Monday, July 30, 2012

Saumon, Saumon Atlantique - Salmon. Salmon in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated April 2019
The Atlantic Salmon

Saumon – Salmon.

The only salmon that calls Europe its real home is the Atlantic Salmon, and it is France's best-selling fish, just ahead of cod.  It will be on the menu marinated, fried, poached, grilled and smoked. Salmon is also number two in the fish restaurant popularity stakes just after fresh cod.
The Atlantic Salmon's French names include: Saumon; Saumon Atlantique; Tacon  Atlantique; Saumon Baltic; Saumon Écossais; Saumon Norvégien or Saumon Sauvage.
In English the names for the Atlantic Salmon include: Salmon, Atlantic Salmon, Black Salmon, Baltic Salmon Sea  Salmon, Silver salmon, Irish Salmon, Scotch Salmon, Norwegian Salmon and Wild Salmon.  

Atlantic Salmon on French menus:

Carpaccio de Saumon, (Huile d'Olive, Toasts) – Salmon Carpaccio  flavored with olive oil and served with toast on the side.

Carpaccio de Saumon 
Dos de Saumon en Croute d'Herbes, Sauce Paloise - A thick cut from the back of  the salmon, baked in a crust of herbs, and served with a Sauce Paloise. a granddaughter, or perhaps a grandson of one of France’s mother sauces, Sauce Hollandaise.      

Grilled salmon with teriyaki sauce.

Hure de Saumon – Translated without any good reason as salmon head cheese,  or the nearly as bad, salmon pate since this dish is neither.  Hure de saumon is a fillet of salmon and parsley; steamed or braised and then prepared for display with a gelatin coating, nothing to do with a salmon’s head, any type of cheese or pate.  A hure de saumon will be served cold with fresh mayonnaise and is often part of a buffet offering.
Millefeuille de Saumon Fumé, Sorbet Citron Vert – Layers of smoked salmon interleaved with a vegetable and served with a lime sorbet. With salmon, in season, the vegetable that makes the millefeuille in this dish will often be thin slices of avocado.
Pavé de Saumon Norvégien à la Provençale – A thick cut of Norwegian farm-raised Atlantic salmon prepared with a traditional Provençale recipe. The dish will include lots of tomatoes, and the Provençale flavor will be coming from the herb group called the Herbes de Provence, along with shallots and a small amount of garlic, local black olives and parsley. Additions such as cream or crème fraiche and white wine are at the chef’s discretion; however, they were not part of the traditional recipe.

Dos de Saumon Sauce à l'Aneth
A thick cut of salmon with a dill sauce.
Carpaccio de Saumon

Saumoneau de Fontaine Sauce Suprème aux Cèpes - Young salmon (smolt) from the river served with a sauce supreme and cepes, the French porcinin mushrooms. Sauce Supreme is a white sauce made with veal or chicken stock, butter and crème fraiche; here the stock may be a fumet, a fish stock.

Saumon Ecossaise Label Rouge
Farmed Scottish salmon holding the French red label for consistent quality and concerned animal husbandry.



Scottish farmed salmon was the first non-French product to be awarded the French Label Rouge, red label. The Scottish Label Rouge salmon also comes with the British RSPCA label of Freedom food.  The RSPCA, Freedom Food Rating is the highest standard for farmed-fish in the world. The RSPCA inspects cleanliness, type of food, prevents overcrowding and ensures the absolute minimum of discomfort when the fish are brought in.       

This Scottish salmon is so flavorful, and is farmed under such uniquely clean and controlled conditions that only five Scottish salmon farms have so been awarded the French red label of excellence.
Filet de Saumon Écossais Label Rouge à l'Unilatérale, Pommes Sautées au Persil – A filet of Scottish label rouge salmon lightly fried through from the skin side of the filet, and served with boiled potatoes flavored with parsley. Cooking fish à l'unilatérale is considered the best way to fry a filet of fish; by cooking only on the skin side of the filet the flavor of the fish is not affected by the cooking oil as it would be if cooked on both sides.
Blanquette de Saumon Écossais Label Rouge aux Girolles, Marrons et Graines de MoutardeA stew of label rouge Scottish salmon served with girolle chanterelle mushroomschestnuts and flavored with mustard grains.  The recipes for blanquette stews almost always include mushrooms and a cream sauce; many recipes include white wine. France has many chestnut forests and the recipes that include chestnuts are endless. 

