Cooking with an Accent

Chef Michel Bastid

By Christophe Avril

Sunday, around 1 pm, the table is set for a big family reunion with faillance de Giens and the polished fancy silverware; it is time to enjoy a great lunch. While mother is still putting a final touch on the different plates, father is serving the aperitif, Suze, Pastis or a Kir (white wine with crème de cassis). The entire family is here, grandparents, uncles and aunts, all the kids running around; it is a tradition that nobody would want to miss. Today to start, they will enjoy Quenelles de Brochet (pike sausage), a specialty from Lyon, as well as escargot de Bourgogne (snails) with butter, garlic and parsley. There will also be some charcuteries, Pâté, Saucisse d'Auvergne, rosettes and rillettes du Mans. Then, since grandfather is originally from Normandy, the grown ups will have the "trou Normand," a shot of fine Calvados to settle the stomach and to reawaken the palate. Mother considered preparing a Cassoulet, a Coq au Vin or a roasted chicken with a gratin Dauphinois but she decided to prepare a nice Gigot d'Agneau, slowly cooked in the oven on a grill, leaving the meat's juices to fall on the potatoes placed on a pot under the grill. There will also be some fresh vegetables from the Sunday market. They will drink a nice red Médoc wine. A fresh green salad will follow, before the cheese. Brie de Meaux, Roquefort, Chavignol, Saint Nectaire and a Pont-l'Évêque with fresh baguette and salted butter from Britany will be served. A Pouilly-fumé (white wine) and a Pinot noir (Red wine) will accompany the cheeses. But the meal will not be complete without dessert. Some profiteroles (puffs with ice cream and chocolate sauce, tarte aux fraises (Strawberry pie) will compete with the mousse au chocolat. While the children leave the table to go play, the rest of the family will have a coffee or some Cognac or Armagnac.

No wonder that French gastronomy is listed, since 2010, as part of UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage. French carte du jour is an old cuisine, diversified and well known all over the world. The culinary heritage is very big; the "Haute Gastronomie" goes back to the XVIII century. Their agriculture is the first in Europe and it's in the world top list for quality meat. With the Mediterranean sea, the Atlantic and the Manche, French Cuisine is rich with all kinds of seafood. Each region of France has its own specialties. The east will offer Flammkueche, Andouillette and Quiche; the north and northwest are well known for their Camembert, Crêpes and a large variety of seafood. The southwest offers Confit de Canard, Foie gras, Truffle and Cassoulet and the south, with the Mediterranean cuisine, will open your appetite with a Bouillabaisse (fish soup), a Salad Niçoise and a Ratatouille.

France is also well known for its wine, boasting one of the largest productions in the world. Due to the different climates and the geology of its soil, there are countless varieties: Alsace (pinot, Muscat); Beaujolais (Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent); Bordeaux (Château Lafite-Rothschild, Saint-Émilion, Château Pétrus); Burgundy (Chablis, Nuits-Saint-Georges); Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon (blanquette de Limoux); Loire (Sancerre , Chenin blanc, Muscadet); Provence (Rosé); and the Rhône (Côtes du Vivarais, Châteauneuf-du-Pape). It's more than a tradition; it's a life style. In the beginning of the 20th century, in the countryside, the workers were drinking a wine called "la piquette." Today, this word would be used to describe a low quality wine; it was a red wine, very clear, with no or almost no tannins and around 7/8 degree of alcohol. This wine was popular with almost every kind of meal and also with cheese courses. From then on, people began to think that red wine only went well with cheeses. This, however, is not true. White wine can also go very well with cheese. A Sancerre or a Pouilly-fumé goes nicely with a goat cheese; a Comté pleasantly accompanies Château Chalon. Wines go with a number of corresponding plates, a nice red with meat, a cold white with fish and depending on the type of cheese, there will be a matching red, white or rosé.

General de Gaulle once said: "How can you govern a country which has two hundred and fortysix varieties of cheese?" Some will say that there is one different cheese for every day of the year, so 365 kinds. Others estimate that there are more than 1200 sorts. One thing is for sure, there is a lot of variety coming from each corner of the country. In Normandy, you will have the famous Camenbert, the Livarot or the Pont l'Evêque; in the Center, the Chavignol (goat), Sainte Maure de Touraine. Going southwest, the delicious Bleu des Causes, le Rocamadour and, of course, the worldwide known Roquefort. In Auvergne, you will enjoy the Cantal, the Fourme d'Ambert and the excellent Saint Nectaire. The region of the Mediterranean, the Banon, the Brocciu and the Pélardon can be appreciated with a nice cold Rosé. The mountain of the Rhône-Alpes and the Savoie, are the home of the Picodon, the Fourme de Monbrison, the Beaufort, or the Reblochon; each one will bring a special flavor. Strong or mild, made from goat or cow, cooked or not, young or aged, there will be a flavor for each taste. Many of these cheeses are used in a variety of ways, for example to make sauce. Roquefort, for instance, can easily be enjoyed with a nice tender red meat.

What do three extraordinary and venerated chefs with the highly esteemed and hard-won Michelin stars behind their names, Michel Portos, Régis Marcon and Michel Troisgros, have in common?

It is not only the fact that they are three of the most accomplished "Haute Cuisine" French chefs, but also that they had in their tutelage, a young man who has been fascinated with cooking since he was a child. I am talking about Chef Michel Bastid, the Chef of the French Residence in Washington, D.C. Native of the Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées region, where the kindness of the people goes with the warm weather and the culinary tradition, Michel Bastid knew, early in his age, that he wanted to be a cook and do so at the pleasure of some of the most influential and powerful statesmen in the world. At the age of 17, he was taught by Chef Portos the basics of the Mediterranean cuisine. His career began with Chef Régis Marcon, where he was "Chef de partie" for nearly 3 years. Subsequent to that, he worked four years with his mentor, Michel Troisgros. The family name Troisgros is known as the top of the French gastronomy worldwide. Jean-Baptiste and Marie Troisgros started a restaurant, in 1930, in Roanne, in Burgundy. They had two sons, Pierre and Jean, who worked and learned in the best dining establishments in France. But as time progressed, they went back to help with the family restaurant. Their first star was attained in 1955, the second in 1965 and the very prestigious third star in 1968. Michel Troisgros, son of Pierre, is the third generation of chefs in the family. Chef Bastid, after four years as sous-chef of Michel Troisgros, went back to Bistro la Coulemelle to work as chef de cuisine with Régis Marcon. This is when he received the well-deserved "2016 Gault & Millaut Young Talent Award."

Chef Michel Bastid was kind enough to give us the recipes for a three course meal serving four persons. To start, Escargot de Bourgogne au beurre persillé et tarte fine parmesan, followed by Paleron de boeuf ivre de vin rouge and to finish, the dessert, Sablé Breton aux framboises. After this delicious dinner or lunch, a Cognac will be much appreciated.

Enjoy, and bon appétit!





Escargots de Bourgogne


Paleron confit ivre de vin rouge


Tarte fine à la framboise


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