A few days before the horse meat scandal broke out, my husband and I stopped by the Huit-à-Huit (French minimart) to pick up something to eat. It was late and they were fresh out of the blood sausages that I was craving, so we decided to buy a bargain basement brand steak in an opaque plastic sachet with a delicious looking broiled steak printed on the outside. When we got home and I opened it up, it looked much redder than normal. I supposed that they must have used red food dye to make it look fresher, not surprising given the price. After a few minutes in the pan, it was still nearly fuchsia in color. Then we tasted it.
“Hey, this steak is really strong for beef.”
“That’s strange it tastes just like horse meat.”
“I think it is horse meat!”
I’ve eaten horse meat several times since my arrival in France, although most of the time it was on purpose. It’s a lot leaner and stronger than beef, which is why it’s a bit cheaper and less people like it. I think it’s a good alternative to beef for people looking for the nutrients contained in red meat while reducing their fat intake. However, the leanness of the meat makes a really dry hamburger patty, so it’s best to eat ground horse with a sauce or in a ragout.
There’s also all the organ meats (abats in French): heart, liver, etc. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a personal fan of blood sausage; it’s delicious with baked apples and easy to cook. Heart is a great organ meat for first timers, since it’s really just muscle. Duck hearts are great in the pan with a persillade (mix of parsley and garlic) and when cooked right they are chewy on the outside and tender on the inside. Beef heart is also very good, but longer and more difficult to cook. Pork heart has a very strong taste and is not among my favorites. Finally, liver cooked in white wine and onions is another good choice, although it is an acquired taste.
Guinea fowl, pheasant, rabbit and venison are a few other options if you can find them. However, these meats may be considered as luxury products and will cost quite a bit more than horse or organ meat. You will find guinea fowl and rabbit in most French supermarkets (some butchers may ask that you order ahead). I’ve also found prepared venison in the supermarket on rare occasions, but it’s never the same as my dad’s homemade venison stew.
When prepared properly, unusual meats can be just as delicious and nourishing as a good cut of beef while costing much less. Apparently this is also encouraged in the paleo diet, although I don’t practice any particular regimen (besides eat when you’re hungry).
Until next time, bon appétit.