An American name for one of the most famous French dishes – Calamars à l’Américaine

(In English below. Long post, sorry!)

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Voici une recette qui me rappelle fortement mon enfance. Elle m’à été transmise par la cuisinière de ma grand-mère qui nous en régalait régulièrement. L’avantage de cette recette, c’est qu’à quelques détails prêts, elle est identique pour la lotte, les langoustines et le homard. Je vous donnerai ma recette pour le homard une prochaine fois. Celle ci est tout aussi délicieuse et bien plus économique :0)

Nous nous demandons à chaque fois si on devrait dire “à l’Américaine” ou “à l’Armoricaine”. Le terme “à l’Armoricaine” n’est , en fait, qu’une déformation d’ “à l’Américaine” sans doute parce que la Bretagne (Armorique) est un des meilleurs producteurs de homards. Mais l’origine du terme “Américaine” vient d’un cuisinier français d’origine Sétoise du nom de Pierre Fraysse. Celui-ci de retour d’Amérique où il avait fait un séjour à Chicago comme “chef”, fonde en rentrant à Paris le restaurant “Peters”. Un soir, peu avant la fermeture, des convives se présentent et insistent pour dîner. Fraysse se remet donc aux fourneaux mais le temps et les marchandises lui manquent. Il décide donc de cuire des homards dans une sauce composée de tomates, ail, échalote, vin blanc et Cognac. Le repas est une vraie réussite et lorsqu’on lui demande le nom de sa recette il dira, encore sous l’influence de son voyage outre atlantique, “homard à l’Américaine”. Certains disent que c’est en fait parce que les clients en question étaient Américains… D’ailleurs il faut bien reconnaitre que la composition de ce plat (ail, persil, cerfeuil, estragon, tomate, huile d’olive) tend à prouver que son origine est plus méridionale que Bretonne. On dit que le terme “à l’Armoricaine” viendrait d’une erreur dans la rédaction du premier Larousse gastronomique en 1938. Le rédacteur, Prosper Montagné, pensât sans doute qu’à l’Armoricaine était plus logique pour un plat Français. Il n’en connaissait simplement pas l’histoire…

Quoi qu’il en soit, il s’agit d’un plat qui vous donne l’envie irrésistible de lécher votre assiette. C’est d’ailleurs ce que j’ai fait à midi :0) N’hésitez pas comme moi, à mettre une louche de sauce au congélateur. Cela vous permettra d’en accompagner un poisson vite fait si vous avez, un soir, des invités de dernière minute.

Je sers ce plat d’habitude avec du riz blanc MAIS je l’ai essayé un jour par hasard avec des frites, et alors là… à se damner!!!

Pour 6 personnes il vous faudra:

  • 2Kg de calamars
  • 200g de lardons fumés
  • 4 belles échalotes
  • 2 gousses d’ail
  • Huile d’olive
  • 1 grand verre de vin blanc sec
  • 2/3 verre de Cognac (ne pas avoir peur du Cognac!)
  • 3 petites boites de tomate concentrée
  • Un peu de maïzena et de beurre pour épaissir la sauce
  • Un peu de crème liquide
  • 1 bouquet garni frais (thym, laurier)
  • 1 grosse cuillère de persil haché frais
  • Cerfeuil, ciboulette, estragon, origan (1 cuillère à café de chaque)
  • Sel, poivre
  • 1/2 cuillère à café de piment de Cayenne
  • 1/2 cuillère à café de paprika
  • En été 300g de tomates fraiches pelées et coupées en morceaux à mettre en même temps que la tomate concentréekuyf

Les étapes vers votre chef d’oeuvre:

  1. Faire dorer un peu échalotes et lardons dans huile d’olive dans une cocotte en fonte
  2. Faire colorer les anneaux de calamars dans une poêle avec de l’huile d’olive (en 4 fois). Faire flamber et déglacer les sucs à chaque fois et verser dans la cocotte
  3. Dans la cocotte, ajouter tomate concentrée, bouquet garni, vin blanc, sel, poivre, Cayenne, paprika et mettre de l’eau à niveau (ajouter 2 gds verres en cours de cuisson)
  4. Laissez mijoter à feu doux et au bout d’1 heure ajouter ail, cerfeuil, ciboulette, estragon et 1 grosse cuillère de persil haché
  5. Laisser mijoter encore 1 heure et épaissir la sauce + crémer à votre goût

Et si vous croyez que je plaisante quand je dis que j’en ai léché l’assiette, voyez plutôt la preuve en photo un peu plus bas (ça ne compte pas, j’étais tout seul. Personne ne m’a vu faire).

