The Sauce's Apprentice.
So, too, the saucier takes his position at the helm of a different ensemble. He directs his percussion section, two aligned rows of handcrafted, hammered copper pots lined with stainless steel and fitted with cast iron handles, meticulously polished, tuned, and born to play a part in the final opus. Flared saute pans, small and large saucepans, and heavy duty braziers on their respective burners await their moment to simmer, reduce, and concentrate. Whether their final performance communicates with the soul rests in the hands of chef Yannick Cam.
Lucky subscribers might remember Cam from Art Culinaire Issue 6. Or, perhaps you know him from his recent Washington D.C. homage to Southern French cooking, Le Paradou, or from his 12-year spell leading the kitchen at the capital city's Le Pavillon where he started in 1978, elevating it to top-tier in the mid-Atlantic region. "I always wanted things to be just right. Everybody in the kitchen at Le Pavillon and Le Paradou was concerned with doing things perfectly. It was part of who we were. We didn't accept just okay or good. We wanted excellence. It's how we approached cooking." Cam, now age 70, spends each day on the line cooking at his Maryland restaurant, Bistro Provence.
During his years as a saucier at Royale Hotel in Deauville, a seaside resort on the Cote Fleurie of France's Normandy region, and at three-star Michelin restaurant Lasserre in Paris, Cam compiled insights. "If a component or ingredients overcook, get introduced too early, or reduce too long until muddy, the entire flavor dies. It's work to be more precise. It takes patience and precision, but also reflection."
Merriam-Webster states, "Used as a transitive verb, 'to sauce' provides for and makes [something] more interesting and exciting." And yet, rather than showboat, the most brilliant sauces play a supportive, harmonizing role. Cam pinpoints the definition. "A sauce is simple," he says. "It needs to be pure, precise, and clear, like a [subtle] perfume. It should never do too much to anything." Such is the basic character of fragrance. A perfumer, the expert who creates perfume compositions, knows that an accord balances a blend of three or four notes to create a completely new, unified impression. The individual notes lose their identities to create a simple, unified expression, a higher purpose.
Cam developed a sensibility to how disparate ingredients combine to make a whole. "Each component, stock, wine reduction, and fumet, must achieve its own pinnacle of flavor. Sauces are actually so easy to make with one condition: you must respect the fumet. You need clean color and flavor. If you really want an unbelievable fumet, it needs to be assembled separately, at the last second."
A saucier must also possess a sensitivity to ingredients in order to anticipate subtleties that demand nimble twists to approach. For instance, Cam says, "A hare in September is different than a hare in December. It's had no berries to eat in winter and that translates to a different flavor. The meat will be more lean, harsh, and dry. So you need to create a more velvety sauce to re-enhance what the meat has lost."
So much also depends on vision, the long line from start to finish. Cam knows that a proper fumet hinges on exact proportions of beef, veal, or chicken to be sauteed in the final 20 minutes before plating. He knows how to harness the power of herbs two hours before plating or a la minute. "All of these distinctions fall within the command of an expert saucier."
Beyond Cam's fundamental quest to hone a sauce's character, he views sauce-making as an opportunity for self-transformation. "You have to be able to question yourself, to search, to be willing to say, 'I can go further.' The mind is lazy. If you don't challenge it, your mind will take the easy way. When sauciers grasp this kind of sensitivity, it's very exciting. They will want to go further. We all start at mediocre, but the only way to grow is to say, 'I want to do better.'"
Cam steers each sauce by clearly envisioning the final dish. By understanding the volatility of individual ingredients, their construction in unique combinations, and the chemistry between individual components, one understands the essence of sauce creation. Says Cam, "To be an alchemist, you need to take a higher road to achieve greatness. A perfectly done sauce creates something unusual, something sublime."
Humility, paradoxically, seems to be a key motivator of Cam's grand pursuits. "I want to get there--to 100%--even though 100% will never happen. You always look toward infinity. You never arrive. But you get to a level that not many people reach."
The saucier directs the percussion section, aligned rows of handcrafted, hammered copper pots lined with stainless steel and fitted with cast iron handles meticulously polished, tuned, and born to play a part in the final opus. Flared saute pans, small and large saucepans, and heavy duty braziers on their respective burners await their moment to simmer, reduce, and concentrate.
Whether their final performance communicates with the soul rests in the hands of Yannick Can.
