Rungis Market

Rungis Market is located just outside of Paris, France. It is the largest wholesale food market in Europe. The Tokyo Fish market and Rungis rival by claiming each is the largest in the world.

The Rungis Market has huge areas dedicated to fish, meat, cheese, produce and flowers. The place is a city all its own and that city is mostly alive at the very wee hours of the morning. In fact the fish house closes between 5 and 6 AM. Other houses soon follow.

We joined up with a culinary school from Scotland to make the minimum 20 for our all around tour. Phillipe was our guide for 2 years in a row and quite a good guide too. He told us stories of how the fish they are seeing now aren’t as large as fish they got in the past due to over fishing of certain species such as Tuna and Salmon.He told us of growing fields in northern Africa where acres of produce is grown and shipped in to the market.

This market was once located in the Les Halles area of Paris. The army came in and moved the entire market overnight to the new Rungis location. The entire re-location was hush-hush and only revealed after the move was complete.

We were outfitted in silly thin paper coats for sanitation, ice and water all over the floors (slippery) and fish everywhere being hustled about on flat beds, forklifts and all in a rush to finish their business by 6AM. You had to watch and listen for the ‘beep-beeps’ as the fish were hustled where ever they were rushing them to.

The meat house was akin to being in a nightmare. Meat carcasses hung everywhere – pigs, cows, goats, lamb, and even horse. Although the horse was not in when we were there they do, on occasion, carry it.

One pork house had pig heads in a pile. One guys job was to yank the tongues out and toss the tongueless head into a big wheeled basket full of other tongueless heads. One fell out as it was tossed, the next worker came by and  it out of the way of the wheels and moved the entire grotesque basket to another room behind big blood smeared doors.

I know these are cow heads, not pigs. The pigs were in a pile getting their tongues ripped out, these got the distinction of being hung on steel pegs for some reason.

Later that evening on a menu, when seeing “Tête de cochon”, I thought to myself, yeah, saw that kicked too. Next?

They sell birds with the feet and heads on so the type of bird can be identified.

The produce markets are displayed like incredible masterpieces of produce arrangement. Such beautiful fruits and vegetables!

The cheese house features cheeses aging in all stages. There are several cheese Americans would consider spoiled by the amount of mold forming on the outside rind. There is even one cheese you need to knock the bugs out of before you cut it. It looks like a cantaloupe inside and out. The cheese is very tasty. I wish I could remember the name of it.

My favorite cheese is a goat cheese called “Pouligny St. Pierre”, so yummy.

The flower market is spectacular. I wished I could buy a bunch for my hotel room but, they only sell them by the truck load it seems.

This market is a must visit for food tourists. The only thing is you need to have a group of 20 to qualify for a tour. If you go, ask for Phillipe if he is still there. He is a great guide and speaks wonderful English, and French and probably several other languages as well.

We had the best croissants, hot chocolate and cafe au lait at this market. Phillipe arranged for us to stop in one of the restaurants that serve the vendors after our tour. He had to make a special request because the restaurant was typically closing for the day when we finished with our tour. The restaurant is located next to the fish house.

There were coffee stands and a bar inside the meat house. It was odd to see all the meat workers in their chain mail guards over clothes with scimitars strapped in steel sheaths.

I have to apologize for the quality of the photos here, I was trying to be discrete about taking photos. I must say that considering the job these men do, their all white clothing was actually not too bad.

To to end this lovely visit, the produce and flower pavilions.

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No more “lobster-cide”; I can’t kill lobsters anymore. Being a chef, and an instructor who used to be able to teach such things to poor unsuspecting students, this isn’t something you’d admit out loud.

I was reading Domestic Diva MD‘s post on having to cut up a chicken and kind of understood what she was crying about. I can butcher chicken and birds quite well, it doesn’t bother me at all.

Suppose that is because they are dead when they arrive on my cutting board.

This is a wooden chopping board with a chef's ...

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Lobsters, on the other hand, come in live and kicking and probably pretty frustrated by having their claws banded shut. (thank goodness!) or OUCH! pegged shut. ( The would probably be more angry than frustrated.)

Lobsters shipped for consumption in the United...

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They flicker their feelers at you, roll their odd eyes and foam at the mouth for desire to be back in the water.

They try to walk around so you have to watch them or put them where they can’t get away.They often pack fresh seaweed with them so they have something familiar on their death ride besides a waxed box with ice. That is most likely not the reason, but it is my guess for now.

In order to kill them correctly, you need to rub them between the eyes to calm them down and ‘put them to sleep’ before plunging a 12″ razor-sharp knife into their brains.

“Kills them instantly.” says Eric Ripert

Has he ever been a lobster? How does he know?

I can’t do that anymore. I am bothered by being able to do it in the first place. Once they are dead, no problem, just can’t kill them.

The last time I had to kill lobsters was for a dinner party I was doing for a friend in Atlanta. 14 lobsters for the appetizer.

