This has to be the best mash in the world.
Joël Robuchon died 6th August this year from pancreatic cancer. His name is not as well known around the world as say, Bocuse, Ducasse, Blumenthal or Gordon Ramsay (who was a protagé) despite being idolised by his peers. The food magazine, Gault & Millau, named him chef of the century in 1989. In 1995 he retired from the pressured world of Michelin stars and fine dining having at that stage opened and operated over a dozen restaurants around the world. Articles refer to his "relentless perfectionism".
He simply turned his back on three star cuisine to live better and to have a family life. Later he did re-invent himself - simpler food, simpler presentation and simpler settings, with dishes using just three to four basic elements. By this time, nonetheless, he had accumulated 32 Michelin stars, the most of any other chef in the world.
Left: Joël Robuchon - the chef's chef
Right: a "three star cuisine" presentation of eye-watering precision - caviar on lobster aspic, topped with gold leaf and enhanced by tiny cushions of crème fraîche mounted by individual petit pois.
But I do make his mashed potato...
Purée de Pommes de Terre (World’s Best Mashed Potato)
Follow this to the letter the first time. You can loosen up on the effort once you’ve got the hang of it and know what you’re aiming for.
1K potatoes (starchy rather than waxy)
(Choose potatoes of similar size for even cooking.)
up to 250 ml (1 cup) real milk (i.e. not low-fat)
200 – 250 gm unsalted butter, cubed and chilled.
The original Jöel recipe from his book Simply French (written by Patricia Wells) suggests “For exceptionally rich potatoes, the quantity of butter may be doubled”. Now, that’s my kind of recipe!
His mash became "iconic" with grand restaurants and hipster bistros following his lead.
Left: Mash, exquisitely served at the Grand Véfour, Paris, individually portioned, sitting in a jus, fragrant with truffle. (More on that later.)
Right: Mash served at Le Comptoir du Relais, Paris, to support a crisply bread-crumbed, boned pig's trotter - simple bistro that belies a menu of heavenly dishes. (More on that later.)
Tell me how you get on...
The massively talented and very beautiful Stéphane Audran has died, aged 85 (27th March, 2018). She was best known outside of France for her role in Babette's Feast which won the Oscar for "Best Foreign Film".
This is my third favourite film, after Fellini's La Strada and Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies. As a cook / chef and upholder of the shared table, this film has a deeply significant meaning for me.
More to come - about the film, about the book, about the menu, about the dinner service, about foraging, about the dress, about Karen Blixen.....
Michel Guérard was classically trained in both cookery and pâtisserie. He opened his first restaurant (Le Pot-Au-Feu) in Paris in 1965, received his first Michelin star in 1967 and his second in 1971. The restaurant was forced to close in 1972 due to a major road works, at the same time that he met his future wife. He was a significant player in the movement known as Nouvelle Cuisine but along side this, he developed what he called Cuisine Minceur. This is the story.
In 1972, he met Christine Barthélemy. She was the daughter of the founder of Biotherm (skin care products - big on seaweed) who also owned a string of spa hotels. She liked his marriage proposal (who wouldn't fall for that warm, friendly charm?) but suggested he might like to lose a little weight. Cuisine Minceur was born along with a clever book - a best seller. Together they renovated the spa at Eugénie-les-Bains (S.W. of France) where he not only set up his new restaurant (soon to receive the third star) but also offered a health spa with treatments and a special menu. For the spa restaurant, he developed a cuisine that was delicious, elegant and light but still with an air of pampering luxury. Sauces were often puréed vegetables, fish was steamed over herbs, there were even desserts. Look into Potted Salmon with Lemon, Green Peppercorns and Sauce Grelette or Floating Islands with Blackcurrant Sauce.
Strangely, the book came out in Australia even before his Cuisine Gourmande. I question how much it was used by the general public. There are beautiful recipes that I still use although you lose nearly as much weight putting them together as you do eating them!
(As to his other book, Cuisine Gourmande, I challenge anyone to work through it and not come out a better cook. Both books are still published but you can find them readily in second-hand book stores or at garage sales.)
Incidentally, to visit or make a booking (haha) http://www.michelguerard.com
Below, Christine and Michel, together at Eugénie-Les-Bains.
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