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Meat and Fruit: Made for Each Other

You may not automatically consider meat and fruit to be perfect flavor companions. But think of classic dishes like lemon-pepper chicken, duck à l’orange, turkey with cranberry sauce, and pork with apples. These familiar meat-and-fruit pairings are just the tip of the culinary iceberg.

Read on to see how fruit can make a magical accompaniment for meat – from game to poultry and everyday favorites like pork. Summer is the right time to pick up seasonal fruit at the farmer’s market and pair it with meat.

french ham & pear recipes preview

French Ham & Pear Crostini with Truffle Honey – recipe at dartagnan.com

Here are some guidelines for creating tasty meat and fruit combinations:

  • VENISON:  a good match for apples, cherries, raspberries, cranberries, citrus fruits, peaches, pears, raisins, pomegranates, and dates.
  • RABBIT: the subtle flavor is enhanced by apples, currants, citrus fruits, plums, and prunes.
  • LAMB: stands up to both fresh and dried fruits with bold flavors, like apricots, cranberries, dates, figs, pomegranates, prunes, and raisins.
  • CHICKEN: plays well with others, including fruits like apples, apricots, cranberries, currants, grapes, citrus fruits, mangoes, peaches, pears, and raisins.
  • SQUAB: often paired with cherries, figs, lemons, pears, and prunes, or fig balsamic vinegar.
  • DUCK: made to pair with fruits. Go wild: try blueberries, cherries, cranberries, apricots, currants, dates, figs, citrus fruits, mangoes, peaches, pears, pomegranates, prunes, or grapes.
  • PORK: friendly to fruits like apples, cranberries, currants, dried cherries, dried figs, mangoes, quince, plums, pineapple, pears, peaches, and apricots. In summer, try grilling stone fruits like peaches, and serving with grilled pork chops.
  • FOIE GRAS: an all-time fruit lover. Its buttery flavor is balanced by all kinds of fruits, like apples, apricots, cherries, cranberries, dried figs, grapes, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, papayas, peaches, pears, plums, raisins, and strawberries.
  • CHARCUTERIE: cured meats go well with fruit – try pears, apples, grapes, fresh or dried figs, apricots or cherries on your charcuterie board. Wrap jambon de Bayonne around melon in summer for a refreshing snack.
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Duck Breasts with Citrus-Honey Sauce – recipe at dartagnan.com

Share your meat and fruit creations with us on social media! Tag @dartagnanfoods on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. We love to see what’s cooking.

Why Let Meat Rest?

Let it Rest!

This could be the D’Artagnan motto. Whether it’s a ribeye, skirt steak, duck breast or pork chop, all meat needs to rest after it is cooked.

Kalbi Style Grilled Buffalo Steak

Buffalo steak recipe at dartagnan.com

Cook the meat on a grill or cast iron skillet until it has reached your preferred level of doneness.

Then be patient and let the meat rest. Ten minutes on a plate, tented with foil in a warm spot does the job. But why is that rest period so darn important?

Science.

When you put a raw steak on a hot pan the fibers of the steak tighten; the moisture in the meat is forced away from those tightened fibers, and into the center of the cut. When you flip it, the same thing happens to the fibers and the moisture on the other side.

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Duck breast recipe at dartagnan.com

Running Juices

When the steak is done, all the juices have been crammed into a space that is far too small to hold them. When you cut that piece of meat straight off the heat source, those juices are going to seek relief from their tight quarters and escape any which way they can.

For the hungry diner who cuts into their steak too soon, this usually means a messy plate and a dry piece of beef. That’s just no fun for anyone.

However, if you let that steak rest, the fibers inside the meat have a chance to relax and reabsorb those internal juices. Once that happens, your meal will be a much more joyful thing to eat.

Is it Done Yet?

But how do you know if your meat has rested enough? It’s a good question, and one that is mostly easily answered by temperature. When you let your meat cool, you’re looking for it to return to a temperature of around 125° F, at least around the edges. That’s the point as which those fibers have relaxed enough to reabsorb the moisture and won’t release it all over your plate. You can easily test the temperature of your meat with an instant read thermometer. Once it’s back to 125° F, dinner is served.

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TIP: No meat thermometer? Our rule of thumb is to let meat rest for half of the time it took to cook. Great news for a quickly-grilled steak. But try it when that Thanksgiving turkey is tented on the counter.

How to Make Savory Crêpes

What is a crêpe? A crêpe is a very thin pancake, which is usually stuffed and folded. Commonly found throughout France, the crêpe is a classic at brunch or breakfast, but can easily serve at lunch or dinner.

Many think of crêpes as being filled with fruit and topped with chocolate sauce or whipped cream. But the best thing about crêpes is that they can be served sweet or savory. You can probably guess that we like ours savory! The combination of fillings for a savory crêpe is endless. Think of anything you would put on a sandwich or a pizza…and read on to see some of our ideas.

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Easy Recipe for Crêpes

Before you can fill them, you need to make some crêpes. Here’s the simple recipe.

Basic crêpe batter: Whisk together 2 eggs, 3/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup sifted flour, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Once the mixture is smooth, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This allows the batter to thicken, which is an important step in crêpe making.

Once the batter has rested, it’s time to cook the crêpes. Heat a small non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Brush a little melted butter over the surface of the pan. Pour a small amount of batter (about 1 ounce) in the center of the pan. Quickly lift the pan and swirl to allow the batter to spread out into a circle. Cook until the edges of the crêpe look dry, about 45 seconds to a minute. Gently flip the crêpe over and cook for another 30 seconds, or until done.

The crêpe will be dry, yet pliable, but will not take on any golden brown color. Transfer to a plate and continue with the rest of the batter. Stack up the crêpes as you make them. The batter will make a number of crêpes, so it’s okay to consider the first few crêpes as practice (and samples for tasting).

Savory Fillings for Crêpes

Anything goes as a filling for a savory crêpe, so make your own delicious combinations. Here are a few crêpe ideas to get you going:

  • Try a breakfast crêpe filled with crispy bacon, shredded white cheddar cheese, and either scrambled eggs or a fried egg.
  • Fill a crêpe with long strands of thin prosciutto, blanched or steamed asparagus, and crumbled goat cheese.
  • Make a simple béchamel (white sauce) and stir in sautéed organic mushrooms. Place inside a crêpe along with leftover shredded poultry (e.g., chicken, turkey, or quail).
  • For the flavors of a classic ham and cheese sandwich, layer slices of ham, Gruyere, and a thin spread of Dijon mustard.
  • Add crisped pancetta, braised rabbit, and some fresh rosemary inside of a crêpe for a remarkable combination.
  • Fold a crêpe around duck confit (or duck rillettes) and sweet caramelized onions for an elegant lunch.
  • Create a hearty crêpe with leftover braised lamb and herb-marinated tomatoes.

Best Chicken Ever: The NYT Review of Le Coq Rico

Congratulations to Chef Antoine Westermann and his team at Le Coq Rico: The Bistro of Beautiful Birds for a 2-star review in the New York Times!

We are proud to play a part in this delicious story. Chef Antoine is very meticulous, and spent a long time working with us to procure the ideal chicken for his first restaurant in New York City. We collaborated closely with him and our chicken farmers to raise heritage breeds to exacting standards, on specific diets, for longer periods of time than the industry standard. The result is a unique chicken that tastes better than the average bird … much better. It certainly belongs in The Bistro of Beautiful Birds.

Read the entire review to find out how Le Coq Rico serves our squab and foie gras, as well as the crowning glory: the perfect chicken. And then plan your visit.

Le Coq Rico Review NY TIMESHere is one of the behind-the-scenes photos from Chef Antoine’s first visit to our office for a chicken tasting. See more in our earlier blog post.

l-r: Pierre Moreira, The Westermanns, Ariane, Robert Arbor

The Whole Foie Gras Duck

Ariane was honored to be a guest lecturer at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC last week. Ariane is committed to educating and supporting the next generation of chefs, and she enjoys going to culinary schools to share her experience and wisdom. This time she demonstrated breaking down a whole duck – with the foie gras inside – and talked about the uses for each part.

The beak-to-tail philosophy means that we eat the whole duck, and waste nothing. From duck breast to duck leg confit, duck pâtémousse and duck fat … we enjoy every tasty bit.  The liver may be the big prize, but every part is valued. Even the bones are used to make demi-glace.

Ariane starts with the whole duck, foie gras and all.

Ariane starts with the whole duck, foie gras and all.

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Let’s Eat … Brunch at Home

Love it or hate it, brunch is a Sunday ritual that is not going away. Late breakfast, early lunch … what better way to celebrate the leisure of a Sunday?

Check out this illustrated history of brunch … which traces brunch from a gentlemanly breakfast after the early morning hunt, to Prohibition (you knew there would be alcohol), the mainstream IHOPs with stacks of pancakes and ultimately to the gentrified neighborhoods of our cities. And the resulting brunch backlash.

No need to wait on a long line. Mix yourself a Bloody Mary, and make something for brunch at home…read on for our ideas and recipes below.

Portlandia Brunch Line

The long line for brunch.  Portlandia: Brunch Village episode.  Still via paulgerald.com.

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Seeing Stars: What is the Michelin Guide?

Have you ever wondered about the Michelin Guide and its stars? The Guide (pronounced geed in French) gives out stars from 1 to 3 when it reviews restaurants; this is the most prestigious rating that a restaurant can get. The acquisition or loss of a star can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant. See the entertaining film The Hundred-Foot Journey to see what restaurants will do to keep their stars. So what do the stars represent?

