Lamb Melons

melon d'agneau

I was walking down the Avenue Trudaine the other morning, on the way to Kooka Boora for yet another coffee, and they were setting up for the small afternoon market there. Most of the markets in Paris take place in the mornings, which means that people who work don’t get to go to the market except on weekends, when the outdoor markets can resemble the trading floor of a stock exchange. So it’s nice that a few of the markets in the city are open in the afternoons and early evenings, to accommodate those people.

The Marché d’Anvers is a rather compact market, with a few fish stalls, a bread stand, and some vegetables. There is also a butcher that has a very, very long refrigerated counter, which I scanned. I don’t know all that much about meat but I like to look at it. (And, yes, the swarthy butchers are often worth scanning as well and unlike other vendors at the market, women seem to be particularly attracted to them. And even the most reserved Frenchwoman seems to get reduced to a smitten schoolgirl when it’s their turn with the butcher.) When I reached the end of the showcase, I noticed a pile of something called Melons d’agneau.

lamb melons

These “Lamb Melons” reminded me of tufted cushions, made with what looked like slender strips of fat-marbled lamb. Some were topped with handfuls of grated cheese and other had what looked like a farce, or stuffing, crammed in there. I don’t know what was inside, but am guessing a core of seasoned ground lamb. And you probably pop the whole thing in the oven and let it roast until it’s cooked through.

Taking pictures in Paris can be a dicey proposition (I once asked about taking a picture of a nice-looking bunch of carrots at a market, which launched a discussion that required three people to discuss and determine whether or not I could) but Romain said, “He should be proud of his work.” And indeed, the butcher deserves kudos for whatever he did to craft and coax lamb into these shapes.

I did a little searching around online for images that matched melon d’agneau (and no, not anneaux), and found a few specimens that looked more like what are sometimes called paupiettes, which are stuffed meats often tied up into a nice, tight round bundle, the meat bulging like melon sections between the strings, ready to take home and roast off. Weighing in at what I’m guessing to be around two kilos (4.4-pounds), I’m not sure how many people each melon will feed—but for two, that’s a whole lot of lamb. And a whole lot of leftovers.



Update: I cooked one!

73 comments

  • Wow, those are works of art, almost too pretty to eat. At a market last week, I was semi scolded for taking a picture of a tomato that was nearly the size of my head. He softened a bit when I bought said tomato.

  • Those are so interesting. Never seen anything like it and I’m sure they’re delicious.

  • What impressed me the most on my recent trip to Paris was the way food is displayed in markets, almost like a work of art. I especially remember upon visiting La Grande Epicerie, the berries, each seemingly placed side by side like tiny jewels.Paying $8 for a handful of “gadelles” doesn’t seem so outrageous, n’est-pas?Those lamb melons are simply beautiful!

  • I vote for you buying one of these melons, then pull it apart to see how it’s made….I’m very curious.

  • It’s boneless shoulder of lamb, and there’s a description of how the melon is created and cooked here: http://www.cuisinorama.com/recettes/melon_d_agneau_315.html

    I’ve never had it, but it sounds interesting!

  • Wow. I’ve never seen something like this. I can’t stop looking at them!

  • At first I thought it was slices of bacon because I often like to cover roasts with streaky bacon. But this is even better! PLEASE tell me you bought one so, later, we can enjoy photos of it roasted! And sliced. And being devoured. That is indeed a work of art but I would love to eat it nonetheless. The butcher should be proud!

  • I go to a small grocery store in my neighborhood, and they have a few rather strapping butchers. I’m pretty sure some of the women who line up to buy meat are vegetarians. I guess not all of the primal has worn off in us, if women (and men) still like hulky guys with big knives who are often a little bloody :-)

  • The butcher must be praised for his artistic vision of raw meat. Looks like a bud of a huge exotic flower.
    When I hit “Continue to read…”, I was very curious to see how it was cooked. It looks so interesting raw, but, David, please don’t deprive us of the pleasure to see it cooked! You can freeze the leftovers or donate it to some old French lady in your building. Who would refuse a free meal, especially if it’s lamb looking like a flower?..

  • I don’t think I could have resisted buying one of these. If only to take it apart and find out what’s inside. They’re beautiful. And mysterious. And look delicious, even with their insides unknown.

    Although you have to wonder: would they be as pretty cooked?

  • would love to know where you buy your rotie de lapin aux pruneaux

  • Lamb art – a new trend?

