by Debbie Marcus
It has always been my own personal theory that any westerner who could master the Japanese language had to have been Japanese in a former life. It also served as a good rationalization after flunking out of so many Japanese language schools.
I was steadfast in my thinking on the subject until I became acquainted with that master chef and cooking genius, Andre Pachon, who has definitely mastered the Japanese language — yes. But no, he could never have been Japanese in any one of his former lives. He could only have been French. He is a Frenchman through and through.
This celebrated Tokyo chef is originally from Carcassone, near Toulouse, in the south of France. When he opened his restaurant, Ile de France, in Roppongi about 15 years ago there were only about three other French restaurants in Tokyo; Chez Figaro, Chardonnay and Maxim’s. At that time the Japanese were not very well acquainted with French food.
“A menu containing rabbit, snails, frogs’ legs and lamb was a bit of a surprise to the Japanese customer,” recalls Andre Pachon. “They didn’t drink wine with their dinner; only beer, and they never ale cheese. But the Japanese came to try. ”
Of course that is ancient history now, thanks in part to the efforts of Pachon who not only has the famous Ile de France restaurant but now has opened another restaurant aptly named Pachon. Pachon has been in business a little over a year now. Andre saw the advent of his new restaurant as a good chance for a different style of restaurant.
It’s bigger and more attractive with a huge walk-in fireplace. In the fireplace is a wood-burning grill — the only one in Tokyo. On the grill he cooks duck on a spit, many different kinds of fresh fish, teak, baby lamb and rack of lamb. Pachon is located in the very attractive Hillside Terrace Building on Yamate-dori in Shibuya — or more definitively, Daikanyama. The restaurant itself has a glassed-in terrace on one side and a cozy red brick wall and fireplace on the other.
Both Andre Pachon restaurants serve superb food and, over the years. Andre would cook for good customers to serve at dinner parties in their homes. This has now escalated into a very successful, large-scale catering service whereby he not only prepares the food, but also supplies the glasses, plates, utensils, waiters and cooks for parties. The food is delivered to your home in a refrigerated truck so it arrives safe, sound and delicious.
Andre can cook whatever you want be it cocktail party, buffet or sit-down dinner. Anywhere from four people to hundreds. What a guy!
Pachon insists that French cooking is very easy to do but, of course, there are a few secrets that he admits to. For instance the appetizer salad he serves at Ile de France is simple to prepare, but the secret to the good taste of the salad is that you must use a very good red wine vinegar in your French dressing. This is how he makes
Salade aux Lardons oeuf Poche (Green Salad with Bacon and Poached Eggs)
1 head lettuce broken into bite-sized pieces
100 g chopped bacon
1 clove garlic 4 Tbsp French dressing (oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper)
4 poached eggs
After you have assembled and mixed the lettuce, bacon and dressing, serve on four salad plates. Put one poached egg on top of each salad. Then take four thin, medallion-sized slices of French bread and toast them. When toasted rub a clove of garlic on the pieces and place one slice on each salad. Serves 4.
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I found out a lot about French onion soup in a recent gel-together with Pachon, What makes the dish a success or failure depends on how long you cook the onions. To get that sought-after nice brown color, Pachon reveals his long time secret—but I warn you it takes time and patience.
Soupe a L’oignon Gratinee (French Onion Soup with Cheese)
12 very thinly sliced onions
4 1/4 cups chicken bouillon
1/2 cup oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup port wine (red)
50 g roasted bread (2 pieces for each serving)
100 g grated gruyere cheese
Cook the onions for two hours in the oil, stirring very often, on a very low fire. Keep watching and stirring constantly. (That’s where the time and patience comes in. The rest is a cinch.) The onions must not burn. This is how you get that great color and taste. After the two hours, add port, bouillon and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 15 minutes. Put in soup bowls, then add the bread and cheese. Put in a broiler until the cheese is melted. Serves 4.
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It’s easy if you know how and your name is Andre Pachon. But he is still insisting that French cooking is easy. And for example he is giving us his recipe for Tarragon Chicken which he serves to his customers at Pachon.
POUSSIN A L’ESTRAGON
2 Cornish game hens (about 400 g each), fresh or frozen
1 coffee spoon of oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup cream
4 branches fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 fresh tomato, cubed (no skin, no juice, no seeds)
5 g chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Salt and pepper the game hens and roast in oil in a very hot oven until lightly browned. Pour oil off. Put on top of stove on burner and add wine and chopped tarragon. Boil until wine is reduced to half. Add cream and boil for 5 minutes. Add tomato and parsley. Stir and serve immediately.
In Pachon’s restaurant he serves one whole game hen per person. But at home if that is too much, you can cut them in half. Serves 2 to 4.
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I always thought that I needed an extra head in order to make a great chocolate mousse. But, thanks to Andre, I discovered it isn’t two heads I need, it’s four bowls!
AT LAST! PACHON’S OWN MOUSSE AU CHOCOLAT
100 g sweet chocolate
50 g black chocolate with no sugar
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp butter
3 egg yolks
50 g sugar
6 egg whites
50 g sugar
100 g cream
First bowl: Melt both chocolates and the butter over boiling water. A double boiler is OK also. After it has melted take off the heat immediately.
Second bowl: Mix the egg yolks with the sugar.
Third bowl: Whip the egg whites with the sugar.
Fourth bowl: Whip the cream.
While the chocolate mixture is still warm but not hot, mix the egg yolk mixture and the whipped cream together. After it has been stirred, add the egg whites. Mix slowly and lightly, putting air inside. At this point you can add cognac, brandy, whisky, rum or any liquor you desire, to taste. Put in decorative bowl and serve.