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Paris Organics

When I take Americans to a market here in Paris, a common query is, “What do they think about organics in France?” The two markets I shop at regularly, the Richard Lenoir Market and the Marche d’Aligre, don’t have much in the way of anything organic. There is one vendor who regularly shows up at the Richard Lenoir market with a gorgeous array of fruits and vegetables. The downside is the price is much, much higher than conventional produce, often 3 to 6 times higher. Still, I always stop to take a look and admire what she has and since it can be difficult to find unusual vegetables here, such as parsnips and multicolored Swiss chard, I succumb.

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Asperge Sauvage: Delicate Wild Asparagus

I’ve spoken to a several French chefs about organics, inquiring why it’s not really a movement here in France like it is in the United States. Surprisingly, every response is similar; “Why are Americans so obsessed with organics? We use very little pesticides on the produce in France.”

France is a major user of pesticides. Is the movement really a major cultural change in the United States, more so than in France? Are Americans finally taking a much closer look at the foods we eat? I would definitely say “yes”, as evidenced by the popularity of natural-foods megastores, artisan chocolates, and the like, but that doesn’t seem to be happening here. Maybe it’s because the French never strayed that much from their agricultural roots to begin with. Farmhouse cheeses and good breads are easily available, even in supermarkets, and wine is chosen based on the region, not by the grape variety (which is changing, in a rare nod to globalization.)

Most French chefs seem primarily interested in the terroir, that vaguely-translatable term that means that the product is a sum of the elements from where it’s grown; the soil, the climate, the cultivation techniques…the ‘territory’ of origin, gives food its certain “Je ne sais quoi.” That’s why the sweet corn in New England will always taste different than the corn in California, even if it’s the same variety. Or brownies in America taste better than the ones in Paris (I think I’m the first person to ascribe terroir to brownies). And why baguettes taste much more authentic in Paris than the ones in America.

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Going bio in Paris? No need to deprive yourself of les chips.


I seem to be one of those people who goes organic when it’s truly better tasting, when buying or eating American beef, or isn’t priced stratospherically high. The organic carrot juice at Trader Joe’s that’s 50 cents more seems to be a price difference I can live with. But there’s no Trader Joe’s in Paris, yet, and I don’t for see their arrival anytime soon. And I try to live responsibly; I bring my own basket to the market, I schlep my lettuce-washing water to my plants after washing salad greens, I don’t drive in Paris (which is why I’m still alive), and I’ve never, ever thrown away a twist-tie in my life, and guard my stash of them with my life (…thanks for that one too, mom.)

But then I worry if washing my plastic bags for re-use wastes more energy in water usage than simply tossing them out. Is sporting a wicker basket at the market mark me as a tourist? And my first (and last) experience buying ‘green’ toilet paper made from recycled wood pulp was, um, rather unpleasant.

I spent over 13 years working at Chez Panisse, where Alice Waters insisted that we forage as much of our ingredients as possible from organic producers and sources. At first we had some difficulties, but soon we found we were able to get most of what we wanted organically and developed wonderful relationships with farmers. Since we paid more, they’d spend more time growing what we wanted. Alice didn’t mind that food costs were very high, spending $5 per pound for organic butter, and the like. She encouraged us to be leaders in a global movement, which was possible due to the high profile and popularity of Chez Panisse. Being in sympathetic Berkeley perhaps didn’t hurt either.

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Organic Breads

But it seems now it’s fashionable to complain about organics and there’s lot of articles I’ve read lately that attack organics. I wonder about the backlash that’s happening. Yes, the organic movement is criticized for being hi-jacked by big business. But don’t we want Frosted Flakes to go organic? (Not that I eat Frosted Flakes…) And don’t we want Coke without all the preservatives? (Not that I drink Coke either…) But isn’t it better than all those chemical being dumped into our eco-system?

The same people who joke about the high price of shopping at “Whole Paycheck” don’t seem to remember that a little over a decade ago, finding anything like radicchio, goat cheese, espresso, blood oranges, and hearth-baked breads was practically unheard of. And they also don’t seem to mind spending a fortune on cars, gym memberships, and watery soy lattes. Just a few years back, if you wanted anything organic or ‘natural’, you had to brave getting trampled by Birkenstocks or getting strangled by someone’s dashiki drawstrings while sorting through crinkly apples rotting in wooden bins at the health food store.

There’s been lots of press about the downside of organic. We’ve all been saying how we wanted better foods available to all (Safeway has introduced an organic line) and how it’s out-of-reach for the less well-off (Wal-Mart is soon to introduce several lines of organic goods.) But the scare to small farmers and growers is that the large corporations will flex their muscles to force down prices, and the little guys will go out of business, who can’t compete with corporate organic agri-giants. That’s why I’m a ‘local trumps organic’ kinda mec. I feel it’s far more important to keep local businesses and neighbors afloat. Still, I can’t help but give credit to large corporations for responding to the public and expanding the availability of organics to the masses.

