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homard à l’Américaine

lobster in a tomato sauce

Lobster with american sauce

This luxurious lobster dish (also called homard sauce à l’américaine) was invented by chef Pierre Fraysse from Sète around 1860. Fraysse returned to France after a lengthy stay working in the United States and opened a successful restaurant in Paris called Peter’s.

One evening some people came into Peter’s late in the evening when the ice box was almost empty except for a couple of lobsters. Desperate, Fraysse chopped them up and cooked them in olive oil and butter with chopped shallots, garlic, a carrot, tomatoes and white wine, and presented the dish to his customers: ‘Mesdames et Messieurs voici ma dernière création je l'ai appelée Le Homard à L'Américaine.’

It was a great success, but caused much consternation because Americans were commonly said to be ‘un peuple de sauvages incultes dans l'art de la gastronomie' (‘a people of savages uneducated in the art of gastronomy’). Ooo là là!

So French snobs decided instead it had to be homard à l'armoricaine (Amorica being an ancient name for Brittany, where most French lobsters are caught). Many food scholars have argued that Brittany is the true origin of the dish (although they are now in a minority, and Fraysse is on record saying he did really and truly call it ‘American’...) but if you do eat it in Brittany, it will probably be à l'armoricaine.

Classic dishes

Fish and seafood

Text © Dana Facaros

Image by nyaa_birdies_perch