As soon as the cold weather sets in, Parisian menus go wild for game dishes. Nary a woodland creature is safe from hunters, as ducks, pheasants, wood pigeons, hare and young wild boar are all among the succulent creatures upon which gourmands feast.
“The season is very short and there are a lot of game lovers,” Christian Etchebest, chef and owner of Le Troquet, a convivial bistro in Paris’ 15th arrondissement, says of the craze. This winter, his menu offers no fewer than eight dishes, including terrines, a creamy broth and the famous hare royale. Etchebest’s personal favorite is a suprême of wild duck and its confit, served with potato and celery puree, seasoned with chestnut oil.
“Our mentors taught us how to cook game,” says the historically mindful chef. “It’s our responsibility to perpetuate the tradition.”
Over at Chez Michel, a popular bistro located near the Gare du Nord, the tradition is being given a new lease on life — chef Thierry Breton gets even busier once game is on his menu. His clients become true fanatics of his restaurant during the season, “because they want to taste all the game dishes,” says Breton.
They certainly have no shortage of choices: This winter, the chef is offering a wide range of fare, from hare cappuccino served in a pumpkin shell with foie gras to roasted partridge with wild mushrooms or grouse stuffed with foie gras served in fresh black currant juice.
Meanwhile, at his restaurant in the Hôtel de Crillon, Les Ambassadeurs, two-star chef Jean-François Piège has high standards for what game he serves. “I need top-quality products,” demands the chef. “And I’m sure I can always get top-quality venison and hare.”
In his own attempt to respect his ancestors’ conventions while creating modern cooking, Piège combines venison with pear. But instead of serving the actual fruit, he concocts a pear paste with the juices from cooking and tapioca. He calls the rendition “permissive tradition.”