Salade de jambon cru et saumon Francaise fume
A salad of cured ham and French smoked salmon
Two different tastes and textures that go so well together
Many  French chefs smoke their own salmon.  When you see, on a French menu, Fumé Maison, home smoked, then the chef is in charge of the smoking;  that will be smoked salmon made with love; it will not have been bought at from a restaurant wholesaler or supermarket!
Salade d’Asperges Vertes, Saumon Fumé et Son Œuf Poché – A salad of green asparagus served with smoked salmon and a poached egg.
Saumon Fumé Maison et Ses Toasts – Home smoked salmon served with warm toast.
   Saumon Cru or Saumon Mariné
Marinated salmon or cured salmon.
Cured salmon is sometimes mistranslated as raw; sashimi is raw, saumon cru is not, it has been marinated. I have had fabulous meals that included marinated salmon; twice, once in Paris, and once in Lyon I enjoyed the nearest thing to the “absolute” saumon mariné.

Saumon Mariné à l'Aneth – Salmon marinated in dill. Dill is the most popular herb, in France, for marinating salmon, and the dill is applied with a light touch. The result may be some of the best marinated salmon you will ever encounter. When saumon mariné à l'aneth is on the menu do not pass it by.

          Marinated salmon
Saumon Mariné au Citron Vert et Aneth -  Salmon marinated in lime juice and dill. When thinly sliced I think that French marinated salmon is the only salmon that comes close to the texture of the very best and thinly sliced smoked salmon.

Salmon Marine au Thym Salmon marinated with thyme.
Saumon Gravlax, Gravadlax or Gravad Lax

Gravlax is a dish of Scandinavian origin; it is the Scandinavian take on marinated salmon and it preceded the French recipe. Gravlax has a different texture and taste and is very popular in France. Gravlax is made with whole filets of salmon, cured in a nearly, but not quite, freezing, mixture of salt, sugar, pepper and dill; it is  served thinly sliced though not  as thin as the French marinated salmon.

During  a visit to Sweden I was told that the name gravlax comes from the Swedish be-grava meaning “to bury” and the word lax, of course,  means “salmon.”  The name indicates that the recipe preceded refrigerators when it would have been wild, not farmed salmon that was buried and marinated under the snow for two or three days during the long winter.  With snow expected nine months a year in many parts of Sweden that was probably close to the home, almost certainly close to the kitchen door.

Saumon Sauvage de l'Adour Mariné Façon Gravlax, Tomates Confites, Câpres et Fleur d'ail - Wild salmon from the Adour River, prepared as Gravlax and served with a thick jam, a confit, of tomatoes and flavored with capers and garlic flowers.  The Adour is one of France’s shorter rivers; the river rises in the Pyrenees and flows in an arc for nearly 330 km before reaching the sea below the city of Bayonne. Despite the Ardour's short length, it is famous for its wild salmon; here, you will be enjoying wild salmon, and since fish are undeniably very much what they eat; the difference in texture and taste to farmed salmon will be evident.
Tartare de Saumon – Salmon Tartar.
Tartare –  The Tatars; the tribes who, under Genghis Khan overran much of Asia and parts of Europe. In the French kitchen, the Tartars are now best remembered for the beef dish created by a French chef in their memory: Steak Tartare, Steak Tartar. Following on that success, another French chef begat Tartare de Saumon, salmon Tartar; that was followed by another chef who begat Tartare de Tomates, tomato Tartar.  From then on, like the real Tartars, there was no stopping them; one after other chefs begat and begot numerous new creations all named after the Tartars.

Tartare de Saumon -  Salmon tartar. Diced, marinated, fresh uncooked salmon prepared together with diced onions, chives, eggs, capers, parsley, olive oil, pepper, and lemon juice. Tartare de Saumon will be served as an entrée, the French first course.

Tartare de Saumon et Pétoncles – Salmon and queen-scallop (queenies) Tartar; prepared in the same manner as the Salmon Tartar dish above.