One star: “A very good restaurant in its category”

Two stars:  “Excellent cooking, worth a detour”

Three stars: “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”

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A Little History of the Guide

The Michelin Guide actually started as a way to sell more tires. By 1900 the tire makers André and Édouard Michelin had been in business for 11 years, primarily making bicycle tires. They were ready for the automobile age, even though they had a very limited audience for their car tires. There were only 3,000 cars in all of France at the time! In order to encourage use, and wear and tear on the tires, the brothers hit on a brilliant idea: write a guide book for hotels and restaurants that would entice motorists to make some road trips.

The original Michelin Guides were free and contained maps, instructions for changing and repairing tires, lists of mechanics, gas stations and other useful information for travelers.

Aventure Michelin - Clermont-Ferrand - 30/01/2012 - photos Bastien et François BAUDIN / Agence AUSTRAL

Aventure Michelin – Clermont-Ferrand – 30/01/2012 – photos Bastien et François BAUDIN / Agence AUSTRAL

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8 Ways to Mix Up Your Grilling Routine

Bored with the same old stuff on the grill? Mix up your grilling routine and try some of our protein alternatives to shake things up! Summer is the perfect time to upgrade your grill game and try new things.

1. Burgers

If you normally grill burgers, try… buffalo burgers. An easy switch! Try our recipe and top your buffalo burger with mushrooms.

Recipe_Mushroom_Lovers_Burger_HomeMedium

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Is Your Olive Oil the Real Thing?

You may have read about the olive oil scandals in recent years.  If not, you better sit down.

Even if labeled so, EVOO is not always extra virgin, and sometimes it’s not even olive oil. Adulterated with cheap canola or sunflower oil, many of the widely-available brands are simply not the real thing. And worse, the criminal world has gotten involved in the olive oil business, which was reported by CBS News 60 Minutes.

Tom Mueller wrote a whole book on the subject, in which he reveals that 70% of extra virgin olive oil sold is not what it claims to be. Authentic EVOO takes a lot of time, labor and money to make properly, and it’s quicker, cheaper and easier to fake it. His website has fascinating information about olive oil, if you want to learn more. 

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How to tell if your olive oil is the real deal:

Even experts can have a hard time discerning the difference. But here are a few things you can check.

Is your olive oil in a clear glass bottle?

Not a good sign. When exposed to light and heat, olive oil degrades fast. Look for dark glass bottles which protect the olive oil from going rancid.

Is your olive oil from a small producer or a massive conglomerate?

Small producers are a better choice when seeking quality olive oil, but they are harder to find, and you will pay more.

Does your olive oil have an expiration date?

Olive oil should be consumed within two years of bottling for best flavor and quality. Olive oil is a lipid, and can go rancid.

Does your olive oil solidify at cold temperatures?

Put your EVOO in the refrigerator and see if it becomes thick and cloudy. If not, then you have a fake.

Will your olive oil burn?

EVOO should be flammable enough to keep an oil lamp burning. Although this and the fridge test are not foolproof, they are good indicators of authenticity.

Know your maker

And one of the best ways to know that your EVOO is real is to source from a small grower and mill that you know –  like we do with our Reserve Jean Reno olive oil. It is made in the Maussane-les-Alpilles region of Provence in France, which is historically known for olive oil. It’s also right in Jean’s backyard.

Jean Reno signs bottles of his olive oil in Ariane's office.

Jean Reno signs bottles of his olive oil in Ariane’s office.

Check the Chicago Tribune article on how to buy olive oil, in which Chef Carrie Nahabedian, of Naha and Brindille restaurants in Chicago, recommends our Reserve Jean Reno Olive Oil. Thanks for the shout out, Chef Carrie!

Did you know? There are over 700 different types of olives that make thousands of types of oils around the world! Look for what types of olives are used in your favorite oils. Get to know their flavor notes, and pair oils with food. Think of them as you would grape varietals of your favorite wines.

Shop dartagnan.com – the only place in the United State to purchase Jean Reno’s favorite olive oils.

Top 5 Reasons to Grill with D’Artagnan

With Memorial Day kicking off the start of grill season, it’s time to start thinking about the meat you choose … because quality matters. Everything we do at D’Artagnan is based on the idea that when you raise animals well – responsibly, with room to roam, natural feed, and no antibiotics or hormones – you get tastier meat in the end.

Here are the top 5 reasons you can count on D’Artagnan for your grilling needs this season.

1. Marbling: ultra-marbled, succulent meats give you great results every time. They are less likely to dry out, which give you more wiggle room with cooking time. This is a boon for the host with perpetually late friends, or even the grilling novice. With better meat, you get better results.

Pork Chops

Look at the marbling on these Berkshire pork chops.

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