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Green & Black’s organic chocolate…coming soon to a superstore near you.

We have two thriving organic markets here in Paris and even though they’re across town, I’m trying to visit them more often. One is the Batignolles market in the 17th, and the other at Boulevard Raspail, which draws a bit more of an upscale crowd. On Saturday, we braved the intense rainstorm, which alternated with moments of brilliant sunshine, and sloshed around the Marché Biologique Batignolles.

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Organic vegetables at the Batignolles market.

There were beautiful vegetables everywhere, that the crowd seemed to be buying. Yes, prices were higher, but to me, they seemed proportional to the exceptional quality of most of what was available: rounds of organic camemberts and wheels of brie de meaux, mounds of golden-yellow butter riddled with flecks of sea salt from Brittany, and meaty pâtes and pintades, of Guinea fowl, raised in the open-air of the French countryside.

One of the most curious things we saw people frying up the globally loathed veggie-and-lentil patties, which resembled what people used to think of as ‘health food’ back in the days of yore….although I’m probably guilty of frying up perhaps a few of them a while back as well. Still, to do it publicly should be a crime. Especially here in Paris.

There’s a certain amount of potions, creams, and tinctures for what ails you, as well as lots of beautiful, dense, grainy breads. One vendor had wood-oven baked breads made with everything from kamut to buckwheat, quinoa to cornmeal, and dark Russian rye that was as black as charcoal, which I would have bought except I had three loaves of bread sitting in my kitchen. My ‘French Bread Crisis‘, as I call it…how can I possibly eat all the bread I seem to collect?

So there is a thriving organic movement here, although I got the feeling that most people were like me; shopping there because of the exceptional quality of the food. Now that the weather’s nicer (mostly), I’m going to venture across town more often to the Batignolles market on Saturdays, to support the local producteurs.

Perhaps if I support organic cheesemakers and boulangers, I won’t feel quite so guilty buying non-recycled toilet paper. Now if I could only find some that was locally-produced, then I’d be in business.

Marché Biologique Batignolles
Every Saturday morning
Métro: Rome

Marché Biologique Raspail
Every Sunday morning
Métro: Sèvres-Babylon

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Recipe

strawberries

At the markets during the spring and summer here in Paris, there are piles and mounds of strawberries. The sweet, fruity scent pervades the air as you get closer to the stands. I always come home with a kilo (2 pounds), which costs about 3 euros (about $3.50) and I eat as many as I can during their season. Some people swoon for the pale gariguette berries, which are slender and pointed, although I’ve tried them several times and don’t find them much better than the everyday Chandler variety that’s normally available.

While at the market this week, being such a good customer, I got a deal on a large flat of strawberries so after much jam-making, I decided to take my ice cream maker out for a spin and whip up a batch of Strawberry Frozen Yogurt.

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Unlike the stuff at the mall, real frozen yogurt is made from plain, whole-milk yogurt, fresh fruits, and some sweetener. Although some people like to drain their yogurt first for a richer end-result, I prefer the lighter style of frozen yogurt. You can use Greek-style yogurt, which is three times richer than whole milk yogurt. Slicing the berries and tossing them in sugar makes the strawberries bright red in color and can make ho-hum berries quite delicious.

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Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
About 1 quart (1l)

French yogurt is astoundingly good and I suggest you use a good-quality, whole milk or Greek-style yogurt for best results.

  • 1 pound (450g) strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 2/3 cup (130g) sugar
  • optional: 2 teaspoons vodka or kirsch
  • 1 cup (240g) plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch (if using) until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every so often.

Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.

Chill for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Continue Reading Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Recipe…

Lucques Olives

While at the market yesterday looking for things to snitch, I bought a sack of my favorite olives, les Lucques.

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Lucques olives are originally from Italy, but are now most closely associated with France and they’re unlike any other olive you’re likely to sample, free or otherwise. Grown in the Hérault region in the south of France, the Languedoc, they’re harvested in the fall and can be difficult to find depending on the time of the year. These olives are meaty and sweet, not soft, salty, or mushy like some olives can be. The green flesh is firm and bright, and the olives themselves must be kept submerged in their light brine since they discolor very easily.

While they are available in jars, I am lucky to have a prime source for these green beauties just steps away from where I live. And they are certainly one of the best things you can possibly eat. The first time you try one, you’re likely to be very surprised to find they’re unlike any other olives you’re used to eating.

