Saturday, July 28, 2012

Soupe - Soup. The Treasures to be Found in in French Soups. A Lexicon of French Soups.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated 2019.
Onion soup with toasted baguettes and cheese.
Photograph courtesy of jefferyw
Your French menu may offer a bisque, a bouillon, a chaudrée, a consommé, a crème, a marmite, a potage, a soupe, a velouté and more.  The categories for soups were laid out by Antonin (Marie Antoine) Carême (1784 – 1833), the most famous chef from the age of French Haute Cuisine.  Still today, in France and all over the world, the same categories may give you a fairly clear idea of how the soup on your menu will be made.  A few changes have been made, and a couple of names added, but the lexicon that follows covers most soups that will be on current French menus.
A lexicon of French soups.
Originally all bisques were rich fish soups; today the bisques on most menus will be pureed shellfish soups. However, changes are being made as chefs identify bisques by texture rather than by ingredients; that has allowed for the creation of fish and vegetable bisques.  Additionally, bisques served as soups we also have bisque sauces; a thickened sauce bisque may be the sauce for the main dish.
Bisque de Langouste - A rock lobster bisque.  The rock lobster is the owner of the lobster tail and is far less costly than the two-clawed lobster.  N.B. The European two-clawed lobster, the homard, is much more expensive than its North American cousin,
Bisque de Rascasse et sa Rouille  - A bisque made with the delicious scorpion fish also called sea robin fish: here it will be served with a spicy rouille sauce served on the side, and you add the sauce to suit your personal tastes.
Lobster bisque
Bisque de Tomate de Vigne Grillée – A  tomato bisque made of grilled vine tomatoes. Here, the texture of the grilled tomatoes has allowed the chef to call this a bisque.
Gambas sur Spaghetti à l'Èncre de Sèche et Sauce Bisque d'Écrevisse – Large shrimps served on a bed of spaghetti colored with cuttlefish ink and accompanied by a freshwater crayfish bisque sauce.
Couscous de Crevettes et sa Sauce Bisque de Langoustines - Couscous served with shrimps accompanied by a bisque sauce made from Dublin Bay prawns.
A light soup or broth made with the strained liquids from boiled vegetables, meat, poultry, fish or seafood, An authentic bouillon will be distinctly different to those cubes sold in supermarkets under the same name.
Bouillon de Gros Haricots – A bouillon made with large beans.
Bouillon de Poulet – A chicken bouillon; a clear chicken broth.

Sea bass with basil bouillon 
The cappuccino is a relatively new addition to the world of soups. None of the great chefs from Antonin to Escoffier and Prosper Montagné would have recognized the name as soup.  The origin of the name used for a cappuccino coffee comes from the color of the hood of a Capuchin friar's robe. While it is evident the origins of the word cappuccino has nothing to with the coffee’s froth, do not get confused by the facts. On your menu soups and desserts with cappuccino in the name indicates a dish with a distinct froth.
A Capuchin monk
Photograph courtesy of TEDXSingapore
Cappuccino de Soupe de Poissons de Roche – A sea fish soup made from small fish caught near to shore and served with a frothy finish.
Cappuccino de Petits Pois aux Escargots Petit pois are small, young, peas. This menu listing is pea soup prepared with a frothy top and served with snails.

Fish and seafood chowders and now also vegetable chowders. The name comes from the word chaudière, the traditional pot or cauldron in which fisherman and women cooked their unsold fish and seafood as a soup or stew at the end of a working day. Today, chefs create chowders around fish or seafood, often choosing a single fish, clam or mussel.  Nearly all French fish and seafood chowders include white wine, garlic, potatoes and herbs, and many of the recipes include crème fraîche.
Clam chowder deluxe
Chaudrée de Fruit de Mers au Safran – A seafood chowder flavored with saffron.
Chaudrée de Palourdes – Clam chowder.

A consommé is a clear or clarified soup originally only made with veal, beef or poultry; today there are fish and vegetable consommés.  A real consommé must be clear, but that does not mean without color.  A consommé may be offered hot, cold or jelled,  In the French kitchen a consommé double, a double consommé,  is an intensely concentrated consommé and plays an important in the preparation of many other soups and sauces.
Consomme Brunoise  – A consommé with carrots, leeks, and other vegetables cut a la brunoise. A brunoise cut for vegetables is a cut about 2mm thick.
Consommé Double de Bœuf aux Xeres – A concentrated beef consommé flavored with sherry.

