08 November 2008

Hé, on mange quoi à midi ?

On commence a avoir sérieusement faim ici à Saint-Aignan. Tout cet optimisme, tous ces espoirs pour un monde meilleur, ça m'a donné de l'appétit !

So what if we cooked a potée? That's a kind of cabbage soup with pork and sausages. It's a classic country dish in France for the colder days of winter. I've got Brussels sprouts, which were on special at Ed (the EuroDiscount supermarket) for 1€/kg (they were much more at Intermarché yesterday) and which are nice-looking. I've got carrots and potatoes and onions.

Brussels sprouts, brined pork, smoked sausages,
onions, carrots, and potatoes
for a potée

I wish I had a leek or two and a few turnips or rutabagas, but I don't feel like going out today to get some after doing my shopping yesterday. I should have planned this better. Tant pis — we'll make do with what we've got.

The pork I bought is called porc demi-sel. "Half-salt pork" — that doesn't mean much. I've always wondered how to translate demi-sel. The dictionary says "slightly salted" but that doesn't mean much either because it's not a set expression, at least not in American English. If it said salé, I would call it salt-cured. Petit salé is a kind salt-cured pork in French, and it's often served with lentils.

Traité en salaison means it's been salt-cured or brined.
Plat de côte means something like "short ribs" or "side meat."

It dawned on me this morning that the expression we would probably use for demi-sel is "brined" — brining has been a very popular way of treating meats and poultry, especially the Thanksgiving turkey, in California (San Francisco, anyway) for a past few years. So what I have then is "brined pork."

You can cook brined pork without first de-salting it. You just start it in a big pot of cold water with onions, leeks, carrots, herbs, and pepper — but no added salt. It doesn't need it. Or you can soak the meat for an hour or so in a good quantity of cold water to get some of the salt out of it before you cook it if you prefer.

I probably should have bought real saucisses de Montbéliard,
but these are what I ended up with in my shopping cart.

You can do the same thing with corned beef, which is also brined. "Corned" means salted or brined. The word "corn" in this case refers to "grains" of coarse salt, evidently.

Brining gives pork (porc demi-sel), beef (corned beef), fish (salt cod), or poultry (brined turkey) a different taste and texture from the fresh versions, and it's taste and texture that many people enjoy. It takes some of the gaminess out of turkey, for example.

Historically, meat was packed in salt to preserve it, because there wasn't any refrigeration except the natural kind when the weather was cold. Now we have refrigeration and don't need to salt or brine meats or fish, but as I said we just enjoy the flavor.

When I lived in Paris in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a charcuterie on the rue Montorgueil near Les Halles where I liked to shop. I lived in the neighborhood. The charcutière was a red-headed woman who liked to explain to her customers how to cook and serve the cuts of pork and sausages she sold. She would give me cooking times and methods, advice on vegetables to serve with the meat, and general encouragement about doing my own cooking. I learned a lot from her.

@Dan M., our low temperature this morning was 6ºC, or about 43ºF. They're predicting rain today, then a break, and then rain all day tomorrow. Cold rain means perfect weather conditions for a potée.


  1. Hi Ken,
    Glad to see you've found your way back to the kitchen after an eventful week. I promise I won't write about the origin of Brussels sprouts ;-)) as I simply hate the little buggers! BTW your 'potée' looks promising. Bon appétit. Martine

  2. Are those smoked sausages somewhat like kielbasa/polish sausage? I hope you'll share a photo of the end result!

    We have a fire in the fireplace and it's only about 36°F (2°C?) out! We try to use our Ben Franklin wood burner for a few weeks before firing up the furnace.


  3. Martine, I'm sorry to hear that you don't like sprouts. We both love them. One reason I bought them yesterday was that the day before we were in the Leclerc supermarket at La Ville aux Dames and Walt said, "I keep looking at Brussels sprouts and thinking I want some." So we had some.

    Judy, I'm not sure about kielbasa. Is it smoked? I haven't bought or eaten any in very many years. You are having cold weather now and our weather has turned mild. Tomorrow it's supposed to rain all day though.

  4. Man that looks good. Perfect cold and rainy food. On days like that, I also enjoy sitting outside with a glass of calvados. That, along with a good heavy meal, sure keep me warm.

    Sunny, 70, and clear here, which was good since we had a 5 yr-old's birthday party outside this morning. Plus, the Longhorns won again today, so the week ends well for me.

  5. Alabama squeeked by LSU a little while ago, OUF!

    Kielbasa is polish sausage and pretty firm. !s your sausage a bit like Italian, Ken?


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