The message of this book could be a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective. There is no hard science, no clearly-defined plan, and no lists of food to have or have not; instead, you'll find simple tricks that boil down to eating carefully prepared seasonal food, exercising more and refusing to think of food as something that inspires guilt. It's both a practical message and far easier said than done in today's "no pain, no gain" culture.
Author Mireille Guiliano is CEO of Veuve Clicquot, and French Women Don't Get Fat offers a concept of sensible pleasures: If you have a chocolate croissant for breakfast, have a vegetable-based lunch--or take an extra walk and pass on the bread basket at dinner. Guiliano's insistence on simple measures slowly creating substantial improvements are reassuring, and her suggestion to ignore the scale and learn to live by the "zipper test" could work wonders for those who get wrapped up in tiny details of diet. She sympathizes that deprivation can lead straight to overindulgence when it comes to favorite foods, but then, in a most French manner, treats them as a pleasure that needs to be sated, rather than a battle to be fought.
A number of recipes are included, from a weight-loss enhancing leek soup to a lush chocolate mousse; they read more like what you'd find in a French cookbook rather than an American diet book. Most appealingly, these are guidelines and tricks that could be easily sustainable over a lifetime. If you agree that food is meant to be appreciated--but no more so than having a trim waist--these charmingly French recommendations could set you on the path to a future filled with both croissants and high fashion. --Jill Lightner
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Stuffed Cornish Hens
When I grew up, the holidays always meant lots of visitors and a series of requisite celebratory meals, mostly at lunchtime. This easy dish was always on one of the menus. Mamie was usually busy (what else during late December?) and would make the stuffing in advance so lunch could be ready in less than an hour. The recipe serves a family of four for lunch in style, but double the ingredient portions and obviously you are ready for a full table with guests.
2 Cornish hens (or poussins)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons chicken stock
2 cups water
2/3 cup brown rice
1/2 cup mixed nuts (pine nuts, walnut pieces, whole hazelnuts)
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon parsley, freshly minced
1 teaspoon dry herbs (chervil and savory or rosemary and thyme)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. For stuffing: Bring water to a boil. Add rice and cook for 15 minutes. Drain and mix well with remaining ingredients. Season to taste and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Rinse Cornish hens, dry the inside with paper towels, and season. Add stuffing loosely and truss hens. Reserve remaining stuffing in aluminum foil.
3. Put hens in baking dish and brush them with melted butter and other seasonings. Put in oven and baste 10 minutes later with chicken stock. Continue basting every 10 minutes. After the hens have cooked for 20 minutes reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and put the remaining stuffing in a small ovenproof dish. Roast the hens for another 20 minutes. Serve (half a hen per person) immediately with a tablespoon of stuffing on each side of the hen as garnish.
N.B. For a wonderful tête-à-tête romantic dinner, serve one hen each with a vegetable then dessert. I have prepared it successfully to my husband on Valentines Day. While the hens are in the oven, you have time to concoct a little dessert, et voilà, you can pop a cork of bubbly, sit for candlelight dinner and have your husband serve dessert.
Hot Chocolate Soufflé
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During the season of overindulgencesChristmas, New Year and all the festivities in betweenthere is in our home a succession of store-brought, traditional goodies: Bûche de Noël (yule log), marrons glacés (glazed chestnuts), the 13 desserts of Christmas in Provence. This is not to say that the holidays dont bring out the baker in all of us, but whether it is to give as gifts or to maintain tradition, people do load up with holiday sweets from pastry shops (as I can attest from seeing from the window of our Paris apartment the annual long lines of people outside the pastry shop across the street). When I grew up, however, come New Years Day, and there was a home-cooked chocolate ritual. Our big festive meal was on New Years Eve, which left New Years Day as a quiet, family "recovery" day. (I appreciate some reverse the big meal day
or have one both days.) Anyway, for us, breakfast was well
late (especially for those of us who went partying after dinner), and limited to a piece of toast and a cup or two of coffee. Lunch was mid afternoon and usually made up of leftovers or an omelet, but the first dinner of the year was marked with a special dessert. The simple meal at the end of a week of overindulgences consisted of a light consommé, some greens, cheese, and the chocolate treat. There were no guests, plenty of time, and Mamie was ready for the flourless soufflé. She is a chocoholic and it would be unthinkable to start the year off without chocolate. So, what better way to end the first day of the New Year than with one of her favorite chocolate desserts as both a reward and Im sure good-luck charm?
