When A Frenchman Cooks You Dinner

For a while, our friend Cris has wanted to cook us dinner. The fact that we didn’t make it happen immediately won’t seem like a big deal until I tell you that Cris is French. Yes, we had the opportunity to have dinner cooked for us by a French person and we didn’t take him up on it until last week when he and his boyfriend Harry had us over to their Echo Park apartment.

Here’s the thing about having a French person cook you dinner: it’s not about health, it’s not about showing off, it’s about the most important thing you can ask for when someone’s standing behind a stove–and that’s pleasure.

To wit, here’s what Cris made: he took a pork loin and he sliced it thinly. Then he browned it in butter with garlic and when it got some color, he took the pork and the garlic out of the pan and immediately deglazed with half a bottle of white wine. After reducing that for a while, he added (and yes this is very French) three cups of cream. He reduced that by half and then added the pork back in, which simmered in there until it was cooked through, just 10 minutes or so:


Here he is in action (notice how easy he makes it look; he doesn’t even need a spatula, he just uses a fork):

With that, Cris served mashed potatoes which he boiled with a variety of herbs and then mashed by hand with cream (of course) and butter:


And, finally, a beautiful ratatouille that he made by slicing eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes thinly, placing them like petals in an oiled mold, studding them with garlic and herbs and drizzling them with more olive oil before baking in the oven:


To serve, he flipped them out on a plate making them even prettier:



The finished plate was oh so perfect and oh so French:


It may look kind of simple, but every element was très chic. And that’s the thing about the French, the beauty is in the details. Like, when we had red wine, Cris decanted it:


And the tea he served after the meal, while something he bought at the store, perfectly hit the spot with its combination of citrus and camomile:


I also enjoyed flipping through the cookbook from which Cris got the pork recipe, which was all in French, but I was surprised at how much I could translate just because I’ve seen so many French words on menus over the years:


The recipes were amusing because the most complex dishes–like Coq au Vin Rouge en Gelee–had the tiniest bit of text to tell you what to do. The assumption is that you don’t need your hand held along the way, assuming that you’re French:


I also got a kick out of this book from Cris’s collection:


So thanks Cris for such a special meal–and thanks Harry for your hospitality.


Now it’s my turn and I’ll have to reciprocate with an All-American feast. That’s right, Big Macs and Big Gulps for everyone!

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