French Food For Beginners – A Few Simple French Cooking Techniques
Author: Justin Arnold
There’s little doubt that French food brings to mind fantastic dishes, wonderful aromas, divine tastes and a first class presentation. But many people don’t really know how to go about preparing French food at home, or at least applying French cooking methods to help take a familiar recipe and transform it into something a bit special.
There are two specific factors to consider when thinking about cooking and preparing French dishes: the first is the ingredients, and the second is the cooking techniques. In the first instant the ingredients do need to be good quality. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending a fortune on gourmet ingredients, but it does mean breaking away from your traditional, routine and habitual shopping choices and looking at the ingredients used by many well know French cooks. For example, goose fat rather than your normal fat for roast potatoes or vegetables will be a real treat, yet costs very little more.
As far as the second factor is concerned, French food is often prepared using a combination of French cooking techniques. You don’t have to worry about knowing and applying all of these. The best way to learn French cuisine is to learn one or two techniques at a time, until you’re familiar and happy with them. Then add another technique into the mix, and keep adding techniques until you feel confident with mixing them up and applying them in your own way. This is the very heart of French cooking, and to help you on your way here are three simple techniques which are very traditional as far as French food preparation is concerned.
This is a French method used to prepare vegetables. The purpose of blanching is to brighten the colour of the vegetables, and to make sure that the colour is fixed. Often when vegetables are cooked they can lose quite a bit of colour. Blanching helps to significantly improve the appearance of the vegetables. The same technique can be used for some fruits too. To blanch vegetables all you need to do is to bring a pan of water to a full boil. Once the water is fully boiling place the vegetables into the water and leave for between 30 seconds and 2 minutes depending on the size of the vegetables. Once you lift them out it is then important to immediately rinse them in cold water.
This looks so much more complicated than it really is, but as well as looking beautifully delicate and very appealing it also helps to reduce cooking time, and enables food to be cooked quicker, and retain more of the flavour, colour and goodness. To brunoise vegetables such as a carrot it is necessary firstly to trim the edges so that you turn it from a rounded vegetables into a square or rectangular one. Next slice the carrot length wise into thin strips around 1/8 of an inch thick. Next turn these thin slices over so that they form a stacked heap, and cut lengthwise again the same way. Finally cut from the end of the strips to create small, neat cubes around 1/8 square. It doesn’t take long, although it does help to have a good vegetable knife of course.
Once you know how to prepare brunoised vegetables it becomes clear how to easily create neat julienne vegetables. These are the long, slim, matchstick vegetables often served with French dishes. Simply begin the same process as with the brunoised vegetables, cutting away the edges to create a square sided vegetable, then slicing lengthwise, 1/8 inch apart, turning the vegetable on its side so that the slices are stacked up and cutting lengthwise again. It looks very fancy, and just by changing the way food looks you can have a surprising effect on the way people feel about it, and their ultimate enjoyment. These are just a few simple techniques you can try with almost any recipe. French food doesn’t have to be hard – and you don’t even need to speak French!
About the Author