  • I think its something about the french… they always make food look so pretty!!

  • Wait! You didn’t buy one and cook it or have someone else cook it? How were you able to resist?

  • Is anyone else thinking that one of these lovely “melon d’agneau” would work great as hat for Lady Gaga??

  • I have just been transported back to Montreal in the 1960′s. We were living there as poor students but there was a butcher shop in our neighborhood who’s “vitrine” would make us pause. The butcher was Swiss, I believe, and a master of presentation. All of his roasts were hand tied works of art as thisis .I don’t know how you resisted.

  • Only in France! Not only do they look divine……..I’m sure they taste that way too!

  • Those are interesting. More research please! Do please invite some friends over and roast one. Would love to know how to make!

  • One of my goal – I have many – is to learn to make these “melon” with lamb or veal.

    Small markets at La bourse is open on Friday PM and Rue Montmartre on Thursday PM.

    La Bourse : I was told the fishmonger is good. Went last Friday but they will close till May 11th ( french holidays) there was not a wide choice. Bought a “lotte” ( Monk fish) and Gamberinis.Baked it with a drizzle of Olive oil, onions, lemon, thyme and laurel and served with some sauteed vegetables. Was delicious So it is true , this fishmonger is worth the visit.
    Unfortunately rue Montmartre, it is the Sunday AM that is the most popular with vendors. There are only a few on Thursday. No good fishmonger there. So close to Les Halles ? a shame !

    • Yes, the Bourse (stock exchange) market is a good idea since so many people work there. Another great project is that some RER stations have bags of produce for people to buy, who are coming home from work, because they don’t have time to do grocery shopping since they get home from work so late.

  • Makes my mouth water…. Why don’t you buy one, cook it and try to enrich us with the knowledge of a connoisseur how to make it at home, Please….

  • Buon giorno David. Thank you so much for taking the time in your daily life to walk, look and really SEE what is around you (and then sharing it with us!).

    As per others’ comments, please buy one and roast it….and then let us all know what’s inside! Or, ship it to me here in Italy overnight and I’ll cook it up (of course you are invited). ;)

  • OMG, you didn’t buy one? They are amazing.

  • My first thought on seeing these photos was “what the…?” But I have to admit they look so good.

    I should move to Paris, no matter how great my butcher may be, he’s not attractive.

  • Thanks for bringing new and interesting items for us to also enjoy.

  • I was so intrigued by this latest offering from a Parisian market that I did some research myself and at least I can tell that no melon was hurt in the making of ‘melons d’agneau’ :)
    A highly interesting and most beautiful ‘article’, one I wouldn’t hesitate a second to buy and try. What a gorgeous specimen of ‘artisanerie’ (not to be confounded with ânerie…) in the butcher trade. Merci bien!

  • Julia Child had a “chicken melon” recipe–you made a sort of paté of the boned meat of a chicken and other ingredients, then stuffed it into the chicken skin and tied it into a melon shape to roast.

  • Those are fantastic! It looks like maybe stone-ground mustard on top of some? What a novel idea.

  • Loved “when it’s their turn with the butcher”!

  • Cook one of these sometime David!

  • Seriously, I would pay for you to buy one of these just so I could see the final result and read your thoughts on it.

  • I cook these quite often. It’s lamb shoulder, and superbly tender. My butcher’s ones aren’t stuffed, but are just wrapped in barding fat. His recipe is to put the melon in a cold oven, switch on to 180C, leave to cook for 50 minutes, then call him to table, where he’ll arrive after the 10 minutes the meat needs to rest!

    Bon appetit!

  • I couldn’t believe my eyes — was it melon? No, it was meat formed into a melon shape. I hope you bought one to cook and blog about.

  • Proof positive that even raw meat can be lovely!

  • Those are beautiful and no doubt delicious. Butchery as art. Romain is right, he should be proud.

  • Well, this is a fine foodie fantasy to encounter on my birthday! And the price seems reasonable for all the hard work in rolling the lamb shoulder, non?

    I am wondering if the outside of the ‘melon’ is covered in strips of lamb bacon. I can’t see that the lamb melon would be dressed in pork bacon, can you? About 2-3 years ago, lamb bacon was being touted as the next big thing in food. There is beef bacon, and duck bacon (which I learned of via Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook), so why not lamb? I was quite curious to try it, but I have not found an organic butcher in Toronto who carries it. If you are lucky enough to find lamb bacon in Paris, I may have to move up my plans to visit again to try this delicacy.

