French

Here's How France Does Frozen Food (Yes, Better Than Us)

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June 23, 2017

When I walked into a Picard, I was struck by how warm it was, considering it's a grocery store that exclusively sells frozen food—and one that's enormously popular in France. There is no chaos of color, fruits or vegetables or olive bars to tantalize the senses; just waist-high grey and white, glass-topped freezer units.

But you'll find an entire universe of colors and flavors inside those freezers, as well as dishes that wouldn't seem out of place in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Or a farm-to-table one, for that matter: "[Picard] maintains close relationships with farmers and other food producers—67% of their products are grown in France," writes Ann Mah in The Kitchn. You'll find légumes à la campagnarde à rôtir (sliced potatoes, mushrooms, green beans in herb-infused olive oil); Israeli couscous with grilled artichokes; tarte aux pêches et aux quetsches (peach, plum, and apricot tart); souris d’agneau fondante (roasted lamb shank cooked in its own juice and thyme); even frozen sushi. One of the most genius things in the store is the frozen herbs, finely diced and free flowing, so if you just want a dash of basil on that frozen gratin d’aubergine, voila!

Rosecrans Baldwin, author of Paris I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down, says: "I love Picard. I don't know why it hasn't caught on in the States. I'd say more than half of the dinner parties I've been to in France, the host served Picard hors d'oeuvres straight from the oven. Canapés, petits fours, mini croque-monsieurs." But browse through the Picard website, and you could easily continue to entrée and dessert. (Ann Mah calls these all-Picard dinner parties "legendary.") A lot of these TV dinners have multiple, recipe-like steps, like stewing mangoes or cutting carrots, so it feels like you're cooking from scratch, though that's not vraiment.

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We leafed through the Picard website—the company sells over 1200 different products—and came up with a perfect dinner party menu (that we can't eat—but we can dream about). Allons-y!

Appetizers

Ceviche
"Boutons de Rose"

That's seabream ceviche atop a buckwheat biscuit sandwich filled with mangos and quinoa on the left; and "rose buttons" filled with duck foie gras and black cherry confit on the right.

Pesto Tart
Zucchini Flower Beignets

On the left is a red pesto tart shaped like the sun, so guests can pull off pieces that extend from the center, and on the right is fried zucchini flowers.

Main Courses

Sauternes-Soaked Langoustine and Scallop Pot Pies
Tomato Clafoutis

On the left we have pot pies (sabayons) of langoustine tails and scallops, cooked in a foamy cream scented with Sauternes wine. It even comes in ceramic ramekins! That didn't impress one commenter much, though; LeaSmith writes, "The taste of the sauce is not bad, but I prefer much that of coquilles à la bretonne and sancerre, and they are cheaper." The savory clafoutis on the right contains a mix of goat and sheep milk cheese.

Fish and Vegetable Tian
Lamb Ribs

On the left is red mullet baked with vegetables; it's topped with microgreens and can feed six people. The components are packed separately, so you have to layer the fish with the vegetables yourself—in other words, all the fun, non-messy parts of cooking. On the right is lamb ribs with honey and saffron oil, atop a minty bean salad. You do have to marinate the lamb for an hour—but the sauce is basically handed to you in a silver spoon cardboard box.

Banh Mi
Veggie Panini

Picard's got an ace sandwich game. On the left is a meatball banh mi, and on the right, a panini with walnuts, gorgonzola, grilled vegetables, and Italian ham, which is not mentioned until the assembly instructions.

Desserts

Chocolate-Coconut Tart
Mango Tarte Tatin

Or instead of going the tart/e route, why not make a few "caramel tiles," pan-fry pineapples with honey and coffee grounds, and finish off the display with a sprinkling of edible gold glitter? Picard has a video to guide you:

Vanilla-Raspberry Vacherins
"Paris-Brooklyn Sweet Bagels"

Need we say more?


For more on French food (sans white tablecloth), head here.

4 Comments

Kaye June 27, 2017
I remain on the fence with Picard as it all looks so delicious so high anticipation, however I am big on flavour and I find I am let down once I start to eat . . . and any French mamie trying this as they become too frail to continue cooking . . . I am sure will instantly recognise and feel a deep loss of true flavour that they were used to!
 
MarieGlobetrotter June 27, 2017
Well my grand mother is not greatest cook, especially as she got old and had to time to spend on elaborate recipes. It would be a mistake to think that she has lost the true flavours of things... ;)<br />Plus it allowed her to discover foods and flavours that she didn't know about and would never know how to cook
 
LW.ATX.78 June 26, 2017
For those in NYC we also have something similar... I actually think they are modeled after Picard. https://www.babethsfeast.com/
 
MarieGlobetrotter June 24, 2017
Picard is quite amazing. The only way we convinced my grandmother to eat frozen food in order ease her work load (she gets tired easily these days). Picard's presentations are always pretty, the food is good, healthy, creative and the prices reasonable. The tomato claffouti is very good. Picard also does great stuff around Christmas time. I would also recommend their frozen fish (any kind) and the creative purees (butternut and chestnut) <br />Here in Quebec, we have actually something similar called "Cool & Simple" (in French) - I actually their products are Picard but under a different name.