Interviews

Draw Me A Fridge: Clea

Clea's Fridge
Illustration by Olivier Valentin. Click to enlarge.

For this new installment of our Draw Me A Fridge series (read about it here), Alexia spoke with food writer Claire Chapoutot.

Claire Chapoutot is better known as Clea, of Clea Cuisine-fame, a food blog in which she’s been presenting her mostly vegetarian recipes (she describes herself as a flexitarian) since 2005. Claire has two new cookbooks out: Recevoir en bio and Solo et bio (La Plage editions).

Although her blog and recipe books are only available in French (for now), her recipes are so delicious they are worth brushing up on your high school French, or registering to your local Alliance Française.

But as a bonus for non-French-speaking readers, Claire has kindly allowed me to translate her pain d’épices recipe, one of Alexia’s personal favorites (see bottom of post).

AC: What are your fridge staples?

CC: Each shelf is dedicated to a specific category of products: on the top shelf are my homemade yogurts (with cow’s milk for my daughter, and vanilla soy milk for my boyfriend and myself). The shelf below is for jams — all prepared by my mom! Then on the shelf below, I store all sorts of condiments and mustards, umeboshi prune paste, marinated artichokes and other stuff.

The next shelf is for fresh products. Right now I have ham, tofu and ravioles in there. I also have a big Tupperware-like box, in which I store cheeses. And a bowl with eggs right next to it — I find they keep longer in the fridge.

In the crisper, I have vegetables that don’t do well in the open air, as well as fresh ginger and bags of prunes once they’re open, to keep then nice and moist.

Then you have the door… also very well organized! I have my more exotic condiments in there, such as tandoori and curry pastes, wasabi, ginger and preserved lemon paste by Le Voyage de Mamabé, tomato concentrate, small bottles of lemon and lime juices (which I use when a recipe calls for only a little bit), bottles of all sorts of non dairy milks and, when we have them, fruit juices.

I also store the more fragile vinegars in the door, such as a pomegranate-flavored one, and bouillon cubes that I find less gritty when kept cold. I almost forgot: you will also find my matcha tea, agar-agar and the more “alive” of organic flours, such as chestnut flour.

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Draw Me A Fridge: Hervé This

Hervé This

For this new installment of our Draw Me A Fridge series (read about it here), Alexia met with Professor Hervé This.

Hervé This (pronounced “tiss”) is an internationally renowned physico-chemist, a professor at the AgroParisTech institute, and the only person to hold a doctorate in molecular gastronomy, a cutting-edge field he co-created with Nichola Kurti. (See also: Notes from the moleculat gastronomy conference.)

A long-time accomplice to famed French chef Pierre Gagnaire, a popular French television personality, and a bestselling cookbook author, he uses the latest research in the chemistry, physics, and biology of food to challenge traditional ideas about cooking and eating.

Amongst his many projects, he has been commissioned by the Ministry of Education to create cooking workshops in French primary schools, and he is tirelessly determined to reinvent the way we cook. At the time of our meeting, Professor This was on his way to Canada to introduce his concept of “note by note cooking” or, in his own words, “the world’s next culinary trend” (more information on his blog). His latest, just-released book is called La Cuisine note à note en douze questions souriantes.

AC: What are your fridge staples?

HT: My wife laughs about the fact that there is always a piece of smoked lard to be found in the fridge, even though the lard is smoked and salted precisely so that it can be kept outside of a fridge!

My fridge is actually really, really, packed. On the top shelf, I keep all sorts of homemade preparations such as chutneys (that could be kept outside the fridge as well), harissa, ketchup, and ginger preserves.

The freezer is also very crowded. In it you’ll find meat filling for pâté vosgien* since I always make too much of it. You will also find small containers of stock from pork trotters Sainte-Ménehould [an age-old specialty made of pork trotters that have been bound and slow-cooked in white wine, with herbs and spices] that has cooked for over four days. The result is a stock so tasty that just a teaspoonful is enough to bring flavor to any dish.

AC: That sounds good.

HT: You bet. I make a mean pork trotters Sainte-Ménehould! Oh, you will also find a bottle of vodka.

But back to the fridge… I keep dried tomatoes in oil (baked at 95 degrees Celsius and preserved in olive oil with lemon juice, salt, sugar, thyme, and rosemary); lemons preserved in salt; homemade pissalat [a condiment from Nice made with puréed anchovies, flavored with cloves, thyme, bay leaf and black pepper, and mixed with olive oil] of which I made three kilos — I should have enough for years since I only use a tiny bit at a time.

In the door of the fridge, I keep poutargue [a.k.a. bottarga, a sort of fish spawn pickle preserved in salt, also known as the “Mediterranean caviar”], capers, unsalted butter and salted butter, fat from foie gras, and a garlic saucisson.

