Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reductions a la Pierre Franey

At the very end of one of the long bookshelves, there lies a secret shelf, way, way, way down at the bottom of the bookcase. Now hush, I devised this shelf with a purpose. To ignore it. The books are concealed for their own good. I don't particularly care for them. In order to arrive on this shelf, the book's title must either have the word microwave or diet associated with it. There is one exception, Cooking with Insects. The rest of the books have titles like The Microwave Gourmet, Hollywood Glamour Cook Book and...drum roll...Low-Calorie Gourmet by Pierre Franey. Now mind you, there isn't a thing wrong with any of these recipe books. On the contrary, I know The Microwave Gourmet was on the New York Time's Bestseller List and I'm quite sure Mariposa's Hollywood Glamour Cook Book made its way down the Hollywood red carpet in one way, shape, or form. It's all about reductions.

Yes, I know, there are many forms of reduction. There's clutter reduction, there's kitchen reduction, heck, there's even cooking reductions but the reductions I most want to sliver over today is weight reduction. Kicking my feet and flagging my arms, I am protesting this post and vow to make it as easy to digest as possible. January is National Diet Month.

Personally, I'm one stack away from clutter reduction but redeem myself in kitchen reduction. With the exception of canned beans, which I almost always have in one pantry or the other, I passed Mark Bittman's test for 10 things to get rid of in the kitchen with flying colors. (He suggest dried beans which really are less expensive and handy to have around.) Believe it or not, I'm quite good at kitchen reductions. Innovating too! I'm a firm believer in stock and have reduced many an item that didn't even know it needed to be reduced. It's the method I use to rescue bits and pieces of this and that within the confines of the freezer. That's a whole other story I'm afraid. As for the diet reduction, under normal conditions, no holidays, or extra boxes of Mallomars hanging around this house, I don't really eat very much. Don't get me wrong, I can sit down with the best of them and devour any number of tasty dishes. I just don't.

Pierre Franey

French Chef Pierre Franey, sometimes touted as the grand father of all food bloggers, was born on January 13, 1921. (source) He and N.Y. Times Food critic Craig Claiborne shared more than a 31-course dinner together. They collaborated on at least seven books. The explored the low fat profile of the "well bred" sausage. I know of at least one person, besides myself, who would have loved to attend the screening of the historic PBS film produced in 1976. As a gala celebration for America's 200th birthday celebration, Claiborne and Franey prepared a feast that would have been served at the White House during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. I have put the dvd on my secret wish list:) The Creative Arts Television archives has a summary of the film. 

In the early 1970's, Mr. Claiborne resigned from The Times, and for a while, he and Mr. Franey published a food and restaurant newsletter. When Mr. Claiborne returned to the paper in 1976, he insisted that Mr. Franey come with him. Thus began ''The 60-Minute Gourmet'' column.

Arthur Gelb, a retired managing editor of The Times who was instrumental in hiring Mr. Franey, said yesterday: ''Before Pierre Franey, haute cuisine was confined to the palates of the privileged. In partnership with Craig Claiborne, he popularized it, leading the way in making it understood and relished by the general public.'' source

The Recipes

Before I get to the Low-Calorie Gourmet cookbook, let me tell you about the fabulous Souffle au Fromage which Courtney from Coco Cooks adapted from The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet. I thought it was a perfect dish to celebrate Mr. Franey's day of birth which happens to be today in 1921! 

Approach to Lightness

From the inside cover:

Pierre Franey's Low Calorie Gourmet (1984), which is based on the theory that lots of people want to cut their calories without punishing thier taste buds. In creating this new approach to food, Franey has invented 250 recipes that cover every food group and every course. They use no cream, no flour based sauces, relatively little butter, and only a touch of salt, but they still taste wonderful.

From the introduction:

...many of the values and approaches to cooking that were mine decades ago are no longer mine. My approach to food-which has its foundations in the haute cuisine that reigned in the 1930s-has evolved from one that was heavily laden with the silken fats and oils of traditional French cuisine to one that tends to use them only as a minimum...

Shame on me for retiring this book to the deepest, darkest corner of the bookshelf. I really like this book. Actually, I have one and only one complaint. No pictures! If there is one thing I have come to learn, while hip hopping on the internet blog world, is the need and desire for mouth watering, criminally tempting "food porn." The introduction to the book is quite informative and offers a great deal of history related to weight loss. Franey brushes upon Escoffier's contribution to lighter cuisine, ["Escoffier was the first to banish the heaviness of espagnole, a kind of burnt roux, (a mixture of butter and flour), which was constantly in French cooking until then. He preferred to use arrowroot as the thickener and he was indeed trying to achieve greater lightness.] He also submits his thoughts on nouvelle cuisine as seen through his eyes while chef at the bewitching Le Pavillon. [..."One saw, for instance, the sudden popularity of cuisine minceur, the invention of Michel Guerard at his spa, Eugenie-les-Bains...]

