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?
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.
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.
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)
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).