French food notes - November 2018
Notes on food in France including a monster mash, a stylish pepper mill and a new chocolate bar....
How this monster mash defined a culinary legend
It appears to be a requirement in French culinary circles that every top chef’s creative life be conveniently distilled into one single, stop-the-clocks dish that they have either invented, made their own or willingly allied themselves to.
When Paul Bocuse, the King of Lyon and daddy of all modern French chefs, passed away in January 2018 aged 91, in amongst the glittering obituaries were frequent references to his eye-wateringly luxurious 1975 creation, the truffle soup ‘VGE’. It was named after the President, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, for whom this unctuous mélange of chicken, mushroom, truffle and foie gras was created. Over time, this golden pastry-topped bowl of ‘super soup’ came to define the finesse and elegance of Bocuse’s menus.
As for others: fellow haute cuisine behemoth Alain Ducasse is closely linked with simple layered vegetables in a procelain ‘cookpot’, while Helène Darroze’s signature dish is her black rice and squid ink risotto; the more contrary, philosophically-minded Pierre Gagnaire said he has not yet created the dish of which he is most proud.
Recently, another top chef with a worldwide reputation, Joël Robuchon, died aged 73, provoking much sadness in the industry. But this time, despite a 32 Michelin-starred string of restaurants and enormous influence at the high end of French cuisine, it was one of his impossibly simple recipes that had obituary writers salivating over their keyboards.
The Robuchon pomme purée (mashed potatoes) contains what you might use (spuds, salt, pepper, whole milk, butter) when preparing bangers and mash at home. But with one difference: artery-menacing levels of butter to elevate it to the required levels of majesty. Some say the potato-butter ratio is 2:1; while one chef who worked for him said there was more butter than potato. Naughty, but nice... and what a way to sign off!
Stylish pepper pot is grist to the mill for Peugeot
It may come as a surprise that the Peugeot manufacturing name was associated with salt and pepper mills (1842) long before the company turned its attention to automobiles.
The company today sells an extensive array of condiment dispensers, with styles to suit all tastes, from bright-coloured, traditional models to sleeker, more contemporary looks such as their ABS soft-touch range of Onyx electronic mills, from €47.
Lignac’s new snack raises the chocolate bar bar
Rodez-born chef and pâtisserie genius Cyril Lignac is well known to fans of TV cookery shows – he is a judge on Le Meilleur Pâtissier. He is also a popular purveyor of finely crafted sweet goods, both online and at five Parisian outlets.
Now he has turned his sweet skills to high-end chocolate snack bars – choose from crunchy biscuit and soft salted butter caramel or nougat and roasted peanuts.
Not cheap at €4 each but a Twix this ain’t.