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Friday, June 29, 2012

Perche, Perche Commune. Perch: Fresh Water Perch. Freshwater Perch on French Menus.

European freshwater perch on the menu.
Enjoy a special treat.
Behind the French Menu. 
Bryan G. Newman


The European freshwater perch
Photograph by courtesy of Derek Haslam.
Perche, Perche Commune, Perche Européenne, Perche Fluviatile - Perch, The European Perch, Freshwater Perch, Eurasian Perch, River Perch.  In France perch are among the top ten most popular freshwater fish ordered in restaurants.
Freshwater perch will be on French menus as filets.
Small and large freshwater perch will be served as filets; 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 simply grilled a wild freshwater perch does 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 500 grams (just over half a pound).
 I was invited to a Sunday brunch, in France, and saw that my host  who considered himself an experienced game sportsman, had freshwater perch on the menu. My host had solved  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, that morning’s catch included at least thirty small fish; none could have weighed much over 150 grams.
Freshwater perch
Photograph courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library
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, 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 70kms (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 insuring 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, if not hundreds, of restaurants serving fresh, ostensibly freshly caught in the lake.
A restaurant window near Lac Leman, Lake Geneva.
Photograph courtesy of keepps
Freshwater perch on French menus.
Freshwater perch have a firm and white though slightly flaky meat and this tasty fish will be on many restaurant menu simply sautéed in butter. My introduction to freshwater perch. 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.  Some restaurants that serve fish in a butter sauce call  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 meunière sauce, that means the fish are cooked in a butter sauce with added parsley and lemon juice, then it will be even better.
Filets de Perches du Léman, Gingembre, Verveine.  Démonstration de la Taille des Filets de Perches Devant le Restaurant. Filets of perch from Lac Léman, Lake Geneva, prepared with ginger and lemon grass. 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. It 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 on the side.
Filets de Perche aux Fines Herbes - Filets of perch served with France’s favorite herb group. (See the post: The Fine Herbs; Les Fine Herbes; the Most Important Herb Group in French Cuisine.)

Freshwater perch filets served in a white wine based sauce.
Photograph courtesy of JaBB
Filet de Perche Meunière, Mode du Patron et Asperges, Salade, Pommes Nature – A filet of French 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 meunière before ordering it.
Freshwater European perch in other languages:

(Mandarin Chinese -  (河鱸), ()), (German - barsch, bahrs, bersich, flussbarsch),  (Greek – Πρικί, xανί, kακοξύστρα, pérca chaní), (Italian - perca, persico, persico reale, pesce persico), (Russian -  oкунь обыкновенный, речной окунь),  (Spanish - perca, perca europea).
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., version (10/2013).
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman