nouvelle cuisine

nouvelle cuisine

[noo-vel kwee-zeen]

Style in international cuisine developed in France in the 1960s and '70s that stresses freshness, lightness, and clarity of flavour, as distinct from the richer and more calorie-laden classic haute cuisine. Dishes commonly include sauces made of vegetable and fruit purees, novel combinations of foods in small quantities, and elegant displays highlighting details of texture and colour.

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Nouvelle cuisine ("new cuisine") is an approach to cooking and food presentation used in French cuisine. Contrasted with cuisine classique, nouvelle cuisine is characterized by lighter, more delicate dishes and an increased emphasis on presentation. "Nouvelle cuisine," like the earlier "cuisine classique" are both forms of haute cuisine.

History

The term nouvelle cuisine has been used many times in the history of French cuisine. In the 1740s for example, the work of Vincent La Chapelle, François Marin and Menon was described as nouvelle cuisine, and in the 1880s and 1890s even the cooking of Georges Auguste Escoffier was described with the term. The modern usage can be attributed to authors Henri Gault and Christian Millau, who in the 1960s used nouvelle cuisine to describe the cooking of Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, Jean and Pierre Troisgros, Michel Guérard, Roger Vergé and Raymond Oliver, many of whom were once students of Fernand Point.

The style Gault and Millau wrote about was a reaction to the French cuisine classique placed into "orthodoxy" by Escoffier. Calling for greater simplicity and elegance in creating dishes, nouvelle cuisine is also called cuisine minceur, ("thin cooking"), because it is in general less fattening than cuisine classique. It has been speculated that the outbreak of World War II was a significant contributor to nouvelle cuisine's creation – the short supply of animal protein during the German occupation made it a natural development.

The "formula"

Gault and Millau "discovered the formula" contained in ten characteristics of this new style of cooking. The ten characteristics identified were:

  • A rejection of excessive complication in cooking.
  • Cooking times for most fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables and pâtés was greatly reduced in an attempt to preserve the natural flavors. Steaming was an important trend from this characteristic.
  • The cuisine was made with the freshest possible ingredients.
  • Large menus were abandoned in favor of shorter menus.
  • Strong marinades for meat and game ceased to be used.
  • They stopped using heavy sauces such as espagnole and béchamel thickened with flour based roux, in favor of seasoning their dishes with fresh herbs, quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar.
  • They used regional dishes for inspiration instead of cuisine classique dishes.
  • New techniques were embraced and modern equipment was often used; Bocuse even used microwave ovens.
  • The chefs paid close attention to the dietary needs of their guests through their dishes.
  • The chefs were extremely inventive and created new combinations and pairings.

Abandonment

There is a standing debate as to whether nouvelle cuisine has been abandoned. Much of what it stood for – particularly its preference for fresh flavors lightly presented – has been assimilated into mainstream restaurant cooking. By the mid-1980s some food writers stated that the style of cuisine had reached exhaustion and many chefs began returning to the cuisine classique style of cooking, although much of the lighter presentations and new techniques remained.

References

  • Hewitt, Nicholas. The Cambridge Companion to Modern French Culture. Cambridge: The Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0521794657
  • Mennel, Stephan. All Manners of Food: eating and taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the present. 2nd ed., Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0252064906
  • The Nouvelle Cuisine Cookbook: The Complete International Guide to the World of Nouvelle Cuisine by Armand Aulicino. (1976) ISBN 0-448-14418-2
  • The Nouvelle Cuisine of Jean and Pierre Troisgros by Jean and Pierre Troisgros. (1977) ISBN 0-688-03331-8.
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