Bocuse

This is my own translation of the chapter “Bocuse” from the book “A mesa voadora: crônicas de viagem e comida” by Luís Fernando Veríssimo, Rio de Janeiro, RJ : Editora Globo, 1982.

Bocuse

Paul Bocuse is the exact opposite of the caricatural idea of what a French chef should be. In truth, all the French chefs that I know, either personally (a few men, lovely women), or from photographs, having nothing in common with the fiction of the aristocrat of nervous gestures and superior glances who would faint at the sight of a hamburger with ketchup. Bocuse has the body of a rugby player and the physiognomy of a placid French province.  The only thing missing is a smoking Gitane in the corner of his mouth. It’s he who has revolutionized French cuisine.

In his restaurant in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, a few kilometers to the North of Lyon, Bocuse serves – almost everyone says – the best food in France. There are those who protest that this honor belongs to the Frères Troisgros, in Roanne, also close to Lyon, oh well-situated city.  But since the Troisgros brothers are considered followers of Bocuse’s style, members of the “Bande à Bocuse”, as this relatively new generation of chefs is called in France, it comes down to the same thing. What Bocuse and his “bande” did was to substitute the legendary French haute cuisine for a simpler and more natural cuisine, fresher but with less fussiness, if that makes sense. Instead of sculptural dishes, elaborated as much for the eyes and for vanity’s sake as for the palate, dishes that emphasized the flavor of each ingredient, with a minimum of superfluous ornament. The magazine Newsweek, which put Bocuse on its–I believe it was the latest– cover– gives an extreme example of this sculptural French gastronomy: A Veal Orloff prepared by Urbain Dubois for a Russian prince, in an epoch in which Russian princes still existed. Dubois’s veal arrived under so many layers of truffles, creamed onions, wild mushrooms, and Mornay sauce that the prince finished his dinner without ever encountering the veal. Yet a fish à la Bocuse spends less than five minutes in the fire and is served only with quickly cooked vegetables. And a Tuna Tartare arrives in the lucky guest’s stomach without ever having seen a flame: it’s completely raw.

Another revolution of the Bocuse school is in relation to sauces. In classical cooking, a sauce base was a rich concentrate of meat or fish cooked for several days before the addition of flour, butter, cream and egg yolks in order to then take its final form as, let’s say, a sauce Chateaubriand, with white wine, various spices and more butter.  The new school prefers a lighter stock, reinforced with creamed vegetables instead of flour and with cream and butter added only as a final touch. Of course, the current preoccupation with calories and cholesterol has much to do with the success of the new cuisine, and that no one any longer has the time or money of a Russian prince to spend on food, but the New French Revolution, as the most enthusiastic call Bocuse’s innovations, is triumphing because of its own good sense. And good taste.

The pioneer of the Bocuse style was Michel Guérard, today of the restaurant Les Prés d’Eugénie, in Eugénie-les-Bains, in the Pyrenees, but Bocuse was the person who popularized it. And Bocuse himself stated that his inspiration for the new cooking came from the time that he served as apprentice to the great Fernand Point, of the Pyramid, in Vienna. With Point, Bocuse learned everything about classical cooking. But he learned more from the old man’s heresies. Point barely cooked his peas, preferring them firm, almost raw, because– according to Bocuse– “his instinct told him that they were better like that.” In France, great land, people build their fame and fortune on an instinct for peas.

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Cardamom-Flavored Panisse Galettes

From: La Cardamome : dix façons de la préparer

By Julia Longavesne

Les Éditions de l’Épure, Paris, 2011.

Translation my own.

Cardamom-flavored Panisse Galettes

1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

-150 grams of chickpea flour

-600 milliliters (about 2.5 cups) of vegetable stock

-3 tablespoons of olive oil

-salt, pepper

 The night before: put the chickpea flour in a pot and thin it out by slowing pouring the hot vegetable stock over it. Let it thicken up over gentle heat for several minutes, stirring continuously. Add the cardamom, salt and pepper. When the preparation has taken on the consistency of a thick mush, sprinkle two tablespoons of olive oil over it and take it off the heat. Pour it into a large pre-greased gratin dish, about 6 x 12 inches, spreading it about half an inch thick and smoothing the surface nicely with the help of a spatula. Let it cool down at room temperature before putting the dish in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap.

