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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Congre - Conger Eels. The Conger Eel in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

A Conger Eel looking out from its cave
and considering a possible main course for dinner.
Congre or  Anguille de Mer  The Conger eel or the European Conger Eel. This is the biggest and the heaviest member of the eel family, they have a firm tasty flesh and apart from their important place in French fish soups and stews they will be served as filets or as fried or grilled steaks. The conger eel is a sea animal, treated as a fish, and from the same family as the European Freshwater eel which is also much appreciated in French cuisine. The European conger eel is caught in the Mediterranean, where it is an important ingredient in the Marseilles Bouillabaisse and in the Atlantic where it is essential for an authentic Basque Ttoro fish stew. Apart from France you will find conger eel on many Japanese and South American menus.

Fishermen preparing their catch of conger eel.
You may have seen a National Geographic Magazine or a National Geographic Channel  clip with conger eels over 2.5m (8 feet) long.  However, these are not the size that the most French fishermen and fisherwomen usually catch; despite that they are not so small either. Most conger eels will be around 0.8 meters (2.5 feet). The conger eel prefers living in caves where they are caught by a rod and line offering them a tasty morsel. Only occasionally do they end up in fishing nets.

Conger eels for sale in a market.
Conger eels on French Menus:
Congre au Beurre - Conger eel steaks lightly fried in butter. To the butter will be added herbs and white wine.
Congre Grillée  à l'Ail et au Persil A grilled conger eel steak flavored with garlic and parsley.
A grilled conger eel steak.

Daube de Congre – A conger eel stew. A conger eel version of a Provençal beef daube, itself traditionally made with a red wine.  Here, the meaty flesh of the conger eel will be cooked in a dry white wine, though I have also seen this dish made with a red wine. The recipe for this daube in included shrimp, mussels and some small fish added for flavor and decoration

The Conger Eel
 Matelote de Congre au Vin Rouge A matelote is a fish stew often made with freshwater fish including the freshwater eel. Other matelotes are made with sea fish and here the conger eel is the star in this stew made with red wine. (See Bouillabaisse and Ttoro).

The Conger eel in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan – congre), (Dutch - zeepaling), (German – conger meerale or  meeraale), (Italian - grongo),  (Spanish – congre, conger safio, congrio, negrillo). With thanks to Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2015. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication., version (04/2015) for help with the names on conger eels in a number of languages.
Connected Posts:
Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Copyright 2010, 2015.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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