These fine olives are meant to be eaten just as they are, perhaps accompanied by thin slices of jambon and a bowl of crisp radishes with a glass of rosés as an aperitif. I buy small sacks of Lucques olives at the market weekly, since if I keep too many around, I tend to eat them all at once; they’re that good.

Jars of Lucques olives can be ordered in the US here and here’s an excellent guide to olives.

Saucisse/Saucisson

An extraordinary tarte Tatin, the one I consider the best in Paris…

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A clever ruse, and now that I’ve gotten your attention with something sweet and luscious, I decided I wanted to show how I got to the bottom of something that’s been bugging me all week: the difference between saucisse and saucisson.

So this morning I braved the biting cold and went to my local market with a real Frenchman, aka Romain, hoping to have him explain the difference between the two. And being 100% Parisian, I learned to set a few hours aside if I want something explained.

So bundled up in our wool coats, sweaters, long underwear (me), thermal shirts, gloves (him), a hat (him: I look funny in hats), mitten (me: my hands get cold, I don’t care how funny I look), and scarves (both), we wandered the market, first stopping at the stall with my favorite women from the Savoie, the mountainous region encompassing France and Switzerland, home to many of the finest sausages (and Comté cheese as well.) As we perused the piles of dried and fresh sausages, his explanation was this; Saucisse is any little sausage, fresh or dried. Saucisse seche is the term used when it’s dried. Saucisson is any sausage that’s dried, but big.”

It all seemed a bit confusing, so I decided to ask a Parisian foodie Clotilde what was correct, someone who understands French ingredients but also has a fine understanding of American food as well as an excellent grasp of the English language.

Ok, so I didn’t actually ask her.
But instead checked out her useful Bloxicon of French-to-English food translations.
Her definition:


  • Saucisson: dry sausage.

So I had confirmation that saucisson was dry sausage.
But what about saucisse seche?
What’s the dif?

Still grasping for knowledge (and a glass of Sancerre, which will come later) I checked my trusty Le Robert et Collins dictionnaire. You would think a volume that boasts 120,000 translations would have a bit more information about one of the most important and meatiest items in French cuisine.
Realizing perhaps that they’re treading on extremely thin ice, they offer these rather sketchy and non-committal responses:


  • Saucisson: (slicing) sausage
  • Saucisse: sausage

Patricia Wells, in The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris gets a bit more in-depth, although there’s a touch of confusion:


  • Saucisson: Most often a large air-dried cured sausage, such as salami, eaten sliced as a cold cut; when fresh, usually called saucisson chaud
  • Saucisse: Small fresh sausage

Wait a minute. When ‘fresh’ it’s called saucisson chaud (presumably when cooked), and saucisse if it’s small?
I know the truth is out there, but I needed to find it.

So I turned to a little volume that claims to be “An exhaustive compilation of terms from French gastronomy…”, The A-Z of French Food. I picked up a copy of this book years ago when I was at cooking school at Ecole Lenôtre and struggling with the subtle difference between Suprême de poulet and blanc de poulet and poitrine de poulet
Geez, how many words for chicken breast does one language need?

Very informative, here’s what the The A-Z of French Food had to say:


  • Saucisson: A large variety of sausage preparations of minced or chopped meats and organ meats, which are seasoned, cooked, or dried (often called saucisson sec. Saucisson is eaten sliced , and usually cold, as it is bought.
  • Saucisse: The generic term for sausage (cooked, uncooked, or cured) which is served hot or re-heated, as opposed to saucisson which is generally eaten cold in slices.

So there you have it.
I hope that helps you next time you’re at the market in France and it’s your turn to order and the pressure’s on and everyone’s waiting for you to decide and madame behind you is not-so-gently pressing you forward and all you want to do is turn around and smack her upside the head which you can’t do (but boy, would that make you feel better.)

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So now that we all completely and unequivocally understood the difference between the two (right?), I decided to reward myself with a nice Sunday lunch of chipolatas, highly-seasoned, meaty, and slender sausages, along with a few dozen fresh oysters.
(To be honest, by this point I was thoroughly confused and a bit terrified, so I let him do the ordering. But I did offer to stand guard and smack-down any ofles dames that tried to take cuts.)

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Our next stop was for the oysters, and since we needed help making up our minds, the vendeuse was more than happy to pry open a few and let us pop them in our mouths. After much discussion (which always happens in France when there’s food involved) we chose 2 dozen No. 2 Huîtres de Normandie with the fresh, briny taste of the sea.

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Once home, Romain expertly shucked the oysters while the chipolatas sizzled and the bottle of Sancerre, also chosen at the market (after the obligatory tasting), chilled quickly in the freezer (although with the freezing temperatures in Paris, the rooftop outside would have been faster.) The crusty baguette de pavot was sliced and each piece smeared with salted butter then I mixed up a simple sauce mignonette of white wine vinegar, cracked pepper, and lots of finely-chopped shallots.

