One of Michel Bras’s favorite garnishes is a sweet-savory combination of ground almonds, dehydrated olives and demerara sugar (a coarse, raw cane sugar with a subtle molasses flavor); the taste reminds him of licorice. Here it serves as a topping for buttery-soft, slow-roasted whole onions.
This stunning recipe by Joël Robuchon calls for a head of Boston lettuce per person, resulting in a soup with pure, intense flavors that is then poured over a delicate custard. It’s a riff on petits pois à la française, the classic French dish of peas, lettuce and spring onions braised in butter and chicken stock.
Joël Robuchon was inspired to create this dish after tasting a Vietnamese recipe for shrimp coated with soft vermicelli. “But I’m much more into Mediterranean flavors at the moment,” he says. He also wanted a crispy crust, so instead of vermicelli he uses kataifi dough, a Middle Eastern pastry that resembles shredded phyllo.
Michel Bras keeps his chicken breasts extra-moist by cooking them on the bone, crisping their skins in a buttered skillet. He serves the chicken with a foamy barley sauce made with a pureed soft-boiled egg, which adds a pleasing heft.
“When you travel a lot,” Joël Robuchon says, “you pick up ideas all over the place.” Thai ingredients were the inspiration for this beguiling dish. Yet even though the cream sauce and finishing oil are infused with lemongrass, the refinement of the cooking is entirely French.
Michel Bras purees this lush mushroom soup with bread toasted to a dark brown to thicken the texture and deepen its flavor. He learned the trick from his mother growing up in the Aubrac mountains, one of France’s poorest regions. “I used to mix bread crumbs with sugar for a little treat,” Bras says. “We were happy with very little.”
When making the choux pastry, it is important to be sure that each egg is fully incorporated into the batter before adding the next. Don’t worry if the batter separates and looks curdled at first. Keep beating, and it will come together nicely.