"Since our first days of opening, I wanted to promote Burgundy. But in 1978," Yannick Cam explains, "it was much easier to acquire wines that were affordable. Burgundy has become so expensive. Add to that the excise tax on alcohol in our county and they become very hard to sell." Cam speaks wistfully of the days when he first opened Bistro Provence in Bethesda. "We now have a list of 250 wines with our favorites shifting to Sancerre and Rieslings from Alsace, both unbelievable matches for our food." With just six miles separating the Nation's Capital from Cam's bistro, he attracts a clientele with a taste for American wines. "We also open many bottles of Bordeaux," he adds. "And, many regulars with deep cellars carry in older wines to open. Provence wines surge in the summer as we open our outdoor seating area and serve rose well into the evening." Cam offers eight wines by the glass and captains often advises guests on cocktails mixed at the service bar.
Story by Steve Legato and Carol M Newman | Photos by Steve Legato
Yannick Cam, Bistro Provence, Bethesda, MD
LANGOUSTINE TAIL PURSES, CARROT-GINGER EMULSION For the purses: 5 eggs 1/2 quart half & half 5 ounces durum flour 1/2 teaspoon salt Oil, as needed For the shrimp mousseline: 8 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined, chilled 1 large egg 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup heavy cream For the purse filling: 3 lagoustine tails hailed in shell, meat removed, finely chopped 1 tablespoon. mascarpone 1 shallot, peeled and finely clopped 1 teaspobn shrimp mousseline from above For the carrot-ginger emulsion: 1/2 quart fresh carrot juice 4 slices fresh ginger 2 tablespoons butter 2 teaspoons creme fraiche For the garnish: Pansy flowers Seasonal microgreens FOR THE PURSES: In a bowl, combine all Ingredients, whisking well until a smooth batter forms. Place a 10-inch nonstick pan over medium heat and add a small amount of oil to coat the bottom of pan and heat 1 minute. Pour in about 1/4 cup of purse batter. Immediately pick up the pan and swirl, coaxing batter into a thin and even layer. Cook until edges just start to turn brown, then flip. Gook another 30 seconds before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Continue making purses with FOR THE SHRIMP MOUSSELINE: In a food processor fitted with blade, combine shrimp, egg, and salt. Pulse a few times, then stream in heavy cream, pulsing until smooth. FOR THE PURSE FILLING. Preheat oven To 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Wrap.20 grams of lobster mixture into-1 purse. Lift top and bottom edges and bring together, pressing from top to about halfway down to seal. Bring together right and left edges and 'twist to seal. Prepare a piece of aluminum foil by brushing with butter. Place 3 purses in each piece of foil and fold like papillote. Bake in oven 8 minutes, or until filling cooks through. FOR THE CARROT-GINGER EMULSION: In a saucepot, add carrot juice and ginger and reduce 80%. Remove ginger slices, then whisk in butter, and add creme fraiche. In a Vita-Prep, blend 10 seconds at high speed-until emulsified. TO SERVE: Place 3 purses on plate. Drizzle with carrot-ginger emulsion Garnish with a pansy flower and microgreens. Yannick Cam, Bistro Provence PAPETON D'COURGETTE For the scallops: 10 large scallops, muscles removed 2 teaspoons canola oil Salt for seasoning 1 shallot, peeled and chopped 1 leek, white part only, rinsed well and trimmed Heavy cream, as needed For the zucchini papeton: 1 zucchini, trimmed and julienne on mandoline Salt, as needed 2 eggs 5 ounces heavy cream 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheesee 1 tablespoon rice flour For the corn veloute: 3 tablespoons white corn Clarified butter as needed Water, as needed 1/2 yellow onion peeled and finely chopped 3 leeks, white part only, rinsed well and trimmed 1 quart chicken stock 1/4 cup heavy cream For the milk foam: 1 1/2 quarts light cream Pinch of salt For the dish: Vegetaline Rice flour Creme fraiche Ossetra caviar Cayenne pepper FOR THE SCALLOPS: Pat jcallops dry and season with salt. In a saute pan over medium heat, add scallops and sear to release liquid and set aside. Add shallots and leeks to pan and saute until soft and fragrant. Add cream and simmer a few minutes Return scallops back to pan, simmering 1 minute. