Thursday, October 1, 2009

At the Market in Paris

I love to do my food shopping in Paris. Whenever we visit Emily, we're sure to go to the fabulous market in Le Pré St Gervais. The best of the best French products come to Paris for distribution to the capital. The choices are wide and the quality is superior. Farmer's markets are not a novelty in France, but rather the most normal way to purchase one's food. As my friend Françoise has pointed out, good locally-grown organic produce is available everywhere. Most families eat fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables as they have down through the centuries. Fall has its many pleasures when it comes to produce. Potatoes, tomatoes, onions of every color, apples, squash, carrots and some of the other tasty root vegetables are plentiful. It's getting to be time for more hearty meals. Here's one to try:
2 T olive oil 12 oz spicy sausage 12 pearl onions 1 1/2 c crushed fresh tomatoes 3 c chicken broth bundle of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme or oregano 1 medium butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces) 3 parsnips (peeled and cut into strips) 1 fennel (trimmed and cut into thin slices) 12 Brussels sprouts (cut in half)-otional 2 t salt 1/8 t freshly ground pepper 1. Heat oil over medium heat and add sausage, stir, breaking into small bits. Cook until no longer pink (about 10 minutes). Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. 2. Discard all but 2 T of sausage fat. Heat to medium and add onions, stir and cook until golden (5 minutes). Add tomatoes, stock, and herbs. Cook until the liquid begins to thicken (20 minutes). Add sausage, squash, carrots, parsnips and fennel. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender (10 minutes). Add Brussels sprouts and cook covered for another 3 minutes, until sprouts are cooked. Remove cover and allow stew to thicken, boiling lightly for 15 minutes more. Add salt and pepper and serve.
One thing that is hard to find in the U.S. is really good cheese. Once you've become accustomed to French cheese, it's hard to do without it. At least for me. I have a strong cheese addiction. Charles de Gaulle, when he was president of France, famously said "How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?" French cheese is one of life's enduring pleasures. And the variety here is truly extraordinary. If you want a decadent fall/winter treat, buy some Camembert, Brie, Colombier or Mont d'Or cheese (these are creamy cheeses that often come packaged in little wooden boxes). Remove any plastic, wrap the cheese (box and all) in tin foil and place it in the coals of a fire until the cheese, inside its crust, is fully melted. The crust stays firm. Spread the warm cheese on a piece of baguette. Oh la la! It took us a little time to get used to French beef, as we were used to the corn-fed American beef, marbled with fat. If you read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, as we did, you'll discover that there's a problem there! We have to appreciate the meat we get in France, knowing that it is raised naturally. Fish is abundant in France. The fish man is a character and teases me as I take portraits of his products. Our favorites are bar (sea bass), cabillaud (cod) and lotte, Not to mention, of course oysters (huitres), crab (tortue) and prawns (langoustine), all now at the height of their seasons. A neighborhood cat visits the fish-monger on market days. He politely sits on the counter and enjoys the smells. He receives a morsel or two as a treat, but he's willing to wait patiently for it and never tries to take any fish unless it's offered. In my next post I'll be talking about neighborhoods where artists in Paris live and work and about where to purchase gorgeous handmade books and journals.


  1. I've now put a hold on Omnivore's Dilemma at the library. Ellie explained to me how beef were fed in the U.S., and I haven't ordered beef in a restaurant since. Well--maybe a hamburger.

    Can't wait till the next (close to my heart) post.

  2. It is true that very best and fresh products come to Paris every morning but please Nancy, let people non french know that there is also a very good offer almost everywhere ! And above all, in the countryside, there is a new move, very different. A lot of young farmers grow "organic" we( say in french "bio") for vegetables and meat. I buy only from them beef and veal, also eggs, all excellent, not expensive and at the same you make new friends !

  3. Hi Nancy
    You know, one of the images that says 'France' most to me are those bunches of radishes on the tressle tables at the food markets, complete with the little handwritten blackboard for the price.

    Thanks for the Savory Fall Stew recipe, which I will save for six months before trying. Even more so, thanks for the 'optional' after the 'Brussels sprouts'...