As I have mentioned in my previous blog posts, I am a big fan of French food. I adore its sophisticated and labor-intensive ways of preparation. Of all the dishes in this cuisine, I want to share with you the secrets of my top three most favorite French food: Bouillabaisse, Duck Confit and Pork Rillette.
Bouillabaisse is a classic fish stew. According to history, it was discovered by French fishermen who wanted to make a hearty meal upon returning to the port. This stew is commonly made with rockfish, which was one of the most common and cheapest fish in France during that time. Bouillabaisse is a fish stew very rich in flavor. Saffron gives the stew its orange color, while a splash of the liqueur, Pernod, gives it a hint of an anise-like taste.
There are two secrets in making the best Bouillabaisse. First, you need to get the freshest fish. Second, you need a very good fish stock. This stew is made up of two kinds of fish—a white-fleshed fish and an oily one. But since our supply of fish in the Philippines is not that abundant, you can use Lapu-Lapu or Maya-Maya for the white-fleshed fish, and Salmon, Mackerel or Sea Bass for the oily one. I suggest you do not use the fish broth powder or the instant cubes for your stock. Make one from scratch by simmering fish bones in water with flavoring vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery. Trust me, using a stock made from fish bones will add more flavor to your Bouillabaisse than broth cubes will.
Duck Confit is one of the most classic French dishes. Sounds fancy? Yes, but confit really means “cooked in fat.” Is it sinful? Definitely! This dish is basically made of duck legs cured with salt and spices, then poached in its own fat. The rub is usually made of salt, garlic, herbs and spices.
There is one secret I know, which can make your Duck Confit really memorable. PATIENCE. This dish needs more or less two to three hours of hard labor. Some choose to leave the bones in the duck, but others choose to debone it. If you’re not used to deboning a bird, then this is definitely a challenge for you. You need patience when rendering the duck fat, poaching it in the fat, then making the skin crispy when pan frying it.
Pork Rillettes are almost similar to Duck Confit, since it is also cooked in its own fat. The meat is chopped, salted then cooked in pork fat until tender. The meat is then shredded and cooled together with some of the fat. The end product is a paté-like mixture. It is commonly served together with toast as a starter to a meal. Like the confit, the process of making rillettes is labor-intensive and may require more than two hours of hard kitchen work. Patience is what will get you through it. But who cares how hard it is to make, when you’ll have a taste of France once they’re done!
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