FENOUX’S ‘DIOTS’ A DISH OF MEMORIES
Sharon Stephenson talks to chef Pierre-Alain Fenoux about the flavours of this French homeland.
Steamy mounds of polenta, studded with rich French diot (pork sausages): nothing mentally transports Pierre Alain Fenoux back to his home town of Chambery, an alpine town in south-east France, faster than diots polenta, a dish his grandmother used to make.
"It's a traditional dish in my region," says 35-year-old Fenoux who opened Jano Bistro in 2014 with his partner Diana Goh.
"It's rich and filling, real comfort food that's eaten all year round."
And although you'd never call it pretty, the dish is "rustic and delicious", he says.
Food was a natural progression for Fenoux, who moved to New Zealand in 2010.
He grew up in a family that "believed in good, honest food" and knew he wanted to become a chef from age 14 when he signed up at a local hospitality college.
Four years later, he graduated and spent the next while ping-ponging around the region, setting up restaurant kitchens, working for Michelin-starred restaurants and in a ski resort.
But itchy feet got the better of him and in 2008, he and a chef friend moved to Australia for a year.
That morphed into two years of working in Melbourne's restaurant scene. He moved to Wellington "out of curiosity" and ended up spending almost five years behind the stove in Le Canard restaurant.
But owning his own eatery was always the ultimate dream and five years ago he did that with Goh, naming the Willis Street eatery after his paternal grandfather.
Despite craving diots polenta, Fenoux doesn't make it at home or serve it in the restaurant.
"You can use any pork sausages for this but for me it doesn't have the same flavour as the special French sausages we get at home.
"Besides, this dish represents family and home to me so I'd be sad eating it without my family around me!"
DIOTS POLENTA RECIPE
For the Diots:
4-8 free-range pork sausage
3 brown onions
2 garlic cloves
1 sprig of thyme
50g tomato paste
1L red wine (for cooking)
Olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar
For the polenta:
2 garlic cloves
2 sprig of thyme
1/2 L milk
1/2 L chicken stock (or vege stock)
50g grated parmesan
50g creme fraiche
Olive oil, salt, pepper
In a shallow pan, combine the sliced onions, chopped garlic and the thyme with a little olive oil and cook on a medium heat until evenly caramelised. Set aside.
In the same pan, brown the pork sausages on all sides then add the reserved onions and the tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste begins to caramelise and then deglaze with the red wine.
Turn the heat to low and gently cook the sausages for about 20 minutes until cooked through and the sauce is thickened.
Season to taste.
In a deep pot, gently cook the sliced shallots, chopped garlic and thyme, then add the milk and stock and bring to boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let the mixture infuse for 10 minutes. Discard the thyme and bring the liquid back the a boil then sprinkle the polenta into the pot. Cook while stirring for 15-20 minutes and finish with the butter, creme fraiche and grated parmesan. Season to taste.