There has been an evolution of the concept of cooking in France in a major way. Forget everything I said about how the French eat only foods that are in season and fresh from outdoor farmers markets. Forget also the image of a cook in Parisian homes cooking up delicious, elaborate dishes for every meal. The times, they are a changin', and it turns out that fewer and fewer French people are cooking. Most Parisians, for example, live in tiny apartments and rarely have anything more than a counter with a burner, a kettle, and a microwave (if they're lucky). The microwave is crucial, actually, because of something called Picard.
Picard is a food store that sells only frozen foods. Everything from amuse bouches to desserts, Picard has it all. And guess what, it's delicious! It's the answer to the ever-present question "what's for dinner?" When you're exhausted and have no energy to cook at the end of a long day, or when you don't have a decent stove or oven to speak of, Picard is there. When you're tired of paying too much for mediocre meals at restaurants (more on this terrible epidemic of expensive and mediocre restaurants in Paris coming soon), Picard is there. When you're craving boeuf bourguignon but don't have hours and hours to make it, yes, my friend, Picard is there for you.
Speaking of boeuf bourguignon, I made this classic dish today in class. Not to toot my own horn, but it was the best darn BB I've ever had. I marinated the beef for 24 hours, then slow-cooked it into something that resembled butter more than beef. I didn't need a knife to cut the beef, and the sauce was black with flavor. Red wine, Cognac, vegetables, pearl onions, button mushrooms, and time (time as in time, not thyme (even though there was a bit of that as well). The result was a velvety sauce created to accompany a strong red wine that stood next to the dish, saying, "we were meant to be together". Chef Stril gave me a "tres bon", and I was thrilled to succeed in making this quintessential French dish. It's oh so Julia Child, and oh so Cordon Bleu. I loved the process of making it, and enjoyed every bite of it. It was a cold, rainy spring day here in Paris today, and I made the perfect dish to go with it. And I didn't need either a personal cook nor Picard to save the day.
|my BB with heart-shaped croutons and turned potatoes|