And there we had it. A rather excellent Sunday lunch, my only consolation for another unsuccessful attempt at comprehending the nuances of the French language.

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And the tarte Tatin?
Dessert from Berthillon, who I think makes the best tarte Tatin in Paris. An enormous wedge of caramelized apples resting on crisp pastry, served with a big, melting scoop of their amazing caramel ice cream alongside.

Now that’s something I have no trouble understanding…

Berthillon
31, rue de St. Louis-en-I’le
Tel: 01 43 54 31 61

The Sunday Market

I’m very lucky that I live just one block from the biggest outdoor market in Paris, the Richard Lenoir Market. Beginning at the Place de la Bastille and radiating northward, Sunday is a particularly lively day, since almost all other shops are closed in Paris on Sunday. I guess the alternative, going to church, is a less-popular option here, even in this predominantly Catholic country. If God is everywhere, I suppose, he’ll find the heathen at the market, lugging around our loaves and fishes.

You can find just about anything at the Richard Lenoir market. (In fact, I found packaging tape this morning. I did look for thermometer batteries, but no luck.) I always set out with an empty basket with the intention of buying a few vegetables and maybe a slab of fish. But by the time I’m done, I’ve almost dislocated my shoulder hauling my market basket home.

It’s obligatory for me, and just about everyone else shopping the market, to stop at the stand of Jackie Lorenzo, one of the best fishmongers in Paris. His stand is always a buzz of activity and you need to push your way to the front to get help. I’ve nudged little old ladies out of the way in order to get served (and they’re not so kindly here, and are far tougher than they look; I’ve come home with bruises!)

Being the resourceful American that has to use his God-given talents to good use to get what he wants around this city, I’ve been known to ply the young men and women who work for M. Lorenzo with chocolate chip cookies on select occassions in the past, so l’americain sometimes gets priority placement in line. Consider it a job perk. The young men and women who work there are always friendly and willing to give advice about preparation too, as is the person behind you (…unless it’s madame that you shoved out of the way. Then it’s best to slide away without making eye contact.)

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It’s scallop season, or as they’re called, les coquilles St. Jacques. At the stand today they were piled high, almost up to the top of my head! They’re normally sold in their shells with their orange ‘foot’ attached in France. and I bought four live ‘uns, which cost around 4 euros. For lunch, I pried them open with my oyster knife, removed all the gooey stuff, and sautéed them briefly with garlic and butter.

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Monkfish is very popular in France, often referred to in America as “Poor Man’s Lobster”. It’s common for fish merchants in France to leave the heads on fish to prove they’re fresh (the eyes should always be clear). But monkfish are so ugly, they lop off the tête. I’ve never bought one. They scare me, even without their heads.

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I don’t know if anyone purposely displays their dry sausages like a cobra, but that’s what they look like to me. One confusing thing for us non-native French speakers is the difference is the words for saucisson, which is a dry-cured sausage, and saucisse, the fresh sausage. Invariably I screw it up and they give me funny looks (another thing I’ve gotten used to around here.)

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Since sunday is so busy, often the butchers will just put out some slices of…ok, quick!…it is saucisse or saucisson?…
They make a nice snack while roving the market too.

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When I began cooking at Chez Panisse in the early 80’s, we would buy imported blood oranges from Italy and diners invariably would ask, “How do you get the oranges that color?”. If I was in a particular mood, I’d make up a good story. People would also ask if the goat cheese was tofu. Nowadays, I presume, goat cheese is more common than tofu in America. Even (or especially) in Berkeley.

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If you don’t feel like cooking, you can buy long-simmered boeuf Bourguignon already made. Since the weather’s been especially cold here in Paris, you can see it’s rather popular.

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Another take-out item, stuffed cabbage. I see bacon peeking out…
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Leeks are very popular in France and almost everyone’s shopping basket has a plume of green leaves poking out. Leeks are gets par-boiled, cooled to room temperature, then doused in vinaigrette. I also crumble hard-cooked eggs over the top, or mash some good anchovies into the dressing.

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I know this isn’t good for me, but I can’t resist bringing home a perhaps not-too-healthy slab of terrine Gascogne. The butchers grind together long-simmered pork confit with savory bits of duck liver and duck confit, packed in it’s own fat. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever tasted and they always sell me too much. When they hover the knife over the terrine, so I can tell them where to slice, they invariably move the knife in the opposite direction that I tell them. I am sure they do it on purpose but when I get home and take my first bite from the rich slab, I know it will be gone within a few days so I’m happy to have it all.

