Saturday, February 6, 2016

Carp, the Fish, on French Menus.

Carpe, Carpe Commune  -  Carp, Common Carp.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman.

Near to rivers and streams nearly every restaurant in France will have carp on the menu. Carp is popular and inexpensive, but not always on the menu in big city fish restaurants where they generally want more rarely seen fish on their menus.
Not only the French diners love carp, but carp are also among the most popular fish for French anglers who are happy when they catch a 12-kilo (26 LB) carp even though they know that rarer 20 kilo (44 lb) and 25 kilo (55 lb) specimens are out there.
17 kilo (38 lb) carp ready to be returned to the lake.
The carp on restaurant menus are usually 3-4 kilos (6 - 9 lb) fish that come to the table from fish-farms.  Fish farms with carp are found all over France with the most well-known  in the Alsace in the North, in the Dombes in the department of Ain in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and those grown in the many lakes of Limousin.
Photograph courtesy of Lee.
Carpe on French menus:
Friture de Filets de Carpe, Sans Peau et Sans Arêtes aux 4 Sauces, Pommes Frites, Salade. – Fried filets of carp with the skin and bones removed, served with four sauces, French fried potatoes and a salad.  The southern part of the Alsace is famous for its traditional carp dishes, and fried carp will be on many menus.  This menu listing includes French fries; however, by tradition, you will usually have to order the French fries separately. N.B. Carp is a bony fish and you are well advised to order it fileted.
The menu listing above is clearly Alsatian and fried carp is the culinary specialty of Sundgau, a small southern region of Alsace. This particular region has some 40 restaurants who specialize in traditional carp dishes. The tourist information office offers a map with a carp restaurant route. You may also join the Alsace Wine route de vins that runs close by and in the restaurants combine the wine with the fish.
The Tourist Information of Office of Sundgau has a website.  Click on the Union Jack,  in the upper left-hand corner, for English.
Salade de Carpe Fumée Maison – A salad served with home-made smoked carp. Smoked carp is popular  and is available in supermarkets all over France.
Filet de Carpe Sauce à l'Oseille. A filet of carp served with a sorrel  sauce.  Sorrel has a light lemony flavor, and that makes it a popular herb to use in fish dishes.
A baked carp filet with a herb crust served on glazed beetroot with cabbage and a chive foam.
Boudin de Carpe aux Ėcrevisses et Crème au Lard Fumé. – Carp sausages, made with minced carp, served with a creamy shrimp sauce and smoked bacon.

Freshly smoked carp ready for the lunch-time customers.
Filet de Carpe “des Dombes “  Vapeur, Sauce Crustacés.  – A steamed filet of carp from the Dombes served with a shellfish sauce.
The Dombes which combine fish farming, as well as agriculture also has a bird sanctuary.  There is a French-language website, and using Bing or Google translate apps makes the website easily understood.

Salade de Carpe Fume, Lentilles du Berry, Fromage Frais de Chèvre, Basilic. A salad of smoked carp served with the famous lentils of Berry along with fresh goat’s cheese flavored with basil. This dish is from the old province of Berry, now the departments of Cher and Indre, in the Loire Valley.
In Berry, the chefs take full advantage of the freshwater fish from the National Park of Brenne. The park has over 1,000 fresh water ponds as well as freeing-running streams, lakes and fresh water fish-farms.  From here comes fresh carp, pike, eels, pike-perch, freshwater perch and frogs.
The Parc Naturel Régional de la Brenne has a French language website. With the Bing or Google translate apps the site is excellent:
Goujonnettes de Carpe Frites à l’Huile de Pépins de Raisin, sur Lit de Verdure – Tiny carp and small pieces of carp fried in oil made from grape pits served on a bed of vegetables. Goujonnettes can be any small fish and if a restaurant is not sure which fish they are serving they are often translated as whitebait. In France, any small sea fish, or freshwater fish, used for a fish soup or served as part of a petite friture, a fry up of small fish, may be called a goujon. Here, at least,  you know they are serving small carp.
Carpe a la Juive  - Carp in the Jewish Manner. This dish is carp filets lightly fried with onions and herbs and served in the restaurants of the Alsace as a cold entrée. The dish was originally created by the Alsatian Jews for their Sabbath when no cooking was permitted. Though the large Jewish population of the Alsace ended with WWII, this recipe is still enjoyed, and will be on many Alsatian restaurant menus. Carp is also the main component of the Jewish dish called Gefilte Fish,

Then there is Taramasalata, one of the most well-known dishes in traditional Greek mezes.  Taramasalata should be a light beige to light pink creamy mixture of salted and cured carp roe, olive oil, garlic, onion, lemon juice and breadcrumbs. Initially gray mullet roe was used but that was changed to carp roe when gray mullet roe became too expensive.    When you see bright pink versions of taramasalata then you know that food coloring has been added to the roe of a fish that is almost certainly neither a gray mullet nor carp roe.
 I was told, in a Greek restaurant in France, that formerly taramasalata was only served during the Christian holiday of Lent when meat was not eaten. Traditions, however, do change and tourists to Greece and diners in Greek restaurants in France look for Taramasalata.  Now taramasalata is available all year round inside and outside Greece.