The day of: cut up the panisse using a glass to form small discs which you will then brown in a pan with the rest of the olive oil.

Serve these galettes hot, accompanied by sautéed vegetables, ratatouille, or a salad of crudités.

Sage Ravioli from Révélations Gastronomiques by Hervé This

pp. 134 – 138 of Révélations Gastronomiques by Hervé This, published by Éditions Belin, 1995. Translation my own.

Sage Ravioli

————————–

Let us reserve the marrow of our heart to slather on tartines,

The intimate jus of passions to put in a bottle,

Let’s make of all our self a sublime residue with which to nourish posterity.

 

Gustave Flaubert, Letter to Madame X.

 

This Italian recipe is remarkable in its finesse. It has the merit of teaching us the useful procedure of extracting aromas. I like these examples in which the principle of the thing appears in all its purity, ready to be taken up again on other occasions.

What’s more, the recipe gives us the occasion to evoke an essential component of the alimentation of those who have remained a bit infantile: pasta.

 

 

Ingredients for 6 large ravioli

(one per person will suffice)

  • 500 grams of flour
  • 4 eggs (for the dough)
  • 6 eggs
  • 200 grams of aged parmesan
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sage (in abundance)
  • A dollop of olive oil

 

  1. Make a ravioli dough by putting 500 grams of wheat flour (durum flour if possible) on a board, making a well in the center, and cracking in four whole eggs, a spoonful of olive oil, salt and a few drops of water. Work the dough just until it no longer sticks to your hands, then form a ball, which you will cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for a half-hour.

 

A dough forms because the water in eggs, and any water that you might add, form a starch solution: the grains of starch absorb the water, puff up and seal themselves. The dough must be well-worked so that the water is evenly distributed, and all the grains are equally stiff, and so that the water which formed the solution, along the edges of the grains, assures an efficient seal. Then, as the dough rests, the water migrates from the places where it is abundant (the edges of the grains) towards the zones where it is not as yet present: the edges of the grains dry out a bit, which seals the grains even more strongly, while the center of the grains becomes humid. The dough becomes homogenous.

Working the dough serves simultaneously to form a gluten network ; this is one of the reasons why we use durum flour, which has many proteins that can build a gluten network. Don’t forget that this gluten network only forms after being worked assiduously for a fairly long time: the proteins must first be unwound before they can bind. To accomplish this, disulfurous bridges, chemical bonds between two atoms of sulfur which keep the proteins folded up, must be broken. An energy must be provided (and air). Don’t neglect this network: it’s this which will allow the pasta to keep its shape, solidifying the grains of starch in the boiling cooking water.

 

  1. Flatten the ball of dough with a pastry roller on a smooth, floured surface, then pass your sheet of dough through the pasta machine, if you have one (if you don’t have a machine you’ll have to tire yourself out rolling it out thinly with the pastry roller) . With the help of a 5-inch cookie cutter (or a bowl, or even a little individual tart mold), cut discs out of the dough that you will put on a floured surface as you go. On each disc, put a little bit of grated parmesan, pepper, a pinch of salt, an egg yok, and fine-cut basil. Cover each thusly prepared disc with another disc of the same diameter and seal the edges of the two dough discs by pressing them together.

 

What to do with the remaining egg whites? Nothing is more annoying, in a household, than leaving egg whites in the refrigerator, in the hopes of a use which rarely arises : after several days of waiting, one ends up throwing them out and the household economy doesn’t gain anything. Why not have, in the kitchen, a collection of recipes that utilize egg whites? Here are some ideas:

-Meringues : you beat the whites into peaks, incorporate granulated sugar and cook in a very low oven for a long time ; think of the cake which is called “gateau succès,” for example, put together from discs of meringue with praline, separated layers of various cremes.

-Tuiles : you mix 30 grams of melted butter, 200 grams of praline et three egg whites: then you add 30 grams of flour, you let it rest for at least an hour, and you put thin discs of it onto a baking sheet covered with greased parchment paper; bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it just begins to color. Look at the tuiles and, as soon as they’re out of the oven, drape them over a bottle on its side, a pastry roller, or any other object that can give them a pleasant shape.

-A salmon mousseline : mix the salmon meat with sherry that you have already heated up and into which you will have dissolved gelatin, lemon juice, a bit of melted butter ; then add whipped cream and egg whites that are beaten to soft peaks. Bake at 300 degrees for an amount of time which will depend on the mass (about 20 minutes).

