Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sardines – Sardines. The Sardine in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated March 2020.
If you have not tasted freshly grilled sardines,
you have not really tasted sardines.
Sardine, Sardine Commune, Sardine d'Europe
The names for the sardine in France.
Fresh sardines taste nothing like canned sardines, nothing at all, so begin your entry into the world of fresh sardines with a sardine entrée, the French first course. Order fresh grilled sardines, that's Sardines Fraîches Grillées, or marinated sardines, Sardines Fraiche Marinées. Afterward, you will be licking your lips every time you think about them.

A grapefruit, fennel, and sardine salad.
The fresh sardines served in France are quite a bit larger than those we see in a can. A portion for a French entrée, the starter, will be three or four fish. The fishermen and fisherwomen will sell small sardines, along with similar-looking small fish to the canning industry; if they are tiny, they may appear on the menu as a Friture de Poissons a tasty fish fry.

Where did the sardine get its name?
The name sardine relates historically to the pilchards, and similar small fish caught off the coast of the Italian island of Sardinia. These were the first fish to be preserved, in large quantities, by packing them in oil; hence from the Island of Sardinia came sardines. Around France’s freshwater lakes, small fresh lake-fish may also be on the 
Your French menu may offer:
Filets de Sardines Fraîches Marinées au Citron Vert et Feuilles de Coriandre - Filets of fresh sardines marinated in lime and coriander leaves.
Marinated sardines
Sardines Fraîches Grillées – Grilled fresh sardines.
Sardines Fumées - Smoked sardines; a unique treat.

Rillettes de Sardines Fraîches à la Ciboulette -  Fresh sardines grilled, boned and then mashed and flavored with chives; they make a tasty spread on toast. Rillettes are more often on menus when made with goose, duck or pork, but definitely should not be ignored when made with fresh sardines.
A sardine fishing boat
Gulls and others have a free lunch
 They catching any fish they can reach when the net is reeled in.

Une Fougasse de Sardines Fraiches, Huile d'Olive au Basilic et Vinaigrette de Tomate – A fougasse with fresh sardines, basil flavored olive oil and a tomato vinaigrette. The fougasse was originally a crusty Provencal bread. It is made of baguette dough brushed with olive oil and flavored with orange zest, and that is still the tradition. However,  Fougasse bread has changed beyond recognition. Now Fougasse comes with a wide variety of shapes and flavorings or fillings.  For more about the different types of French bread click here.
     The canned sardine
Visiting France’s fishing ports and their celebrations.
When traveling to France, there is more than just restaurants to dine in and chateaus and museums to visit. Call or mail the French Government Tourist office in your home country and ask for information on fetes in the area where you will be staying. There are fetes for breads, cheeses, fruits, beef, sausages, wines, fish and even sardines; that’s apart from fetes and festivals for music, art, and antiques, etc.
Spaghettis aux sardines, sauce tomate.
Spaghetti with sardines and a tomato sauce.
This spaghetti dish has a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and, of course, flavored just before serving with one of France’s AOP olive oils.
If you have already arrived in France when you read this, walk into the local tourist information office. There are over 1,600 Tourist Information Offices scattered around France, and one will be near you with someone who speaks English. The adverts for these fetes are mostly in French, but there will invariably be music, attractions for the kids, and food and wines fetes that will be tastings and cooking instructions with more options than you can think of. Entrance is always free, and overseas visitors are always welcome.   
Soupe des Sardines - Sardine soup.
Fêtes de la Sardine  de La Turballe
Consider, as an example, the Sardine Fete held in the beautiful small town, (pop 5,000) of La Turballe. La Turballe is in the department of the Loire-Atlantique, in the région of the Pays de la Loire. The Prefecture, the departmental capital of Loire-Atlantique, is the lovely city of Nantes, just 80 km (54 miles) away. They have two Fêtes de la Sardine, the first on the third Saturday in July and the second on the third Saturday in August. N.B. Always always check the dates of celebrations with the nearest Tourist Information Office or in the case of La Turballe on their English language website:
You may visit La Turballe’s fête from 11:30 in the morning until 10:00 at night.  There you will be offered tastings of grilled sardines, sardine based fish soups, sardine tartare, and many other tempting dishes as well as other local products. The organizers claim that during fete a ton of sardines is consumed!  All the sardines you can eat may be accompanied by the extensive choice of the wines of the Pay de la Loire.
The fishing port of La Turballe.
At other times stop at La Turballe for lunch even when there are no sardines. All year round, there will be fresh sole, mackerel, skateSt Peter's fishmonkfish, and many other fish and seafood options in the local restaurants. Take time to visit the town's museum, La Maison de la Pêche, their fishing museum. The museum's website is in French, but using Google or Bing translate, you will be able to understand it very well:

When you have eaten enough sardines or other fish for lunch, take a short drive, about 10 km (6 miles), to La Turballe's beaches. There you may rent an umbrella and a beach chair and relax and watch the world go by. If you are traveling in the area, note that Guérande, so famous for its Fleur de Sel, is only 7 km (4 miles) away. 
Great Cliff Beach at La Turnballe.
There are food and wine festivals in nearly every French City town and village. Do not miss out on France's wine roads, cheese trails, and fetes for everything from sardines to figs. 
Sardines in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan - sardina),(Dutch – pelser, sardien),(German – sardine, pilchard), (Italian - sardine, sarda, sardella, sardina comune), (Spanish - sardine commune), (sardina pilchardus).


Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2014, 2020

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