Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
My third or forth experience with the fish, Ling, in France, was in a restaurant in the town of Beaucaire; however, was on the menu as Julienne. At that time had no idea what fish a Julienne was. Only later would I learn that over the past years Julienne had become the preferred commercial French name for Ling. I still occasionally do see Ling on French menus as Lingue and I had enjoyed ling in France before. However, I only knew of Julienne as a traditional cut used for vegetables. My pocket French-English dictionary offered Julienne as a “long fish,” but that is not a very helpful description for a diner. Fortunately, I was in a restaurant where the Maitre D’, knew his fish. While he did not use the name Lingue or Ling, he told me that it was an excellent fish from the cod family. There are many different fish from the cod family and I have enjoyed many of them under a variety of names so I ordered the Filet of Julienne with a Sauce BeurreNantaise. The dish was well prepared and the fish was excellent, and as expected it had a similar taste and texture to cod. N.B. Cod is neck to neck with salmon as the most popular fish in France.
Ling have long, tapered, tubular, bodies which, at first sight, may be thought of as a large fat eel. These fish often reach 1 meter (3.3’) in length though you will rarely see a whole Ling on sale at a fishmonger’s. Ling mostly reach the French markets as chilled, filets. Since Ling are members of the cod family, their meat is white, firm and slightly flaky. Its taste and texture are easily mistaken for cod, especially when served with a sauce.
N.B. The name Julienne for this fish is confusing as one of the traditional cuts of French vegetable is called Julienne. All French chefs must learn the exact cuts of vegetables before they graduate and a Julienne de Légumes will be vegetables, cut as oblongs about 5cm by 2mm x 2mm.
The word Julienne or Lingue on French menus, in fact, covers two very close members of the Ling fish family. There is no practical way to tell the difference when these two fish are cooked and so no harm is done. N.B. There is a third member of the Ling family fairly also seen on French menus; and that is the Lingue Bleue, the Blue Ling. This is a somewhat smaller fish and has a slightly different texture and taste and is not the included in this post.
Julienne (Lingue) on French Menus:
Dos de Julienne au Cote du Jura – A thick cut from the back of the fish served with a sauce made from a white wine from the department of Jura in the Franche-Comté that borders Switzerland. The Cotes du Jura wines include whites, roses, and reds as well as their unique corail, coral, colored wines and their excellent and mostly inexpensive sparkling Crémant du Jura. Unlike other Cremants the Cremant de Jura has 12% plus alcohol.
The Cotes du Jura include its acclaimed Vin Juan, yellow wine, made from Savagnin grapes. Vin Jaune tastes somewhat similar to a fino Sherry, though it is not fortified like sherry, and usually has 13% alcohol. Vin Juane is also only sold when it is over six years old. For more about the Cotes du Jura see:
Filet de Julienne à la Nantaise – A filet of ling served with one of France’s favorite sauces for fish. Sauce Nantaise is also called Sauce Beurre Nantaise or Sauce Beurre Blanc; it is named after the lovely City of Nantes in the Pays de la Loire region. Nantes itself is set on the River Loire. The menu listing above was my introduction to Ling under its now more popular French name Julienne.
The English language website of the Nantes Tourist Information Office is:
Médaillon de Lingue Poché et sa Crème aux Poireaux – A ling filet poached in a cream of leek sauce. The term medaillon indicates a round or oval cut; however, with fish it will usually be an alternative name to a filet.
Pavé de Julienne à la Crème d'Amande et Féve Tonka. A thick cut of Ling served with a cream of almond sauce flavored with the Tonca bean. The Tonca or Tonquin bean is a plant of South American origins with a strong vanilla aroma. If you sniff a little more, you will find the scent of cherries and cinnamon. In France, the Tonka bean is mostly used in Anis flavored alcoholic drinks. N.B. The Tonca bean is not a real bean, in fact, it is from the pea family. In the USA, for reasons as yet unclear to me, the sale of the Tonka bean is controlled. The background to the Tonca bean was checked using Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages:
Suprême de Julienne Sauce Champagne – A filet of Ling served in a champagne sauce. The cut called suprême will usually be on menus listings for breast of chicken, pigeon, Guinea fowl and other birds. Nevertheless when a chef gets bored using the word filet for fish then suprême (supreme) may appear on the menu.
The town of Beaucaire.
The small town of Beaucaire where I was introduced to Ling under the name Julienne is in the department of Gard in Languedoc-Roussillon in southeastern France. Beaucaire is less than 25km (16 miles) from Avignon in Vaucluse in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and 19 km (12 miles) from Arles. From Beaucaire, you may take rent a self-drive motor cabin cruiser, with bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom and sail down the Beaucaire Canal to the Mediterranean, which we did. If you have more time, then you may continue via the Mediterranean fishing port of Sete along France’s canals and rivers all the way to Bordeaux. Beaucaire may seem like a small, sleepy town today, but it held a vital role in French commerce before the arrival of the railways. The English language website of the Beaucaire tourist information office is:
The day after enjoying the Julienne in the restaurant in Beaucaire I took the opportunity to visit the central fresh produce market in Arles. The city of Arles is the gateway to the Camargue. and a 25-minute drive from Beaucaire. Arles is also famous for the pictures of sunflowers that Vincent Van Gough painted there. Unfortunately, none of Van Gogh’s original paintings remain in Arles. It was here that Van Gogh invited Paul Gauguin as a guest to his home and would later cut off his own ear. You may visit the home of Van Gough in Arles and view the hospital where he was taken.
The Arles Produce Market
In the Arles market among some other food research I was engaged in I asked a fishmonger about the fish called Julienne.Fortuitously,I had found a knowledgeable fishmonger, who also put up with my problematic French. He said that Julienne is the fish called Lingue in commercial French; but Julienne was a more marketable table name. He also confirmed Ling’s fishy family relationship to cod. The fishmonger showed me the marked boxes of chilled, but not frozen, filets of Ling that he had just received. He told me that he receives a shipment every two days from his wholesaler. From the dates on the box, I could see the fish were packed in Norway and had taken four days from ship to shop. The fishmonger also told me that he occasionally receives whole fresh Ling from the Mediterranean, but his restaurant and fishmonger customers prefer the chilled variety as mostly they want the fish skinned and deboned.
Apart from fish, Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin Arles has the best preserved Roman amphitheater in Europe. The Arles English Language Tourist Information Office website is:
There is a fish called Ling or Red Hake caught off the East coast of the United States; however, this is a much smaller fish and from a different family to the Ling seen in Europe and the Mediterranean.
The names of the European Ling (Julienne) in the languages of France’s neighbors:
The names of the Spanish Ling (Julienne) in the languages of France’s neighbors.”
(Dutch - middellandse-zeeleng),(German - mittelmeer-leng), (Italian - molva occhiona), (Spanish – arbitán, llengua de bacallá). Thanks for help with the names of Ling in other languages go to Froese, R., and D. Pauly. Editors. 2015. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (08/2015).