Right now, in France, dishes such as vol-au-vents, ham croissants, pies, beef Wellington and salmon coulibiac are taking pride of place on restaurant and catering menus. Just one of many signs that traditional fare is making a big comeback. We mean good traditional fare, of course… 

TFM_Cooking with pastry

Pastry: flavor of the month 

It’s the event of early 2022: the reopening of the Plaza Athénée restaurant by chef Jean Imbert, who’s taking over from… Alain Ducasse. And what is the young 40-year-old – an associate of Pharrell Williams, incidentally – cooking up? Simply this: a re-exploration of the classic repertoire of French gastronomy and a number of its time-honored recipes. Somewhat surprising. Just like his vol-au-vent, topped with a magnificent disk of puff pastry! Social networks are buzzing. Before that, chef Cyril Lignac – with restaurants in Paris and London – was giving a live demonstration, on French television, of his pithiviers pastry pie recipe for the New Year celebrations; meanwhile, many magazines were tapping into the trend for ham croissants, and a new "bouillon" eatery was opening in the heart of Paris, serving a kind of à la carte V.G.E. soup. Not to mention the pie craze and its increasingly popular world championship… 


Comfort food 

So, what’s behind this revival? Doubtlessly a need for reassurance. (Extremely) uncertain times call for dependable comforts. So, in culinary terms, what could be better than traditional dishes? And so we’re seeing the return of the pie – with its medieval origins –, the vol-au-vent, dating back to the early 19th century, the timeless Paul Bocuse-inspired V.G.E. soup with its southern French roots… A delicious trip down memory lane. But that’s not all. The actual preparation work delivers its share of comfort, too. For one recipe, it may be the crunchy texture of piecrust just out of the oven; for another, it’s the deliciously buttery notes of homemade puff pastry… and then there are the grains. French people are now rediscovering the old varieties and, as a result, the breads of yesteryear. And from there, it’s just a short hop from the bread basket… to the plate. Inspiring the bakers and pastry chefs of the future to reconnect with the skills of the past handed down from all manner of pastry pros, ranging from large round loaves of bread to pies, pâtés, terrines, pithiviers… we’re headed for a delicious journey back to the future. 


Taste France Magazine’s selection 

The vol-au-vent
A little cylinder of puff pastry stuffed with poultry, sweetbreads, button mushrooms, truffles, even lobster… all served up with a sauce. A landmark of French cuisine! 

© ©Zoryanchik

V.G.E. soup 
Created in 1975 by Paul Bocuse to mark the occasion of his investiture as Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, for a meal hosted by French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, this chicken broth – seasoned with foie gras and truffle – is served with a puff pastry crust topping. 


The ham croissant 
It’s all in the name. Well, almost… This bakery and charcuterie concoction – more popular abroad than in France – is gaining ground on French soil, thanks to some carefully-sourced products and a few very handy additions (Comté cheese, lettuce, béchamel sauce, etc.). 

© Lauri Patterson


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