Richard Lenoir Market
Begins at the Place de la Bastille
Mètro: Bastille or Bréguet Sabin
Market is Thursday and Sunday, between (approximately) 9am to 1pm

Ingredients for American Baking in Paris

cupcakes

Although we can’t expect things to be like ‘back home’, many of us do miss certain things and for us bakers, it’s often a challenge to adapt to new ingredients or ones that behave differently than what we’re used to. Here’s a list of commonly used baking ingredients and where you can find them, or what you can use in their place.

americanbaking paris

Buttermilk, Heavy Cream, and Sour Cream

Many grocery stores and cheese shops sell lait ribot, fermented milk from Brittany. Arabic markets also sell fermented milk (lait fermenté) as well. In many recipes you can substitute plain whole milk yogurt or you can milk 1 tablespoon of white or cider vinegar, or lemon juice, with 1 cup (250 ml) of whole milk and let it stand ten minutes.

For sour cream, full-fat (20%) fromage blanc is the closest substitute for baking. Crème fraîche, which is usually at least 30% fat, can be used as well, but is richer. I also use Bridélice, a low-fat dairy product (called crème légère, or “light cream”), whose 15% fat content is similar to American-style sour cream.

(A reader mentioned that smetana, a type of sour cream, is available in Eastern European shops.)

Heavy cream is called crème liquide, crème fluide, or crème entière in French. Both are liquid pouring creams. They are available in supermarkets. (Be aware that entière is full-fat and légère is low-fat, which containers thickeners and will not whip.) The fat percentage of crème entière is usually around 30% whereas American cream is about 36%, although it behaves the same in most applications. (For whipping, get the cream with the highest percentage possible.) Fresh cream is available in supermarkets in the dairy case; be aware that sterlized UHT cream is common in France, which can be challenging to whip, and is refrigerated or unrefrigerated. Some fromageries sell heavy cream, although most offer UHT cream. Beillevaire fromageries carry fresh, raw heavy cream.

Monoprix carries their own brand of heavy cream in small plastic bottles, and Elle & Vire is one brand that sells UHT cream in paper cartons, as well as crème entière épaisse, which comes in a pouch and is quite thick, but works well in most applications that call for heavy cream.

sucre vergeoise

Brown Sugar

To replace the sticky brown sugar used in American recipes, there are two options. One is sucre vergeoise, which is beet sugar sprayed with caramel-coating (to resemble brown sugar) and sucre cassonade, which is unrefined cane sugar. Both are available in dark and light variations: light (cuivrée) or dark (ambrée), for cassonade.

Sucre vergeoise is more available, found in supermarkets, although I prefer cassonade, which can be found in supermarkets (most often under the Daddy brand, which they sell online at La Boutique Daddy and you can find other brands at natural food stores, like Naturalia and Biocoop.

Coarse crystal, free-flowing cassonade is available in most grocery stores as the French use it for coffee and baking, and can be substituted in some recipes, although I prefer the sticky varieties when a recipe calls for light or dark brown sugar.

You can read more detailed information in my post: French sugars.

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Flour

Flour varies from country-to-country. French ‘all-purpose’ flour (type 45 and type 55) is closer to American cake flour: it’s milled very finely and has less-protein and gluten (strength). In most cases, you can’t just substitute French all-purpose flour in American recipes like cookies and cakes. I know too many Americans who opened the oven door and found all their carefully rolled-out chocolate chip cookies, melded into one, giant blob.

If you’re interested in the precise composition of both flours, you can read about them American vs French flours and French flours. Chow published a French & American flour equivalent chart.

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In spite of the listing, I found that organic type 65 flour is the closest, which you can find in natural food stores like Naturalia. You can also buy type 65 organic flour at Monoprix and other supermarkets. It will say on the side of the package.

Regular whole wheat flour can be found in most groceries stores, as well as in natural food stores. Type 110 is equivalent to regular whole wheat flour, and Type 80 bise is a lighter flour, similar to whole wheat pastry flour.

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Molasses

You can buy mélasse at natural food stores, but it’s sulphured, unrefined, and very strongly-flavored. When using it in recipes, I cut it with some mild-flavored honey. Otherwise it can overwhelm all other flavors in whatever you’re baking. Unless you like that strong, molasses flavor…then go for it. American-brands of mild, unsulphured molasses, as we know it, is available in stores that cater to the expat community.

Treacle, available in British stores and markets that carry British foods, is a close substitute, but is similar to blackstrap molasses and quite strong. In a pinch, cut it 50:50 with mild honey, unless you like the strong molasses taste.

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Yeast

You can ask your local boulanger if they’ll sell you some yeast, or it’s available in supermarkets (not in the refrigerated section, like in America) in packets like the one shown above. You can also buy it in small tins in Arab markets, under the SAF brand.

