Atkins-Friendly French Food: Not a Complete Oxymoron

20 Sep

As you’ve seen from my other posts, the dairy and wheat industries in France seem to be doing quite well. Almost every dish we’ve tackled in class, and most dishes I’ve sampled in Parisian restaurants, contain some sort of creamy base and starchy crust. Why French women are so slender completely boggles my mind. Yes yes, I know they smoke a lot and don’t eat large helpings, but perhaps this next meal could be that low-carb flavourful French dish I’ve been waiting for, one where you don’t have to feel guilty when the plate’s been licked clean. Furthermore, the calories you might burn from making this somewhat labour-intensive recipe can help justify going back for seconds and even thirds.

We began by trimming and removing the leaves of some very large Belgium artichokes. We cooked them in salted boiling water and once they were done, peeled back the remaining leaves and “hay” until all that was left were their tender hearts (insert Lionel Richie song here).

On top of these saucer-shaped centers, we served a mix of boiled shredded celery root combined with Dijon mustard mayonnaise. One thing you must know about me before we continue is that I LOVE mayonnaise. I eat it on and with everything, and mix it in all sorts of dressings and sauces. That’s why I was particularly elated when we were taught to make mayo from scratch by simply adding together egg yolks, distilled vinegar, salt and pepper, and LOTS of oil. So much so that it actually caused me to reconsider the amount of which I consume my favorite condiment. Making crème brûlée from scratch also revealed to me the horrific truth that my former “diet-friendly” dessert wasn’t as good for me as I originally thought (or hoped) it would be, ignorantly convincing myself that it’s basically just protein packed eggs. Although I’m happy to be learning how to make these culinary basics, it’s always sad when your naivety is punctured by realty. But who am I kidding? The only thing that will likely change after all this, is the fact that I might feel a tad guiltier when eating my former not-so-guilty pleasures, but I’ll still copiously consume these unhealthy items all the same.

OK, so now that we have that moment of self-awareness out of the way, I will finish with the recipe…

After our artichokes were topped with a small mountain of the celery mix, we learned how to professionally poach eggs by placing them in boiling vinegar infused water, stirring with the correct technique, and cooling them in more vinegar water until they were ready for plating. As a substitute for the traditional English muffin that poached eggs are often served on, we placed our eggs delicately on our less starchy base of artichoke and celery root. The runny center of the eggs acted as a delicious “dressing” that is understandably more fatty than the whites, but probably much better for you than a large dollop of hollandaise sauce.

Although our dessert was rich, it also wasn’t as high-cal as perhaps some of the other cream-filled baked goods we’ve been making. For this chocolate mousse recipe, we didn’t add any extra sugar, we called upon minimal butter, and of course like all mousses, we used decidedly good-for-you egg whites. Ok, so maybe this dessert isn’t “good for you” per say, but it was very tasty, and the rich chocolate flavour caused me to be satisfied after just one helping. As you’ve been reading, that’s an extremely rare occurrence for me.

To give our melted chocolate and butter mix an extra kick, we added a splash of cognac. At this point we probably should have taken another little shot for ourselves, because we then proceeded to re-injure our already aching wrists from the other day’s meringue beating (truly in both senses of the word). This recipe also requires you to whisk up egg whites until they are thick and fluffy, at which point you fold them together with your melted chocolate until they are combined, but still full of air and life. We placed the mixed mousse into already cooled cups, covered them with decorative sprinkles, and later removed our chilled dessert when we were ready for our coco fix.

So there you have it. If any of you are looking for a yummy dieting dish inspired by my cooking classes, this is probably as good as it’s going to get.

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One Response to “Atkins-Friendly French Food: Not a Complete Oxymoron”

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  1. Paula Deen Would be Proud « Shortt and Sweet - 27/09/2011

    […] the post Atkins Friendly French Food: Not a complete Oxymoron, I (ironically enough) shared with you my fondness of mayo and how delighted I was to learn how to […]

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