Pot Roast in France
I'm an expat in Paris and want to cook a pot roast. I tried it once before and it didn't go so well. They don't have a chuck roast here, last time I used a cut called 'paleron'. It has a large layer of gristle in the middle which caused the meat to pucker into a ball while cooking, which made it hard to manage liquid levels. At the end the gristle was still tough and I had to cut around it. Anyway, I'm not sure if it was technique or ingredients. Does anybody have any suggestions? Are there any french beef experts out there?
talks about splitting the paleron along the gristle to get two flatter pieces that are quite tender.
I do that sort of thing with hanging tenders (onglet). The gristle from the tenders becomes quite soft and gelatinous when braised (in full contact with the liquid).
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, beef cuts for braising:
First choice: Rump Pot Roast - Pointe de Culotte, or Aiguillette de Rumsteck
Other choices: Sirloin Tip, Kunckle - Tranche Grasse
Chuck Pot Roast - Paleron or Macreuse a Pot-au-feu
Top Round - Tende de Tranche
Bottom Round - Gite a la Noix
Eye of Round - Rond de Gite a la Noix
(apologies for the lack of diacritical marks)
by the way -- don't forget to pick up a couple of marrow bones, as is traditional in a classic pot de feu (pot roast!) -- they add fabulous flavor and texture, and OMG - that marrow, slathered on a piece of fresh baguette will make you fall on your knees in gratitude for having landed in a place where good food is so plentiful and easy to find.
Pick up a "gite de noix" -- or even better, beef cheeks (joue de boeuf) -- both make fantastic beef stew. Warning, you'll fall in love with beef cheeks -- with all the collagen, they make a silky-textured broth with incredible flavor. Macreuse or jumeau will work, too (I buy a big hunk of jumeau to cure for corned beef )
You might also find this helpful to sort out the difference in cuts:
(scroll down to the diagram)
Yes -- they'll make a great braise. I usually buy gite de noix because it gets very, very tender, and you can buy it in small pieces for things like bourgignonne, or in larger chunks for a braise.
Beef cheeks can get really big -- nearly a kilo each, and while they're more expensive than gite, and even more expensive than the shoulder cuts, oh, they're so, so good.
An aside -- if you buy meat specifically for bourgignonne (usually collier) -- you have to marinate it overnight (in wine) and then braise it several hours -- the flavor is awesome, but it's tougher than nails. (Gite gets around this....)
If you're shopping at a boucherie, ask him for meat for a daube -- Daube is a Provencale stew, but it's a large piece of meat to be braised with vegetables.
If you're shopping from one of the larger supermarkets, it's really, really helpful that they label it all pretty clearly:
à poeler: to be panfried
à griller: to be grilled (I panfry these, too)
à braiser: to be braised
à rôtir: to be roasted
à bouillir: to be boiled (these are the really cheap, really tough cuts)
You might also pick up a copy of "Je Sais Cuisiner", by Ginette Mathiot - it's more or less the French version of "Joy of Cooking" - it has lots and lots of diagrams and tables for beef, pork, veal, lamb, etc -- I picked mine up at FNAC for about €7. I don't really use the recipes, but as general reference it's priceless.
Not what you asked, but along the lines of sorting out what you're seeing for sale -- you also might find this helpful for fish: http://www.sea-ex.com/fish/names1.htm
Drove me bonkers trying to figure out what kind of fish is what -- and I still struggle with it.