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside. FOR THE ZUCCHINI PAPETON: In a colander, add zucchini and liberally sprinkle with salt. Let rest 20 minutes. Press with a towel to release excess liquid. In a bowl, add eggs, cream, and Parmesan cheese and blend well. In another bowl, mix zucchini with rice flour. Combine two mixtures, blending well. FOR THE CORN VELOUTE: In a saute pan over medium heat, add corn and slowly cook in clarified butter with a splash of water. When corn fully cooks and becomes soft, set aside. Add onions and leek, sauteing slowly until very soft. Add chicken stock and heavy cream, cooking for several minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree, then pass through a fine mesh sieve. FOR THE MILK FOAM: In a saucepot, bring light cream to a boil. Add salt. Whip until soft and foamy. Rewhip as needed for service. FOR THE DISH: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 4-ounce ramekin by spraying it with Vegetaline and coating lightly with rice flour. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup papeton mixture with 1/4 cup scallop confit and fill a 2 3/4 ring or small ramekin to top. Bake 8 to 9 minutes, or until firm and set. Unmold onto a plate. Cover with creme fraiche. Garnish with ossetra caviar. Add dollops of corn veloute, milk foam and a quenelle of creme fraiche. Dust plate with cayenne pepper. Yannick Cam, Bistro Provence ROASTED LOBSTER with SAUTERNES and TAHITIAN VANILLA BEAN For the lobster: 11 1/3 pound lobster, cracked, brain sac, sand sac, tomalley, and roe removed 3 tablespoons olive oil Salt and pepper for seasoning For the Tahitian vanilla bean sauce: 375 milliliters Sauternes 1 Nielsen-Massey Tahitian vanilla bean, cut lengthwise in half 12 zested strips blood orange 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned 1 tablespoon blood orange juice 2-3 tablespoons butter, chilled For the dish: Clarified butter, as needed Begonia flower FOR THE LOBSTER: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut lobster down middle to expose meat. Crack claws. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat oil until almost smoking. Add lobster, cut-side down, and cook until meat browns, about 3 minutes. Transfer to oven and roast about 4 minutes until meat cooks through. Transfer to a platter, remove shells, season with salt and pepper, and keep warm. FOR THE TAHITIAN VANILLA BEAN SAUCE: In a pot, add Sauternes, vanilla bean, blood orange zest, and ginger. Reduce by one-quarter. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving vanilla bean and zest. Transfer to a saute pan and mount reduction with butter, moving pan to emulsify. Whisk in blood orange juice. FOR THE DISH: In a saute pan, add clarified butter and lobster slices, heating until just warmed. Transfer to a plate and spoon generously with Tahitian vanilla bean sauce. Garnish with a begonia flowers, reserved vanilla bean, and blood orange zest. Yannick Cam, Bistro Provence WILD TURBOT FILLET, SCALLOPS, and THYME SAUCE For the wild turbot: 4 six-ounces pieces wild turbot fillets, skin on Salt and pepper to taste Canola oil, for frying For the thyme sauce: 5 ounces Muscadet 5 ounces dry vermouth 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped 1/2 cup cream 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, picked 50 grams butter, chilled 1 teaspoon chives, chopped 3 tablespoons creme fraiche For the scallops: 16 U-10 scallops, cleaned, halved, patted dry Canola oil, as needed FOR THE WILD TURBOT: Season fillets with salt and pepper. In a Tefal or other nonstick pan over medium-high, heat canola oil 1 minute. Place turbot fillets skin-side down and saute 2 minutes until lightly browned. Using a spatula, carefully flip, then saute an additional 2 minutes. Keep warm. FOR THE THYME SAUCE: In a saucepot, reduce wine, vermouth and shallots to almost dry. Add cream, bring to a boil, then add thyme. Bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and transfer to a Vita-Prep, blending well. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Return to saucepot, mount with butter, and rotate pan steadily, allowing butter to slowly emulsify. Sprinkle in fresh chives. Finish with creme fraiche. FOR THE SCALLOPS: In a Tefal or other non-stick pan, add a little canola oil just to coat and sear scallops 2 minutes, making sure not to overcrowd pan. Flip scallops and finish cooking for another 1 1/2 minutes. Keep warm. TO SERVE: On a plate, add turbot fillet and scallops. Spoon with thyme sauce. Yannick Cam, Bistro Provence PIGEON BOUDIN Yannick Cam, Bistro Provence For the boudin: Natural hog casings 1 pigeon breast, deboned, skinned and chopped 1 organic chicken breast, deboned, skin removed, chopped 5 ice cubes Pinch of salt 1 quart heavy cream 10 juniper berries, crushed 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves picked 1 tablespoon white truffle oil Cayenne pepper to taste For the sweet and sour cabbage: 3-4 tablespoons canola oil 1/4 head red cabbage, cored and sliced 1 red onion, peeled and chopped 1 green apple, cored, peeled and chopped 2 bacon