    Thank you to Romain as well, for his insightful comment with respect to photographing creatively presented items. From now on, when I sense resistance from a storekeeper about photographing something on display, that is going to be the line I use to win them over!

  • David! You amaze me. I just can’t comprehend not buying that, how on earth could you not?

    Savory food is my forte (as opposed to sweets and baking, which is why I began reading your blog to improve in the first place). I would like to make this. I am from Louisiana and there are lots of variations of roasted meats with stuffing tied up clever ways with string, but this I have not seen. The wrapping on this is obviously bacon (or une longue barde de lard as noted in the recipe posted) not ‘slender strips of fat-marbled lamb’. Lamb and bacon have a long satisfying historical relationship. What I want to know is what is in the stuffing. Or rather, beyond the obvious ingredients, the posted recipe includes salsifis which I am pretty sure that I have never had. Are they like parsnips? That’s what they look like. Anyway the butcher seems to maybe have his own recipe maybe not at all like the posted one.

    Please consider taking one for the team and next week going to buy one and eating it! Surely I’m not the only one who tires of lamb + rosemary + garlic as the primary way to present lamb.

    • Salsify is a root vegetable, and not all that common to find in Paris. Like parsnips, they are roots, but they are more slender with a black peel. They are also called “oyster plant” in English because some say they have a faint flavor of oysters, I believe, although I’ve never thought that.

  • These look fantastic and not like anything I have ever seen before – is that a compound butter with herbs (mint?) on top of a few of the ‘melons’ ?

    Think these could feed a crowd!

  • I want to fly to Paris to pick one of these up right now. I have never seen raw meat look so delicious. You must try one of these at some point and share with us the results of cooking!

  • Google it! Il y a plusieurs recettes et quelques photos aussi.

    dws

    • I did Google it and found what looked like paupiettes, as mentioned, but not really anything like these. They’re one-of-a-kind!

  • David! This is perfect. My dad, a roly-poly Midwestern meat lover is on his way to Paris as I write this. What a perfect pre-wrapped present!

  • Those are so cool looking. All that fat, though. Bet it’s delicious.

  • Looks like the opposite of a tofurkey

  • Frankly the words melon and lamb together don’t sound very appetizing, however on closer inspection these look scrumptious. I vote with everyone else; you should buy and cook one, taping the blow by blow of course. On another note, I don’t know any of these butchers…

  • I’ve had melons d’agneau once, when it was made by my friend’s mother. But hers weren’t as stunning visually as these. I remember her explaining that her father was a butcher in Normandy, and it was something that he would make with spring lamb. She did hers in a simpler manner by wrapping bacon not along each “melon” segment, but around. Still, it was very delicious and looked great when brought to the table.

  • Victoria: Well, thinking about it now, perhaps those are strips of bacon on the outside. I think it’s obvious that another visit is in order for further investigation!

  • Oooh how fascinating! Did you buy one?

  • David! Stop everything, turn around and go back to buy one of these! We need to know what’s inside them and what they look like cooked! Although you might need to gather a few friends to help you eat it all :)

  • I must admit, I almost thought these were real melons! I had to double take to make sure I was really looking at meat. Did you happen to buy one, cook it or asked how it should been prepared? I’m curious of the variations of what’s stuffed inside.

  • I am very much interested in the stuffing, but could not find a recipe for this Melon d’agneau in English. Please post the recipe if you if you happen to cook one of those melons.

  • My husband would die for this. It’s a cushion! It’s a meal! It might actually make for a nice change from Thanksgiving turkey or some other celebration that normally involves poultry or ham.

  • David just found this site-very interesting indeed to a chef wannabe like me. I am an artist (painter) by profession so visual impact figures large in food for me, and this is a brilliant example of the old adage that ‘the first bite is with the eye’ (not that I’d eat raw lamb!) I can’t find an English language recipe either, will try to run the French one through an online translator but that usually produce something like ‘placing of this sheepskin fruit in the fire and eager the return with value under sytem of destiny’ or something equally abstruse! (I actually got the last half of that gibberish from Bing for a Spanish blog last month!) Can anyone with good language skills run a quick translation that won’t leave everyone thinking that a migraine might actually be a more tempting prospect that relying on the idiot translation robots? Cheers.

  • Amazing what a talented butcher or chef can do with string! And I can’t even tie a decent knot!

