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Dec 5, 2011 12:47 PM

Buying Christmas produce in Paris

I'm catering for my family for Christmas in Paris in a few weeks. There's six of us and we're looking to do a nice Christmas lunch/dinner at home. I was just wondering if anyone knew of anywhere where I could buy a high-quality pre-cooked Turkey such that I only needed to make some gravy and other accompaniments the next day? Failing that, is there anywhere that people recommend to buy:

a) Oysters that are already shucked (on Christmas eve, for eating on Christmas day)
b) A leg of ham for glazing
c) A decent Buche de Noel

Keen for suggestions!

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  1. For a, you can pre-order one week to 10 days in advance eat any of the butchers of your nearby market. Stake out a good rotisserie stand, then tell the butcher the size of the bir and the desired seasoning. Specify the date and time you want to pick it up.
    Likewise for b, pre-order a week to 10 days in advance in at any of the poissonneries of your neighborhood market. Specify how many oysters, species, size, pre-chucked.
    c) All pâtisseries will have bûche de noel of all sizes. Again stake out a popular one in your hood, one that has long lines. Pre-order 7 to 10 days in advance.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Parigi

      THanks for all the great responses, everyone. I'll be based in the 6th so if anyone has some specific recommendations for that area, that would also be great!

    2. Do be forewarned that turkey in Paris will run around 10 Euros per kilo (or more) -- considerably more than what you're probably used to. (it's a shock the first time you buy one)

      You might also consider a pintade (guinea hen) or two -- or chapon, another traditional Christmas bird. Either will be the same price (or only a little more) than turkey, and are delicious.

        1. re: colleency

          (Buche de Noel is the holiday dessert, with buches de noel as a plural, and technically it has an umlaut over the o. "bouche de noelles" has no meaning at all -- not trying to nitpick or snark, only mentioning it because as a search term it won't help you much)

          I dare you to walk down the street in Paris this time of year and NOT find a buche somewhere -- every supermarket, bakery, patisserie, and corner shop will have them.

          1. re: sunshine842

            You forgot to mention the accent circonflexe over "u"
            Bûche de Noël.

            1. re: Parigi

              erk, yes. I really have to stop posting before I've had enough caffeine.

        2. On your pre-shucked oysters.

          I would go to any supermarket and buy an oyster knife (about €4, google 'how to shuck oysters'
          and do it yourself on the day. With care you wont find the task onerous or dangerous,
          it could be fun.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Naguere

            Not if you are shucking for 15-20 people. First aid kit should also be on hand for new shuckers.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger


              If you were hosting such a family party ,
              get a man in !

              nonearlyadopter mentions six people .

              I offer my services.

              1. re: Naguere

                Last time I had oysters with DCM, which was a few days ago, he alone had 2 dozen.
                Even a dozens times 6 is a lot to shuck. That is why I suggest pre-ordering a pre-shucked platter from the nearest poissonnerie.

                1. re: Parigi

                  I like to shuck my own oysters. I can do a couple of dozen pretty quickly. But from experience of showing others, if you are a newbie wanting a lot, definitely get someone else to do them.

                  Here's another thing I've seen in Paris. Some places are happy to shuck the oysters for you, but you have to bring your own platter. I have no idea how widespread this is. In any case, you want them shucked at the last possible minute. Then try not to spill their juices while bringing them home open side up.

                  Oops, I just reread the OP. You want them shucked a day before. I think most oyster lovers would frown on that. Personally, I really don't know what difference it would make. I've never tried it. But for sure if you do it, keep that liquid in them.

                  As for quantity, that depends in part on the size of the oysters. If you go all out and get a super meaty oyster like Gillardeau, a dozen #2 would practically be a whole meal for most people. With a smaller and flat oyster, a dozen could be an appetizer. I could easily do the latter, and have done more, but a half dozen of the Gillardeau at one sitting does me.

                  As for bûches, you have two styles. There are traditional ones, rolled to look like logs. Depending on the quality of your bakery, they will have more cake or more filling, typically a mousse. The modern ones may have a variety of shapes. I love the Lenôtre ones myself. I learned to make the chocolate/raspberry kind in their school. It is shaped more like a brick than a log, however.

                  1. re: RandyB

                    I am with you Randy (and Naguere) and shuck them myself. That is the only way to experience them in their prime. They need to be alive as close to the time you eat them as they can be as the quality goes downhill fast and shucking 24 hours in advance isn't going to be great (my fish market in Sydney does that and the oysters look dried out).

