Steak-frites – It is considered by some to be the national dish of France. Historically, the rump steak was commonly used for this dish. More typically at the present time, the steak is an entrecôte also called rib eye, pan-fried rare (“saignant” – literally “bloody”), in a pan reduction sauce, although hollandaise or béarnaise sauce are not uncommon, served with deep-fried potatoes.
Anchovies are one of the most misunderstood ingredients out there. People literally fear these little morsels. They are vital though for a traditional Caesar Salad and they have a multitude of other uses besides being a despised pizza topping. This butter is a great accomplishment on a steak, chicken, tossed in pasta and even on some strong flavored fish such as salmon. You can soak the anchovies in white wine or milk to reduce the saltiness if desired
1 1.75-oz tin of anchovy fillets
1 Pound of butter, softened
2 shallots, finely chopped
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup pimentos, diced
In the bowl of a food processor with a steel blade, place all ingredients. Pulse until ingredients are uniformly distributed throughout the butter.
Lay a 16-in length of waxed paper on a clean work surface. Place all the anchovy butter ⅓ of the way up the paper. Fold the end nearest you up over the butter and roll to form a uniform 2 inch cylinder. Tightly wrap ends. Wrap again with plastic wrap and place in freezer.
Cut 1/2 inch off the cylinder and place on your grilled medium-rare steak or other uses.
Opening the year I was living in Paris and was literally a few blocks from where I lived. I dined there a few times and obviously didn’t fully appreciate and realize how good of a bistro I had almost literally in my backyard. Now considered by many to be the very best bistro in Paris.
“You’ll hear plenty of English and French in the dining room because everyone—local and foreign—loves the place for its time-honored classicism.” ~ Alice Waters
“Although it opened in 2000, it has the feel of a place that’s been around forever. The wonderful steak is served with Cognac and peppercorns, or you can get a single fried egg with truffles.” ~ Dorie Greenspan
“You’d think it would be easy to create a ‘new’ classic bistro in Paris, but no one’s done it as well as Bertrand Auboyneau, who makes it look effortless.” ~ Patricia Wells
“The art of cuisine is perhaps one of the most useful forms of diplomacy.”
~ Auguste Escoffier
On October 28, 1846 one of the most important French chefs the world has ever known was born Georges Auguste Escoffier. He modernized and simplified the French culinary system. Among his achievements was codifying the five mother sauces of French cuisine. He also instituted a military hierarchy into the kitchen, a system that is followed to this day worldwide with few changes. This brigade de cuisine is a structured team system which delegates different responsibilities to different team members who specialize in certain tasks.
Escoffier began his apprenticeship aged 12 at his uncle’s restaurant in Nice, France. At 19 he moved to Paris and continued his apprenticeship. He was the first great chef that worked his entire career in the public sphere, as opposed to working for royalty. Among his customers were kings, heads of state, and stars on the London and Paris opera. He became known as, “the chef of kings and King of chefs”.
His belief, “above all, keep it simple,” led to him revolutionizing cuisine and a gastronomic philosophy of highly refined simplicity. Escoffier established sanitation standards that up until that point had been unheard of in the kitchen. He was an expert in food science of the time as well as preservation. He was one of the first to develop bottled sauces for the homemaker. Escoffier was dedicated to the belief that food service professionals should improve their skills through education. He wrote multiple books to this effect including Le Guide Culinaire.
The brigade system was instituted in the 19th century at London’s Savoy Hotel. The size and scope will vary according to the size of the kitchen and the establishment. In a large hotel kitchen, especially during Escoffier’s age, a brigade would consist of the following:
Executive Chef– An administrator in charge of all kitchen operations including menu planing, costing and scheduling. Chef de Cuisine– A active cook who works in the kitchen during preparation periods as well as service. Also responsible for ordering and other administrative duties. Sous Chef– Second in command under the chef de cuisine. Supervises all the cooks. Oversees the preparation of food and service in the chef de cuisine’s absence. Chef de Partie– In charge of a specific station. Commis– Assistants to the chef de partie. Apprentice– Assists the commis. Common in Europe.
Stations: Saucier– Responsible for the preparation of all stocks and sauces. Rotisseur– Responsible for all roasts. Oversaw next two positions. Grillardin– Responsible for all grilled meats. Friturier– Responsible for frying everything from French fries to oysters and tempura. Poissonier– Responsible for the cleaning and preparation of all fish. Entremetier– Responsible for the “entrance” to the meal, a small lighter first course. Oversaw next two positions. Potager– Responsible for making soups. Legumier– Responsible for all vegetable hot dishes and sides. Garde Manger– Responsible for the preparation of all cold dishes including hors d’oeuvres, terrines, pates, etc. Patissier– Pastry chef. Responsible for the creation and presentation of all desserts. Boulanger– Baker. Responsible for all bread and breakfast pastries.
The Macaron…cookie was born in Italy, introduced by the chef of Catherine de Medicis in 1533 at the time of her marriage to the Duc d’Orleans who became king of France in 1547 as Henry II. The term “macaron” has the same origin as that the word “macaroni” — both mean “fine dough”.
The first Macarons were simple cookies, made of almond powder, sugar and egg whites. Many towns throughout France have their own prized tale surrounding this delicacy. In Nancy, the granddaughter of Catherine de Medici was supposedly saved from starvation by eating Macarons. In Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the macaron of Chef Adam regaled Louis XIV and Marie-Therese at their wedding celebration in 1660.
Only at the beginning of the 20th century did the Macaron become a “double-decker” affair. Pierre Desfontaines, the grandson of Louis Ernest Laduree (Laduree pastry and salon de the, rue Royale in Paris) had the idea to fill them with a “chocolate panache” and to stick them together.
Since then, French Macaron cookies have been nationally acclaimed in France and remain the best-selling cookie in pastry retail stores.