Saturday, February 21, 2009
HOT FLASH FROM PARIS: Les Restes du Roi (The King's Leftovers)
La chef, for whom I served a stint as sous chef three years ago, invited us for lunch yesterday at her new apartment in the Marais. It's close to her old place but is bigger and has more natural light coming in through a streetside wall of French doors. La chef still leads cooking classes through her Promenades Gourmandes business and is branching out to a culinary salon approach through her new Salon Culinaire, offering her space for artistic and corporate team-building and brainstorming sessions, publicity events, private dinners, gatherings with culinary experts, and the like.
As la chef prepared lunch--les restes (leftovers) from a big dinner the night before
--we nibbled thin slices of Lyonnais sausage with small salted sablés (crackers). Her companion poured wine (white and red), and we sat down to a first course of individual truffle soufflés with mushroom emulsion (mousse) in little verrines (glass cups). Talk moved quickly from professional chitchat to local politics (city elections, garbage collection, library services) as la chef brought out the plat principal (main course): blanquette de veau (veal) in a cream sauce accompanied by lemon basmati rice (basmati with chopped preserved lemon).
We wiped up the sauce on our plates with pieces of baguette, and I asked about the difference between the "croissant au beurre" (butter croissant, photo below) and the "croissant ordinaire" (croissant made with margarine). The butter croissant is made in a straight or slightly curved shape, while the margarine knockoff is typically overly crescent shaped or even square. La chef and her companion had a long and lively dispute about the tax base imposed by the French government on these two types of croissants. Basically, it gets down to the fact that you pay more for the butter-based croissants. But it's worth the extra sous (pennies) for the superior flavor, even if you do have to lick your fingers afterward.
A simple salad of walnuts and chopped endive (red and green) in a light vinaigrette followed. Then cheese--reblochon, a soft, cow's milk cheese from eastern France. Then dessert--chocolate orange tart topped with chopped pistachios. Then small cups of espresso.
We ate everything with gusto and oohed and aahed over it all. "It's nothing," remarked la chef. "Just an easy lunch for a busy day."
Photos: la chef's new Lacanche stove (they're made in Burgundy); a classic croissant au beurre, with little pots of Bonne Maman jam (a very common brand)