                    As there are in Paris for the meal then share the responsibility for preparing the oysters. In our house everyone joins in in preparing the feast and this is often a job (with a little tutoring) that can be given to one of the boys - it's one of those therapeutic activities that men like - similar to talking to a BBQ (with emergency beer ready and open to put out any out of control fires).

                    If you are worried about injuries a chain-mail glove from a good cooking shops around Les Halles makes a nice Christmas present.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      "They need to be alive as close to the time you eat them as they can be as the quality goes downhill fast."

                      You know you're supposed to open them and let them sit for a while (i've heard btwn 10 minutes and an hour) so that they produce their "2nd water."

                      1. re: vielleanglaise

                        I've stood up to my knees in mud, shucking and eating them as I harvested them (yes, years ago, in a place the water was clean enough to do so). No mignonette, no lemon, no hot sauce could ever stand up to the flavor of oysters seasoned only with the salt water from which they were plucked moments ago.

                        An hour, okay -- a day, no way.

                        1. re: vielleanglaise

                          Given my great skill and speedy shucking skills they typically do sit around for some time...! I have heard it is sensible to cool them before serving so a little time on crushed ice or in the fridge (or in the freezing cold outside a brasserie) as this improves their texture and taste - cool not cold and not room temperature.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            I just want to agree with everyone else that I have never heard of, or considered, or would recommend, having oysters shucked a day ahead.

                      2. re: RandyB

                        I'm with you on not shucking the oysters the day before.

                        I've done it, but only when I was going to cook the oysters in something else. No way I'd eat a raw oyster that had been dead for 24 hours. (you wouldn't eat it if the shell was open and didn't close when you were shucking...same thing applies)

                        I've been down the bad-oyster route a couple of times -- sadly, the last time in Strasbourg -- and that is not a route you want to go down.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          It just occurred to me that there are some restaurants open on xmas day. Maybe there is one that has a seafood bar where they would sell oysters.

                          Or find an oystermonger at a not busy time to give the OP a little lesson. Problem solved. Many poissoneries will even sell the oyster knife and hand protector.

                          If you can afford them, get Gillardeau #2 oysters. They are so large and meaty you won't have to shuck as many. Delicious, too.

              2. Oysters are easy to shuck. Bûches, with or without circumflex, are for minous. I think the ham's the interesting challenge.

                A leg of good raw smoked ham would be a wasted if you glazed it, and very expensive - plus I don't know if it would fit in most Parisian ovdens.

                In the past I've used the salted jambonneau that you can buy in pork butcers and with very good resutts. The hind ones, or fore ones, I can't remember which, are bigger. You have to soak and boil them before glazing and roasting to get rid of the excess salt - as you'd do with a real country ham.

                9 Replies
                  1. re: Parigi

                    I is. Because I have the best Xmas pudding sitting on my balcony and am staring at the moistest most boozie Xmas cake, and in Paris in 2011, those are two things that no money can buy....

                    ...Though I'm open to offers.

                      1. re: Parigi

                        Guess what l brought back from Ireland for our Christmas in the South. Yup!

                  2. re: vielleanglaise

                    Anglaise, you can also *sometimes* (never often enough to count on it) find quarter hams (boneless) buried on the bottom shelf of the ham aisle at the larger supermarkets -- Auchan carries them reasonably consistently, Leclerc a little less often, and Carrefour is hit or miss.

                    They're smoked and cured boneless ham quarters - much more like a gammon than the little jambonneau. They're not five-star, but if you bake them with your favorite glaze, they're a pretty good fix. They run about 10E for a quarter -- and one or two of these is an easy fit in a French oven.

                    I also convinced a lady in the charcuterie department to sell me the entire end of a jambon à l'os at Carrefour a few years ago for Easter. I bought a more reasonably-priced one, just because I was going to cook it again with glaze, so didn't want to ruin a more delicately-flavored and more expensive ham. It was *very* tasty.

                    Good luck!

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      "much more like a gammon than the little jambonneau."

                      I get confused with porcine nomenclature. Growing up, gammon was cured, but not smoked. I thought, or think, or thunk, that most French ham wasn't smoked.

                      As per size, there are two kinds of salted jambonneau, hind and fore, one of which is bigger - I can't remember which.

                      1. re: vielleanglaise

                        sorry, I mostly meant that it's *shaped* more like a boneless gammon -- but yes, these are smoked. It's very light, though, so it won't interfere much with your own glaze and/or spices.

                        Most of the jambonneau I see is about the size of a man's fist -- thus my comment.

                        1. re: vielleanglaise

                          If they are like typical shanks, hind would be larger.