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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bisques and Seafood Bisques on French Menus

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

A Lobster bisque.
Photograph courtesy of Ulterior Epicure.
Originally bisques were rich fish soups; however, that is rarely the case today. So what will you be served when you order a bisque from a French menu today?  When French chefs began moving rich fish soups off  the menus they began using the term bisque for pureed shellfish soups. Now things are permitting new changes and bisques are soups associated with a particular texture and composition.  This change has allowed French chefs to create vegetable bisques where the texture suits the name.   

Shellfish bisques which are still the most popular come with recipes that usually include white wine, fresh cream or crème fraîche; in France the wine may be supported by Cognac or another eau-de-vie.  Food traditions do change in France.
On your menu, you may  be offered:
Bisque de Crevettes –  A shrimp bisque.

Bisque d'Écrevisses A crayfish bisque.  
Bisque de Homard - A lobster bisque.

A lobster bisque.
Photograph courtesy of istargazerr.
Bisque de Rascasse et sa Rouille  - A bisque made with the scorpion fish or sea robin fish: served with a spicy rouille sauce on the side. You add the sauce to your own taste.
The scorpion or sea robin is one of France’s tastiest fish and it is caught in the Mediterranean. It has no tail with a stinger, rather it has poisonous spines and fishermen and women pick them out of the net wearing gloves. This fish, among others, is an essential part of any real Bouillabaisse.
Bisque de Tomate de Vigne Grillée – Grilled vine tomatoes that are pureed, flavored with herbs and made into a bisquer with added white wine and crème fraiche.
Chefs know they need to create interest for new dishes, especially dishes that use ingredients prepared differently; here are grilled vine tomatoes, a vegetable prepared in a manner rarely seen in soups.  To the newness of this dish the chef has inferred a connection by calling this creation from its texture a bisque.  . Calling this new soup a bisque will have French diners thinking,  wondering and  then, probably trying it; I know I would.

A Tomato bisque.
Photograph courtesy of mike_mccormick
At this point, I should emphasize how educated French diners are; they begin learning to appreciate food at an early age. In State-run schools there is a three-course meal every day, accompanied only by water. The meal must take a minimum of thirty minutes and the children know what they are eating.

Bisque d'étrilles
Photograph by courtesy of G. Willson

Bisque d'étrilles - A bisque made with the crabe étrille also called the crabe batailler,  this is a small crab, the velvet swimming crab. In France, this is one of those very tasty crabs that are too small to be served on their own; this particular crab is rarely more than 7 cms across, but being so tasty it will not be left out of the pot. Usually they are  used to add flavor to crab soups and or fish soups; here these tasty, small, crabs are honored by being offered a soup all to themselves.  

The crabe etrille – the velvet swimming crab.
Photograph courtesy of cd100
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
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