To most, Food is about flavor, but as the famous cliché says it, it is also about sight. From very early on, as a French kid you are told that you first “eat with your eyes” and I have found this aphorism to be true in so many ways.
As a cook, when you have spent some time planning your dish, selecting & prepping the ingredients, thinking about the flavor combination, adjusting the seasoning and keeping an watchful eye on the simmering pot to ensure the perfect cooking time; the culmination of that work is reached when, as the dish approaches the table, the excitement fills the room and the expectation rises without any word being pronounced. It’s a feast, a silent celebration of your effort, of the ingredients and of the people about to enjoy the fruit of your labor.
Plating is an art. One I have no pretention nor eagerness of ever mastering. I simply can’t muster the complications and fussiness it requires, though I do admire it when encountered. This is why, unlike a Michelin chef competing for their 3rd Star, I claim that successful plating doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to make you feel happy & proud. Therefore be warned; this post is NOT about creating a awe inspiring, overly engineered plate of food with mathematical precision, but instead an Ode to Simplicity and respect to the ingredients and to the comforting look of a real plate of food.
To me, there is a few things as pleasant as ingredients that haven’t been moved around too much and that still hold their original shape like a shimmering sea bass roasted with summer vegetable and served whole on a simple dish, or freshly picked mushrooms lightly sauteed on a bed of garlic & herbs and simply tossed in a messy celebration of their natural beauty.
Cooking should be about glorifying the ingredients & not the chef, this is why, to me, the most exciting dishes are always the simplest. I find that it takes courage to not toss around too much while preparing food and to simply let the heat, oil & caramelizing process operate and develop something unique. A perfect example of this is my Roast-beef recipe. It requires No touching, and absolute trust that the ingredients know best. The “cook’s” only contribution being in light handed carving & patience.
Classic Roast-beef Recipe for 6 people: 800 grams Roast-beef, Unpeeled root vegetables, rosemary & thyme (fresh if possible), whole cloves of garlic to taste, 1 onion, olive oil, salt & pepper.
- Preheat your oven at 180 degrees C, roughly cut your vegetables, onion(peeled) and toss them in an ovenproof dish. Add the garlic cloves
- Place the meat in the center, surrounded by the vegetables, season with salt pepper, herbs and drizzle with olive oil.
- Place in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes (I love my roast rare) or a few minutes longer for medium rare ( I will not tell you how long for well done, as it would simply be wrong!). While waiting, you may as well enjoy a glass of red wine…
- After 45 minutes, take out the meat, leave it to rest on a cutting board covered with aluminum foil for 20 minutes, you can put the vegetables back in the oven under roast for a caramelized side dish
- After resting, carve the meat & serve with whatever your fancy is! I prepared it with a mix of wheat wild rice & red quinoa & served with with freshly picked green peas.
Serve hot & accompany with tingly Dijon mustard & some of that red wine you were enjoying earlier… It is even more delicious, the day after, as cold cuts, on a slice of toasted rye bread with pickled vegetables & of course Dijon mustard!