You will also find foie gras that was cooked in the dishwasher (in a Ziploc bag closed with paper clips with a mix of white wine, port, salt and pepper). Obviously, we also have eggs, and yogurts for the whole family.

Right now, you will also find two small terrines, one with a beautiful bread dough that I had to retard because it was proofing too quickly, and the other one for an Arabic-style bread. There is also a shrimp curry — for tomorrow probably –, shrimp bisque after a typical regional recipe from Charentes, and an asparagus and watercress soup.

You would also find Laughing Cow cheese wedges, because they melt well and are quite handy to have. Also, some crottins de Chavignol [a goat cheese produced in the north-west part of the Sancerre wine region] that have been in there for ages.

And I always keep fruits and veggies on the countertop.

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Draw Me A Fridge: Chico Shigeta

Frigo Chico

For this new installment of our Draw Me A Fridge series (read about it here), Alexia met with naturopath Chico Shigeta. The caption on her drawing (click here to enlarge) translates to, “My fridge isn’t a space for storing foods, it’s for storing the enchanted life.”

A naturopath, aromatherapist, and shiatsu specialist, this super kawaii Japanese-but-French-at-heart woman launched her Coaching Vitalité method, inspired by universal wellness techniques, in 2003. This method is based, among other things, on food, with seasonal fruits and veggies taking the prime spot.

Her expertise has made her a favorite in the celebrity and business worlds, while her Shigeta care line (face and body cosmetics, essential oils, floral waters and herbal teas) is quickly expanding. Chico shares her tips for a delicious detox full of vitality in her book Détox 100% Vitalité (in French).

AC: What are your fridge staples?

CS: Right now I keep delicious seaweed from Japan which my aunt, who lives on the coast, gets from a place that she keeps secret. Their taste is unlike any other. I always have soy sauce available, even though I don’t use very much of it, as well as wasabi. I have fresh ginger and yuzu kosho, a Japanese condiment made with yuzu citrus zest and Japanese chili. I also store capers and green peppercorns. In my fridge you’ll also find excellent fruit vinegars (currently raspberry and mango) that have to be kept chilled because they are so rich in fruits.

I make sure I always have chives and flat parsley, carrots (for their juice), and salad leaves. I actually keep fruits and veggies at room temperature and I buy fish on the same day I cook it, so my fridge is more of a storage unit than anything else. And I buy milk maybe once a year if I really need it for a recipe.

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Cooking on Vacation

Last summer I ran one of my favorite features ever: a series of posts in which I asked some of my friends and favorite food bloggers about their cooking style when they’re on vacation — what they like to bring with them, what their best and worst vacation memories are, and what tip or saving grace they could share.

Thanks to my wonderful guests, these Q&As read like so many escapist vignettes, and if you missed them last year — or if you’d like to revisit them now — you’ll find the complete list here.

I ran a parallel series on the French version of C&Z featuring French food bloggers, so if you read French, head over to read La Cuisine des vacances!

Draw Me A Fridge: Septime’s Bertrand Grébaut

For the first installment of our new Draw Me A Fridge series (all the details here), Alexia met with Bertrand Grébaut, chef of the Paris restaurant Septime.

A former head chef at Agapé (where he was awarded a Michelin star in record time), trained by Passard and Robuchon, Bertrand Grébaut opened up his restaurant Septime in April 2011. The long waiting list hasn’t shortened since, nor has the impeccable, friendly service of his team wavered.

AC: What are your fridge staples?

BG: Oh, this is quite embarrassing — our fridge is rather empty! Actually, we keep plenty of bottles of sparkling water in there — all sorts of brands. In our freezer, we have a small carton of chilies that my girlfriend got from her restaurant supplier (Editor’s note: Tatiana Levha, Ex-Astrance, Ex-Arpège, is the pastry chef behind the signature desert of the Foodstock festival held on May 12, 2012). We use the tiniest pinch of it when we prepare a dish. Those chilies are so spicy that this carton will last forever!

We also keep a really nice tomato sauce in there. Actually, we always have an excellent burrata in our fridge that I get from the Italian coop (Editor’s note: Coopérative Latte Cisternino 108 rue Saint Maur 75011), as well as some cured meats. We also always have some super fresh parsley and cilantro — we use them with everything. And soy sauce. And although it does kill me a little bit to admit it, I am a sucker for industrial mayonnaise and instant noodles!

AC: Do you handle the grocery shopping yourself?

BG: We do our shopping at Marché Popincourt and Marché d’Aligre, as well as at small neighborhood food shops. We don’t eat at home often. I spend my entire week cooking, so when the weekend comes, I make sure I get out there and see what the other chefs are up to.

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