Any idea what it was? Not fishy.
I suspect they were lardons, which were minced. It's from the same belly cut we'd make bacon of, but it's not smoked. It might be closer to what we'd recognize as salt pork. At any rate, I don't think it would have been a bouillon cube, at least not in France. That would probably get the chef stripped of his/her French citizenship. You can do the same thing in the US using pancetta, or sometimes with bacon if you don't mind a smoky add in taste. Lardons are salted and cured, and some will be cold smoked. Pancetta is generally only salted and cured. You can use bacon or salt pork as a substitute, depending on if you wanted a smoky flavor or not. Salt pork would probably need to be soaked to remove excess salt, though you'd have to determine that yourself.
I know lardons...not lardons. Was dark brown, texture of bouillon cubes, same texture. I don’t think I’ll ever find the answer. :(. I was married to a Frenchman and visited France so many times. Never saw it but once.
My first thought was anchovies, Sometimes they get soaked in milk before using to remove the fishiness.
Lardons may be more likely, but they are nor usually "slivered," but left in tiny chunks.
Texture-wise I think it sounds like anchovies too. Lardons wouldn't dissolve the same way as a bouillon cube
Caramelized shallots/onions? seasoned of course
Had another thought: could it have been prosciutto?
Could it have been Maggi cubes? I've seen them (and Maggi) used regularly in the average French home.
I bet it is Maggi cubes, sliced! Going to try it. Can’t remember how salty it was, but it is a dead ringer for them. Just thinly sliced.
Green beans love anchovies. They give a salty umami flavour. That would be my guess
It could have been bottarga (that's the Italian and best-known name, but it's called boutarge or poutarge in France)
I'm going to second bottarga, which in this case is probably shaved or thinly sliced cured salted grey mullet roe (not tuna roe).
I actually found a recipe for it on a French culinary blog here (in French, of course):
Photo credit: Clotilde Dusoulier - Chocolate & Zucchini CNZ.to
Thanks for trying. I read the recipe (thank heaven an fluent in French) till the end. It is an orange color inside, so not poutarge, darn. Did you see the last picture of it? Sigh
Gail - maybe write directly to Clotilde as another resource and ask her. You both have Fr & Eng, so should be ok.
I think poutarge can be a range of shades including brown, depending on the type of roe and the particulars of its salting and curing. Here's a recipe that includes a picture with shavings that are quite brown: http://unmetsdixvins.com/2012/05/spaghetti-a-la-poutargue/
and I saw even darker brown versions in a google image search.