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This is a long post, but it is about one of my top 5 or 6 favorite dishes of all times, so I thought I would spend a little more time and effort on this particular post…

This recipe reminds me strongly of my childhood. My grand-mother had it made often and I got the recipe from her cook years ago. The advantage of this recipe is that it also works to perfection with monk fish, langoustines and lobster (although some of the preparation steps differ). The original recipe was actually made with lobster. I will give you my recipe for lobster another time. It is just as delicious with calamari (almost) and much cheaper :0)

The origin of the word “American” for the sauce, comes from a French chef from Provence named Pierre Fraysse. He opened a restaurant in Paris called “Peter’s” when he got back from America where he had been working for a while. One evening, shortly before closing, a group of guests walked in and insisted on having dinner. Fraysse didn’t have much time or too many ingredients in his kitchen. So he decided to cook lobster in a tomato sauce with garlic, shallots, white wine and Cognac. The meal was a great success and, still under the influence of his trip across the Atlantic, he decided to call it “Homard à l’Américaine” or “Lobster in American Sauce”. Some say it is actually because the customers in question were Americans… 

Anyway, this is a dish that will make you want to lick your plate clean (if you ever had BBQ shrimps at Brennans, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This sauce CANNOT go to waste!). If you don’t believe me about the licking thing, just check out the picture above :0) I was alone though. I wouldn’t want you to doubt my table manners. I would never do that in public… or would I?

I usually serve this with white rice BUT I had it with French fries one day by accident, and that was to die for!!

For 6 people you will need:

  • 2kg of calamari 
  • 200g smoked bacon
  • 4 large shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 big glass of dry white wine
  • 1 cup Cognac (do not be afraid of Cognac!)
  • 3 small cans of tomato paste
  • A little cornflour and butter to thicken the sauce at the end
  • A little cream (1/2 glass)
  • 1 bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaves)
  • 1 big tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • Fresh chervil, chives, tarragon, oregano (1 tea spoon of each)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
  • In Summer 300g fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut into quarter to put together with the tomato paste at the beginning 

Here are the steps to your masterpiece:

  1. Fry the bacon and shallots in olive oil in a cast iron simmer pot
  2. Sauté the calamari rings in a pan with olive oil. Flambé with Cognac, deglaze the juices and pour into the iron pot
  3. In the pot, add the tomato paste, bouquet garni, white wine, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika and add water so as to cover the calamari (add 2 big glasses of water after about an hour of cooking)
  4. An hour and a half later, add the garlic, chervil, chives, tarragon and chopped parsley
  5. After 2 hours of cooking on low to medium heat, you will make a paste with the butter and corn starch, add a bit of sauce to that paste and pour that liquid into the pot. Stir until you get the thickness you want for the sauce.
  6. Add a bit of cream (4 tablespoons)

39 Comments Add yours

  1. Sensational post. Love all of the ingredients. Although, I didn’t realise you could cook calamari for that long. I’ve never cooked them before, and I’ve only ever eaten them in restaurants around the Med. Never as good as this recipe!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’ll make these for you when you come visit me J! 😉

  2. grumpytyke says:

    I’d never thought of doing it with squid but your tip about cooking these is interesting as I’ve never really succeeded with them (and often say the only food I do not like – other than badly cooked – is raw squid). I used to make this with lobster quite often long ago in more affluent days but always thought the derivation was from Armorique in Brittany because of the shell fish, but your explanation maybe makes more sense with all those tomatoes.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      When you look at the ingredients, it is more likely to be a Provence type dish… I truly love it!

