Rascasse - The Scorpion or Sea Robin family of fishes in French cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman



Red  Scorpion fish.
The secret behind many of the wonderful fish soups along France’s Mediterranean coast is down to the Racasse, the Scorpion fish. Members of the Scorpion fish family are found all over the world, and those in the Mediterranean and along France’s Atlantic coast are considered to be among the tastiest.  The smaller of these fish are essential for the flavor they give to Bouillabaisse and other French fish soups.  The larger fish may also be in the soup or they may make the menu on their own account. 

Scorpion fish are not going to be swimming close to France's sandy beaches. Nevertheless, when swimming offshore and out close to rocks do not touch fish, especially if you do not know what they are.
The Scorpion fish’s name comes not from a stinging tail but from the poisonous barbs on the fish's dorsal fin on the back; rest assured that French fishermen and women do not handle any of these fish with their bare hands.
Rascasse is not a fish that is caught in large quantities. The chefs will be buying his or her fish fresh every day, and the Scorpion fish family members brought in daily will differ in size and name.  So, unless the chef wants to print a new menu every day when a member of Rascasse family is on the menu the exact name may be omitted.
Scorpion fish.
Five of the most important members of the Scorpion fish family:

 Rascasse Blanche or Uranoscope – The Stargazer or Atlantic stargazer.  This member of the Scorpion fish family is a must in a genuine Marseilles Bouillabaisse and is also a prime contender for many other fish soups. This Scorpion fish can not only sting but can generate an electric shock.
The Stargazer on the menu:
Filet de Rascasse Blanche Sauce Citronel et Lait de Coco au Citron Vert. Garni de Petits Légumes -  A filet from the Stargazer served with a lemon grass sauce accented with coconut milk and lime. The dish is accompanied by young vegetables.
Fish soup.
Filet de Rascasse Grillé aux Pâtes et Tomates Fraiches – Grilled filet of Scorpion fish prepared with pasta and fresh tomatoes.
Filet de Rascasse Grillé, Beurre aux Algues Fraîches – Grilled filet of Scorpion fish prepared with butter and fresh seaweed.
The Stargazer in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan – rata), (German – himmelsgucker), (Italian -  bocca in cielo, boca in cao, buccuni), (Spanish – rata or sapo), (Latin - uranoscopus scaber).

Scorpion fish on sale at Marseilles old port.
Photograph courtesy of marcovdz

Rascasse du Rond - 
The Blackberry Rosefish or Bluemouth Rockfish
Rascasse du Rond, Sébaste Chèvre or Rascasse du Nord - The Blackbelly Rosefish in North America and the Bluemouth Rockfish or Rockfish in the UK.  This family member is not easily caught but very welcome when it is found. They are a solitary fish and found both in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. 
The Blackbelly Rosefish on French menus:
Filet de Rascasse Poche au Basilic – Filet of Scorpion fish, poached with basil.
Filet de Rascasse Poêlé, Haricots Verts, Sauce Vierge – Filet of Scorpion fish served with France’s favorite green beans and Sauce Vierge.   The name of the sauce Sauce Vierge translates as a virgin sauce, and that comes from the use of virgin olive oil.  For this sauce along with virgin olive oil will be fresh tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, basil, red wine vinegar, salt and black pepper. The sauce will be served slightly warm but not cooked as olive oil loses flavor when cooked. N.B. There is no point in cooking in any virgin olive oil; heat destroys their unique flavor; just use  any good olive oil for cooking and virgin olive oil for cold dishes.

Ready for the soup.
The Blackberry Rosefish or Bluemouth Rockfish in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan – penegal), (Dutch - blauwkeeltje ),(German - blaumaul, blaumäulchen), (Italian -  scarpena, scorpena bastarda), (Spanish – cabra, cabra de altura, gallineta), (Latin - helicolenus dactylopterus). 
Rascasse Rouge - The Red Scorpion Fish
Rascasse Rouge, Truie, Chapon, Chapon de Mer - The Large Scaled Scorpion Fish, the Red Scorpion Fish or Orange Scorpion Fish.  In Marseilles, the local fishmongers in the old port offered me their local name for this fish: Chapon and Chapon de Mer. This fish is another essential ingredient in a genuine Marseilles Bouillabaisse.  The smaller members of this family member will definitely be in the soup, but the larger ones that may grow up to 3 kilos may be offered in filets, fried, grilled or baked.
Filet de Rascasse Rouge, Gratin de Fenouil et Cebette –  Filet of red Rascasse, served with baked and browned fennel and spring onions.  
Piperade de Rascasse - Scorpion Fish cooked in a Piperade. Piperade is a traditional Basque dish made with their Piment d'Espelette AOP , the Basque red peppers, fried along with onions, green peppers, garlic and tomatoes all fried in olive oil. Here the fish is prepared and served with the piperade.
Tronçon De Rascasse Chapon Poêlée, Jus Corsé Au Nouilly Prat, Jeunes Pousses De Légumes – A wide cut of the Red Scorpion Fish lightly fried and served with a sauce made from the natural cooking juices and Nouilly Prat, France’s famous vermouth. The fish is accompanied by the young shoots of fresh vegetables.

Grilled Scorpion fish
The Red Scorpion Fish in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan - cap-roig), (German – meersau, roter drachenkopf ), (Italian - scarpena rossa, scorfano mediterraneo, scorfano maggiore),  (Spanish –cabracho, escarapote, gallineta), (Latin - scorpaena scrofa).

Grondin Perlon - Tub Gurnard or Sea Robin 
Grondin Perlon, Gallinette, Grondin Gallinette -  Tub Gurnard in UK and Sea Robin in the USA. This member of the Scorpion fish family is also caught in the Atlantic and is will often on the menu on its own. It is a bony fish but very highly valued for its flavor. While Rascasse is not part of its French name this fish is definitely part of the Scorpion fish family.

Scorpion fish.
Grondin Perlon, Ragoût De Fèves Et Petits Pois, Bisque Émulsionnée  - Tub Gunard prepared with a stew of fava bean, also called the butter or broad bean, and young peas. The whole stew is prepared like a thick bisque.
Ravioli Au Grondin Perlon Et Tomate Cerises   - Ravioli made with the meat from the Tub Gunard and cherry tomatoes.
Grondin Perlon Rôti, Bouillon De Légumes Aux Lingots Du Nord – Roasted Grondin Perlon served in a vegetable soup made with vegetables and the Lingots du Nord, a close family member of France’s favorite white beans grown in the North of France.
The Tub Gurnard or Sea Robin in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan - lluerna rossa),  (Dutch - rode poon), (German - roter knurrhahn, seeschwalbe), (Italian - capone gallinella ), (Spanish - alfondiga ), (Latin - chelidonichthys lucerna). 


 Petite Rascasse Rouge - The Small Red Scorpion Fish.
 Petite Rascasse Rouge, Rascasse Pustuleuse, Scorpène -  The small red Scorpion fish, this a very tasty small fish.  It is rarely over 10cm and will be headed for the soup; very rarely will these small fish be on the menu.
The small red Scorpion Fish in the Languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan – captinyós), (German -  kleiner roter drachenkopf), (Italian -  scarpegna rossa), (Spanish -  gallineta), (Latin - scorpaena notata). 

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman




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