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.)
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.
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.
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 are 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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