1 cup milk
1 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 1-quart soufflé mold by lightly buttering it, dusting the insides with sugar and tapping out the excess. Place mold in refrigerator.
2. Pour the milk, cocoa powder and sugar into a heavy saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over moderate heat while stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and cook while stirring until the mixture thickens (about 10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and cool slightly.
3. Separate the eggs and stir the egg yolks into the warm chocolate mixture. Stir in the butter.
4. Beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. Add the salt and beat until stiff. Whisk half of the egg whites mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining whites gently with a spatula. Pour the mixture in the soufflé mold and smooth the top.
5. Bake in the lower-middle shelf of the oven until puff and brown for about 18 minutes which will give you a soft center. Serve at once with softly whipped cream.
Red Mullet with Spinach en Papillote
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 fillets of red mullet, about 2 ounces each
1 lb. spinach, washed and dried in a salad spinner
4 teaspoons shallots, peeled and sliced
8 slices of lime
4 tablespoons of crème fraîche
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) into squares large enough to cover each fillet and leave a 2-inch border all around. Lightly brush the squares with olive oil. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Put the spinach in the center of each square and top it with a tablespoon of crème fraîche. Top with two fillets and add one teaspoon of shallots, two slices of lime. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Fold up the edges to form packets. Put the papillotes on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve at once by setting each papillote on a plate.
N.B. You can use sole or snapper instead of red mullet
Pappardelle with Spring Veggies
12 ounces pappardelle
1 lb. green asparagus
2 cups fresh peas, shelled
2 tablespoons of shallots, peeled and minced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of pine nuts, toasted
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 cup roughly chopped parsley
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Cut off end of asparagus and blanch in salted water until just tender (about 5 minutes). Blanch peas separately for about 1 minute.
2. In a heavy saucepan, gently sauté the shallots in olive oil until they begin to turn gold. Add peas and asparagus and cook for a few minutes.
3. Cook the pappardelle in boiling water, drain and pour into saucepan. Add pine nuts, parmesan and parsley and season to taste. Serve immediately.
Croque aux Poires
4 slices of brioche
2 ripe pears
2 tablespoons of sliced almonds
2 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon butter
1. Peel the pears and cut into small cubes. Melt butter in a saucepan and sauté the pear cubes for 2-3 minutes.
2. Arrange pear cubes on brioche slices. Cover with honey and almonds. Put under broiler for two minutes watching carefully. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche.
A yummy dessert also wonderful for a weekend breakfast or brunch.
Guiliano's approach to healthy living is hardly revolutionary: just last month, the New York Times Magazine
ran a story on the well-known "French paradox," which finds French people, those wine- guzzling, Brie-noshing, carb-loving folk, to be much thinner and healthier than diet-obsessed Americans. Guiliano, however, isn't so interested in the sociocultural aspects of this oddity. Rather, befitting her status as CEO of Clicquot (as in Veuve Clicquot, the French Champagne house), she cares more about showing how judicious consumption of good food (and good Champagne) can result in a trim figure and a happy life. It's a welcome reprieve from the scores of diet books out there; there's nary a mention of calories, anaerobic energy, glycemic index or any of the other hallmarks of the genre. Instead, Guiliano shares anecdotes about how, as a teen, she returned to her native France from a year studying in Massachusetts looking "like a sack of potatoes," and slimmed down. She did this, of course, by adapting the tenets of French eating: eating three substantial meals a day, consuming smaller portions and lots of fruits and vegetables, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, drinking plenty of water and not depriving herself of treats every once in a while. In other words, Guiliano listened to common sense. Her book, with its amusing asides about her life and work, occasional lapses into French and inspiring recipes (Zucchini Flower Omelet; Salad of Duck à l'Orange) is a stirring reminder of the importance of joie de vivre.
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