The renowned German writer and polymath Goethe once wrote that a really great talent finds happiness in the execution. A truism chef Daniel de la Falaise proved time and time again during my stay in France.
If you are a regular reader, you know all too well that I love to cook and that I adore good food. So, as you can imagine, I was thrilled to spend a few days watching Daniel in the kitchen. Of course, the highlight for me was a guided tour of a local market and private hands-on cooking class (we made soup no less).
Much like his beloved grandmother, cookbook author Maxime de la Falaise, Daniel is a passionate cook. He is also a food purest. Everything he prepares is fresh, locally sourced and without extraneous or unnecessary elements.
I will readily admit that I was skeptical when he prepared chicken broth using only chicken and mineral water! I will also concede that the flavor was amazing and well beyond what I could have imagined - proving my point that talent, much like beauty, must eschew ostentatiousness if it is to be fully developed.
So why was the broth so flavorful? The most obvious reason is the better the chicken, the better the broth. I also learned that you should remove all skin to achieve a rich essence. Another important step is to cover the chicken in mineral water, not tap. Mineral water imparts a clean, pure flavor. But most importantly, broths are to be simmered gently, with bubbles just breaking the surface. NEVER boil.
While the soup itself is relatively simple, it’s Daniel’s philosophy and prose that make the recipe:
'The idea is to source the freshest of raw ingredients and celebrate the magic of their subtle flavors. Most vegetables have a mistress in the herb garden. In the case of carrots I suggest tarragon.
The most delicious apple one is ever likely to eat will be the one plucked from a branch in an orchard and bitten instantly. Immediacy is paramount to texture and flavor. The vitality of the green tops of a bunch of carrots will give you a pretty clear idea as to how long they have been out of the ground. Hydrating vegetables in iced water for 20 minutes before peeling them will significantly improve vitality and texture.
The key to soup is organizing your ingredients in such a way that requires minimum cooking time. With this recipe, firstly mandolin your ingredients so they are paper-thin. Then in a generous pan toast them in herb infused fat. Once translucent de-glaze the pan with broth and bring the whole to a simmer.
All that remains to do is cover and stand the pan off the heat to rest. The herbs will gently infuse. Your soup will cook in its accumulated temperature as it rests. Chlorophyll is very fragile and will oxidize at a certain temperature, whereupon greens turn grays and flavors to bitter to tastes.'
A bunch of carrots
Fleur de sel
Finely chop a leek. Mandolin and finely chop a bunch of carrots. Heat pan and add olive oil and a knob of butter. Add a generous branch of tarragon to infuse the oil butter mixture. Add the leek and carrots. Gently toast until translucent then remove the tarragon. Taste and season.
De-glaze with a little of the chicken broth working the fat and broth into an emulsion. Add the remaining broth to cover the carrot and leek mixture (less broth for a thicker soup and visa-versa).
Taste and season. Bring the soup up to a rolling simmer and add a generous branch of tarragon. Cover with a lid and turn off the flame. Let it stand covered to rest, allowing it to gently cook and infuse in the accumulated temperature. Resist the temptation of lifting the lid for a good 20 minutes. Then taste. Remove tarragon. When satisfied, liquidize the whole adding olive oil for body and texture. Reheat and ladle into hot soup bowls. Serve immediately.