The section on "the Art of Presentation" is one I should study. He proposes seven rules. The seven rules minus the narrative are:

Rule 1: Serve on Individual dishes.
Rule 2: Serve on warm platter for hot foods & chilled plates for cold food
Rule 3: Don't over crowd the plate
Rule 4: Strive for striking color combinations
Rule 5: Strive for precise patterns
Rule 6: Be aware of textures
Rule 7: Learn the three fundamental presentation techniques; saucing, slicing, molding rice:)

My favorite aspect of the book is, the commentary that introduces most recipes. First there is an introduction to the chapter which is followed by the recipe itself. For instance, the introduction to Franey's recipe for Broiled Lamb Chops A La Francaise reads:

"The Dutchess of Windsor (if I can be forgiven for dropping a name) would come to the Pavillon when I was its chef and practically survive on the simplest and leanest of lamb dishes. The secret is entirely in the preparation rather than the seasonings. The cooking is so rapid that everything else should be prepared ahead of time."

You see what I mean about pictures. Tell me why there is no picture to follow this oral presentation.

Presentation: The lamb is so simple that you want to accompany it with flavorful vegetables. Place the lamb toward the top of the dish with the meat overlapping and the bones going in the same direction. Place a broiled tomato on either side with a small portion of Zucchini Bordelaise below it.

I find myself slightly:) in the same culinary category as the Dutchess of Windsor. I often survive on a quick plate of lamb chops in any form! I will have to give the Zucchini Bordelaise a try. Copy it down, I didn't find it printed anywhere online!

Zucchini Bordelaise
1-1/2 lbs. small zucchini
2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
ground pepper (6 turns of the pepper mill)
2 tbs. fresh bread crumbs
1 tbs. butter
2 tbs. chopped shallots
4 tbs. chopped fresh parsley leaves
1. Rinse zucchini and pat dry. Trim off ends, but do not peel them.
2. Heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan and, when it is hot, add the zucchini. Saute the zucchini over high heat, shaking the pan and tossing the vegetable gently. Add the salt and pepper. Cook a total of 5 minutes.
3. Add the bread crumbs and butter to the pan. When the crumbs start to brown, add the shallots and toss mixture for another minute. Serve the zucchini hot, sprinkled with parsley. Yield: 6 servings Calories per serving: 70

As an added touch, each recipe is offered with a presentation suggestion and calories per serving. Thank goodness, the back cover of the book has 6 small colored pictures. I've chosen to scan the recipe for Chicken Breast with Curry Sauce, pictured above.

Funny the way these things seem to fall in place. Today also happens to be Peach Melba Day. You can find a non diet recipe for Pêche Melba at the Old Foodie. It is said Chef Auguste Escoffier prepared the famous dessert, while chef at the Ritz Hotel in London. He created Peach Melba, as a thank you to opera star Dame Nellie Melba, who had given him two tickets to the opera "Logengrin". There are actually a few versions of this story.

Don't forget National Fig Newton Day (16th) and, give a toast to the remembrance of prohibition which was enacted by the eighteenth amendment on January 16, 1920 and thankfully later repealed. I posted recipes from Vernor's Ginger Ale last year in recognition of prohibition. The link is below. I probably won't be back before the 17th, so you might want to check the post I did for Benjamin Franklin's birth date last year. It's called Blogging Ben and what better way to celebrate ol' Ben's birthday but with Hot Buttered Rum Day (a favorite of his.) The 17th is also National Hot Buttered Rum Day. I will "see" you quickly on the 18th. It's Winnie the Pooh Day and I have the cutest Winnie the Pooh cookbook to share. I just can't resist no matter what they say!

1. National Diet Month!
2. Kitchen Reductions
4. Pierre Franey NY Times obit
5. Pierre Franey's Potato Pancakes
6. Selected Milestones In The History Of Dieting
7. Prohibition, Gin & Ginger-Ale


  1. Dr's orders? Hope your OK. Great post as usuual. I love Mr. Franneys approach to cooking.I would have liked to to see Wallis's lamb chops. Its comforting to know she did eat , a little.Thank you for the link love and mention. You are a true angel.

  2. That is so cool. Are you ok?

    I love the comment about the secret bookshelf being built so you could forget things. :)

  3. There's a Peach Melba Day? What fun. A pity peaches are out of season in the Northern Hemisphere.

  4. Hot buttered rum day? oh my! I'm there!

  5. All is well, glamah. I guess I just needed to catch up with myself:) Thanks for visiting...

    oh duckie, I'm fine now. I thought you might like the secret bookshelf:)

    Dare I say, Peach Melba could be made with canned peaches. I'm not sure Escoffier would agree though. I agree Adele, these days should really go according to season.

    Now Hot Buttered Rum makes so much more sense don't you think, Maryann I could use some right now!

  6. This exactly the article I am looking for. The recipes that are low in calories but will not punish my cravings for mouth watering dishes.


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none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise