Sunday, July 24, 2011

In praise of paupiettes

I love paupiettes, those lovely little stuffed meat or fish parcels so popular in France, but which you rarely see here, so that the only way you can get them is to make them yourself! But in France you can get them pre-prepared in the markets, at the butcher's and at the traiteur (literally 'caterer', those quintessential French shops where you can buy all kinds of delicious, fresh pre-prepared dishes made on the premises by the traiteur, everything from paupiettes to pates, salads to savouries). When we were living in Paris last year, we tried out all sorts of different paupiettes from all sorts of places—sampling not only the classic veal ones but rabbit and fish and duck and guinea fowl, and featuring all kinds of stuffings from the traditional savoury pork forcemeat to leek or mushroom or seafood. And they were all absolutely delicious!
Paupiettes, for those of you who aren't clear, consist of a long thin piece of meat or fish wrapped around a central stuffing and then tied with string into a little parcel. Meat paupiettes are made with thin strips of meat, for instance veal meant for schnitzel, thinly cut chicken fillet, pork or lamb fillet etc(and I think strips of kangaroo fillet would work well too) stuffed either with mincemeat made with the same kind of meat, with herbs and seasonings added, or with a contrasting minced meat, or with a combination of minced meat and vegetable—You often see veal paupiettes, for instance, stuffed with veal or pork mince, with in the centre, leeks or mushrooms. Fish paupiettes are made with thin fish fillets(or fillets cut in half lengthways) and then stuffed with either minced fish or seafood with herbs, or with vegetables, such as leek, asparagus, spinach, etc, or a mix. You could also theoretically(though I've never tried it) make vegetarian paupiettes with long strips of roast capsicum or eggplant surrounding a stuffing of say rice, ground nuts, herbs, etc.

Though they can be fried, steamed or baked, mostly they are browned in a pan then simmered slowly in stock. They can also be cooked in special individual paupiette dishes which seal the juices right in. They are then served either with a sauce made from the cooking juices, or whatever you fancy, really, depending on what the base of your paupiette is—a hollandaise or bearnaise for white meat or fish, a 'sauce chasseur' (hunter's sauce, rich with red wine and tangy with vinegar) for game meats, a cream and mustard and lemon sauce for veal, and so on. And though they make an excellent main course(which is how they are mostly presented) they can also be excellent served cold, in slices. This looks particularly nice if you have different colours in the paupiette—for instance, if you have say spinach or leek in the middle of the forcemeat.
Paupiettes are not hard to make, and though a little fiddly in the preparation, they are fun to make as you can try out all sorts of different combinations. Here's a recipe for the great classic, paupiette de veau, which you can use as a base for all other types of paupiette:
(Proportions for 2 people) two thin veal steaks, pounded; 100 g pork or veal mince, salt, pepper, herbs(I use thyme and sage, but any combination you like is fine); 1 egg, one slice white bread soaked in milk, 50 g small fresh field mushrooms; a little butter, a little white wine, some good stock(I used French veal stock but chicken can also be used.) You will also need some plain white string. Mix the mince with the chopped herbs, salt, pepper, egg, milk-soaked bread, and some thinly chopped mushrooms(reserve the rest for sauce), work well till all incorporated. Put half of the mixture on each steak, lengthwise, and then carefully roll up the steak and tie it into a parcel with string. Some of the stuffing will burst out, just push it back in. Melt some butter in a pan, add the paupiettes, brown on each side then splash in a little white wine and then stock to go about halfway up the paupiettes. Cook for about an hour on low heat. When nearly done, slice the rest of the mushrooms, fry quickly in a little butter, and add a splash of crème de cassis or similar(you could add port or tokay or similar fortified wine instead if you like.) Add the cooking juices to the mushroom sauce and serve it on top of the paupiettes. Serve with your choice of vegs--in the one pictures, I served this dish with our own steamed Tasmanian pinkeye potatoes and romanesco(like a green cauliflower) puree.

No comments:

Post a Comment