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French Cuisine It’s Just Fancy Names For Plain Old Food, Including Pate, Boeuf Bourguignonne, Salade Francais

Robin Benzle Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I can’t much blame the French for having an attitude when it comes to cuisine. After all, they’ve had a few thousand more years of practice than the American cook, and it’s no secret that they whip up some pretty edible stuff.

But some French chefs intent on preserving their cultural reputation would have you believe that braised squab is the national snack food, that they use truffle sauce like we use peanut butter, and you’re an idiot if you don’t have a diploma from L’Ecole du Cordon Bleu.

I recently saw a French chef on a cooking show, for example, who was preparing a “tres simple” meal involving boning your own capons and bathing them in gooseberries, or some such thing.

But I saw right through him.

I knew darned well he’d leave the television studio, go home, throw on some jeans and fry up a big, fat cheeseburger. Of course, being French, he’d call it “un grand medallion de finely chopped biftek, delicately seasoned avec sea salt and freshly ground poivre, and seared to perfection under a blanket of fromage.”

You see, it’s all in the interpretation. What they call extra-fancy crepes, think of as real skinny pancakes. Coquilles St. Jacques is really scallops ‘n cheese. Bouillabaisse? Nothing more than fish stew. And my favorite, Croque Monsieur, sounds like you may need a cooking lesson to prepare, but it’s just a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich.

So now, I think you’re ready to go beyond the pommes frites (that’s french fries, for the uncouth) and prepare a fabulous classic four-course French meal, just like they have on those four-foot-tall menus in ornate, chandelier-festooned Parisian restaurants with six forks for each place setting.

Ramekin De Pate Foie Volaille (Fancy Chicken Liver Spread)

This is best when spread on French bread or sesame crackers.

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 pound chicken livers, trimmed of fat

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 cup butter, softened, cut into pieces

1 tablespoon brandy

Heat butter in medium skillet. Add chicken livers, garlic and onion, and cook over medium-low heat 10 minutes or until livers lose pink color. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes.

Puree liver mixture in food processor. Add salt, pepper, mustard, butter and brandy and process until smooth. Spoon into crock. Use immediately or store, covered, in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Yield: About 1-1/2 cups.

Nutrition information per serving: 288 calories, 24 grams fat (75 percent fat calories), 14 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrate, 388 milligrams cholesterol, 652 milligrams sodium.

Boeuf Bourguignonne (Fancy Beef Stew)

3 slices bacon

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch cubes

Oil, optional

1 cup beef stock or broth

3 cups burgundy or other dry red wine

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water

1/2 pound small mushrooms, sauteed in butter

Cook bacon in large heavy skillet until crisp. Remove bacon. Add onion and garlic to bacon fat and cook until golden, 8 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Mix flour, salt and pepper in shallow bowl. Dredge meat chunks in seasoned flour and brown in bacon grease (add oil to skillet, if needed), 10 minutes. Add beef stock, wine, bay leaf, thyme, sugar and cooked onion mixture. Crumble bacon over top and stir. Cover tightly and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Discard bay leaf. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook additional 3 minutes until thickened. Ladle stew into big bowls and top with sauteed mushrooms.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 662 calories, 37.7 grams fat (51 percent fat calories), 41 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrate, 134 milligrams cholesterol, 1,236 milligrams sodium.

Salade Francais (Fancy Mixed Greens)

1 small head Boston lettuce

1/2 small head romaine lettuce

6 leaves red leaf lettuce


1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced

Rinse lettuces together in cold water; drain. Tear into bite-sized pieces. Wrap in tea towel and refrigerate until ready to use.

Whisk together oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard and garlic in small bowl. Transfer lettuce to salad bowl. Toss with dressing.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 139 calories, 12.7 grams fat (82 percent fat calories), 3 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 133 milligrams sodium.

Mousse Au Chocolat (Fancy Chocolate Pudding)

4 ounces semisweet chocolate

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate

3 tablespoons strong brewed coffee

5 eggs, separated

1 cup whipping cream

3 tablespoons sugar

Combine chocolates and coffee in top of double boiler and cook, stirring, over low heat until chocolate is melted. Add egg yolks and mix well. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold whites into chocolate mixture. Spoon into individual serving cups. Cover and chill at least 1-1/2 hours. Beat cream with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar and continue beating until stiff. Top each serving of mousse with generous spoonful of whipped cream.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 378 calories, 31.7 grams fat (75 percent fat calories), 8 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrate, 205 milligrams cholesterol, 64 milligrams sodium.

Note: Because of the possible threat of salmonella (a bacteria that causes food poisoning) from raw eggs, health officials recommend that the very young, the elderly, pregnant women and people with serious illnesses or weakened immune systems not eat raw or lightly cooked eggs.