emphasis on aging meat.  As a result, French beef tends to be less tender than American.    Food additives (such as antibiotics) are not used at all.  So be forewarned, your tried and true dishes will not taste the same, no matter what you do.  Moreover, you need to be particularly careful if you like your meat well-done.    Because they are less tender,  well-done meats are likely to be quite dry.

The laws for labeling are extremely strict and you can learn a lot about your meat, even before you put it in your supermarket cart.

Charolais, Salers, Blonde d’Aquitaine, Aubrac, Gasconne, and Limousine are all breeds of French cattle and are considered to be the meats of highest quality.  These meats will be labeled as well as race à viande, that is, cattle raised for beef.

Moving on  to the cuts.  Here’s your standard American head of beef:

American cuts of beef

Then, here’s the French counterpart:

French cuts of beef

 

As you can see, there are twice as many French cuts as there are American.  But do not despair.    Here are a couple of short cut definitions.  If you are looking for a New York strip, choose a faux filet or Coeur d’Aloyau   For rib-eye, try an entrecote.   For sirloin, a rumsteak will generally do the trick.  If you are making beef stew, look for paleron, macreuse, gite, or jumeau.

There are fewer cuts of pork.   If you are a fan of pork tenderloin, look for  filet de mignon de porc.  Beware of bacon; it is more like what Americans call Canadian bacon than the crispy strips you’re used to having with eggs at breakfast.  Poitrine is the best substitute although it’s probably not exactly what you want.  Lardons in both nature (plain) or fumé (smoked) are bits of bacon sold packaged; these are good in quiches and any other dish calling for crumbled bacon.   For a diagram of French pork cuts, check out this page on the French pork producers site.

If you’re ever in doubt, the best thing to do is to go to the butcher shop and ask the butcher’s opinion about the type of meat most suited to the dish you are making.   You will pay a premium by shopping at the boucherie but in general, the product will be superior.  If your budget doesn’t permit regular shopping at the butcher, don’t be embarrassed to go every now and again and in between, apply the knowledge you gain to your supermarket shopping.

Resources

Les morceaux de boeuf:   From a French cattle industry group (and thus all in French), this site offers an interactive feature if you scroll down the page until you see the diagram of the cow.  Click on a portion and you will get a photograph of the cut, its name, and suggestions for cooking.