Sunday, July 28, 2019

Saumon – Salmon. Salmon in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
The Atlantic Salmon

Saumon – Salmon. Saumon Atlantique – Atlantic Salmon

The only salmon that calls Europe its real home is the Atlantic Salmon, and it is France's best-selling fish, just ahead of cod.  It will be on the menu marinated, fried, poached, grilled, and smoked. Salmon is also number two in the fish restaurant popularity stakes just after fresh cod.
The Atlantic Salmon's French names include Saumon; Saumon Atlantique; Tacon  Atlantique; Saumon Baltic; Saumon Écossais; Saumon Norvégien or Saumon Sauvage. The English names for the Atlantic Salmon include Salmon, Atlantic Salmon, Black Salmon, Baltic Salmon Sea  Salmon, Silver salmon, Irish Salmon, Scotch Salmon, Norwegian Salmon, and Wild Salmon. 

All these names and more indicate the only type of salmon found anywhere in Europe.

Atlantic Salmon on French menus:
Carpaccio de Saumon, (Huile d'Olive, Toasts) – Salmon Carpaccio flavored with olive oil and served with toast on the side.

Carpaccio de Saumon
Dos de Saumon en Croute d'Herbes, Sauce Paloise - A thick cut from the back of the salmon, baked in a crust of herbs, and served with a Sauce Paloise, a granddaughter, or perhaps a grandson of one of France’s mother sauces, Sauce Hollandaise.      (Sauce Paloise is a minty version on Sauce Bearnaise, itself developed from Sauce Hollandaise).
Grilled salmon with teriyaki sauce.
Hure de Saumon – Translated without any good reason as salmon head cheese, or the nearly as bad, salmon pate since this dish is neither.  Hure de saumon is a fillet of salmon and parsley; steamed or braised and then prepared for display with a gelatin coating, nothing to do with a salmon’s head, any type of cheese or pate.  A hure de saumon will be served cold with fresh mayonnaise and is often part of a buffet offering.

Millefeuille de Saumon Fumé, Sorbet Citron Vert  – Layers of smoked salmon interleaved with a vegetable, and served with lime sorbet.  With salmon, in season, the vegetable that most often makes the millefeuille in this dish will be thin slices of avocado.  (N.B. Smoking, both hot and cold, is an important tool in French cuisines).

Pavé de Saumon Norvégien à la Provençale – A thick cut of Norwegian farm-raised Atlantic salmon prepared with a traditional Provençale recipe. The dish will include lots of tomatoes, and the Provençale flavor will be coming from the herb group called the Herbes de Provence, along with shallots and a small amount of garlic, local black olives and parsley. Additions such as cream or crème fraiche and white wine are at the chef’s discretion; however, they were not part of the traditional recipe. (This menu listing highlights Norwegian Salmon, but Norwegian Salmon is the same Atlantic Salmon farmed elsewhere in Europe). 
Dos de Saumon Sauce à l'Aneth
A thick cut of salmon with a dill sauce.
Saumoneau de Fontaine Sauce Suprème aux Cèpes - Young salmon (smolt) from the river served with a sauce supreme and cepes, the French porcini mushrooms. Sauce Supreme is a white sauce made with veal or chicken stock, butter and crème fraiche; here the stock may be a fumet, a fish stock.

Saumon Ecossaise Label Rouge
Farmed Scottish salmon hold the French Label Rouge, red label, for consistent quality and concerned animal husbandry.

Label Rouge – The red label of quality

RSPCA label of Freedom food
Scottish farmed salmon was the first non-French product to be awarded the French Label Rouge, red label. The Scottish Label Rouge salmon also comes with the British RSPCA label of Freedom food.  The RSPCA, Freedom Food Rating is the highest standard for farmed-fish in the world. The RSPCA inspects cleanliness, type of food, prevents overcrowding and ensures the absolute minimum of discomfort when the fish are brought in.       

This Scottish salmon is so flavorful and is farmed under such uniquely clean and controlled conditions that only five Scottish salmon farms have so far been awarded the French red label of excellence.

Filet de Saumon Écossais Label Rouge à l'Unilatérale, Pommes Sautées au Persil – A filet of Scottish label rouge salmon lightly fried through from the skin side of the filet, and served with boiled potatoes flavored with parsley. Cooking fish à l'unilatérale is considered the best way to fry a filet of fish; by cooking only on the skin side of the filet, the flavor of the fish is not affected by the cooking oil as it would be if cooked on both sides.
Blanquette de Saumon Écossais Label Rouge aux Girolles, Marrons et Graines de Moutarde -  A stew of red label Scottish salmon served with girolle chanterelle mushroomschestnuts and flavored with mustard grains.  The recipes for blanquette stews almost always include mushrooms and a cream sauce; many recipes include white wine. France has many chestnut forests, and the recipes that include chestnuts are endless. 
Salade de jambon cru et saumon Francaise fumé
A salad of cured ham and French smoked salmon
Two different tastes and textures that go so well together

Saumon Fumé – Smoked Salmon.
Many French chefs smoke their own salmon.  When you see, on a French menu, Fumé Maison, home-smoked, then the chef is in charge of the smoking;  that will be smoked salmon made with love; it will not have come from a commercial smoker.

Salade d’Asperges Vertes, Saumon Fumé et Son Œuf Poché – A salad of green asparagus served with smoked salmon and a poached egg.
Saumon Fumé Maison et Ses Toasts – Home smoked salmon served with warm toast.

Saumon Cru or Saumon Mariné
Marinated salmon or cured salmon.

Cured salmon is sometimes mistranslated as raw; sashimi is raw, saumon cru is not, it will have been marinated. I have had fabulous meals that included marinated salmon; twice, once in Paris, and once in Lyon, I enjoyed the nearest thing to the “absolute” saumon mariné.