Since yeast is a living organism, the yeast in Europe behaves a bit different than American yeast, but I’ve had few problems. You can test yeast by adding a teaspoon to half a cup slightly-warm water; it should start bubbling within a few minutes if it’s still good. You can find a yeast substitution guide at the Red Star yeast website for swapping fresh yeast for dry yeast. Fast-acting yeast in France is available in the baking aisle of some supermarkets called levure rapide or “action express.”

chocolate & butterscotch chips

Chocolate Chips

Finding chocolate chips is regular supermarkets is nearly impossible. In Paris, G. Detou carries them at a reasonable price (although they contain the sugar substitute, maltitol) and expat stores carry them, as well as Le Grand Epicerie. You can simply chop up a bar of chocolate, or buy Callebaut pistoles (as shown in the photo) available at professional baking supply shops, such as G. Detou and Metro.

Butterscotch, and similar-flavored chips, may be available in shops that cater to the expat community.

corn syrup

Corn Syrup

American corn syrup is expensive, and sold at stores that cater to the expat community. But Asian markets often carry corn syrup cheaply, as it’s used in Korean cooking. Stores in Paris are Ace Mart and Kmart (both are on the rue St. Anne) and Tang Frères (in the 13th.)

Professional baking supply shops, such as G. Detou in Paris, also sell glucose, which is essentially the same thing. If you need dark corn syrup, add a generous spoonful of molasses to the corn syrup. For more information about corn syrup: When To Use (and Not Use) Corn Syrup, which lists other substitutions.

yellow cornmeal

Cornmeal

Various grades of cornmeal can be found in ethnic markets, mostly catering to the Arabic community. Polenta and cornmeal, such as those that are used for cornbread, can be found in those stores as well as in natural foods stores, labeled farine de maïs which is fine corn flour, or coarser, often called semoule de maïs. In Paris, many of those are clustered around Belleville and near the marche d’Aligre. Natural foods stores sell it as well. The best advice is to go and look because the nomenclature can vary.

Corn starch is available in supermarkets under the name Maizena. It’s available in natural food stores under the name fécule de maïs or amidon. Potato starch is commonly used in France and works the same as corn starch in most applications. It’s available in Kosher stores.

French peanut butter

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is available in France and now many supermarkets carry it. American brands, like Skippy, can be expensive. But “natural-style” peanut butter can be found in ethnic stores, especially those that cater to the Indian community. (In Paris, many of those are clustered around La Chapelle, behind the gare du Nord.)

The peanut butter you find is generally 98% peanuts, with a small amount of vegetable fat added. You can also make your own by roasting raw peanuts in the oven and whizzing them in a food processor, while warm, until smooth. Natural food stores also carry “American-style” peanut butter, which is similar to our natural peanut butter, but not the same as brands like Jif or Skippy, and won’t behave the same way in recipes.

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Cocoa Powder

Virtually all the cocoa powder in France is Dutch-processed, which means the cocoa powder has been acid-neutralized and is generally darker. It often will not say so on the front label, but may list the alkalizing agent (often potassium carbonate or bromate) as an ingredient.

Although one should, theoretically, used what the recipe calls for, you can usually do just find swapping out one for the other.

More information can be found at my post; Cocoa Powder FAQs.

chocolate

Chocolate

When a recipe calls for bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, you can use any of the dark chocolate baking bars found in supermarkets. If you live in Paris, G. Detou sells chocolate in bulk, in bars and pistoles. The membership only Metro stores also carry chocolate (and other supplies) in bulk.

G. Detou also carries unsweetened (sometimes called ‘bitter’) chocolate in bulk, which in France is called 100% cacao, or 100% pâte de cacao. Some gourmet stores carry it but in general, you won’t find it in supermarkets as the French don’t bake with it like Americans do.

You can learn more about chocolate varieties and uses at Chocolate FAQs.

baking soda

Baking Soda

Some supermarkets carry baking soda (bicarbonate de soudre) and Indian markets usually carry it as well. It can also be found in pharmacies; you’ll have to ask since they don’t normally keep it on the shelf.

evaporated milk/lait concentré

Evaporated Milk and Sweetened Condensed Milk

Evaporated milk is lait concentré non sucrée (concentrated, unsweetened milk), and is available in most supermarkets. Sweetened condensed milk is well; it’s known as lait concentré sucré, which is sold in cans as well as tubes, like toothpaste.

Kiri

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese can be found in supermarkets under the St. Môret label, or store-brands, labeled pâte à tartiner, in the familiar rectangle shape. Ed discount markets has the best prices if you need a lot. Also cream cheese is available in Jewish grocers in the Marais, and some French people use Kiri squares as cream cheese for making le cheesecake.

