01 March 2009

The Nouvelle Cuisine of Jean & Pierre Troisgros

The Troisgros brothers were vanguards in the nouvelle cuisine movement of the 1970’s. Even the title of their book, The Nouvelle Cuisine of Jean & Pierre Troisgros lets you know just how "vanguardy" they were. While people often joked that nouvelle cuisine was represented by tiny thimbles of food on a large plate, there were specific tenants to nouvelle cuisine as articulated by Gault and Millau. For a wonderful discussion, read Stephen Mennell's All Manners of Food. Here are the basics of nouvelle cuisine.

A rejection of excessive complication in cooking.

Fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables and pâtés cooked less in an attempt to preserve the natural flavors.
The freshest possible ingredients were used.

Large menus gave way to shorter menus.

Strong marinades for meat and game were abandoned.

Heavy sauces such as espagnole and bechamel gave way to fresh herbs, quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar.

Regional dishes became the inspiration.

New techniques and modern equipment were used.

Chefs paid attention to the dietary needs of their diners

Chefs were extremely inventive with new combinations and pairings

While nouvelle cuisine was thought of as a sparse, pared down type of cooking, this recipe if for a rich and hearty soup. Cutting flageolets bean, lengthwise, seems beyond tedious. Frankly, while trying to make everything be specific and detailed, The Troisgros bothers often become so tedious, you tend to lose track of what they are doing.

Potage de flageolets aux foies de volaille

1/2 pound dried flageolets or other dried white beans, or 3/4 pound shelled fresh white beans
12 chicken livers
4 slices firm white bread
6 tablespoons butter, in all
3 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground pepper, preferably white

Have ready:

1. The beans: If the beans are fresh, shell them. If they are dried, soak them for 2 hours in warm water.
2. The chicken livers: Chose the palest livers possible; they are called foies blonds. Divide them in two, removing any green parts and filament. Reserve 4 of the livers and cut them into 1/2 inch pieces.
3. The croutons: Remove the crust from the bread and cut the slices into the smallest dice possible without their falling apart into crumbs. In a medium-sized skillet, sauté the diced bread in 1 tablespoon of butter until crisp and golden brown.


Fresh flageolets are essentially green vegetables and should be treated as such. Drop them into a kettle of boiling salted water and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes.
If you are using dried beans, boil them very gently for 2 hours. Set aside 1/2 cup of the cooked beans.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy casserole, and sauté the leeks, covered for 10 minutes to release their juices. When the leeks have softened, add the 8 whole livers and cook them on both sides until firm. Allow about 10 minutes for this. Then, add the chicken stock, cover the casserole, and maintain the soup at the lowest possible simmer for 25 minutes.
Cut the reserved 1/2 cup of beans in half lengthwise, and set them aside. Add the rest of the beans, drained to the soup, and pass it all through a food mill into a clean casserole.
Add the cream and bring the soup to a simmer. Taste for seasoning.

Finishing the soup:

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a small skillet and sauté the reserved diced livers for about 2 minutes. Season them with salt and pepper and place in the bottom of a heated soup tureen with the reserved beans.
Incorporate the remaining butter into the hot soup, little by little, stirring briskly with a wire whisk. When the soup has thickened slightly, pass it through a fine sieve (optional) into the tureen with the liver and beans.
It is best to serve the croutons separately, as they should be added to the soup at the last moment in order to remain crisp.
Again, why I need to cut flageolets beans is beyond me.

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