slices 4 garlic cloves, peeled 1/4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced 1 small coriander bouquet garni 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced to a glaze 1 teaspoon cumin 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds 1 tablespoon honey For the sauce: 1 1/2 pounds organic chicken wings, cut into small pieces 1 shallot, peeled and chopped 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved 1 slice porcini mushroom 12 cardamom pods 1 teaspoon tomato paste blended with water FOR THE BOUDIN: Rinse outside of casing and place in a bowl of water for 30 minutes to soften. In a food processor fitted with the blade, add chicken and pigeon breasts with ice cubes. Blend well. Add salt and pulse, slowly adding half of cream. Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in remaining cream, juniper berries, thyme, and truffle oil. Season with cayenne pepper. Attach sausage-stuffing nozzle to food processor. Gather 1 piece casing over nozzle, bunching it up until 3-inches remain at the end. Crank sausage mixture evenly through grinder into casing. Pinch filled casings at 6-inch intervals, twisting ends to secure. Repeat with remaining boudin mixture and casings. Heat a large pot of water to 150 degrees. Poach links 45 minutes. Remove from water and let cool. FOR THE SWEET AND SOUR CABBAGE: In a saute pan, heat oil. Add cabbage, onions, and apples, cooking until soft. Add bacon, garlic, ginger, and bouquet garni, cooking 20 minutes more. Deglaze pan with balsamic vinegar. Reduce, then add cumin and fennel seeds. Add honey. Cook 8 minutes, then discard garlic, bacon and bouquet garni. FOR THE SAUCE: In a pot over medium-high heat, saute chicken wings 15-20 minutes. Add shallots, garlic, and porcini, sauteing until soft and fragrant. Add cardamom pods and water to cover, scraping brown bits from bottom of the pan. In another small pot, add blended tomato paste with water. Add to chicken stock. Cover and reduce 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving cardamom pods. TO SERVE: On a plate, drizzle sauce. Place 1 link on plate. Add a small mound of cabbage. Add reserved cardamom pods. VEAL CHOP, TRUMPET MUSHROOM PUREE, SWEET POTATO CROQUETTES For the veal chop: 1 veal chop, trimmed and tied Salt and pepper for seasoning 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil For the mushroom puree: 1/2 pound trumpet mushrooms, cleaned well 1/4 Vidalia onion, peeled and chopped 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped 1 slice prosciutto, finely chopped For the sweet potato croquettes: 1 large organic sweet potato, baked, flesh pureed 60 grams goat cheese 1 tablespoon chervil 2 sprigs fresh marjoram, picked 1 egg, slightly beaten 1-2 tablespoons water 50% fine dry white breadcrumbs and 50% potato flakes, for dredging Oil for deep frying For the veal demi-glace: 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 shallot, chopped 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped 3 cups red wine Veal chop pan drippings 2 tablespoons demi-glace 3 tablespoons unsalted butter Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste FOR THE VEAL CHOPS: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pat chop dry and season with salt and pepper. In a saute pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and sear first side 2 to 3 minutes, until brown and crispy. Turn and sear second side another 2-3 minutes. Transfer pan into center of oven. Cook to an internal temperature of 140 degrees in the center of the thickest part of the chop, about 10 minutes,. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Reserve pan drippings. FOR THE TRUMPET MUSHROOM PUREE: In a saute pan, add onion and caramelize slowly until soft, stirring often. Add mushrooms and cook until tender and browned. Add garlic and prosciutto. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, then puree in a Vita-Prep. FOR THE SWEET POTATO CROQUETTES: Heat a deep fryer to 370 degrees. Mash sweet potato flesh with goat cheese until smooth. Season with herbs. Roll into a log. Cut log into small rounds. In a bowl, add egg and water, mixing well. In another bowl, add breadcrumb and potato flake mixture. Dip sweet potato rounds into crumbs, then into beaten egg mixture, then into crumbs again. Fry in oil until croquettes turn golden-brown. Drain on paper towels. FOR THE VEAL DEMI-GLACE: Pour olive oil into a large saucepan, place over medium-high heat, and add shallots and garlic. Cook until shallots soften, then add wine. Lower heat and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Add veal chop pan drippings and demi-glace. Simmer an additional 5-10 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a