Fish farming, including carp, began in China in 2,500 BCE and Egypt farmed tilapia from 1,500 BCE.  Nevertheless, the 5th century BCE was probably the time the Romans began commercially farming fish though wealthy Romans has had their own sea water and fresh water fish ponds long before.  When the Romans occupied France in 121 BCE  along with the trees,  fruits, vines for grapes, public baths and  aqueducts they brought fish farms. Following the Frankish victory in the 5th century CE a large part of France came under the rule of the Merovingians, the first kings of France. However, there is no extant reference to fish farming under the Merovingian’s.
For France and elsewhere the first modern commercially productive fish farms only became important from the mid-twentieth century. The carp that the Romans brought to France are the ancestors of the wild carp now in French rivers and streams. Those wild carp are now considered a pest in many rivers as they damage the eco-system for other fish.
Koi (or Japanese) carp are the extremely expensive ornamental carp so highly valued in Japan and China. These ornamental carp are the same species as the common carp on the menu listings above and for over 2,000 years they have been bred for their unique colors and markings.            

Koi carp
Common carp are members of large family with other members of the family on the menu in other parts of Europe and Asia. One member of the carp family is on offer in all pet shops; that is the goldfish, it is the smallest member of the carp family.

The smallest member of the carp family.

(Catalan -  carpa), (Dutch – karr). (German – karpfe, karpen, weissfische, wildkarpfen).  (Italian- carpa), (Spanish - carpa), (Latin -  cyprinus carpio carpio).


The regions of France:

From 2016 France has reduced the number of regions from 27 to 18.  Now there are 13 mainland regions, including Corsica and five overseas regions/departments. The names to be used must, by law, be changed by July 2016. Despite the legal requirements for these name changes there are many arguments and the final names will probably not be ready for quite a while.

Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016.

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Déglacé, Déglacer, Déglacez – Deglazing. Réduction – Reduction. Deglazing and Reduction in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Checking the wine to be used!

French menus contain words from the kitchen that do not appear in most travelers’ French-English dictionaries.   This post is all about the names used for certain sauces that may be served with dishes from an entrée (the French first course) to the dessert.
Translating from French to English.
There are some words that always cause confusion for English speakers on French menus. That is particularly true for those, like me, who try to translate ostensibly English words and their synonyms from French-language menu listings.
Three of those words have in their English translation precise meanings, but without explanation, they can confuse a diner.
               The French words           The English translation

Déglacé, Déglacer, Déglacez.       Deglazing.
                                      Jus, Jus de Cuisson, Jus Course   Natural cooking juices/
                                      Réduction.                                     Reduction

I love French cuisine, but could not and often still cannot, remember the name of a dish in French, along with a depiction of the dish.  Some 30% of the English language have French roots, but we are confused when faced with a seemingly irrational change in usage.  After an especially unique breakfast where I was confounded by translation I decided to write a book on French cuisine. There are other diners out there that need to know what can happen with misused French even at breakfast in a French café.  (For that breakfast story click here).

Déglacé, Jus and Réduction on a French menu listing.

Menu dishes will often note that a sauce has been “deglazed” and or “reduced” or made with “Jus.” For diners like myself, the direct translation does not tell us very much. Cooks, both amateur and professional know the meanings very well, but I am not usually dining with them. The English word juice also came from  old French and so jus on a menu may have many other meanings including fruit juice and vegetable juices..    
Déglacé is often part of a menu listing name or description. Few English speaking diners know what déglacé is and many French-English pocket dictionaries ignore a word's usage in French cuisine. Without understanding the meaning, a diner may pass on a dish that could have been an outstanding choice.

Small veal escallops flavored with sage,
served with Tuscan cured ham and Fontina cheese
deglazed with white wine.
Photograph courtesy of Inspirational Food

   The meaning of déglace, to deglaze.
Many sauces begin with the natural juices from cooked bones, meats, poultry, fish and or fruits and vegetables. The untouched sauce from cooking will be called a jus, a suc or a jus corse. Then, when an additional flavor is added then the sauce will appear on the menu with a description of how it was flavored and the menu listing will note déglace. The deglazing will bring all the flavors from the original juices including most of those that may have stuck to the base of the pan. 
Dishes on French menus déglacé:

Le Filet de Loup de Mer,  Braisé, Déglacé de Vin Blanc – A braised filet of European Sea Bass served with a sauce deglazed, its taste changed, by the addition of white wine. A great deal of thought will have gone into choosing the right wine for this fish, it will create the matching taste.   Ask the waiter for more information on the wine used.

