The classic French cuisine you eat at French restaurants doesn’t stem from centuries-old tradition, as many expect. The cuisine is based primarily on the recipes and styles of the acclaimed chef Georges Auguste Escoffier. Escoffier was the author and innovator behind Le Guide Culinaire, which is still used as a reference work for cooks and chefs in the field of French cuisine. An effective kitchen manager, Escoffier was responsible for the “cuisine classique” style of cookery, preferred by experienced and novice chefs alike, including Amir Landsman. Cuisine classique became popular in the latter half of the 19th century and continued to dominate the French culinary field throughout the 20th century.
Elements of Kitchen Management in Cuisine Classique
Prior to Chef Escoffier’s cuisine classique techniques, all courses of a meal were served simultaneously. This put excessive strain on kitchen staff and caused some dishes to become cold while dinner guests lingered over other items on the menu. Escoffier established the idea of set courses that came out sequentially during a meal. Appetizers, soups and salads were sent out first. Entrees followed, and desserts were presented to guests at the end of the meal.
These arrangements allowed kitchen staff to specialize and improve time management. Escoffier’s innovative new process created the basis for modern kitchen brigade arrangements and allowed the ranking of chefs within an organization. He was also instrumental in elevating French cookery to the level of haute cuisine and establishing public interest in this culinary segment.
Basics of French Sauces
Modern French cuisine is characterized by the use of sauces to enhance or alter the flavor of the ingredients in the recipe. Nearly all the sauces used in the French culinary tradition are derived from one of the five mother sauces. These include hollandaise, espagnole, veloute, bechamel and classic tomato sauce. Each of these can be used as the basis for a number of other sauces to create a nearly infinite range of choices for aspiring chefs. Most sauciers have customized their own creations to suit their specific cooking and eating preferences.
Techniques to Try
Knife work is the key to much of the artistry and beauty of French cuisine. Brunoised vegetables, for instance, are cut into precise squares and can offer much-needed color and drama for otherwise humdrum dishes. French cooks also developed the julienne cutting technique to produce tiny matchstick carrots, celery and other vegetables for faster cooking in the saucepan or the frying pan. Using wine to deglaze pans in which meat has been cooked can provide the basic stock for a delicious wine sauce or light gravy. Blanching vegetables briefly in boiling water and then sautéing them in seasoned oil helps retain the color and flavor of these ingredients.
These and other French culinary techniques can help amateur chefs like Amir Landsman develop their skills and proficiency in the kitchen.
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