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French Cooking: Choucroute

Choucroute Platter served at the Brussels Cafe, 71 Blvd. Exelmans, 75016
When it comes to ‘comfort food’, nothing does it better than ‘choucroute’ (pronounced ‘shoo-croot’) or Alsatian saurkraut on a cold day in March. Accompanied with a crisp Riesling, this meal will make you completely forget the howling winds and pelting rain.
The region of France most famous for ‘choucroute’ is Alsace – and I’ve been told that the best place to eat choucroute in one of Alsace’s most famous cities, Strasbourg is right across from the Strasbourg cathedral.
However, if you’re in Paris, you need go no farther than most Alsatian (as well as Belgian and German) brasseries for a good ‘choucroute’ or you can make a great dish yourself (as long as you buy the right sausages).
You can buy your saurkraut either ‘cru’ or ‘cuit’ in most delis (cooked or uncooked). The best cooked saurkraut has bits of ham mixed in. Add to that salt pork and sausages of all sorts. I bought my sausages for this dish at J. Valliot, 21 Rue Daguerre.
That’s where I came across a particular brand of sausage that deserves special mention.
This sausage is called Saucisse de Morteau. If you’ve never tried this regional specialty, you’re in for a treat.
Here is how the process is described on its ‘label’:
Made in the Haut Doubs Mountains, this sausage is pine-smoked. It needs to be cooked for a full 50 minutes. Your apartment will smell like a mountain chalet. I have jealously hung on to this label as if it were Hermes or Chanel.
Although we’ve never visited this region of France, one taste makes me want to know more about the place where the Morteau sausage was made. As visitors to Paris, one of the best ways to get to know more about French regional products is to attend the Foire de Paris this spring (April 30th to May 12th). A whole hall is dedicated to French regional products and wines. That’s where I first had a chance to try Salers cheese (a mountain cheese). You’ll find that most French regional products cannot be fully appreciated until you’ve tried them on location. For example, a cantal cheese or a Salers loses much of its pungent flavor in transport. Paris is your door to the ‘real France’.
So, why’ll you’re there, open the door. Be sure to try at least one regional specialty while you’re in town.
If this has piqued your curiosity about the Morteau sausage, mark these dates on your calendar:
August 23-24th, 2008
The Annual Sausage festival in Morteau, France
Franche-Comte region (Jura Mountains)
Regional Products (primarily meats)
J. Valliot
31, Rue Daguere
75014 Metro: Denfert Rochereau
Tel 01 43 20 02 72
If you would like to read another recipe for Morteau pork sausage, be sure to check out this Graceyland recipe which comes straight from a local Morteau butcher shop.
Morteau pork sausage in white wine