14 live and kicking lobsters. I could hear them scratching around inside the box, slightly muffled by the seaweed packed in the box with them.

I placed them in the kitchen sink. I got creeped out by so many large weird leggy things scrambling around in the sink, I had to put some of them back in the box.

Then the killing started.

Rubbing the space between the eyes, they calm down. Ready, Aim, Plunge and split the thing in two.

OH! How it writhes and wiggles after!

After forcing myself to do all 14, I was a total basket case. Crying, kneeling down begging forgiveness for taking their lives, who was I after all to decide it was their time to die?

It was quite a horrible struggle emotionally and morally. I won’t kill lobsters anymore.

Not that way. If necessary, I’ll put them into a perforated hotel pan and pop them into a fully active steamer and slam the door shut for 8 minutes.

When I return, voila! Lobster meat. The shells have turned red and there lies the perfect ready to eat lobster, after you rip off its tail and claws.

(I worry about the students who ‘get a kick’ out of learning this. Glad they only get 1 lobster)

Melt some butter and Bon Apetit!

Just don’t ask me to kill them anymore.

This past week

During this past week I have had some time off to get some projects off of my need to do list.

This is what I have been up to:

  • Taxes are done! Until next year. Every year I say I’m going to keep track of records so there isn’t so much to do at the end of the year. Right.
  • Nurturing sourdough cultures into some wonderful bread
    • The cultures had sat in the back of the fridge for over a week, neglected. I was afraid they were dying but after some TLC, Voila! Lively sourdough cultures.
    • I used Amaranth flour and discovered a wonderful green corn silk flavor which turns nutty when toasted
    • I made enough bread for the neighborhood. I love working with the dough. Something about it that I can’t explain
  • Located a commercial kitchen for the production of the condiment line we have been working on for a couple of years.
    • It is amazing how hard these facilities are to find.
    • Now for the details of product liability insurance, leases, USDA labeling compliance etc.
    • Finalizing all of the marketing materials from labels, cards, point of sale materials etc.
    • Lining up spaces in farmers markets to begin marketing
      • Design table display
      • Develop standard product demonstrations
    • Releasing product samples to a sales rep for larger sales and markets
  • Created some great meals that should have been on Spoon Feast
    • Crispy chicken thighs with green Thai sauce over coconut rice
      • Thai green sauce is a recipe in development and simply knock your socks off delicious!
    • Black Bean Soup
    • Grilled Steaks with classic salad and baked potatoes
    • Chicken breasts with lemon rosemary
    • Salmon salad on toasted homemade bread
    • Oven “fried” cod fillets with Thai green sauce (see above) and jasmine rice
    • Deviled Eggs, a true Southern dish

I suppose I should have been blogging about these dishes but didn’t.

I just wanted to cook without documentation.

  • Listened to French moviesall day just to hear the language.
    • I was inspired by Becoming Madame to find more ways to immerse myself into the process of learning French.
  • Registered for a digital photography class Saturday afternoon
    • I am very excited about this one!

I’ll be back on the regular blogging schedule by tomorrow.

In the meantime, the orchid has started blooming, soil is warming, the coffee is hot, and it is going to be a glorious day.

Life is good.

Garde Manger Finals

Garde Manger Finals means this is the last of the class posts for a few weeks.

Our final full week of Garde Manger had students exploring some aspects of molecular gastronomy and perfecting carving skills.

While the students did a great job with various carving skills, I got the impression this class would rather actually cook than play with making garnishes.

Gulf Oysters, Blood Orange Vinegar Pearl, Duck Fat Powder

Which is why they had a couple of days to play with a bit of molecular gastronomy. They used tapioca maltodextrin to create powders from olive oil, bacon fat and duck fat. It was sprinkled on french fries, chips, oysters and played within general.

They played with spheres, making pearls and eggs from various liquids like cucumber juice, blood orange vinegar and coffee. Not together of course. They created a jellied piña colada layered sphere – coconut, rum, pineapple – nice concept but awkward to serve and eat.

They cured watermelon in vacuum pack and served it with a seared duck breast and corn jus.

Using the Pâté de Fruit method, they were given an assignment of creating a jelly that would melt in the mouth or inside of something.

Examples being: a jellied stock with a morsel of meat, chicken or fish inside a dumpling. When cooked, the dumpling is full of the flavorful liquid inside. A surprising bite.

They made 4 different kinds of gravlax; a salmon cured with salt, sugar, herbs and spices.

I plan on working more of these things into the garde manger curriculum. These techniques are found out in high-end and cutting edge restaurants so why not explore it while in school.

The final assignment was to do an hors d’oeuvres party for 40 people. They had to plan, set up and do the entire event.

I think they did a terrific job.

Garde Manger II starts at the end of March. That session will feature curing meats, smoking, pate, terrines and all the other sides of garde manger.

Enjoy the slide show.

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