Michel Guerard, 81-year-old chef and cookbook author frequently is described as a driving force behind France's nouvelle cuisine.
You remember nouvelle cuisine, right? Sure, now "new cuisine" seems like ancient history, but at its dawn in the 1960s it rocked the world of haute cuisine. Nouvelle cuisine is, at its best, a refinement of classic French cuisine. Lightened sauces and delicate dishes presented with artistic flair defined the nouvelle cuisine movement.
Anyway, back in the 1970s his "Cuisine Minceur," a cookbook dedicated to spa-worthy, trimmed-down recipes sold more than a million copies. The way Guerard cooks today could almost be called new nouvelle cuisine since over the years he has refined and redefined "nouvelle cusine" making it "au courant" (current).
"Eat Well and Stay Slim: The Essential Cuisine Minceur" (April 2014) is his newest effort that shows home cooks how to create ethereal sauces without butter or cream, mix up low-calorie mayonnaise and so much more.
Guerard owns and runs the highly respected, world-famous spa and hotel Les Prés d'Eugénie in southwest France where guests spend thousands for a single week. Yet for $40 you get to learn how to make his "slimming" cuisine at home.
Guerard's skill at cutting fat and calories and still producing colorful, flavorful and satisfying food is nothing short of amazing. He's devoted nearly 50 years to creating great-tasting, healthy food. This cookbook, with more than 140 recipes, knowledgeably guides readers along the sometimes time-consuming pathways to slimming meals.
All Guerard's main courses deliver sophisticated fare with many clocking in at just 240 calories or less. You'll also find beautifully photographed images as well as his "Chef's Tips" that make suggestions such as what fish to substitute for the one listed in the original recipe.
Guerard starts by explaining how Cuisine Minceur works, with lists and explanations of fats, sweeteners and grains that are the foundations upon which he builds his recipes. This leads into the core recipes for stocks (created to impart depth of flavor).
Next Guerard shows how to create flavored oils. There's genius at work here. The concept: packing healthy oil, like grapeseed or olive with added flavor notes means using less oil in a recipe, yet delivering bigger, more complex flavors.
Except for breakfast recipes, you'll find the usual suspects from a spa-driven French chef, like a 6 calories per serving Orange Blossom Sauce, or Prawns with Frisee, Banana and Grapefruit (130 calories), Beef Salad with Red Onion and Red Cabbage (185), Braised Loin of Pork with Lemongrass and Tropical Fruit (380) and Tandoori-Spiced White Fish (225). Plus, colorful desserts like Tropical Meringue Floating Islands (125 to 180 calories depending on sweetener) or Raspberry Tiramisu (170 to 215).
For each recipe Guerard indicates the level of preparation difficulty and time. Every ingredient is listed by grams and ounces, as well as measures, like teaspoons.
While beautiful and informative, I think only a handful of people will use this book on a daily basis to make weight-loss or weight-maintenance meals. Some ingredients are not easily accessible and while fresh, not processed, ingredients produce great flavors, doing so also adds prep time. Even I use garlic powder from time to time when there's no fresh garlic in the house.
This may be a cookbook to borrow from the library. Read it for the ideas and processes and then apply those to your own recipes.
Try this recipe: Lately, I've been making homemade mayonnaise with organic olive oil and unique seasonings. I use my mayo sparingly to control its calories. Here's Guerard's take on lower-calorie, lower-fat mayo.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at email@example.com.