I’m talking tripe. Kidneys. Calves brains. Frog legs.
The weird stuff.
The French do have a penchant for making silken dishes out of sow’s ears, and feet, and all kinds of things. There is a Brotherhood of the Calves’ Head in France, not surprisingly. They take these things tres seriously.
(If you’re a vegetarian and starting to get squeamish, you might want to turn away now.)
On this, my fifth trip to Paris, I’ve made it my intention to taste the best of authentic, classic French cooking. That’s partly because an excellent, ‘classic’, affordable French restaurant happens to be across the street from my flat. (Café de la Musee.)
So here’s my report. The odder the dish, the more you need a great glass of wine. And then … then it makes sense!
Rongons de veau: Veal kidneys with port wine. My mother actually used to make this, albeit with red wine. So it brings back my childhood. I can remember sitting around cleaning the kidneys, cutting off the membrane with nail scissors. It is soothing, warming and with a texture and flavor second to none. Simply divine.
Tete de veau: I was treated to the best in Paris at a restaurant called La Procope, which serves “Tete de Veau en Cocotte Comme en 1686”. It comes in a nice little iron casserole in a beautiful tarragon broth … and they’ve been serving it that way for a long, long time. Napoleon’s hat, which he left when he couldn’t pay the bill for his tete de veau, sits proudly at the entrance. It’s a historic dish.
My take was that it was a bit bland. The ‘gelee’, presumably the more gelatinous parts of the brain, was a little too strange for me. But the more meat-like aspects of the dish were gamey and good. It’s historic. I’m not going to quibble.
Les Cuisse de Grenouille: Ah … frogs legs. Yes, they look just like flat little frogs on the plate, sautéed in basil and garlic. And they taste not like chicken, exactly, but more like, well, nothing. The removal of the meat, which is minimal, is tiring and difficult. The highlight on my plate was the bright sautéed cherry tomatoes and the beautiful mashed potatoes that lurked underneath. Well prepared, but at the end of the day … enh!
Le Pigeon en fricasseeL This, I thought, was a nice casserole of squab. But no, it actually is pigeon. Like the kind that Hemmingway strangled for dinner in the Jardin du Luxembourg when he was broke. Once I got over that, I thoroughly enjoyed the bird! Meaty and delicious, served in an excellent deep red wine sauce. I recommend it.
Andouillette sauce Moutarde: This is sausage made of intestine from the pig or cow. On a cold, rainy night I sat down to a lovely plate of andouillette, apparently made by hand right there in the restaurant. It had a nice, gamey taste that was totally soothing. And delicious with its sauce of mustard and wild mushrooms. (It’s a bit strange to look at … imagine a big tube shaped sausage that’s really … big.) But it’s also quite yummy.
That’s my report so far, with more to come. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten in France? Or anywhere? Any advice on other dishes I should try?