French dishes: “Les Abats”

French dishes: “Les Abats”

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In France, as in many other countries, some organ meats “les abats” are considered a delicacy. If some offal are reserved for cats (like “le mou”, lungs), some like “les rognons” (kidneys) or “le ris de veau” (sweetbreads) are really sought after, and somewhat common in French cuisine.

If you don’t want to eat any variety meats, I suggest you stay away from most pâtés, terrines or sausages, and learn the vocabulary below by heart.

•  “le foie” – liver
•  “le rognon” – kidney
•  “le pied” – feet
•  “la queue” – tail
•  “la langue” – the tongue
•  “le museau” – the snout
•  “le ris de veau” – sweetbreads
•  “les tripes” – stomach
•  “la cervelle” – brain
•  “la moelle, les amourettes” – marrow
•  “le gésier” – gizzard
•  “le sang” – blood
•  “les os” – the bones
•  “le rognon blanc, les animelles” – testicles
•  “la joue” – cheek
•  “la fraise” – part of the stomach
•  “le gras-double” – part of the stomach
•  “l’oreille” – the ear
•  “la tête” – the head
•  “la crête de poulet” – chicken crest
•  “le coeur” – heart

Of course, some dishes, lack those telltale keywords. Here are some common French dishes made with offal, which don’t have these words in them.  Be aware of any regional specialty that may not be listed here: ask “est-ce que ce plat contient des abats ?”.

“la farce” (stuffing): It is very common in France to add liver to the stuffing of birds and other dishes.
• “le boudin”: blood sausage (note that “le boudin blanc” is made with white meat in a gut, like any sausage)
“l’andouillette” (warm) et “l’andouille” (cold): stomach sausage, they both have a very, very strong taste.
“le fromage de tête” – has the word tête but I thought it was worth mentioning since the word “fromage” can really be misleading. It’s a pâté made with head meat.
“le tablier de sapeur”: dish made of stomach
“Les tripoux”: dish made with tripes
“le vol-au-vent”, also called bouchée à la reine or timbale financière: the best ones may have “ris de veau” inside, and they used to have chicken crests.
“la salade périgourdine” or “la salade landaise” – will probably have green salad with poultry livers and gizzards
“le tournedos rossini” – a filet mignon with a piece of foie-gras on top
“la sauce périgueux” – uses the fat around the foie-gras
“la gelée” – most commonly made with bones and blood, but there are also many alternatives to make “gelée” including vegetal ones.
“La potée” – A common cabbage, potatoes and meat dish.  In the really traditional version, it includes “pied de porc” (pig’s feet) but you’ll probably only find it if you eat it at someone’s home or in a VERY traditional restaurant.
“Les paupiettes” (a stuffed thin veal meat) – Commonly held together via butcher string, it might sometimes be held together with “crépine” (or ‘caul’ – the lining of a pig’s insides)

Then again, perhaps you won’t want to avoid these at all. Some, after all, consider them delicious.

photo 1 by Neil Conway [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr
photo 2 by David Reber [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

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Although born and raised in Paris, Camille lived in Boston for 16 years and has been teaching today's French language for 20 years to adults around the world in person, by phone and through Skype. Repatriating to Brittany, France, in 2008 to be closer to family and to practice a balanced lifestyle, Camille created French Today, offering original audio novels and audio courses based on the adult student needs and interests, and written and recorded using the modern French language. She is the author of a full French audio method called “À Moi Paris” comprised of 4 audiobooks for the French beginner and French intermediate learner. She is also the author of more than 15 other audiobooks and audio lessons on grammar, modern pronunciation and vocabulary. In October 2014, Camille was also chosen to be the About.com French Expert, the largest French web site in the world.

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