Friends are usually surprised when I tell them that we eat differently in France. Sure you can still get eggs and dairy products, plus there’s an array of vegetables and fruit available. But, in general, products in the marchés and supermarchés vary widely when compared to home. It’s really obvious when selecting meats for dinner that “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
When is the last time you were able to purchase rabbit in the grocery store, for instance? I know that I can get it frozen at Latham Meat Market, but I’ve never seen it fresh like we do here. Since my father was a hunter, I don’t consider rabbit a strange dinner option and we’ve had it during the last week. The old aphorism “it tastes like chicken” is not quite right in this case, but if well prepared, it’s quite tasty. Years ago when our family spent a year in Lyon I found a recipe in the local newspaper for lapin aux olives. So, just in case you feel like going to Latham Meat Market (or its equivalent near you), here’s how you might decide to prepare it. First, salt and pepper the pieces of rabbit and brown them in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add in a minced clove or two of garlic, one can of tomato sauce, and a cup of red wine. (You could also add some herbes de Provence or a shallot or onion, if you want.) Let the mixture cook for about a half hour, then slice in some green olives, with or without pimento. The resulting sauce is dark and delicious. You might serve the dish with rice, noodles, or just bread.
Another common meat choice in France is duck. Magret de canard, or duck breast, is seemingly always in the meat counter. Larger cities in the U. S. have specialty shops where you can go buy it as well. There are many ways of cooking duck and it is quite easy to do. Most preparations entail adding some kind of fruit to the sauce. The other night I simply put a few slashes in the duck fat and cooked it fat-side down for about ten minutes. Then I flipped it over, covering the pan with aluminum foil for about 10 more minutes because it was a rather thick piece of meat. It’s important not to overcook the duck; medium rare is the best way to eat it. To make a quick sauce, I added a couple of tablespoons of apricot jam to the juices in the bottom of the pan. Very quick and very good.
For those of you who are thinking “yes, but I can’t get any of those meats around here,” I’ll include one last dish: escalope de dinde à la crème, or turkey cutlets in cream. The original recipe I found for this called for veal, which would be nice; you could use chicken breasts, too. I first salt, pepper, and flour the cutlets and brown them in a mixture of butter and oil. Then I add in some chopped red pepper, onion, and mushrooms. Cook until the vegetables are done, then pour in some white wine and about a half-cup of heavy cream. It’s a very good meal and I’m not sure why I only make it in France!
Anyway, I hope you’ll give some of these recipes a try.