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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bisques and Seafood Bisques on French Menus

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated February 2018.   
A crab bisque.
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 newer changes are permitting bisques to be associated with a particular texture.  These changes have allowed the creation of vegetable bisques and a variety of bisque sauces.

Shellfish bisques are still the most popular bisques and 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 HomardA lobster bisque.
Shrimp bisque
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 rouille to your 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 like a real scorpion, rather it has poisonous spines; fishermen and women pick them out of the net wearing gloves. This fish is an essential part of a real Bouillabaisse.
Bisque de Tomate de Vigne Grillée – Grilled vine tomatoes partly very roughly pureed, flavored with herbs and made into a bisque 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 presented in a manner rarely seen in bisques.  The chef has inferred a connection to the texture of a seafood bisque and that will have French diners thinking,  wondering and then, probably try it.
A Tomato bisque.
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 - A bisque made with the crabe étrille also called the crabe batailler;  this is a small but tasty crab, the velvet swimming crab. While they are one of those tastiest crabs they are considered too small to be served on their own as they are rarely more than 7 cms (3") across and 50% of that is the shell. Nevertheless, unnamed on most menus,  the velvet swimming crab is used to add flavor to crab soups and or fish soups. In this menu listing these tasty, small, crabs are honored by being offered in a soup where they play the leading role.   (The most popular crab in France is the larger edible crabe tourteau, the edible brown crab).

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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For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman