As David Lebovitz, the wonderful blogger and cookbook author who lives in Paris, points out in a recent blog post, http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2015/05/weekend-out-of-paris/, that, for the French, barbequing specifically means grilling, not the process of long, slow-cooked, sauced meats that connote part of the American notion of barbequing. As David tells it, the French call the process‘ le doing of le barbecuing’, which actually means grilling.
According to David, “In spite of the concern over proper grammar, the French often add a “le” in front of certain English action words that they’ve adopted, such as Le Fooding, le jogging, le planning, le networking, le lifting (getting plastic surgery), le scrapbooking, and le relooking (a make-over).”
In a turn around, I like the sound of the term I’ve created, le grillading, transforming a French noun into an English action word. For le doing of le grillading, the unquestioned fuel of preference is either grapevine stalks or, failing those, grape vine prunings, called sarments. Of course, the stalks are only available when a vineyard has been pulled out. In that case, the pulled vines are stacked and carefully guarded until needed. My neighbor in France pulled out an old vineyard not long ago in order to plant olive trees and for several years I had a healthy supply of grape vines.
However, every year, without fail, there are prunings. The stalks and prunings burn very hot, but briefly, and add a smoky, woodsy flavor to steaks, chops, and sausages, which are the main choices for grilling, along with the occasional slices of pork belly, handily marked bon pour le barbeque. (Remember, barbeque in French means grilling.)
My friend, Denise Lurton Moullé, in her book, French Roots, co-authored with her husband, Jean-Pierre Moullé, former longtime chef at Chez Panisse, tells it this way:
“Grapevine-Grilled Rib-eye Steaks –Entrecôte Bordelaise aux Sarments
When it comes to grilling in Bordeaux, the choice of wood is invariably the same: grape vine cuttings or stalks. The cuttings are saved and bundled up in winter when the vineyards are pruned. The cuttings are thin and don’t burn quite as hot as the more precious stalks, the gnarled wood that is only available when an old vineyard is removed. You don’t need a grill or a fireplace to cook over wood –in Bordeaux many people dig a fire pit in the dirt, place the wood in the pit, and set the grill right on top once the wood has burned down to hot coals. This French version of a campfire-cooked steak is not to be missed.
1 ½ pounds rib eye steak
Salt and black pepper
2 shallots, minced
½ cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Season the steaks with salt and pepper and set out at room temperature for an hour or so to temper. Prepared a large fire and allow it burn down to hot coals. If you have gas grill, set it to the highest heat
To make the butter, combine the shallots, butter, parsley, a pinch of salt and some black pepper.
Before cooking the steak, place a generous bunch of vine cuttings over the hot coals and let them burn completely. (if you don’t have fine cuttings, use hardwood chips instead – my favorites are fig, almond and apple.) Grill the steaks for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, depending on the intensity of your fire. Remove to a platter and, with a spoon, spread the butter over the steaks. Set that aside to rest for 5 minutes as the butter melts, mixing with the meat juices.
Serves 4 to 6”
Grilling photos and recipe excerpt from French Roots: Two Cooks, two countries & the beautiful food along the way. 10-speed Press, 2014. Photographs by Jan Baldwin
Denise comes from the Bordeaux wine-making empire, the Lurton family, and she certainly knows grilling over grape vines, whether stalks or prunings, as well as being a brilliant cook.
Of course, not everyone can get their hands on grape prunings, and even less so on grape stocks.
So, La Vie Rustic has put together a combination of table grape prunings from our small farm and grape rootstocks from a neighboring vineyard (these are the small ones used for grafting) to create a set of 4 Grillade Bundles for grilling, French style. Each bundle is enough for Denise’s recipe, or a similar one of your own creation.
The prunings are about 8 -inches long and fit nicely into Weber and other similar barbeque grills.
Remember, first build a fire, either wood or charcoal and when coals have formed, undo the string and toss the bundle onto the hot coals. When the prunings are burned to bright coals, it’s time for le grillading. Set of 4: $8.00 Purchase at: https://lavierustic.com/store/