French food for Father's Day

June 18, 2010

As part of the monthly series, "My Country, My Cuisine," I ask a local from a foreign country to take me somewhere that reminds them of home.

This month, I was off to a well-known Bucktown bistro known for its authenticity.

Juan Luis Goujon straddles two countries: His father is French, his mother Spanish. The Chicagoan speaks both languages and spent 15 years living in France. When he longs for a taste of home, he always visits Le Bouchon in Bucktown, where chef/owner Jean-Claude Poilevy holds court.

"You meet people you see all of the time, and it's usually very much like this, and you have the owner that's the chef that talks to you, and you build that relationship so it's more than food," Goujon said.

One dish available is the onion soup, or soup l'oignon. Goujon said one fragrant ingredient is particularly important.

"Well, first thing is the cheese, and coming to the table, you must smell the cheese," said Goujon. "That's gruyere, gruyere cheese."

"When we had no money, and I was a student, that would be what we would eat," Goujon said.

"You'd still have money to do other things."

Poilevy's blanquette de veau contains chunks of veal breast that swim in thick sauce made from cooking juices, egg yolks and cream, thickened by a classic roux - equal parts flour and butter.

Goujon said it is probably not what you would call a fancy dish.

"No, just like the onion soup, it's things you prepare at home, things you have in the French bistros, it's home cooking, but it's very difficult to do the right way," Goujon said.

I have fish with pistou, essentially a French pesto, while Goujon digs into a plate of pan-roasted fish in a creamy beurre blanc sauce; cheese always comes before dessert, but choosing one can be a loaded question.

"It's open for a lot of debates that can be long and usually with a lot of wine," said Goujon.

Dessert is classic: apple tarte tatin.

"Tarte tatin is a very special dish for me because it was my father's favorite and it was my mother's best recipe. So whenever she wanted him to feel good, we will have tarte tatin," said Goujon.

"The pastry that's below, the right amount of cooking so the apple is not too done," he said.

As the French say: "Magnifique."

Le Bouchon
1958 N. Damen Ave.

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