Cream soups; the cream may be a light touch or a very creamy soup. Cream soups can be beautiful creations, and the addition of crème fraiche, that uniquely French creation, can give cream soups that “je ne sais quoi” when compared with a similar soup made with regular cream.  Many French crèmes will include pieces of meat, fish or vegetables.
Chilled cream of tomato and peach soup
with fresh white peaches.
Crème Du Barry or Crème Dubarry – A cream of cauliflower soup named after the famous, or rather infamous, mistress of Louis XV, the Countess du Barry.
Crème d’Huîtres à l'Oseille – A cream of oyster soup flavored with sorrel.

 Garbures are thick soups, practically stews; these soups originated in the southwest of France. Garbures began as the stews made by the peasants mostly made with vegetables or with very little meat; when did the peasants see meat?   Today, on restaurant menus, a garbure may still be a thick vegetable soup, but most include ham, and or duck, or goose confit. These are usually very filling soups or stews that are typically part of winter menus in France’s southwest. Garbures are often large enough to be considered a complete meal and more; check with your waiter how they serve a garbure before ordering an appetizer or main course.
Garbure Landaise
From the department of Landes now in the new super region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.
Landes was part of the old region of Aquitaine that was part of Gasconny
Garbure Landaise – As may be expected from the department of Landes in Nouvelle Aquitaine this recipe will include duck’s legs and wings.
Garbure Béarnaise  – This is supposed to be the original recipe for a garbure and often offered with pork or duck confit; the soup will be hearty and filling so just enjoy. The garbure here has nothing to do with Sauce Béarnaise, the dish’s name refers to the old province of Bearn. 
Marmites are mostly fish and seafood soups and stews; the word marmite comes from the name of the cooking utensil in which the soup or stew is prepared. The French marmite has nothing whatsoever to do with the traditional UK Marmite which is a vegetarian based spread and flavoring.
Marmite aux Poissons et Fruits de Mer – A shellfish and saltwater fish soup. There is no single recipe for a marmite with fish and shellfish; so ask for more information on the fish and seafood in the marmite on the menu.
Marmite Dieppoise – A traditional fish soup from the port and fishing town of Dieppe in Normandie, Normandy.  This will be a saltwater fish soup with some versions having mussels and the occasional scallop for good luck.  Locally, the soup will include that day’s catch, and that can change daily and then so will your soup’s taste. The Marmite Dieppoise has a white wine and cream or crème fraîche base; additional flavor will come with herbs and vegetables that the chef considers suitable.  Ask about the fish in today’s soup.
Potages are thick soups, or at least they were originally; nowadays it is better to consider soupes and potages as interchangeable names.  Hopefully, the menu will provide a clear description, but don’t always expect it, so you may have to ask.
   Potage du Jour – Soup of the day; ask!
   Potage aux Légumes – A vegetable soup.
   Potage au Cresson - Watercress soup   
Soupe is the word that includes all the different types of soups in this post and includes others such as cold soups like vichyssoise and gazpacho as well as dessert soups made with fruit.
Soupe à l'Oignon  - Onion soup;  the most famous of  France's many traditional soups.  French onion soup comes with many variations and a memorable soupe a la oignon is a truly existential experience.
Soupe de Fruits – A cold fruit soup. Some fruit soups suit the requirements of a soup and others are cold stewed fruit salads.  Cold fruit soups can be perfect on a hot day.
 Soupe Glacée de Tomates – A cold tomato soup.
Soupe de Poisson -  A fish soup.  Fish soups will be on menus with freshwater or saltwater fish and may include shellfish; your menu should tell you more.
Veloutés are smooth soups made from, at least formerly, a sauce base. A velouté began as one the five mother sauces of French cuisine. The mother sauces are behind all traditional French soups and sauce. A veloute was a sauce with a smooth, velvety texture; the soup came later. The origin of the word velouté traces back to the word for velvet in the French Occitan language.
 A pea veloute.
Velouté d'Ail aux Escargots – A velvety garlic flavored soup served with snails.
Velouté de Cressonnette aux Crevettes – A velvety watercress soup served with shrimps.
Some soups are unique and reject any attempt to put them in one of the groups noted here; that applies to fish soups such as bouillabaisse.     Bouillabaisse when correctly prepared is a complete meal by itself and yet it is not called a stew.  Soups and stews cross boundaries and not only with fish; French meat soups and stews that contain the name potée in their name is another example.  In one area of France, a potée may be a simple and quickly prepared meat soup and in another area be a slowly cooked meat stew such as a potée boulangère.
Bryan G..Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019

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  1. Your explanations behind French soup are fantastic! I am working on understanding and cooking French soups, and your explanations have really given me a better grasp, but made them a whole lot more interesting, merci beaucoup!

  2. Je préfère la Crème de tomate dans un bol en pain.
    (I prefer tomato soup in a bread bowl.)