Mysaucepan has a weakness for French food – she will not be fazed when cooking with lots of butter and cream or have a pot of duck leg confit gently simmering in its own fat.
French baguettes, croissants and champagne are some of the loves of her life, apart from me of course. And she would hold 3-star Michelin chefs such as Joel Robuchon or Paul Bocuse in the highest regard as I would the great pianists of the world.
“Can a beef bourguignon with all those expensive ingredients that take hours to cook honestly taste as good as a simple 5-minute char kway teow?” I ask.
“What kind of silly comparison is that?” she retorts.
“My point is that simple and cheaper ingredients cooked properly can also taste just as good as the more expensive stuff that you buy from gourmet grocers” I clarify.
“Okay, as long as you’re not trying to compare the elegance of French cuisine with the rough and tumble style of Malaysian street food” she says.
“No I’m not, but do you think Joel Robuchon or Paul Bocuse can cook a tastier Malaysian yong tow foo than me?” I ask gleefully.
“I’m not going to answer, this conversation is silly and it’s going nowhere” she says, clearly a little irritated.
So that is the end of our conversation about French and Malaysian food. But having just returned from a two-week trip to Paris, it seems Mysaucepan is still not quite over French food yet.
Hence, the conversation is only a prelude to a simple French onion soup and potato gratin dinner to flush out any remaining love for the country of the cockerel, for now anyway.
Freshly baked bread to the French is as important as freshly sliced sashimi to the Japanese. So I try to hunt down a baton of fresh baguette from our local bakery.
“Make sure you don’t buy the baguette from Coles or Woolies okay, I want the freshly baked ones from the bakery!” Mysaucepan warns, knowing that I have the propensity to seek out value.
Freshly baked bread, as it seems, has a soft and fluffy texture and is tasty on its own. For tonight, I cut the baguette into slices and top each slice with a good mature cheddar.
In just ten minutes in a 180 degree Celcius oven, these slices are turning golden brown and the sight of melting cheese is enough to make me salivate with anticipation.
I know I can just have a few slices of these cheese croutons on its own. They are crispy outside with that deep and pungent aroma of the aged cheddar while so soft and fluffy inside.
Mysaucepan‘s potato gratin spent about an hour in the oven and it looks and smells awesome. The potato slices on the top are golden brown around the edges with a slightly crispy bite while they are soft and creamy in the centre.
Of course a complete vegetarian meal to me is a bit like politicians – they make no sense and are utterly boring too.
French food is one thing but there is no way I am having French vegetarian. So I fire up the BBQ and chuck a few pieces of scotch fillets onto the hot grill.
This must truly be one of the most under-rated but spectacular methods of marinating a piece of steak. The stock cube brings out the beefy flavour in the meat without over-powering it although I might refrain from this method of seasoning for the best meats like wagyu.
All that is really needed for this steak is a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper.
“See, I like French food too!” I tell Mysaucepan as I squeeze a big dollop of French Dijon mustard onto my plate.
Mysaucepan‘s potato gratin turns out to be a great complement to my rib-eye steaks with some wilted spinach to the delight of our dinner guests.
A 2008 Kaesler Cabernet Sauvignon is bold and full of dark berries flavours on the nose. It is soft and elegant on the palate and a wonderful complement for the rib-eye steaks.
I think this dinner will keep Mysaucepan satified until the next craving for French food hits her palate.
French onion soup
You will need to slice at least 8 – 10 large brown onions. I can slice onions pretty quickly to avoid tearing up but if you want to avoid that onion sting in the eyes, my suggestion is to use a mandolin and/or a pair of swimming eye goggles.
Thinner slices of brown onions, will impart more flavour to the soup.
- 8 – 10 large brown onions, thinly sliced crosswise to get fine “O” shaped onion rings
- 2 litres of good veal stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
- 60gm butter
- 6 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 6 sprigs of thyme
- 4 – 6 teaspoon salt, adjust to taste
- a good splash of dry white wine (optional)
- Heat butter and olive oil in a stock pot until it is gently sizzling.
- Add onions, thyme, salt and stir to coat evenly and cook in medium heat until the onions start to wilt and become soft.
- Pour in veal stock and simmer in low heat for about 20 minutes until fragrant.
- Serve hot with cheese croutons and a sprinkle of black pepper and garnish with some fresh thyme.
I like potato gratin because this dish is always wholesome and hearty. It can be a beautiful complement to grilled meats, roasts and seafood.
The trick to a good potato gratin is in the richness of the sauce that is poured over the potato before it goes into the oven. Many recipes use nutmeg but Mysaucepan prefers to omit and substitute this ingredient with thyme in gently simmering the butter, milk and cream in a saucepan.
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 250ml lite cream
- 300ml milk
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 800gm of desiree potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
- 80gm grated cheddar and parmesan
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Gently heat the butter, milk, cream and thyme in a small saucepan until almost simmering and remove from heat.
- Assemble one layer of potato slices in a baking tray and ladle a few tablespoons over the potato and add a few pinches of salt and black pepper and sprinkle a little grated cheddar and parmesan.
- Repeat step 2 above until the baking tray is almost full and top with remaining cheddar and parmesan.
- Heat oven to 200 degree Celcius. Cover the baking tray with aluminium foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes.
- Remove aluminium foil from the baking tray and check if potatoes are soft. Bake uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese at the top of the potatoes become golden brown.
- Remove from oven, let potato gratin rest and cool a little then serve immediately.
Serves 4 – 6 people
Potato gratin can also be a hearty meal in itself in winter.
I prefer to serve the cheese croutons separate as opposed to placing it on top of the soup like the French.
By serving the croutons separately, my dinner guests can eat them on its own and the croutons do not become soggy from being in the soup.
So dear readers, are you a fan of French cuisine and if so, what is your favourite French food?