 N.B. The European Sea Bass is mostly on menus as Bar or Bar Commune; nevertheless, it may also appear as it does in this example as Loup de Mer.  That may be European Sea Bass but also using the name Loup de Mer is the Atlantic wolfish; also called the Atlantic catfish. Check carefully what is being offered. The Atlantic Wolfish is a very different fish to the bass, and can reach 12 kilos or more. When caught, they may end up baked and served, as filets. Nevertheless, if you have a choice go with the European Sea Bass.

Poêlée de Saint-Jacques en Persillade Déglacer Vinaigre de Xéres – The meat of lightly fried King scallops prepared with chopped parsley and garlic with the juices flavored with sherry vinegar.
You may be surprised to see Port, Madeira, Sherry and other imported wines on French menus, but they have been recognized for their significant influence on French cuisine for over 200-years.
Supreme de Caille Déglacer au Vieux Banyuls - Breast of quail served with its natural cooking juices flavored with an aged Banyuls AOP wine. Banyuls AOP is acclaimed for its famous sweet wines, mostly reds, from the town of Banyuls sur Mer on France’s Mediterranean coast 25 km (16 miles) from the Spanish border. Banyuls will rarely be on the wine list, but it will in the most restaurants’ kitchens as it will be used for a wide variety of sauces.  Also, in restaurants all over France you may be offered a Banyuls to accompany a cheese course, or as a dessert wine; that is an opportunity to try a Banyuls instead of a glass of port with which it has much in common. The European quail is a smaller cousin of the American quail and the one on this menu is farm raised.

Banyuls sure Mer
Magret de Canard Déglacé au Vinaigre de Framboise -  Duck breast prepared and served with a  sauce deglazed with raspberry vinegar. Duck nearly always works well when cooked with a fruit sauce and only rarely will that be a sweet fruit.

Raspberry Vinegar
Why the act of changing a flavor is called deglazing in English I do not know; however, in the French kitchen tradition is tradition, and so it is déglacé. The addition of a wine or another liquid to deglaze a sauce increases the volume, and that brings in the next part of this post,  the réduction. ( The reduction, in English).
The Réduction - The Reduction
After creating a new sauce with the combination of the natural cooking juices and an addition of an added flavor the chef may need to reduce the volume of the new sauce and to thicken it to concentrate the flavor.  That is, the reduction.
In modern French cuisine, few chefs thicken a sauce by adding flour. Adding flour may be quick and easy, but flour or corn flour changes the taste of a sauce and does not concentrate the flavor.  The thickening will be done by allowing the sauce to reach a low boil and evaporate on the stove. 
Menu listings often appear on a menu using the words déglacé and or réduction in the title. Sometimes the usage of these two words becomes muddled; however, as long as we know the meaning no harm is done.

 For most of us the final taste is more important than the technical names used, we are not French.  Most menus will note the wine, liquor, eau de vie, herbs or fruits used to change the taste.  They will have changed and concentrated the flavor of the original cooking juices, and a deglazed sauce has been created.
The final taste of the sauce is apparent when the sauce has been thickened,  reduced in quantity and the taste concentrated.  

A reduction in progress.
Photograph courtesy of Alby Headrick
The French diner expects to be told the names of the herbs used, sometimes the name of the kitchen equipment used and the method of cooking.  All or part of these details may be part of a menu listing.  In many cases, for the local diners who will return and already know the high standards of a particular product even the name of the farm where the chickens, pigeons, oysters or lambs were grown may be included in a listing.
The word reduction on French menus:
Le Filet de Lieu Noir Rôti et sa Réduction de Crème de Morilles A filet of saithe, pollack in the USA. (The fish is also called Merluche in France). The fish will be roasted and served with a reduced and creamy sauce flavored with morel mushrooms.
Rack of Lamb Carved and Served with Sweet Potato Mash
and Honey Balsamic Reduction.
Onglet de Bœuf de Salers, Réduction de Bière à la Cerise -  A hangar or skirt steak from the much-appreciated Salers beef. Here the steak will have been grilled and served with the reduced sauce made with a cherry flavored beer. The cows from the Salers cattle produce the milk for the Salers AOP and Cantal AOP cheeses and so most of these steaks will have come from the bulls. The beer used here is likely to be the Belgian Kriek cherry flavored beer. The Belgians have hundreds of beers, more than France has cheeses, and their Kriek beer is one of the most popular. Though not the case here the cut called an onglet, the hanger or skirt steak, is the cut most often seen behind France’s excellent but relatively inexpensive steak frites.

