Lamprey is the Proust madeleine of the Bordelais a saying in Bordeaux
Lampreys have been around for 450 million years or so and annually migrate up the Dordogne, and are a gourmet delicacy around Bordeaux. Sainte-Terre de Gironde, France’s lamprey capital is the seat of the Confrérie de la lamproie, who meet every February in their robes with lamprey medallions around their necks to celebrate their beloved dish.
Lamproie à la bordelaise is not a recipe for the squeamish, nor one that would have survived Brigitte Bardot’s animal rights squads if the beast in question weren’t a remarkably uncuddly, ugly, blood-sucking parasite that missed the evolutionary boat back in the night of time, probably because it doesn’t seem to have any eyes.
Nail a live lamprey to the wall and cut it across the tail, carefully catching all the blood that drains out (for thickening the sauce). Next cut off the poisonous dorsal cartilage (ingesting it by mistake is said to have killed Henri I) and plunge your lamprey into boiling water to make it easier to remove the skin.
Slice the delicate white flesh into rounds and add it to a mixture of leeks, onions, chunks of ham and Saint-Emilion that has been stewing for three days. Poach the lamprey in the wine mixture, and add the blood and a touch of chocolate. It comes in tins if you don’t feel like doing it yourself.
Image by Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS