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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Écrivisse - Crayfish, Crawdad, or Crawfish. The Écrivisse is the Freshwater Crayfish and may be Among the Crustaceans on Your French Menu. Crustaceans III.

Écrivisse (L')     The freshwater crayfish.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman

    The freshwater crayfish is also called a crawfish or crawdad in the USA. Crayfish look like miniature lobsters, which they are not, even though they come complete with claws and antennae.

   These crustaceans, despite their fresh-water origins, in France and elsewhere are usually closely associated with seafood restaurants. Despite that they will, as well, be on the menu in other restaurants, or at least their tails will.


Grande Plateau d'Ecrevisses - A large plate of crayfish.

 Photograph courtesy of  Perttu Luomala. To see more of Perttu's Flickr Photostream:

With crayfish, in France, one of the most recommended wines is Chablis; the same wine often recommended for oysters.. See the post: hablis; One of France's Finest White Wines and Chablis the Town.
   Despite their looks freshwater crayfish are not related to the two-clawed lobster; or at least not in the last 100 million years or so.  Of more importance for the diner is the fact that all the meat in a crayfish, and the largest European ones reach only 200 grams, is in the tail.  If the average crayfish weighs 100 grams, and that’s a maybe, then maybe there will be 30 grams of meat in that tail; however, that can still be a extremely tasty 30 grams.

Salade d'Écrevisses - Crayfish salad.

Photograph courtesy of Peter Hilton.  
 The most famous French dish with crayfish is Poulet Marengo – Chicken Marengo.  Poulet Marengo was originally and uniquely prepared for Napoleon I, though, at that time, he was still a general. The dish is named after the Battle of Marengo, Italy, where Napoléon won, for France, one of his many battles with the Austrians. The original dish was simply but tastily made with what Napoléon's  personal chef was able to find locally;  that was chicken, white wine and fresh-water crayfish.  
Poulet Marengo.
Photograph courtesy of z_aurelie
 Today Poulet Marengo and other dishes with Marengo in their names often, have very little connection to the original recipe.  See the post: Napoléon Bonaparte and the FBI!

    Crayfish in  France range in size from 10 cm to 15 cm in length, sometimes a  little larger, and  they  will weigh between 60 to 200 grams from head to tail.  Crayfish will usually be served cold when part of a seafood platter, or in a salad, or their tails alone may be served hot as an accompaniment to other cooked dishes.  Getting at the little meat that they have is in the tail is not so effortless, and restaurants will usually have made cuts along the back of the tail that make extracting the meat quite simple.

    Open crayfish sandwich.
Photograph courtesy of  Lunatic Asylum Photostudio
    Many of the crayfish served are imported, or even when they are locally caught in the wild they may be species  that  have taken over from the original local inhabitants; usually that was a result of over-fishing and the pollution of local sources.  When a French menu names the crayfish being offered the best are considered to be the pattes rouges, the red- clawed or red-legged crayfish followed by the pattes blanche, the white clawed or white-legged crayfish.  The least expensive crayfish is the écrevisse à pattes grêles, the slender legged crayfish, and it is only rarely noted by name; when a crayfish is on the menu unnamed it will be this one.
Écrevisse à Pattes Blanches or  Écrevisse à Pieds Pâles  The White-Clawed Crayfish.
Écrevisse à Pattes Blanches - The White-Clawed Crayfish.
 Photograph courtesy of Graham Canny.
See Graham's Flickr Photostream:
   The Écrevisse à Pattes Blanches or  Écrevisse à Pieds Pâles  - The white-clawed crayfish is a local crayfish, and both farmed in France and caught in the wild. In certain parts of France catching these crayfish in the wild is now forbidden as over-fishing for crayfish in certain regions has become a  serious problem. (German –dohlenkrebs), (Italian - gambero dai piedi bianchi), (Spanish - cangrejos de río, cangrejo autóctono, cangrejo de patas blancas).
    Ris de Veau Braisé aux Écrevisses “Pattes Blanches”, Méli-mélo de Légumes Croquants – Braised veal sweetbreads served with the white clawed crayfish and crispy vegetables. Méli-mélo means matching, but contrasting tastes.
   Filet de Sandre aux Écrevisses à Pattes Blanches et Asperges Vertes –Filet of pike-perch, a freshwater fish, with the white-clawed crayfish and green asparagus.
Écrevisse à Pattes Grêles –
 The slender legged crayfish.
   Écrevisse à Pattes Grêles,  Écrevisse de Turquie The Turkish Crayfish, the Danube Crayfish,  the Galician Crayfish, and in France the slender legged crayfish.  The slender legged or Turkish crayfish is the least expensive, and is  the crayfish most often seen on menus and then just called an écrevisse, a crayfish.  These are the smallest crayfish on French menus and rarely reach 100 grams,that means, possibly 30 grams of meat.  This crayfish was introduced into local waters from Turkey in the 1960’s, and they have adapted well. These crayfish  are only rarely identified by name. (German – sumpfkrebs), (Italian - gambero turco, gambero di Galizia), (Spanish - cangrejo turco),
   Filets de Rougets et Queues d'Écrevisses Red mullet served with crayfish tails.
   Ravioles aux Écrevisses et Pointes d'Asperges Crayfish tail ravioli served with asparagus tips. For more about asparagus on French menus see the post: French Asparagus, Green and White.
    Écrevisse à Pattes Grêles à la Crème de Radis Rose – The slender legged crayfish served with a creamy red radish sauce; here it is named on the menu.
Écrevisse à Pattes Rouges or Écrevisse Noble
  The Noble Crayfish or Red clawed crayfish.
Écrevisse à Pattes Rouges - The Noble Crayfish    
Photograph courtesy of nickpix2012
   The Noble crayfish, when caught locally, will be the most expensive of the local crayfish.  (German  - edelkrebs), (Italian - gambero dai piedi rossi), (Spanish - cangrejo noble, cangrejo de patas rojas.),
    Morilles Fraîches aux Queues d'Écrevisses "Pattes Rouges" Fresh morel mushrooms prepared with the tails of the noble crayfish.
    Quenelles de Brochet de la Maison aux Écrevisses 'Pattes Rouges' du Léman - Home-made fish dumplings  served with the noble crayfish from Lac Leman, Lake Geneva.
    Écrevisse Américaine  - see Écrevisse Rouge de Louisiane.
    Écrevisse de Turquie  - see Écrevisse à Pattes Grêles.
Écrevisse Rouge de Louisiane 
or Écrevisse Américaine –   
The Louisiana crayfish.

Écrevisse Rouge de Louisiane - The Louisiana crayfish.
  Photograph courtesy of francois et fier de l'Être. 
  The Louisiana  crayfish  also often called the American crayfish, the écrevisse Américaine was imported into Europe and released in the wild, where it has established itself well, often to the detriment of local species.  It is not yet usually on the menu but with natural population growth that many change.. (German - sumpfkrebs, Louisiana flusskrebs), (Italian - gambero della Louisiana, gambero rosso della Louisiana)(Spanish - cangrejo rojo, cangrejo de las marismas).

Bryan G Newman
Behind the French Menu
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