If your experience of shopping for meat in Paris is limited to picking up a shrink-wrapped steak at Monoprix or roast chicken that’s been sitting all morning under a heating lamp at the local market, do yourself a favor and step into the fascinating world of artisan butcher Jean Christophe Prosper.
While it’s easy to miss the store on leafy rue Caulaincourt, or dismiss it as just as yet another neighborhood boucherie, this is one of the rare butchers in Paris where most of the meat and charcuterie on sale is organic and carefully sourced from select breeders in France and Europe.
A fourth-generation butcher, Prosper has built an encyclopedic knowledge of the profession during his three decades in the trade and is so passionate about sharing it with his customers that even the most reluctant carnivore is unlikely to leave his store empty handed.
Local customers as well as quite a few Parisians from neighboring arrondissements flock here for the milk-fed veal — the pale, delicate meat that has a long gastronomic tradition in France – and lamb raised in salt marsh meadows, which are among the store’s best-sellers. Called agneau de pré-salé, this delicacy is particularly prized because the sheep graze on grass with a high salinity and iodine content, which gives the meat a distinctive rich flavor and juicy texture. It’s so delicious as is that it only requires a seasoning of salt and pepper to bring out its unique taste, but its short season means it’s only available between early June and the end of summer.
“It’s not just vegetables that are seasonal, this is also the case for meat,” says Prosper. For example, once the agneau de pré-salé season is over, in the autumn he switches to salt marsh lamb from Wales. In fact, Prosper is a keen advocate for British produce and is rhapsodic about Angus beef, which he sources from the most renowned breeders in Scotland.
Other specialties, all rigorously prepared on the premises by Prosper and his enthusiastic staff, are available year round. In addition to sausages and grill-ready kabobs, the culinary challenged are catered for with a selection of terrines and cured meats en croûte.
The roast chicken is far superior to the charred, wooly textured birds that Parisians have grown accustomed to buying in supermarkets. Instead of the fast-growing poultry used by many conventional butchers, Prosper’s chickens are sourced locally in the Île-de-France from so-called “Label Rouge” certified farmers, who rely on free-range production practices. The result is flavorsome and firm meat that retains its texture even when stored in a domestic refrigerator. However, based on my personal experience, there’s a slim chance you’ll have leftovers.
Jean Christophe Prosper-61 rue Caulaincourt 75018.+33 (0) 1 46 06 88 63. Métro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (ligne 12). Open 8h-13h & 15h30-20h
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