Tartare de saumon pamplemousse
Salmon and grapefruit Tatar.
Tartare de Saumon Baltic Fumé à l'Aneth et au Citron Vert   Baltic salmon, smoked with dill and flavored with lime.   The usage of the name Baltic salmon is just menuise (the language of menus) as the Baltic salmon is the same fish as the Atlantic Salmon. The fish offered here came from a Baltic Sea salmon-farm, and so they will not be too different to Norwegian farmed salmon as they will be fed the same food. Despite my caveat, there are the wild salmon that inhabit the Baltic sea, rivers and fiords of the countries around the sea. The brackish water of the Baltic provides different foods supplies for the wild salmon who live there, and that certainly provides a different taste. The Baltic sea does connect to the North Sea and so from there into the Atlantic.  Look at the Baltic Sea is virtually surrounded by Sweden, Finland, the Danish Islands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and Russia.
France is home to many excellent Japanese restaurants including those with Michelin stars. You may enjoy salmon sushi, sashimi and more all over France; apart from many excellent Japanese restaurants, you will find French chefs who have adopted Japanese recipes to French cuisine. Whatever the method of preparation you will rarely be disappointed when ordering salmon in France.
 Over 98% of salmon on sale in French fish-markets and on restaurant menus will be the Atlantic salmon; it will have been farm-raised in Norway, Ireland, Scotland and a few other European countries. The other 2% of Atlantic Salmon will be saumon sauvage, wild Atlantic salmon, from the Atlantic or the North Sea, Scottish rivers or France’s own rivers. A small amount of wild salmon, mostly saumon rouge, sockeye salmon, also called red salmon, is imported, frozen, from North America.  I have heard that some saumon rose, humpback salmon may come from Russia or the North of Sweden to which it has migrated.  If the humpack salmon migrate any further south we may see this member of the salmon family claiming a European Union passport   

The Atlantic Salmon in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Dutch – zalm), (German – Atlantischer lachs, lachs), (Italian –salmone atlantico), (Spanish – salmón), (Latin - salmo salar).

Below are the French names for other salmon species; many countries have excellent French restaurants and  excellent French chefs,  and they may be serving a salmon other than Atlantic salmon.
Saumon Argenté or Saumon Coho - Coho salmon.
(Latin - oncorhynchus kisutch).

Saumon Chinook or Saumon Royale – Chinook or King salmon.
(Latin - oncorhynchus tshawytscha).

Saumon Keta or  Saumon du Pacifique - Chum Salmon or Keta salmon.
(Latin - oncorhynchus keta)

Saumon Rose or Saumon Rose à Bosse – Pink salmon or Humpback salmon.
(Latin - oncorhynchus gorbuscha).

Saumon Rouge - Sockeye salmon or Red salmon.
(Latin - oncorhynchus nerka).

Saumon de Fontaine – This is not a salmon; rather this is the brook trout, a tasty member of the trout/salmon family. These are fresh water fish and an excellent menu choice; however, they are not salmon.
Bryan G Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013, 2019
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman.

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  1. I just found your blog and am going to have to spend a lot of time with it! What a great resource. I have been living in Paris for over a year, love food, and often have questions about it, like "why is all the salmon here farmed?". (Well, now I know!) I come from CA and adore wild salmon, steelhead, trout, etc, and was kind of sad to only see farmed salmon here. Thanks for such a well-researched blog!

  2. Hi Lynn,

    Thank you for the comment.

    France, nor anywhere in Europe can compete with North America for the variety and availability of fresh salmon. Europe has a single salmon, the Atlantic salmon, and dining on wild Atlantic salmon will not be inexpensive.

    France, however, with its many wonderful chefs does wonders, even with farmed salmon. If you choose, in France, Scottish farmed salmon, which reaches French restaurants, with the French Label Rouge then at least you will know that someone is looking at how they raise the fish. It will also taste better.

    When back home read your menus and super market labels carefully; farmed salmon is also a very large business in North America. You should be aware of that.

    In the meantime, when in France, consider trying all the many types of fresh or freshly caught and chilled fish that you will rarely see on the other side of the pond.

    In the meantime bon appetit!

    despite the farmed salmon enjoy dining in France.


    Bryan Newman

    Behind the French Menu