I've been cooking more French dishes lately which has made me happy. When one is trying to eat healthier, one doesn't automatically think of French cuisine. I admit I've been struggling with it. There are indeed many dishes that are simply over the top. Gratin dauphinois, steaks with bearnaise sauce, or a custardy millefeuille for dessert. (How much butter and cream can one squeeze into one meal?) But, to say French food, in general, is unhealthy isn't true.
The French do simply prepared food perfectly. I doubt too many French people actually give up certain foods like we have the tendency to do. No more chocolate! No more carbs! They just eat less of it. It makes sense. I mean, I'm in France...what? Am I gonna give up bread?! I was completely satisfied with a ham and mushroom omelette for our supper the other day. It's simple, easy and indeed French. Another of my favorite easy meals to make is a not-so-gigantic version of une salade géante. Just look around your fridge and use up whatever you have. The last time I hard-boiled 2 eggs, chopped some leftover chicken and prosciutto, roasted some asparagus and cut up a few tomatoes and placed it all over a bed of greens. Add a hunk of bread and maybe a little cheese of your choice and it makes a tasty quick dinner.
So, I've gotten over my fear of cooking French food while trying to be a bit healthier. Last night I made a delicious, albeit, altered version of the classic Poulet Basquaise. For this a whole chicken is cut into 8 parts and braised in a slightly spicy sauce made of onions, peppers and tomatoes. I had no chicken but I did have a sizeable boneless pork roast. It took longer to cook, but it was just as delicious. No cream or cheese!
Rôti de Porc (ou Poulet) Basquaise
adapted from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. He's the man.
1 2-pound boneless pork loin roast (or 3-4 lb chicken, cut into 8 parts)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
cayenne pepper (piment d'esplete)
1 (15 oz) can whole Italian tomatoes
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced or julienned
2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup of chicken broth (or 1/2 bouillon cube + 1/2 cup water)
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Tabasco sauce, to your taste
Add the onion, peppers and garlic and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. (This will take 7-10 more minutes) Stir in the wine, scraping as always to get the good stuff up. Cook until the wine is reduced by half (yes, another 5-10 minutes - I turned up the heat!) Next, add the stock (or the 1/2 cup water + bouillon). Return the chicken or pork to the pot, along with any accumulated juices on the plate. Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for 25 minutes for the chicken OR 1 hour for the pork roast. Remove the chicken or pork from the pot when done and crank up the heat to high and reduce the sauce for 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and parsley. Taste and add Tabasco as needed. Stir in the parsley and serve the sauce over the chicken with rice pilaf.
Despite taking some time to cook, this was really delicious and easy to prepare. There isn't too much chopping so the prep is easy, especially if you buy the chicken cut up or have the butcher do it for you. As you see in the photo, I didn't serve this with rice. Day old bread made a nice base on which to rest the sliced pork and peppers. I'm making this again and again! You could puree (or not) any leftover sauce and put it over pasta.