In this series, columnist Sibylle Eschapasse interviews some of France’s top chefs, the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France.
Annecy, Haute Savoie
The CORE Club
Years of experience with French cuisine:
Maître Cuisinier de France since:
Sibylle Eschapasse: What does it mean to you to be a Maître Cuisinier de France, a most admired title?
Bernard Liberatore: At first, it comes as recognition from your peers, but most importantly it is a responsibility and quest to always preserve, advance, and perpetuate the tradition of great French cuisine, and to mentor, train, and assist in the professional development of the new generation of chefs.
Ms. Eschapasse: Why did you choose to become a chef?
Mr. Liberatore: I started to be interested in cooking and baking at an early age with my mother—she is a really good cook—and when the time arrived to choose a career, it just made sense and it was the only path I saw myself in. As for the why, at that time, I didn’t have that answer yet, nor really an understanding of what it would take to become a professional chef.
Ms. Eschapasse: If a close friend were to describe your cooking in three words, what would they be?
Mr. Liberatore: Elegant yet soulful and imaginative.
Ms. Eschapasse: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Mr. Liberatore: Good question, I never really looked back and thought of another career, but I would say I’m fascinated by architecture and the engineering behind it. Maybe it could have been a career.
Ms. Eschapasse: Who would you consider your greatest culinary influence?
Mr. Liberatore: It’s hard to really pinpoint someone in particular as I have been permeated with different influences to create my own. But I can say Marc Veyrat always strikes me, not only as a talented chef but as a person, as resilient, fierce, and yet generous—”un montagnard” [a mountain guy], like me.
Ms. Eschapasse: How would you define French cuisine?
Mr. Liberatore: A cuisine that is diverse, with a deep cultural heritage and respect of tradition, which can be used as a base for new and innovative creations.
Ms. Eschapasse: Of France’s many regional cuisines, which do you prefer to cook?
Mr. Liberatore: There are a few, I would say where I come from, Rhône-Alpes, as well as Mediterranean and Southwest.
Ms. Eschapasse: Tell us about the recipe you chose.
Mr. Liberatore: Double-baked soufflés are always easy to create and fun to have in a home cook’s repertoire. They are less daunting than regular cheese soufflés. Also I wanted to showcase two ingredients dear to me. Beaufort cheese from the Alps, my region, is a beautiful cheese with a distinct aroma, sometime described as mildly pungent and reminiscent of the pastures on which the Tarentaise and Abondance cows graze—my favorite cheese. And the porcini I love maybe because I used to go pick them with my father in my youth and love all the aromas found in the woods.
Ms. Eschapasse: What’s your advice to people who would like to improve their cooking skills or learn to cook?
Mr. Liberatore: I would say the only way to improve cooking skills is like everything else: Repeat them over and over until you perfect them.
You can watch Bernard Liberatore demonstrate the full recipe on “Celebrity Taste Makers” on Saturday, March 18 at 6 p.m on PIX11.
Sibylle Eschapasse is from Paris and lives in New York City. In addition to working at the United Nations, she contributes to various publications and is the host of “Sibylle’s Top French Chefs,” a series being aired on “Celebrity Taste Makers.” She may be reached at [email protected]
Porcini and Beaufort Cheese Soufflé
For the Porcini Velouté
Makes 1 quart
- 4 pounds porcini mushrooms
- 2 fluid ounces olive oil
- 3 shallots
- 1 onion
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 fluid ounces Noilly Prat (dry vermouth)
- 1 quart heavy cream
- Vegetable stock, for thinning
For the Soufflé
- 2 ounces butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2.5 fluid ounces heavy cream
- 2.5 fluid ounces milk
- 1 garlic cloves
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1 cup Porcini Velouté
- 5 ounces Beaufort cheese
- Nutmeg, to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 egg whites
To Make the Velouté
Clean the porcini and cut into 1-inch pieces. Mince the shallot and onion.
In a skillet, on medium heat, add the olive oil, then sweat the shallot and onion for 3 minutes. Add the diced porcini and sauté to a golden color. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper.
Deglaze with the Noilly, then reduce to cook down the alcohol. Remove about 1/4 of the porcini and reserve for the garnish.
Add the heavy cream and turn to a slow heat, cooking gently for 15 minutes. Blend till smooth. Reserve 1 cup for the soufflé base.
To Make the Soufflé
Heat your oven to 375 F.
Melt the butter over medium heat, then add the flour to make a roux. Cook the roux for 5 minutes and set aside.
Bring the heavy cream, milk, garlic, and thyme to a boil. Steep for 10 minutes.
Shred the Beaufort cheese.
Strain out the thyme and garlic. Bring cream mixture back to a boil, then pour over the roux to make a béchamel sauce. Cook over medium for 5 to 8 minutes. Add the reserved 1 cup of Porcini Velouté and 2/3 of the cheese. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper, to taste.
Add the egg yolks. Whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into to mixture.
Grease ten 4-ounce ramekins or aluminum tins. Fill them with the soufflé base, almost to the rim.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Note: This soufflé can be pre-baked ahead of time and refrigerated.
To serve, heat the oven to 350 F. Warm up the velouté with a little vegetable stock. Place the soufflé in a gratin or baking dish, pour over the velouté, add the diced porcini, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over them. Bake for 6 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of Bernard Liberatore