French Seafood Platter
If you are lucky enough to sample a French Seafood platter, you will have an excellent introduction to the wide variety of shellfish that are frequently eaten in France.
Perhaps you saw the scene in a Mister Bean movie where he decides to treat himself to the seafood platter in an elegant French restaurant. Being the dolt that he is, Mister Bean valiantly cracks and crunches his way through a variety of hard shelled delicacies, probably wondering all the while what on earth the fuss about French food was anyway. Mister Bean was too silly to realize that he needed
to remove the flesh from the shells before eating his seafood.
A complete plateau de fruits de mer
, or French seafood platter, includes some of the more unusual seafood eaten in France. A platter could include:
Huitres - Oysters are the dominate feature of most seafood platters. There might be several different types offered on one platter.
Clams - The French word for clams is the same as in English, but you may find them called praires or palourdes, which are varieties of clams.
Moules - You will frequently find mussels served at more casual French restaurants and bistros. The classic combination of mussels and French fries is known as moules-frites, a dish that actually comes from Belgium.
Oursins - Sea Urchins.
Coquilles St. Jacques - Scallops, or you may be served pétoncles, which are very similar and considered better tasting by some.
Bigorneaux and Bulots - These are sea snails.
Crevettes - Shrimp, possibly more than one variety will be served.
Langoustine - A sort of small of lobster you'll often find in French cooking.
Condiments and Tools
The platter should be served with a variety of condiments:
- lemon sections
- lightly toasted, solid bread
The shellfish will have been simply cooked and chilled before serving on a bed of ice and seaweed. They should be opened for you as well, so extracting the flesh shouldn't be too difficult. But just to be sure that you don't have to crunch away like Mister Bean, you should have some tools to help you eat the shellfish:
Lobster cracker. This allows you to crack open various shell fish without crushing the shell into tiny bits.
- A three-pronged oyster fork. You can use the edge of this to detach the oyster from its shell
- Long, two pronged, seafood fork, also known as a lobster pick. Used to extract the flesh from lobsters and crabs
- To eat sea snails, you may be given a long pick with a funny tip called a currette.
- A small lemon squeezer made for use at the table.
A full seafood platter is sometimes eaten on special occasions (like when someone else fixes it) or perhaps when dining out like Mister Bean. Other French seafood recipes are much simpler and use more commonly found fish and shellfish.