Philadelphia-brand cream cheese has decided to become a bigger presence in France due to its popularity with the French and can now be found at many supermarkets in France at reasonable prices.



Shops Specializing in Anglo Products in Paris & France

Here’s a listing of the stores mentioned above, or shops that specialize in products for expats. I’ve noticed that the everyday supermarkets in Paris, such as Franprix and G20 often have sections that sell anglo products at decent prices, and those are worth checking out, too. There are a couple of places that do mail-order and although I haven’t ordered anything from them, if you really need something, they might be worth the extra expense.

For cake pans, muffin tins, bakeware, and paper cupcake liners (and more), I prowl around ethnic neighborhoods. A favorite is the rue de Belleville in Paris; there are lots of stores scattered along that street, that carry baking items at very low prices. For those who want more professional-quality equipment, check out The cookware shops of Paris. It’s a good idea to measure your oven and baking equipment, especially if you’ve brought items to France from other countries as items like silicone baking mats are sized differently and may not fit.

Thanksgiving (Paris)

G. Detou (Paris)

Naturalia (France)

My American Market (France & Europe)

The English Shop

Biocoop (France and Europe)

Izraël

American Market (Switzerland)

English Shop (Germany)

Mr. 10% (France)

British Superstore (England)

The Real McCoy (Paris)

Monoprix

La Grand Epicerie

Auchan

E. Leclerc

Carrefour

How to Find Foods and Other Items Mentioned on the Site



More Paris links:

Paris Restaurant Archives

Gluten-Free Eating in Paris

Paris Cooking Classes & Wine Tasting Programs

10 Delicious Things Not to Miss in Paris

Tipping in Paris

Romantic restaurants in Paris

Accessible Travel in Paris

Where is the best duck confit in Paris?

Paris Dining Guides

Hungry for Paris Guide

Some Favorite Paris Restaurants

Vegetarian Dining Tips for Paris and a list of Vegetarian Restaurants

Where to Find a Great Hamburger in Paris (Kid-friendly)

Pâtisseries in Paris Guide

Sunday Dining in Paris

Tropical Fruit Soup Recipe

Have you ever tasted passion fruit?

3nicepassionfruitparis.jpg

If not, I suggest you do as soon as possible since now is their primary season in many parts of the world. If it’s your first taste of this amazing fruit, you’re in for a real treat. Slice one in half and spoon the seeds and pulp right into your mouth. That explosion of flavor is indescribable; a melange of every other tropical flavor that exists, all in one tidy purple orb.

There’s many different kinds of passion fruit. If you live in Hawaii, you’ll find brilliant-yellow lilikoi which grow prolifically everywhere, and in the southern hemisphere, there’s maricuja, which are large, russet-colored passion fruits. But most of the time you see Passiflora edulis, dark violet fruits, and the best tasting of them all. When sliced open, they reveal crunchy seeds and thick, luscious, fragrant pulp. But just in case you think this fruit was given the name ‘passion’ because of the lovely flavor, the name actually refers to the flower of the vine, which is said to tell the story of the Passion Play with it’s multiple tendrils and stamens.

passionfruitparis.jpg
Spoon passion fruit over icy-cold slices of blood oranges for an instant, and beautiful, dessert

When buying passion fruit, unless you’re lucky enough to live in a climate where they’re abundant, they’re likely to be pricey (depending on the season.) Fortunately a little goes a long way: the pulp and seeds of one or two fruits will assert it’s powerful flavor into a cake, sorbet, or tropical beverage (with a shot or two of dark rum!)
Buy fruits when they’re inexpensive and freeze the pulp and seeds together. It freezes beautifully.

Don’t be put off by punky-looking fruits. Lots of wrinkles means they’re very ripe and at their peak. (I’ve found perfectly wonderful passion fruits in produce bargain bins, since people pass them over.) Signs of mold, however, usually means they’re too far gone and I’d take a pass on ‘em too.

If you’re making a beverage and wish to use just the pulp, slice your passion fruits in half and spoon the pulp into a non-reactive strainer set over a bowl. Use a flexible rubber spatula to force the pulp through the strainer, then discard the seeds. With a little searching, you can find pure frozen passion fruit pulp if you search though Asian markets or places that specialize in tropical products.

Tropical Fruit Soup with Passion Fruit
4 servings

Use whatever combination of tropical fruits you like or follow my suggestions. This is a fun chance to visit your nearest ethnic market and experiment with any unusual fruit you might find there. Don’t be put off if the soup base tastes strangely spicy by itself. Combined with the tropical fruits, the flavors work. Chill the serving bowls in advance so everything stays refreshingly icy-cold.