 

  1. Prepare the sage sauce by simply heating chopped sage leaves in butter.

 

Here lies the cooks’ genius, the heritage of chefs of yesteryear, the substance of their work : empiricism and culinary inventiveness have discovered that numerous molecules are not water-soluble, but are very fat-soluble. By heating the sage leaves in butter, one breaks down the vegetable cells, which liberates the aromatic molecules, which dissolve in the melted butter. The principle can be reapplied for other preparations: why not, even, extract in oil or in melted butter the aromas of thyme, bay leaves, of powdered spices? Why not orchestrate the succession of two complementary extractions: first in water, cold or hot ; next in a body of fat, oil or butter?

 

  1. As soon as the sage butter is ready, cook the ravioli in the boiling, salted water for 3 minutes. Then put them onto heated plates and pour a spoonful of sage-infused butter over each. Serve immediately.

A century ago, everyone made their own pasta. The Alsatians preserved that tradition with spätzle and fried noodles, which are a delight. Preparing pasta is a child’s game, as we have seen: flour, eggs, water, which you work, then let rest, then cut according to the desired form, and then cook in boiling, salted water.

Pasta is better “al-dente”, when it doesn’t stick. Why would it stick? Because it is made up of starch, which forms a sticky paste, and of proteins: those of gluten, the network which surrounds the grains of starch, and those of the eggs, which have been placed in the dough. When the cooking is brief, it coagulates the gluten (at about 140 degrees) and finishes stiffening the pasta, which inflates : it is above all the long strands of starch molecules (the amylose) which dissolve in water: the others, in branched strands (the amylopectine) are hardly soluble. When the cooking is prolonged, the starch dissolves excessively in the water (the water becomes milky) and so does a portion of the proteins, and the pasta becomes sticky. Inversely, the cook time is insufficient if the starch paste has not coagulated, so the pasta is not inflated. The coagulation of proteins maintains that paste in a homogenous block and avoids the dissolution of the flour which would come about if one put only flour in the boiling water.

Note that you could cook the pasta in bouillon : this last idea would be a bit wasteful, but what gastronomic pleasure would be such pasta, imbibed in a succulent meat jus! (Asians understand this: their guests plunge just-cooked noodles into bouillon placed in the center of the table, in the style of a fondue).

Often, to drain pasta, on puts them in a colander, but the starch freed in the cooking water is poured back over the pasta and makes it sticky. An intelligent sleight of hand is to seize the pasta with a strainer and put them directly onto the serving plates.

Don’t forget to salt the cooking water: in order to obtain well-salted pasta, if you forget to salt the cooking water, you can put a much larger quantity of salt onto the pasta on the plate. In effect, the salt places in the cooking water goes with the water into the pasta as it inflates, in such a way that they are salted to the center. On the contrary, when the pasta is cooked and taken out of the water, the salt can no longer penetrate it: solid put on top of solid, it can no longer enter into the starch gel which makes up cooked pasta.

Why must the cooking water be boiling? Because this makes the proteins coagulate before the amylose has time to dissolve excessively.

Finally, it is sometimes advised to put the pasta into a large quantity of water: this is good advice, because the pasta put cold into hot water will not noticeably cool down the latter: in a few instants it is back to a boil, which is, as we have just seen, the guarantee that the amylase is not too dissolved; what’s more, the amidon freed during the cooking is dispersed throughout the mass of water and doesn’t come back and stick to the pasta, which would later render them sticky.

It is also advised to put four spoonfuls of oil per liter of cooking water so that the pasta does not stick. Views are divided on this, the instruction has not yet been rigorously verified.”

A random article about Nigella from Globo News in Brazil.

The interview was three hours long, the longest given by the English best-seller (eight million books sold) Nigella Lawson during her stay in Brazil. Well, in the words of the most sensual chef on the planet (isn’t she?) her encounter with the ELA team was a “happening”. Production was not lacking: there was Kátia Barbosa, from Aconchego Carioca, stationed in the kitchen preparing all kinds of savory pastries (black bean, puff pastry “pillows”, shrimp bobós, and even “virado à paulista”, a nouveauté); a spread put together by the producer Lou Bittencourt with only our finest delicacies, from Globo cookies (which Nigella tried with maté), to rolled sponge-cake, cornbread, cheese bread, tapioca crêpes with guava-cream cheese filling. And to drink, cool rose-tinted bubbles from Vale dos Vinhedos and artisanal beer. Nigella entered the scene and went around observing, eating, chatting and…eating more than a little bit.