Saumon Mariné à l'Aneth – Salmon marinated in dill.  Dill is the most popular herb, in France, for marinating salmon, and it is applied with a light touch. The result maybe some of the best-marinated salmon you will ever encounter. When saumon mariné à l'aneth is on the menu, do not pass it by.
Marinated salmon
Saumon Mariné au Citron Vert et Aneth -  Salmon marinated in lime juice and dill. When thinly sliced I think that French marinated salmon is the only salmon that comes close to the texture of the very best and thinly sliced smoked salmon.
Saumon Gravlax, Gravadlax or Gravad Lax
Gravlax is a dish of Scandinavian origin; it is the Scandinavian take on marinated salmon, and it preceded the French recipe. Gravlax has a different texture and taste; it is made with whole filets of salmon, cured in a nearly, but not quite, freezing, mixture of salt, sugar, pepper, and dill; it is served thinly sliced though not as thin as the French marinated salmon.
During a visit to Sweden, I was told that the name gravlax comes from the Swedish be-grava meaning “to bury” and the word lax, means “salmon.”  The name indicates that the recipe preceded refrigerators when it would have been wild, not farmed salmon that was buried and marinated under the snow for two or three days during the long winter.  With snow expected nine months a year in many parts of Sweden that was probably close to the home, almost certainly close to the kitchen door.

Saumon Sauvage de l'Adour Mariné Façon Gravlax, Tomates Confites, Câpres et Fleur d'Ail -  Wild salmon from the Adour River, prepared as Gravlax and served with a thick jam, a confit, of tomatoes and flavored with capers and garlic flowers.  The Adour is one of France’s shorter rivers; it rises in the Pyrenees and flows in an arc for nearly 330 km before reaching the sea below the city of Bayonne. Despite the Ardour's short length, it is famous for its wild salmon; here, you will be enjoying wild salmon, and since fish are undeniably very much what they eat; the difference in texture and taste to farmed salmon will be evident.

Tartare de Saumon – Salmon Tartar.

Tartare –  The Tatars are the tribes who, under Genghis Khan overran much of Asia and parts of Europe. In the French kitchen, the Tartars are now best remembered for the beef dish created by a French chef in their memory: Steak Tartare, Steak Tartar. Following on that success, another French chef begat Tartare de Saumon, salmon Tartar; that was followed by another chef who begat Tartare de Tomates, tomato Tartar.  From then on, like the real Tartars, there was no stopping them; one after other chefs begat and begot numerous new creations all named after the Tartars.

Tartare de Saumon -  Salmon tartar. Diced, marinated, fresh uncooked salmon prepared together with diced onions, chives, eggs, capersparsley, olive oil, pepper, and lemon juice. The spiciness the French chef will have added will come from Tobacco or horseradish or Worcester Sauce. Tartare de Saumon will be served as an entrée, the French first course.
Tartare de Saumon Pamplemousse
Salmon and grapefruit Tatar.
Tartare de Saumon Baltic Fumé à l'Aneth et au Citron Vert –  Baltic salmon, smoked with dill and flavored with lime.   The usage of the name Baltic salmon is just menuise (the language of menus) as the Baltic salmon is the same fish as the Atlantic Salmon. The fish offered here came from a Baltic Sea salmon-farm, and so they will not be too different to Norwegian farmed salmon as they will be fed the same food. Despite my caveat, there are the wild salmon that inhabit the Baltic sea, rivers, and fiords of the countries around the sea. The brackish water of the Baltic provides different foods supplies for the wild salmon who live there, and that certainly provides a different taste. The Baltic sea does connect to the North Sea and so from there into the Atlantic.  Look at the Baltic Sea is virtually surrounded by Sweden, Finland, the Danish Islands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and Russia.
Over 98% of salmon on sale in French fish-markets and on restaurant menus will be the Atlantic salmon; it will have been farm-raised in Norway, Ireland, Scotland and a few other European countries. The other 2% of Atlantic Salmon will be saumon sauvage, wild Atlantic salmon, from the Atlantic or the North Sea, Scottish rivers or France’s own rivers. A small amount of wild salmon, mostly saumon rouge, sockeye salmon, also called red salmon, is imported, frozen, from North America.  I have heard that some wild saumon rose, humpback salmon may come from Russia or the North of Sweden to which it has migrated.  If the humpback salmon migrate any further south, we may see this member of the salmon family claiming a European Union passport   
The Atlantic Salmon in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Dutch – zalm), (German – Atlantischer lachs, lachs), (Italian –salmone atlantico), (Spanish – salmón), (Latin - salmo salar).

Below are the French names for other salmon species; many countries have excellent French restaurants and excellent French chefs,  and they may be serving a salmon other than Atlantic salmon.

The other salmon
Rarely,  if ever on a European menu.

Saumon Argenté or Saumon Coho - Coho salmon.
(Latin - oncorhynchus kisutch).

Saumon Chinook or Saumon Royale – Chinook or King salmon.
(Latin - oncorhynchus tshawytscha).

Saumon Keta or  Saumon du Pacifique - Chum Salmon or Keta salmon.
(Latin - oncorhynchus keta)

Saumon Rose or Saumon Rose à Bosse – Pink salmon or Humpback salmon.
(Latin - oncorhynchus gorbuscha).

Saumon Rouge - Sockeye salmon or Red salmon.
(Latin - oncorhynchus nerka).

Saumon de Fontaine – This is not a salmon; rather this is the brook trout, a tasty member of the trout/salmon family. They area freshwater fish and an excellent menu choice; however, they are not salmon.
Brook Trout
Bryan G Newman

Behind the French Menu
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