    Here’s a variation on the lamb shoulder melon. How about the “lard girdle” that holds the melon together? I would love to see that prepared!

    http://kitschnclassics.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/boucherie-d%E2%80%99agneau-edition-speciale-epaule-en-melon/

  • I’m kind of disappointed to discover it’s a shoulder. I was hoping for a French-version of meatloaf wrapped up beautifully. Nonetheless, this will be on my list to try the next time I’m in France.

  • I used Google Translate on the website provided by ParisGrrl in comment #5. It ends up reading more-or-less intelligibly, though the last step is my absolute favorite:

    “Introduce the melon lamb on the platter, surrounded by his seal.”

    Diners, meet lamb melon. Lamb melon, prepare to be appreciated.

  • A further note: closer inspection of that photo leads me to believe the three various toppings are intended to melt and flavor the ‘melon’ as he cooks. I’m betting they are cheese, mustard, and herbed-butter. Me, I’d go for the compound butter, but wow do they look beautiful.

  • This is so cool! It’s bound to make an impression at the dinner table!

  • Reminds me of Julia Child’s “chicken melon” or her more playful name “poulet de Charente á la melonaise”. It’s like your lamb melons only with ground poultry filling accented with cubes of pink ham and green pistachios. On the outside, chicken, capon, or turkey skin trussed like a melon (p. 20, Julia Child and Company, A Knopf, c.1978).

  • Oh my goodness, these are amazing! Clearly we need a follow-up post, after one of these lovely melons has been roasted.

  • Poor lambs – they’re baby sheep, you know. Better to eat real melons and let the lambs live their lives.

  • These look so succulent. WIth a bit of browned gravy, some mashed potatoes and braised carrots…but I digress.
    ‘Tis beautiful, absolutely.

  • The shoulders are deboned; shoulder blade and shank bone removed. The shank end is tucked under and into the shoulder and a series of knots are tied to give the characteristic “melon” clefts. I wrap mine with ventreche and top them with a parsley and roasted garlic butter hat. At Hugo Desnoyer in the 14th they cover them with snail butter.
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x8gz3v_ficelage-epaule-agneau-en-melon_lifestyle

    They are best roasted at low temperature (275F) to keep the butter from burning. 4-5 hours. Left to rest then sliced like pie.

  • I’ve never been bowled over by lamb. Not at Easter, prepared by my beloved sister-in-law with her talented Quebecois tradition, not in the best Greek moussaka…..but here I am hung by my own conviction that all food can be scrumptious if you prepare it in just the right way. Maybe “Lamb Melons” are the right way…

  • Looks incredible, Makes me want to ditch my mostly plant based diet ! To me, the outer layer looks like Prosciutto …. ‘xcuse me while I wipe the drool :-)

  • I never had these melons before! Tons of comments make me think how delicious they would be :)

  • Wow! I just started following your blog, and the lamb melons are incredible. I, too, cannot believe that you did not buy one. Of course, we would have a hard time finding anything like that here in Virginia. I am totally inspired to try to create this myself….and maybe post on my new blog. Thanks for inspiring me and your blog is
    now a daily read.

  • It’s so true. Their strong and capable hands…ahem…these Melons d’Agneau look just beautiful.

  • those french butchers like to have their hands on meat, that’s for sure. These melons look so “touched”. I know a few people who don’t order skewers in the restaurant, because people touch the meat I guess I could scare those people with such a melon. Scare them … a lot!
    :D

  • Wow, this is why France is just way cooler than any other place on earth! The endless imagination and fresh take on creativity is beautiful! I am moving to Bordeaux with my husband and 3 year old son in a few months and so looking through your blog just excites me more and more to get involved with the french food culture! Do you have any tips?

    • My tips for anyone moving to France would be to make sure to bring copies (and originals) of every document you have in your possession because at some point, you’ll be asked to produce copies – no matter how obscure you might think it is – and if they are somewhere else, you’ll have a hard time trying to get them. Also designate someone from your community back home who can help you in case some of your documentation is missing. And keep records of everything in France, including all receipts. French people often have lots of dossiers (folders) at home for organizing and saving everything. Bordeaux is a nice city and be sure to visit Cadiot-Badie and Sauinon chocolate shops. Good luck with the move!

  • Oh, you didn’t buy it?! I was so hoping you would and then report on whether these are good or not. They’re def intriguing to look at, can’t tell much else from here though…