14 December 2015

Coquillages et crustacés

Here are a few more pictures I took at the Saturday morning market in Saint-Aignan day before yesterday. It was a gray morning, but not nearly as foggy as yesterday, when thick fog stayed on the ground all day long. In the photo below, you can see Walt standing in line in the next-to-last position.


I was surprised that the market wasn't more crowded, this close to Christmas, but we were there early. Maybe more shoppers showed up later in the morning. Usually, the line at the seafood vendor's stall is much longer.


What we went to the market to buy was coques, or cockles (above). These are tiny ones, but they are delicious cooked in olive oil and white wine with onion, garlic, and fresh herbs, in the style of linguine with white clam sauce. The most important step in preparing the bivalves is to put them, live, into a bowl of cold salted water (30 grams per liter) for an hour or two to purge them of sand. Putting in a tablespoon or two of raw wheat semolina or corn meal helps. The cockles (or clams) ingest the semolina or meal and excrete any sand that might be in their digestive tract.


Above are some more of the shrimp (or prawns, if you prefer the term) that were on sale Saturday morning. Again they are sold already cooked. These are organically raised gambas from the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. I couldn't see the price, but I bet they weren't giving them away.


Bulots (above) are little sea snails, like whelks or conchs, that are sold cooked as well. People eat them cold with mayonnaise, pulling them out of their shells with little forks. They are slightly rubbery, but I like them. You usually see them, along with oysters, shrimp, crab, and other shellfish on seafood platters — plateaux de fruits de mer — in France, along with the even smaller gastropods called bigorneaux, visible at the bottom of the photo above.


Sorry for the blurry picture above, but it was the best I could do. These are langoustines, sold raw rather than cooked. They have a harder shell than shrimp or prawns, making them more like tiny lobsters. In the British Isles, they are nonetheless known as Dublin Bay prawns, and in other countries they're called by the Italian term scampi. By the way, the English word "shellfish" includes what in French are called both coquillages and crustacés.


Finally, here are some clams. They're called palourdes in French. Similar mollusks are called praires, and then there are amandes ("almonds" a.k.a. dog clams), cockles, and lavagnons, a specialty down around the Ile d'Oléron. Most of the common names of such bivalves are ambiguous, being applied to various species regionally or for culinary purposes.

18 comments:

Sheila said...

And I see the edge of some sea urchins in that last photo. So much more interesting than our
supermarket seafood department. We do have wonderful Texas Gulf shrimp, however. They are flash
frozen before being transported, but I prefer that to their being cooked. Easier to clean once
thawed.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I agree with you about cleaning the shrimp. We Americans are probably overly scrupulous about such things. Have you ever seen the show about cleaning and cooking shrimp that Julia Child and Jacques Pépin did back in the '90s?

Evelyn said...

Miam, miam- what a wonderful selection of seafood? I saw a photo of the bivalve that I call a "knife" on Amy's Facebook feed. Do you ever cook those and what do they taste like?

Ken Broadhurst said...

I've never tried les couteaux but I'm sure they're good. I'll look for them the next time I go to the market in Saint-Aignan. In English, at least in North Carolina, we called them "razor clams" but I don't know if anybody there ever cooked and ate them.

Diogenes said...

What a wonderful selection. Our supermarket seafood counters are mostly slabs of fish, often farm raised, and very few shellfish or crustaceans.

LaPré DelaForge said...

Razor clams are delish!
With that I'll winkle some fowl into the conversation...
go cold turkey...
and clam up!!

Seine Judeet (Judith) said...

It's so nice to see fresh food at an open-air market, instead of just going to a big-box grocery store. I hope this tradition never stops in France.

TerryM said...

Excellent couple of posts Ken. Appreciate seeing the range of seafood available in your area. And thanks for the tip regarding cockles. I always enjoy a plate of steamed mussels or spaghetti with clams (or both!) this time of year.

Gosia k said...

your market is similar to ours

Ken Broadhurst said...

Hello Terry, I don't think people in N.C. eat cockles -- but maybe I'm wrong. The beaches are covered in cockle shells. Clams and cockles benefit from a good purge before cooking (or eating raw) but I don't think mussels require that step. They don't live in the sand so they aren't so gritty.

Ken Broadhurst said...

LOL Tim. I'll have to buy some razor clams the next time I see them. Do you cook and eat them like other clams? Or make chowder?

Ken Broadhurst said...

In general, Americans don't seem to like meat or fish with bones, or other seafood with shells they'd have to deal with. Oysters come not in shells, but in jars!

Ken Broadhurst said...

Je suis d'accord avec toi, J.

Ken Broadhurst said...

You are lucky to have nice markets like that then.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Evelyn, look at this recipe for couteaux de mer with parsley-garlic butter.

Evelyn said...

That recipe for razors looks a lot like cooking snails- maybe you'll give it a try for us?

LaPré DelaForge said...

I've only ever eaten them cooked in boiling water, or beer...
with onions, chives and butter...
a bit like mussels...
served with fresh brown bread [complet type] and butter.
NB: You only eat the foot and leave the gut end... SAND!!

LaPré DelaForge said...

I've just spotted the recipe...
a bit posher... and a tip for getting rid of the sand, too...
I've only eaten them fresh from the beach...
and I like the idea of cutting them into "dice" to use in paté dishes.