I sent out a challenge last week. In Search Of...A Great Piece of Meat. I have since gotten many responses as comments and by email and have started to dig into the great mystery of how to find good meat and how to actually prepare it on the grill. This little "contest" has two parts. The first is just to find the meat. Not an easy task, and several people who have lived here in France much longer than I, seem to think this may not be possible. I'm trying to prove them wrong.
Every time I ask people this question "Où puis-je me trouver le meilleur morceau de viande pour le barbeque?" (or something like that!) their first response is....not at the Supermarché! You must buy it from a good boucherie. And of course, each person has a different answer for exactly where that is. Last week I asked my friend Fehti, owner of my little neighborhod bar/cafe Hubelot and former butcher, where I could find the best steak in town. He told me about a teeny-tiny boucherie just off Place Richelme where he thought I would find a great piece of meat. I was familiar with this unassuming little shop and armed with a note of introduction from Fehti, off I went.
As I said, this place is tiny. And it seemed to me that they didn't have much of a selection. But I explained my quest to the little butcher with the meaty hands, what I was trying to find and asked for his opinion. He explained that I wanted the entrecôte (which I looked up later and it seems to be the equivalent of a New York Strip). I asked him to show me where it was in his lightly stocked meat case. He explained that he'd have to go get it and arrived from the back room lugging a large hook attached to a slab of meat nearly the same size as he was. He heaved that puppy up onto the block and asked me how thick a cut I'd like. I told him he was the expert and I would follow his lead (flattery is essential on missions like these).
In spite of the way I've been going on about meat, I'm not a huge beef eater. Mostly it kind of grosses me out. But because I haven't been able to find it....well you know....the cow always grazes on the greener side of the hill!
But I have to say, watching him cut the meat..
trim the fat just perfectly...
and wrap it up for me...
and having him explain that I should just cook it "au nature" with just salt and pepper was so lovely and personal. Even his wife who works along side him, got into the conversation and I left 13.50 Euros later, with my precious package in hand!
I invited a friend to dinner (these days this isn't always fun for my friends because I seem to feel the need to take pictures of everything we eat!) and nervously prepared my VERY EXPENSIVE steak (I added a touch of Herbs de Provence as Fehti suggested).
And I followed readers' suggestions, searing it on hottest coals and then letting it continue to cook over the lower heat. I took it off before I thought it was perfectly done and let it sit for about 10 minutes, allowing the juices to redistribute.
IT WAS PERFECT! And delicious and tender and all that I was looking for!
So I've established that great meat does exist here in France. I will try two other suggested boucheries in order to be fair but, man, I can't afford this! 13.50 euros at today's exchange rate, translates to $18! So after I've decided on the best boucherie, I will have to buy lesser quality steaks and use some of the many marinade methods that have been sent to me.
Please send me your suggestions (and perhaps some ideas on how to deal with my impending case of gout). My terrace and I and that bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape are waiting for a dinner guest. Be warned however...I will take pictures!