  3. ohlidia says:

    Oh yeah, I would definitely lick my plate, lick my lips, lick my fingers…the pan it was made in…

    1. My French Heaven says:

      🙂 😉

  4. lolarugula says:

    I’ve bookmarked this, shared it on my Facebook page and am sending blessings to you for posting this! Is that enough love for you? 🙂 I simply love calamari (why does everyone just want to bread and fry it???) and this looks and sounds amazing. I will definitely be making this and I enjoyed the history behind it. Thank you.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are welcome darling! I will make this for you when you come visit 😉

      1. lolarugula says:

        I’ll count on that! 🙂

  5. juliabarrett says:

    I’m making this! Looks amazing! And so different from fried calamari.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It is a fabulous dish. When you come visit, I’ll make you the same recipe only using lobster. It’s to die for! 😉

  6. michela64 says:

    Love the last pict ! it’s the real prove of what I tought since the beginning: it must be delicius and can’t wait to eat it and clean the plate with some bread!!
    BRAVO!!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      😉

  7. tuppershare says:

    Well, I’m sold! I need to make this immediately.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Let me know how it turs out!! 😉

  8. elsonsequeira says:

    Superlike… The picture of the plate gives me an idea of how it would have turned.. This one is being made for sure!!! Thanks a lot for posting!!! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You know I do the same thing to my plate every time I have a good curry 😉

  9. That looks seriously delicious!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      MERCI 😉

  10. BarFlySF says:

    Stephane, Beautiful pictures and writeup as always. Maybe it’s named so because the sauce resembles America’s favorite condiment, ketchup (I can’t apologize enough for the tastes of my fellow countrymen). I know the recipe is so much more complex than that, but you never know (all in good fun of course 😛 ).

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I lived so long in the States that I fell very much in love with your culinary traditions. I absolutely love BBQ sauce and my nephews always beg me to cook BBQ ribs for them. There are so many great American dishes…

  11. ladyredspecs says:

    Hmmm cooking calamari for 2 hours, now that’s something I must try. I looks and sounds seriously good😃

    1. My French Heaven says:

      They get so tender, they melt in your mouth… 😉

  12. Calamari in any form, is something I have never made. But I’m not afraid nor am I afraid of cognac! 😉 Luckily, even here in Arizona, we have a wonderful market with very fresh fish and seafood. Now that I have the perfect recipe, I am going to have to check calamari off my “must try someday” list. Thank you for sharing and for the wonderful backstory as well.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You’ll find calamari is very versatile and easy to play with. But be careful. you must either sauté it quickly (2 minutes on high heat) or very long in sauce. Anything in between and it’s like chewing the tires of a bicycle 🙂

      1. I hear tires are pretty good with a little cognac and cream. 😉

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Steve always had the best jokes 🙂

          1. My French Heaven says:

            Sorry, always HAS the best jokes! He’s still very much alive 🙂

  13. Steve says:

    Hell, with a cup of cognac and a half glass of cream, my Michelin tires would taste fantastic! 🙂

    Sorry, I’m in a humorous mood today…maybe not too funny!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Very funny! I just read your comment to my dad and he is still laughing 🙂

  14. Steve says:

    I hope you used bread to sop it up! personally, I use the dog. 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I use the dog too! His name is Siam (you’ll meet him). What he loves most is creme caramel. Best dishwasher we ever had…

      1. Steve says:

        Sometimes, after our Briard Roxy has eaten her dinner, I look in her bowl a couple of hours later and am not sure I fed her because it is “dishwasher clean”. At times i am afraid that if I ever passed out unconscious on the floor….the might never find me!

        1. My French Heaven says:

          🙂 Some 20 years ago, we had to put my great aunt’s dog to sleep because we genuinely thought that could happen. True story! 🙂

  15. chef mimi says:

    I love the look of this and I can just taste the sauce! Beautiful!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m telling you, I’d sell my soul for this sauce 🙂 That is the first thing I will cook for you if you come visit one day…

  16. Hello, I just wanted to say, I always love what you do. That`s why I nominated you for an award: http://thegreatzambini.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/versatile-blogger-award/

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Why thank you! I am very honored!!

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