saucepan. Return to heat and whisk in butter. Season with salt and black pepper. TO SERVE: Spoon mushroom puree on plate. Add veal chop next to it. Cut a sweet potato croquette in half and place on plate. Drizzle generously with demi-glace. Yannick Cam, Bistro Provence ALMOND CREPES WITH PASSION FRUIT SYRUP For the crepes: 120 grams all purpose flour 4 whole eggs 2 egg yolks 100 grams granulated sugar 30 grams melted butter 1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Tahitian pure vanilla extract For the almond cream filling: 4 1/2 ounces butter, room temperature 4 1/2 ounces sugar 4 1/2 ounces almond flour 1 ounce tigernut flour 2 1/2 eggs 1 3/4 ounces creme fraiche 1/4 teaspoon almond extract 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract For the passion fruit syrup: 5 tablespoons passion fruit juice 30 grams sugar 30 grams butter For the garnish: Melted butter for dredging Granulated sugar for coating Clarified butter, as needed Powdered sugar FOR THE CREPES: In a bowl, combine all ingredients, whisking well until a smooth batter forms. Place a 12-inch nonstick pan over medium heat and add a small amount of butter to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour in about 1/3 cup crepe batter. Immediately pick up the pan and swirl, coaxing batter into a thin and even layer. Cook until underside turns golden-brown, 2-3 minutes, before flipping and cooking another 30 seconds. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cook until all batter is used, coating pan with butter, as needed. FOR THE ALMOND CREAM FILLING: In a mixer fitted with paddle, add sugar and butter and mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually add flours and eggs, mixing until incorporated and scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Blend in extracts and creme fraiche. FOR THE PASSION FRUIT SYRUP: In a small pot over high heat, add passion fruit juice, sugar, and butter. Reduce to syrup consistency. FOR THE DISH: Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of almond cream on top of crepe. Fold in half, then fold in half again into a quarter. Dredge in melted butter and coat with granulated sugar. In a saute pan, heat clarified butter. Add crepe and cook just until sugar caramelizes. On a plate, add 1 spoonful passion fruit syrup to prevent crepe from sticking to plate. Place crepe on top and spoon generously with more syrup. Sprinkle edges of plate with powder sugar. Yannick Cam, Bistro Provence AMARETTO PARFAIT For the parfait: 6 ounces 75% dark chocolate 10 ounces milk chocolate 6 ounces white chocolate 8 ounces egg yolks 4 ounces sugar 1000 grams heavy cream 12 ounces mascar pone 14 ounces butter, melted 4 ounces Amaretto For the orange tuiles: 125 grams butter 100 grams orange juice 250 grams sugar 62 grams all-purpose flour, plus more as needed For the blackberry and dried cherry syrup: 1 cup water 1 cup granulated sugar 1 Tahitian vanilla bean, split and scraped 1 tablespoon blackberry preserves 1/2 cup dried cherries 1 tablespoon pure almond extract For the garnish: Pistachios, roughly chopped Powdered sugar FOR THE PARFAIT: Prepare PVC pipe molds by lining with acetate strips. In a bowl set over a pan of steaming water, melt chocolates. In a medium bowl place egg yolks and sugar and whisk together. In another bowl, whisk cream with mascarpone. Using a spatula, fold chocolate with yolk and cream mixtures. Fold in melted butter and Amaretto. Place in molds and freeze overnight to set. FOR THE ORANGE TUILE: In a pot over low heat, melt butter. Add orange juice and stir to incorporate. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and flour together. Combine flour mixture with orange juice mixture, whisking until a smooth, but thin batter forms. Chill in refrigerator 2 hours. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a sheet pan lined with a Silpat. Spoon a small amount of tuile batter onto Silpat. Spread as evenly and thinly as possible into desired size. Bake until tuile turns golden brown all over, 9 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and lay hot tuile on a rolling pin to firm up, about 1 minute. Release, and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. FOR THE BLACKBERRY AND DRIED CHERRY SYRUP: In a saucepan, make a simple syrup with water and sugar. Add Tahitian vanilla bean. Whisk in the blackberry preserves and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add dried cherries and almond extract. Cover and cook 1 1/2 hours, or until reaches thin syrup consistency. TO SERVE: Slide parfait from PVC pipe mold. Transfer to a plate. Artfully decorate with 2 orange tuiles. Spoon syrup on plate. Sprinkle with pistachios and powdered sugar. Serve immediately.