Thyme flavored Duck Breast with Red Wine Reduction

Pavé de Filet de Bœuf à la Réduction de Marcillac et Échalotes  - A large cut from a beef filet served with a reduced sauce made from the red Marcillac wine and shallots. (For ordering a steak cooked the way you prefer, click here). N.B. The red Marcillac AOP wine comes from a small area in the department of Aveyron in the region of the Midi-Pyrénées.
Carpaccio de Saumon, Réduction de Balsamique et Baies Rouges A Carpaccio of salmon served with a sauce made from reduced Balsamic Vinegar and red berries.

On a dessert menu sauces served with fruits and pastries may also have been flavored; on a  menu listing that flavoring will be noted as a reduction.
Reduced sauces on French dessert menus:

Ananas Rôti aux Épices Réduction de Jus d'Orange Pineapples roasted with spices and served with a reduced orange sauce.

Tarte aux Pommes avec Reduction de Cidre et au Grand Marnier – An apple pie served with a reduction of cider and Grand Marnier. N.B. Grand Marnier is a liquor; a blend of cognac and bitter oranges. Despite being created in the 1880’s Grand Marnier remains one of France’s most famous and best-selling liquors. The inventor, Louis-Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, was not a shy man and gave his invention his name, to which he added the title Grand to increase its importance.

About 20 years before the creation of Grand Marnier a wine merchant and businessman from the Norman Atlantic town of Fecamp calling himself Alexandre Le Grand, that’s Alexander the Great in English, claimed to have discovered an old Benedictine recipe.  In his family’s library, he found a 16th-century Bénédictine manuscript with the recipe for the original orange liqueur made in the original Bénédictine monastery in the town. The liqueur recreated from the recipe is the sweet, orange and honey flavored, 40% proof, a liqueur called Benedictine D.O.M.  Benedictine D.O.M is also in many French kitchens and often on the list of digestifs offered at the end of the meal.

Photograph courtesy of Bacardi- Martini

Sauces made directly from the natural cooking juices.
The jus course.

When a sauce is made from the natural cooking juices alone (water may be added), that sauce is called a jus, a suc, a jus de cuisson or a jus course.

Originally a jus corsé was a sauce or gravy based only on veal or beef stock along with the marrow from the bones; apart from water, not even wine was added. Today jus and jus corsé have moved on; your menu may offer a jus corsé for fish, seafood and vegetables and even a jus corse that may be slightly flavored with small additions of herbs, spices fruits, vinegar or wine.

Jus Course on French Menus:

Fillet de Boeuf Jus Corsé, Gratin de Macaronis – A beef fillet served in its natural cooking juices and accompanied by macaroni browned in the oven with added cheese, usually Parmesan or Gruyere

Quail and slices of pork and coriander sausage
on a softened fennel stalk and melted rhubarb.
The quail is sauced with a natural quail jus reduction.

Langoustines Roties au Jus Corse – Langoustine, the Dublin Bay Prawn, Scampi, the Norwegian lobster served in its natural coooking juices.  Despite the traditional English names the langoustine is neither a prawn nor a shrimp; nor are practically any of them caught near Dublin.  Do not confuse langoustine with the langouste; the langouste is the spiny lobster and owner of the much larger lobster tail. Dublin Bay prawns grow up to 20 cm in length, but most of those seen in restaurants are rarely longer than 15 cms.  Dublin Bay prawns do look like a tiny two-clawed lobster, but if they are related then are a very very very distant member of that lobster family.

There is no meat in the claws or head of a Dublin Bay Prawn.
The only meat there is is in the tail.
Suprême de Volaille Farci a la Tapenade, Jus Corsé- Breast of chicken flavored with tapenade and served with the natural cooking juices. The Tapenade used here for flavor is the popular Provençal anchoyade spread made with anchovies, olives, garlic, olive oil and added capers.  The Provençal word for capers is tapéno and voila, we have tapenade when we add capers to an anchoyade.
French diners (and the chefs) grow up knowing the names of all the pots and pans in the kitchen. Diners know about herbs and the centerpiece that will be the main course. French Diners expect that many menu listings will give detailed information about how a dish is served and how it will taste. It is not enough to offer a braised or roast fish or steak, if that the chef is preparing the dish with a sauce or herb that will affect the taste.
Connected Posts:
Bryan G. Newman
Copyright 2010, 2015.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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