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Friday, July 31, 2015

Anguille, Anguille d'Europe - Freshwater Eels in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
   Updated October 2017
A freshwater eel.
The European Eel.
Anguille, Anguille d'Europe, Angèle or Pibales  –  The European eel; The Common eel or River eel.  Eels are a traditional and popular dish all over Europe and no less so in France. Eels will be on the menus of the best French restaurants served on or off the bone, sautéed, baked, grilled and smoked. Eels are also part of many French freshwater fish stews or prepared as an eel stew where they star on their own. Only Japan has more eel recipes. In the UK and in parts of North America eels are prepared with traditional recipes, but rarely seen there in the top-of-the-line-restaurants. Eels are fatty and so they will be cooked or smoked to remove most of the fat. The eel has a pleasant but different flavor to fish with a slightly flaky meat.
The European eel in French cuisine

     Matelote d'Anguille –  A fresh-water eel stew.  This is a very popular traditional dish. Most eel stews are made with red wine.
A cut of lobster tail, with eel pate served in pastry.
The lobster tail comes from the rock lobster.

     Anguilles du Marais sur le Grill – Grilled eels from the marshes. This offering was on a menu in a restaurant close to the city of Angoulême. Angoulême is in the department of Charente, just twenty minutes away from the town of Cognac. The locals consider the Angouleme marsh eels to be the best. Restaurants offering these marsh eels are sure to put their provenance on the menu.  The French word marais means marshes, and the large and historic area of Paris called Le Marais was once marshland.  Angouleme should not be strange to UK visitors. Countess Isabella of Angoulême (1188 -1246) was the Queen Consort of King John of England. Isabella of Angouleme was his second wife.
     Friture d'Anguilles du Lac de Grand-Lieu en Persillade  - A fry-up of eels.  These eels are from the Grand Lieu Lake to the South- West of the city of Nantes.  Deep fried eel is very popular, here it will have been cut into small pieces and served with French fries on the side.
Smoked eel.
       Duo de Saumons Marinés et Fumés, Anguille Fumée – A paired serving of marinated salmon and smoked eel. When salmon is marinated, it is the only dish that can compete with the best smoked salmon for taste and texture. Here the marinated salmon is served with smoked eel and that is an excellently paired contrast in tastes and textures.
Anguille Croustillante, Sabayon de Vinaigre de Cidre et Carottes au Gingembre.
Crisply prepared eel served with a French take on the Italian dish of zabaglione prepared with cider vinegar. The connection to the Italian dish of zabaglione may seem dubious, but the sauce will still be tasty.
Anguille aux Cèpes – Eel served with France’s Porcini mushrooms. This will be fried eel and cepes.
Caramelized eel layered with smoked foie gras and garnished with whipped cream and more.
 Anguille Fumée, Escortée d'Asperges Vertes - Smoked eel served with green asparagus.
 Anguille à la Broche - Eels, grilled on skewers; traditionally that would be over charcoal.

Elvers, baby eels.

Alevins, Alevins d'Anguille, Gulas, Civelle or Pibale - Baby eels; elvers in English and pibale in Basque. A large elver is  5- 6cm long.  In France, and elsewhere in Europe, in season, elvers are a very popular deep-fried fast-food. Join the locals, in the elver season, and walk down the street holding paper cones filled with deep-fried baby eels and enjoy a tasty snack.
The French elver season is from when the baby eels begin to enter the rivers from the sea from the end of January through March. Elvers may be on the menu at other times, but that means they will have been caught and frozen at an earlier date.
Elvers are caught at the mouth of rivers when trying to reach the river their parents came from. They are spawned in the Sargasso Sea and why and what happens when they get there and meet the American eels with whom they do not breed remains a mystery.  The reason for a possible international eel conspiracy taking place in the Sargasso Sea may be discussed at length over a hearty eel stew. Eel stew is at its best when accompanied by a bottle of a red wine.
     Pibales en Friture – A simple and very popular Basque recipe for fried elvers.  To the fried elvers are added the Basque Espelette peppers.

Jellied eels.
      Cold jellied eels are a traditional English dish that began in London’s East end about two-hundred years ago. There are specialist restaurants, in London, still serving eel pie and jellied eels with the original recipes.

Eels in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan -anguila), (Dutch - aal ), (German – all, Europäischer aal), (Italian- anguilla,anghilla,),  (Spanish- änguila).

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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu.
Copyright 2010, 2015, 2017
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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