Alain Passard in his kitchen. (Le Point )
Just what I need – a new Internet addiction. An online friend (known only as b1os) had posted some pictures of some really remarkable looking dishes. When I asked where the recipes came from, he said “Alain Passard.”
Oh, of course, been there, done that. Great cook; great book. No, he said, from his online videos and he sent a link to the website of the French magazine Le Point. And a treasure trove of short cooking videos by one of my favorite chefs.
The videos are rustic in the extreme – refreshing in a world where chefs seem to be made as much on the production set as they are in the kitchen. Passard is animated but obviously vamping most of his lines on the run, giving a kind of goofy charm. And the series is filmed in his restaurant kitchen, which looks more mom-and-pop than anything you’ll see on Food Network. You can see the staff whiteboard behind him and he wears sanitary gloves.
But this primitive setting only highlights the brilliance of the cooking. Using just the most basic kitchen equipment and, for the most part, the most common of ingredients (they’re all based around vegetables, though not strictly vegetarian), he spins out these lovely fantasies – in less than 3 1/2 minutes.
Slice heads of Belgian endive in half lengthwise. Slice apples thin on a mandoline (he uses one of those plastic Benriners from the Japanese grocery). Slip a slice of apple between each endive leaf and then cook it very slowly in butter until it’s golden and cooked through (slowly so the butter tastes fresh and doesn’t brown). Brush with soft butter, grate a little licorice root over (OK, one tough ingredient), some lemon zest and then coarse salt. Done.
It’s adventurous in concept, it’s delicious, it’s beautiful, and if you’ve spent any time in the kitchen, you can do it yourself.
The videos, of course, are in French, which was a slight impediment since I don’t speak the language — by watching and piecing together the text slowly I was able to figure out what was going on.
Then Betty Hallock and Jenn Harris, bless their hearts, showed me how to use full-page Google Translate (in Firefox, just plug the URL into the search bar and it’ll offer an option of translating). I’ve saved you the trouble, though – the above address will take you straight to the translation.
These are computer-generated, so they get kind of goofy (“The endive declares his love for the apple”), but somehow that just adds to the charm.
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