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The Lobster à l'américaine Story

2008 Nov 11


The Lobster à l'américaine Story We are now nearly fully sure of the validity of the "à l'américaine" name of this recipe, to the contrary of the "à l'armoricaine" one (note of the translator : "armoricaine" means "from Armorique" and "Armorique" is the old name for Brittany, this west region of France where fish and seafood are so famous and so "armoricain(e)" means "from Brittany". The confusion for the name of this recipe comes from the fact that it could be logic that such a lobster recipe is from Brittany where the best blue lobsters are fished).
We even know where and when this recipe was created. This is then the comical story of the "(blue) lobster à l'américaine" (note of the translator : in French language, the blue or brown lobster - the one with the strong claws - is called "homard" and the red spiny lobster - the one with no claws - is called "langouste").

This recipe was created in the 1860s by Pierre Fraise, a French cook from Sète (note of the translator : south of France, on the sea coast, close to Montpellier, between Marseille and the Spanish boarder).
Back to France after a long stay in the USA, he settled his own business in Paris. He first called his restaurant "Peter" and thereafter "Peter's". Success came immediatly.
One evening, quite late, a few diners came into the restaurant. Pierre was really confused because his fridges were empty to allow him to prepare a meal except, maybe, a few lobsters forecasted to be cooked the day after.

So, no other alternative : he has to speed up : he cuts the lobsters alive, sauté them quickly into little olive oil, flambé them with fine Cognac brandy and throw them onto some chopped shallots, fresh tomatoes, shopped garlic, then he pours one bottle of white wine, seasons with salt and black pepper and cook the whole very quickly.
He presents the lobster pieces and the sauce onto a long dish, comes into the diner room and proudly (sic) announces, still under the influence of his US trip : "ladies and gentlemen, here is my most recent creation ; I called it "Lobster à l'américaine". It was the first time such recipe name was worded.
Much later, the prestigious chef Prosper Montagné and other famous chefs, including the one of the most famous restaurant at that time (Larue restaurant) rejected in whole this innovative recipe.
But finally, who cares since this recipe is now still a symbolic part of the quality of the French cuisine.

And now is the recipe of Lobster à l'américaine.

Asfaux Patrick pour A.F.touch-cuisine

English translation : Mr Dubarry Stéphane

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Comment(s) (2) :
  • De Didier : 01/11/2009 23:01
    Armoric is an old name(before the roman invasion) of Normandie (where americain troops arrived in france during the 2WW). In gratefullness, we (french ppl) change the named of this sauce (used for lots of fish dishes). Some of anti-americain french ppl says that when it is prepared with condensed tomatoes it is americaine and with fresh tomatoes it is armoricaine.
    Great web site by the way

  • De Rafael Clemente-O : 11/03/2009 19:30
    When I was getting my PHD in Spanish, one of my professor mentioned to me. I had later discussion about the origin of the term. I always lost said argument. Thanks for reinforsing whta I knew was correct.



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