 

“If I were asked today who is the best chef in Brazil, I already have a selection: Kátia Barbosa,” pronounced the beautiful Englishwoman who is almost 5’9”, unbelievably 53 years old and much thinner than she appears on her program on GNT. “Diet, don’t even think about it. But I exercise daily. And religiously,” says Nigella, currently two sizes smaller than last year: she has reached the coveted European size 40. How glorious!

 

At ease, barefoot

 

Let the truth be told: she doesn’t shy away from photos in front of a well-set table. Between flashes, our relaxed guest asked the photographer for more time so that she could get another steaming black-bean dumpling, which she not only photographed, but also noted the recipe. Or another “almofadinha” of tapioca with dulce de leche (“This pillow is delicious”). Or still to enjoy another tray of pão de queijo. Nigella was at-home. The high heels? They ended up in a corner of the apartment in the Águas Férreas condominium in Cosme Velho, the scene of our encounter. Yes it’s true, Nigella gave the interview barefoot. Impossible to be more “at home”!

 

“I was really wanting to get to know a real house. I was only in studios or giving interviews in hotels. Is this how Brazilians live?” wants to know the author of “Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the heart of the home,” with 190 of her recipes which was just released in Brazil by BestSeller. It is the most voluminous of all her books, weighing almost two kilos.

 

Ex-restaurant-and-book critic for the English newspaper “The Sunday Times”, Nigella comes from an aristocratic family. Her father is Baron Lawson of Blaby, who joined the government of Margaret Thatcher, as well as having a seat in the House of Lords. Her husband, Charles Saatchi, besides commanding, along with his brother Maurice, one of the biggest publicity houses in England, Saatchi & Saatchi, is owner of the mega contemporary art gallery in London, a worldwide reference: Saatchi Galery (familiar with the polemical Damien Hirst, author of works that use animals in formaldehyde? Yep, he’s a Saatchi invention).

 

Kind, talkative, gentle, solicitous, she manages to do everything that is asked of her, even including posing with Rodolfo, the friendly Scottish terrier of the house. During every photo shoot, the makeup artist who accompanies her in all her travels, with her shoulder-bag full of beauty products, retouches Nigella’s lips, ruffles her hair or pinches her white, almost porcelain skin. All of this is throwaway: Nigella is beautiful, colorful, radiant… restless, Tweeting all the time, sending her followers updates from the tropics. She called London three times to get word from her children (she has two, as well as a stepdaughter). And posting on Facebook photos of the foodstuffs and rooms that make up the apartment: “Amazing!” she exclaimed as she went through the bedrooms, veranda, kitchen. Nigella strolled through the house completely without ceremony.

 

“Of everything that I’ve tried in Brazil, the only thing that I didn’t like was farofa. It’s strange, rough in the mouth…Even still, I’m taking a packet with me to play with and see what happens. I think that it could be fantastic with tomatoes, give a crunchiness. Afterwards, I’ll let you know. And who knows if I’ll end up including it in my next book?”

 

Nigella didn’t study gastronomy. She learned from watching her mother cook (her favorite recipe, her mother’s skillet chicken, is on page 223 of the book) and from time spent in other countries. She lived in France, in Germany, and in Italy. Tuscany, even.

 

“When I was a child, it was considered vulgar to talk about food in England. But for my family, food was very important. Besides, I only liked spinach and chocolate. It was when I lived abroad, with a small budget but marvelous ingredients, that I discovered creativity.”

 

Nigella says that she has an obsessive side (“You should see me researching recipes”) and that cooking helps her to take care of herself, while also satiating her interest in people.

 

“I love a conversation,” she says, thrilled.

 

And this is how she would have gone on, if it weren’t for an appointment the next day. But before leaving, she couldn’t resist:

 

“May I take another slice of this?”

 

It was the rolled spongecake.”

This is a translation that I did of the original article by Renata Izaal e Luciana Fróes found here: https://oglobo.globo.com/ela/gente/nigella-lawson-provou-mate-com-biscoito-devorou-bolinhos-de-feijoada-bebeu-cerveja-16952575