Tasting Rhône-Alpes, Eating Grenoble

True to its name, truite à la Grenoblois originated in Grenoble, which lies on the Isère river in the Rhône Alpes region.

Unfortunately, the dish is hard to find in Melbourne’s French restaurants, which tend to lean on stereotypical French fare. But feel free to use the recipe I trialled — it made for a delicate, elegant meal that my family devoured.

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Manger a table – a French social tradition of eating only with a set table, bread and butter being essential table mainstays, alongside wine matched to the meal (white, of course), and a beautiful pitcher for the water.

The Grenoblois sauce is composed of capers, almonds, butter, parsley and croutons, scattered on a seared trout fillet (my recipe called for snapper), which in my recipe rested atop a bed of wilted spinach and potato scallops poached in spiced fish stock.

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Snapper ended up being a great choice, but I’d love to try the recipe again with trout to get a more authentic taste of Grenoble!

Apart from the Columbus-introduced potatoes, the rest of the dish echoes of medieval cuisine, with cinnamon and star anise in the stock evoking the pre-Revolution and pre-New World, spice-heavy cooking described by Poulain.

Author Cherry Ripe (yes, that is her real name) asserts that regionality in food developed from sourcing ingredients close at hand, which, examining the ingredients of Grenoble and cross-checking them to their regional availability, provides a plausible account of how truite à la Grenobloise came about.

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Homemade croutons, parsley, almond slivers and capers. I forgot to include the butter in this photo but I promise it went in the sauce.

Capers are essential to the sauce, and are native to the Mediterranean region, grown as a crop in France by the 16th century. Cultivation of almonds has also taken place in Rhône-Alpes since the 16th century,  strengthening the link between the sauce and the city.

Croutons made from bread, a staple of the French diet, parsley, a native European herb, and that French staple, butter, are also added to the sauce, all of which were accessible to Grenoblois cooks. Lastly, the trout that features in the original are commonly found in the Isère river that Grenoble sits on, so by combining all these ingredients into one dish, the link between convenience and ease of production, and the regionality of the dish, is clear.

Call me Sherlock, because that’s investigative food journalism at its best.

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Grenoble on a plate!

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