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Viva la France!—and its food

Liberty, equality, fraternity and gastronomy are things this great nation is known for.


By Adrienne Dy, M.D.


OCTOBER 2013


Fine dining and Michelin stars, boulangeries and patisseries, café culture and an abundance of cheese and wine—how on earth do French women not get fat?! By eating for pleasure, says Francophile author Mireille Guiliano (frenchwomendontgetfat.com.). Claiming that the key to a slender figure isn’t guilt or deprivation, but learning to get the most from the things you enjoy, she emphasizes freshness, variety, balance and pleasure in her no-diet book.

 

Still, it begs the question—away from the streets of Paris or the lush French countryside, is it possible to adopt that philosophy? Vicky Rose Pacheco, executive chef of the 1771 group of restaurants, is painfully frank: “It’s not in our culture, but it’s the better thing to do. When you pace what you eat, it’s good for the metabolism. Even if it’s rich, if you don’t eat a lot of it, okay lang eh. Quantity is key, and you don’t have to eat everything in one sitting.”

 

Hence the practice of dégustation—a French term that refers to the careful, appreciative sampling of various dishes, focusing on the sensory experience the food brings. It’s very different from what we are used to: an entire spread laid out on the table all at once, in a free-for-all buffet customary in any Pinoy celebration. “Sa Filipino, important ang volume and masarap, so it doesn’t matter how it was made. [The French] understand the importance of preparation and nice presentation, and the freshness of ingredients,” explains Chef Pacheco.

 

Still, it’s a cultural gap that can be bridged by a love for good flavor. As Chef Pacheco points out, a lot of French dishes evoke a déjà vu experience—pot a feu is like beef nilaga; boeuf bourguignon is similar to mechado; escargot is cooked the way we like our baked mussels. Cheese, butter and garlic are ingredients the Filipinos and French collectively love, and we both can’t get enough of stews, braises and heavy sauces.

 

Aside from controlling quantity, French food inherently carries some healthy merits. Wine, whether put into sauces or drunk during meals, contains antioxidants and is good for the heart if taken in right amounts. And this month’s recipe from Chateau 1771 features a nutrient that champions bone health: calcium.

 

Get more calcium-rich French recipes in the October issue of HealthToday.


Organic pork shoulder braised in milk

INGREDIENTS:



3 kg organic pork kasim, skinless

SEASONING MIX:

2 Tbsp sea salt
1 tsp black peppercorn, crushed
2 sprigs thyme leaves
8 pcs sage leaves

COOKING PROPER:

1 Tbsp olive oil

6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp sage leaves, chopped
1 sprig thyme

1 liter fresh full cream milk
2 pcs bay leaf
2 Tbsp lemon juice
lemon rind from 1 whole lemon, cut in big pieces


PROCEDURE:


1. Cut the pork into six equal pieces.

2. Mix the salt, black peppercorn, thyme leaves and sage leaves together. Rub the pork pieces with this seasoning mix.

3. Tie each piece into a log shape using a string. Let stand in chiller, covered, overnight.

4. The following day, preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare your casserole.

5. Pour enough oil on the casserole to film it. You may need more than 1 tablespoon, depending on the size of your casserole. Heat the oil.

6. Brown the pieces of meat in the oil, all sides, in batches.

7. Discard the excess fat that will come out but leave at least 1 tablespoon.

8. Lower the heat and add the garlic, sage and thyme. Sauté without browning.

9. Add the milk, bay leaves, lemon juice and lemon rind.

10. Add the meat, cover the casserole and place in the oven to braise until tender. This might take 45 minutes.

11. When the meat is tender, take out the meat and simmer the juices further to reduce it until dark curds have formed.

12. Discard the thyme, bay leaves and lemon rind. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serves 6.

[About the chef]

Vicky Rose Pacheco is the executive chef of the 1771 group of restaurants, which is celebrating 25 years in the food business and includes the flagship Chateau 1771; Café 1771; and Sentro 1771. A Hotel and Restaurant Administration graduate, she trained in hotel management in Switzerland and worked in a restaurant in the U.S. before returning home to the Philippines. She joined Chateau 1771, a French bistro then located in Malate, Manila, as the assistant manager back in 1989, later on becoming both manager and executive chef—positions she still holds to this day. All 1771 restaurants boast of a “no borders cuisine,” something that this Pinoy food-loving, French-food concocting chef is at home with. Poulet rôti is her favorite French dish.
Chateau 1771 is located at level 1, Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City. Contact them at (02) 729 9760 to 61, or visit chateau1771.com.

 

Get more calcium-rich French recipes from Chef Vicky in the October issue of HealthToday.



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