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Friday, June 29, 2012

Perche, Perche Commune. Perch: Fresh Water Perch. Freshwater Perch in French Cuisine.

from
Behind the French Menu.
by
Bryan G. Newman
Updated February 2019.
   

Freshwater perch
www.flickr.com/photos/dirks_images/4143429023/
  
Freshwater perch will always be on sale and on the menu as filets.
   
In France perch are among the top ten most popular freshwater fish ordered in restaurants and whether small and large they will be served as filets as the skin of freshwater perch is exceptionally tough.  Perch bought for dinner at home will only come from shops or markets where the fishmonger does all the hard work and sells filets.
  
Restaurants close to the rivers and lakes where the wild fish are caught often put on displays demonstrating the fileting of freshly caught perch.  Most fish are very much what they eat, and when grilled a wild freshwater perch will have more taste than a farmed cousin. From my experience in France, freshwater perch, wild or farmed, are often served with a sauce; however, I believe these fish are at their best when just lightly fried and served with butter. The wild fish caught by professional fishermen and women are usually the larger fish caught in lakes, and they weigh around 250 grams (10 grams); the amateurs catch the smaller sizes.
  
     
At a Sunday brunch, in France, my host who considered himself an experienced fisherman, had freshwater perch on the menu. He had solved a problem of the fish's tough skin by barbecuing them; unfortunately, few French restaurants offer barbecued perch. More to the point my host had spent three hours fishing with his two sons in a nearby stream before we arrived. While their stories of previously caught monster freshwater perch were continually referred to and that morning’s catch included at least thirty small fish; none could have weighed much over 150 grams (5 ounces).
   
The European freshwater perch
  
The French government has excellent teams that keep the freshwater fish supplies balanced in its hundreds of mainland rivers, lakes and streams. Areas popular with freshwater fishermen and women, both professional and amateurs, are re-stocked annually by the government as natural reproduction is not enough. Lac Leman, also called Lake Geneva, is one of Europe’s largest lakes, it is over 70 km (43 miles) long, and is divided between France and Switzerland. The lake is famous for its perch and also for its trout, broad whitefish, freshwater char and pike; on this lake the regulations ensuring responsible fishing are divided between France and Switzerland.  For the visitor, the majestic views, the vineyards, the forests, towns, and village around the lake are accompanied by tens of restaurants serving fresh, freshly caught fish,
     

Freshwater perch Meunier
      
Freshwater perch have a firm and white though slightly flaky meat and this tasty fish will be on many restaurant menus simply sautéed in butter. My introduction to freshwater perch was in a restaurant overlooking the lake accompanied by a dry but fruity white wine.  The fish were sautéed in butter, accompanied by boiled potatoes with a green salad on the side.  I would see that some restaurants that served fish in a butter sauce translated this melted meunière, which it isn't, though it may still be an excellent fish fried in butter.   When a restaurant serves freshwater perch with a real Sauce Meunière sauce, that means the fish is cooked in a butter sauce with added parsley and lemon juice; then it will be even better.
   

Freshwater perch ready for the chef.
 
Freshwater perch on French menus.
   
Filets de Perches du Léman, Gingembre, Verveine.  Démonstration de la Taille des Filets de Perches Devant le Restaurant - Filets of perch from Lake Geneva, prepared with ginger and lemongrass. There will be a demonstration of fileting perch in front of the restaurant.

A demonstration like that noted above will be given by the chef or a professional fisherman or woman. That may not seem, at first glance, to be a great crowd pleaser; however, in France, this will be an exhibition that French amateur fishermen or women visiting the area must attend.  Fileting freshwater perch is considered an art.  Alongside the demonstration, you may be sure that the restaurant will be offering, for a small contribution, wine, coffee and reservations for that evening.
      
Filets de Perche au Beurre Citronné, Salade Verte – Filets of perch served with a lemon butter sauce and a green salad.
     
Filets de Perche aux Fines Herbes - Filets of perch served with France’s favorite herb group Les Fine Herbes; the most important herb group in French cuisine.
  
Freshwater perch filets in a beurre citronné, a lemon butter, and white pepper sauce.
  
Filet de Perche Meunière, Mode du Patron et Asperges, Salade, Pommes Nature – A filet of fresh-water perch cooked in a Sauce Meunière prepared in the manner of the owner, and served with asparagus, a salad, and boiled potatoes. This dish sounds impressive and probably is; however since this dish is prepared in the manner of the owner ask for more information on the owner’s take on sauce meunière.
   
Perche - Freshwater perch in the languages of France’s neighbors languages:

(Dutch - baars), (German - barsch, bahrs, flussbarsch), (Italian - perca, persico, persico reale, pesce persico), (Spanish - perca, perca europea), (Latin - perca fluviatilis).

Freshwater perch in other languages:
  
(Mandarin Chinese -  (河鱸), ()), (Greek – Πρικί, xανί, kακοξύστρα, pérca chaní), (Russian -  oкунь обыкновенный, речной окунь), 
   
Help with some of the fish names in other languages shown above came from Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2013. FishBase World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (10/2013).
 
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
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