The soup base:
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 small cinnamon stick
1 star anise
4 whole cloves
4 black peppercorns
1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Zest of 1 orange
1 piece lemongrass, 2 inches long, sliced (use the white part from the root end)
2 thin slices fresh ginger
2 teaspoons dark rum

The assembly:
6 kumquats, sliced and seeded
1 kiwi, peeled and diced
1 basket strawberries, sliced
2 blood oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 mango, peeled and diced
1/4 pineapple, diced
1 banana
2 passion fruit, pulp and seeds
Sugar, if necessary
Fresh mint to garnish

1. To make the soup base, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Coarsely crush the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and black peppercorns in a mortar, or put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin or a hammer. Add the spices to the water then add the vanilla bean, orange zest, lemongrass, and ginger. Cover the pan, and steep for 1 hour.
2. Strain the soup base and discard the flavorings. Add the rum and chill thoroughly.
3. Toss all the prepared fruits together in a bowl. Taste for sweetness, and add a sprinkling of sugar if they’re too tart.
4. Divide the fruits into four wide soup bowls and ladle the chilled soup base over them.
5. Tear some mint leaves into tiny pieces and scatter them over the soup. Place a scoop of a favorite tropical fruit sherbet in the center.

Roquefort Honey Ice Cream Recipe

roquefort

Roquefort cheese is produced in the southwestern region of France and is designated as AOC, the first product ever to do so in 1925, and is a designation meant to denote quality and provenance from a certain region made in a certain manner. Cheese experts (and me) agree that Roquefort is one of the top, all-time-greatest cheeses in the world. And I was excited to explore using it in this delicious ice cream.

Roquefort is a raw-milk cheese, aged between 3 to 9 months in caves. It gets its unique flavor and mold as a result of some very old rye bread; jumbo-sized loaves are baked, then left to sit for two months, during which time they become encrusted with mold. The mold is scraped, then introduced into the caves, where the cheese becomes encrusted by the greenish powder, then inoculated with the spores (called penicillium roqueforti) by resting the wheels of cheese on spikes. That’s why often you see ‘lines’ of mold in Roquefort, as in many other bleu cheeses. But unlike other bleu cheeses, Roquefort has a very special, sweet and tangy flavor that lingers and excites.

Roquefort goes very well with winter foods, such as pears, dates, oranges, toasted nuts like walnuts and pecans, sweet Sauternes, or with bitter seasonal greens like frisée, radicchio, or escarole. A simple winter salad can be made with chunks of Roquefort, slices of ripe Comice pears, leaves of Belgian endive, and a drizzle of good walnut oil. But sometimes Roquefort’s best enjoyed just smeared on a piece of hearty levain bread…and that’s lunch.

miel

When you buy Roquefort, it should be moist and creamy without any red mold and the cut surface should glisten with milky freshness. It usually comes with a piece of foil around its exterior, and whether or not to eat the rind underneath is entirely up to you (don’t eat the foil…especially if you have lots of dental fillings.) If the rind looks dark and funky, skip it. It’s probably going to be too pungent and dank-tasting. But most of the time it’s fine to eat and as delicious as the rest of the wedge.

In France, there’s a few brands of Roquefort to choose from. But I don’t think I’ve ever had a Roquefort that was not wonderful, so it’s hard to go wrong when buying from a reputable cheese vendor. You can also use a nice bleu or gorgonzola cheese in its place.

Here’s a recipe of mine that will surprise you: Roquefort and Honey Ice Cream.

Try roasting some pear slices in the oven with some strong-flavored honey and spices and maybe a strip of lemon peel. Serve warm, with a scoop of this ice cream melting alongside. I also like this with a spoonful of dark honey on top, with a sweet dessert wine, like Barzac or Sauternes, to accompany it.

Roquefort and Honey Ice Cream

One quart (1l)

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop (Ten Speed Press)

  • 6 tablespoons (120 gr) honey
  • 4 ounces (110 gr) Roquefort
  • 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • a few turns freshly-ground black pepper

1. In a small saucepan warm the honey, then set aside.

2. Crumble the Roquefort into a large bowl. Set a mesh strainer over the top.

3. In a medium saucepan, warm the milk.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.

5. Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

6. Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon.

7. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cheese. Stir until most of the cheese is melted (some small bits are fine, and rather nice in the finished ice cream.) Stir in the cream and the honey, and add a few turns of black pepper.

8. Chill custard thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Related Posts and Recipes

Mint Chip Ice Cream

Making Ice Cream Without a Machine

The Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe…Ever

Buying an Ice Cream Maker

Honey, Made in Paris

Salted Caramel Ice Cream Recipe

The Perfect Scoop: Now in Softcover!

Ice Cream Making FAQs

Recipes for Using Leftover Egg Whites

Roquefort Société

Roquefort (Wikipedia)