Three-Michelin-starred chef Michel Guérard is the author of Cuisine Minceur, and a driving force in the nouvelle cuisine movement, which redefined French cooking in the 1970s. Here he shares his top tips for making your fancy French delights a little healthier...
1. Cut the fat of rich sauces
Instead of using a lot of oil in vinaigrette sauces, replace three quarters of what you would use with a broth that you thicken (with corn starch for example) in order to give it an oily consistency. If you have time, you can even infuse oil with fresh herbs (rosemary, verbena, thyme, etc). This will bring a very complex and aromatic flavour to your sauces without the superfluous calories. When you are making mayonnaise, replace half the oil with fat-free yogurt. Do the same for béarnaise sauce: instead of butter, use whisked concentrated milk.
2. Go crazy for vegetables
You can use them everywhere. Again in sauces, replace the traditional butter and flour with a thinly mixed blend of different vegetables (try potatoes, leeks, celery and Parisian mushrooms, it’s great for a blanquette or other combinations, the sky is the limit). You can also use these great purées and make gratins, even mixing in fruit for a bit of sweetness. Your children will ask for more. You can also prepare a fantastic risotto and replace half of the rice with mixed cauliflower or celery to give it the shape of rice. Your guests won’t notice a thing.
3. Take out the fat off of the meat
It takes a few more minutes than usual but it is worth it. It won’t be possible for some pieces of meat you are using if making a sauce dish (like a beef burgundy, navarin of lamb, etc), but if you prepare it in advance, you can put it in the fridge when it’s cooked. Once cold, the fat will fix and come up to the surface and you will be able to take it all out.
4. Choose the right cooking method
There are plenty of ways to cook meat or fish that are very easy. Steaming, poaching, or making delicious papillotes with your kids or, if you prefer roasting or grilling, limit the fat you use, and when you can, always apply the fat directly onto the meat with kitchen paper. You will use so much less!
5. Don’t over salt your dishes
Eating too much salt can be bad for your health. In order to use less, you can cook with broth, use spices or aromatic herbs; it will even taste better. And make a rule to taste before adding salt on your plate - don't do it automatically.
6. Let the meat rest
The secret for tender, juicy meat is that its resting time should equal its cooking time. Wrap the piece with foil as this way, the blood that flowed to the centre of the meat when it was seared can flow back to its extremities and your piece of meat will be perfect.
7. Don’t burn the fat
When fat (butter or oil) is cooked at very high temperatures, it burns and transforms into toxic matter (that is why the renowned stripe in black butter is now forbidden). To prevent burning, you can add water to cool down the oil during cooking, which will become delicious syrup. You need to be careful with butter that burns faster than oil: you can either start cooking with oil, which is less delicate, then add butter if you want to use some for the taste at the end, or try mixing butter and oil at the same time.
8. Eat healthy fries
The reason why fries are so full of oil is because they generally undergo two oil baths - the first one to poach them (where they will absorb all the fat), then the second to make them golden and crunchy. Try replacing the first bath with a healthier method like steaming or poaching in the water. There is also specific kitchen appliance that allows you to cook a large quantity of fries with only one spoon of oil.
9. Don’t oversweeten your desserts
There are now a large number of sweet products you can use instead of sugar. Try out the natural kind, such as agave syrup, fructose, and xylitol. Don’t forget that fruits contain sugar so you shouldn't need to add any more of the sweet stuff. And remember, the fewer sweet things you eat, the less you’ll crave sugar.
10. Use whisked egg whites
Replace three quarters of the cream or whipped cream you would normally use with whisked egg whites that you can delicately blend with the remaining cream. It will make your desserts light and exquisite. It is how we manage to make the famous Paris-brest for 150 calories!
Eat Well & Stay Slim: The Essential Cuisine Minceur by Michel Guérard, is published by Frances Lincoln £25 and will be availbale in March 2014.
Try out Michel's great tips in our French recipes and let us know how you get on below...