Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chez le boucher

***Warning: there is a link to a graphic picture of a cut up chicken in this post, with a warning closer to the link so you can avoid it if you like***

One thing I really love about being here is going to the butcher to get our meat. With the exception of the Halal vegetarian, boneless, skinless chicken breasts I buy at the grocery store (because they're the cheapest around and really good), I buy all our meat at the butcher around the corner. It can be a little confusing, for a couple of reasons: first, I'm still learning about different cuts of meat (e.g., the difference between shoulder cuts: picnic or butt?), and second, animals are butchered differently here -- so the cuts that I only sort of know anyway don't all exist in France. Lucky for me, the people in the butcher shop don't seem to mind answering my questions so I can ask what different cuts of meat are used for, or I can tell them what I'm making and ask for a recommendation.

What's really great is that once you've chosen your beast, they'll then cut your meat however you want it. So those skin-on, deboned whole chicken legs that I wanted to buy in Chicago and couldn't? Unlike Chicago, where (as the butchers at several butcher counters told me) butchers aren't allowed to debone chicken for you and maybe can't even do it for you if you pre-order, those chicken legs are no problem here. And that caul fat that I would have had to special order? At any butcher shop, any day of the week (except Sundays, and some afternoons when they're closed). Unlucky for me, now I don't have an oven, but if I did ...

However, even though you can ask about the difference between un poulet (better for roasting) and une poule (better for boiling or cooking in stews), and you can get that fowl cut up into as many serving pieces as you like, there are still some surprises.

Here's that link I was talking about. You are hereby forewarned!

Yes, that was the head and those were the lungs. No other organs though. I didn't include those pieces in the stew, and the dish turned out to be quite tasty anyway.

Later, when I got a rabbit, the butcher offered me the head. I declined, but when I got home and unwrapped my rabbit, I saw that I had been given the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs.

So meat is not for the squeamish here, or maybe it is -- after all, you don't have to get your hands dirty and cut it up yourself (except that you have to, for example, trim the kidneys away from the saddle of the rabbit).

While going to the butcher shop is far from slaughtering an animal, you get a better idea of where the meat you eat comes from.


Anonymous said...

E - What fun to read your blog! I have a sore throat and couldn't sleep this (very early) morning, so I read back through the whole thing to get caught up. It brings back so many fond memories of being in Aix in college for a semester! The house where I lived was a few streets up the hill from the Atelier Cezanne. I think it was a pretty big house for the area, but not really fancy - very old, but comfortable. The food all sounds so delicious. We are currently stuck on the PB&J / Chicken nugget / spaghetti route, and I fear we may be here for the long-haul, so I'm enjoying the variety vicariously through your blog! My Dad visited me in Aix that summer and took me and some friends to a fantastic resaturant (read:very fancy and expensive) called Les Bacchanales...not sure about the spelling. Anyway - if you feel like a splurge (and it's still there!), it was amazing. My Dad ate some gland from a cow's neck (it was delicious) and I had lobster. Yum. I also spent a lot of time buying (and eating) stuff from the boulanger (it was called "Boulanger" - so creative!) near my school. The school was very near to the Cathedral - I think it was even housed in a very old Cathedral. What I wouldn't give for one fo those melt-in-your mooth croissants or baguettes! I sure hope I get to come back some day with Greg in tow!

Orange Pippin said...

Are those cooked carrots I see?