Liberte, Egalite and Moussaka?

A new bistro boom is on in Paris. Many of the top chefs have opened at least one casual counterpart to their more serious restaurants. Guy Savoy, Michel Rostang, Claude Terrail, Joel Robuchon and Jacques Cagna have all jumped on this bandwagon of reasonably priced spin-offs--reasonably priced at least in comparison to their super-high-priced Michelin star-rated restaurants.

Jacques Cagna has now opened two bistros: Rotisserie d'en Face around the corner from his Michelin two-starred Jacques Cagna, and La Rotisserie d'Armaille. Rotisserie d'en Face is especially beckoning with its beautifully paneled interior and delicious $35 prix-fixe three-course menu. Enjoy a house-baked five-grain bread with a variety of starters, fish, meat and rotisserie dishes, especially chicken and lamb, in addition to dishes typically associated with French home cooking. Desserts range from a warm Alsatian apple tart to a warm chocolate fondant.

Since today is Bastille Day, celebrate with your own bistro fare. The following recipes are adapted from Jacques Cagna's Rotisserie d'en Face. Start with a plate of smoked salmon and horseradish chive cream as a leisurely introduction to the main dish--a casserole of eggplant, lamb, tomato and onion--which Cagna suggests serving with a green salad tossed in a walnut oil vinaigrette. The dessert, a simple gratin of bananas, is a perfect conclusion.

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Salmon that is gently smoked and lightly salted works perfectly with the horseradish chive cream. Cagna serves his house-smoked salmon with a scoop of the cream placed in the center of the plate and a three-inch round blini tucked on the side. You can also serve the salmon with thin slices of toasted baguette.

Whipping the cream in a food processor yields denser cream. But you have to be careful. The machine works fast, and if you let it go too long, the cream may turn to butter. If you are using a mixer, whip the cream until it's really thick.

SMOKED SALMON WITH HORSERADISH-CHIVE CREAM

3/4 pound thinly sliced smoked salmon

Horseradish-Chive Cream

1 tablespoon snipped chives

Thinly sliced rounds of baguette or triangles of thin firm bread, lightly toasted and warm, or blini, optional

Arrange salmon attractively on 6 chilled salad plates, dividing evenly. Drain off any liquid from Horseradish Chive Cream that may have accumulated during refrigeration. Shape cream into smooth oval with large soup spoon and place on center of plate. Sprinkle with snipped chives. Place toasted bread on side of plate. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

214 calories; 1154 mg sodium; 70 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams protein; 0.09 gram fiber.

Horseradish-Chive Cream

1 cup whipping cream, well-chilled

2 tablespoons snipped chives

1 tablespoon well-drained white horseradish

2 tablespoons sour cream

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Whip cream until very thick with food processor or mixer. Transfer to 2-cup bowl. Gently fold in chives, horseradish, sour cream and lemon juice. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight for mixture to firm up.

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This is a surprisingly light and mild moussaka that goes very well with a salad of mixed greens tossed in a walnut oil vinaigrette. Cagna fries the eggplant in oil but I found that it takes less time, attention and oil to broil the eggplant. You can choose which method to use. Also, the bistro's moussaka is molded into individual portions and presentations. Here, I've made it in one easy large shape.

BISTRO D'EN FACE'S MOUSSAKA

2 1/2 medium eggplants, peeled, cut into 1/3-inch-thick lengthwise slices

5 tablespoons olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, minced

6 medium firm but ripe tomatoes, juiced, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 pounds ground lean lamb

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Arrange eggplant in single layer on baking sheets. Heat 2 tablespoons oil. Lightly brush eggplant with hot oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Broil about 6 inches from heat source until browned, about 4 1/2 minutes. Turn slices. Brush with hot oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Broil until browned, about 3 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add garlic, onion, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well. Cook, uncovered, until mixture has cooked down and is thick, about 10 minutes. Turn heat up to evaporate any remaining liquid.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 10-inch non-stick skillet. When hot, add lamb and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, until lamb is cooked through and brown, about 5 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid that may accumulate in pan. Add drained lamb to tomato mixture. Adjust seasonings to taste.

To assemble, arrange eggplant slices in shallow 8-cup baking dish. Place slices in overlapping spokes, meeting at center, extending beyond edge of baking dish. Fill in any spaces with pieces of eggplant so that base is solid. Once moussaka is inverted, this will be top surface. Add tomato-lamb mixture. Use rubber spatula to smooth out and gently compact. Fold any extending pieces of eggplant back onto meat mixture. Cover with foil. Can be made to this point up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before reheating.

Bake at 400 degrees on center oven rack, uncovered, until very hot and lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes on cooling rack. Drain off any accumulated juices. Place heated serving platter over dish. Gently reverse and unmold moussaka. Use serrated knife to cut moussaka into serving portions and metal spatula to transfer to dinner plate. Serve hot or warm. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

471 calories; 134 mg sodium; 83 mg cholesterol; 38 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 21 grams protein; 1.45 grams fiber.

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Here, bananas are the star of the simplest preparation. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen vanilla yogurt, it's a most satisfying dessert. The bananas need to be ripe for the best texture and flavor.

JACQUES CAGNA'S WARM BANANA GRATIN

8 firm but ripe bananas, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons melted butter

6 tablespoons powdered sugar

Vanilla ice cream or frozen vanilla yogurt

Divide bananas among 6 greased 1 1/2-cup souffle dishes, overlapping evenly and attractively. Place souffle dishes on baking sheet. Lightly brush tops with melted butter. Can be prepared 2 hours ahead to this point and kept at room temperature.

Before cooking, evenly press powdered sugar through fine sieve to cover surface, about 1 tablespoon per gratin.

Bake on center oven rack at 400 degrees until bananas are very warm, about 8 minutes. Turn oven to broil and move baking sheet to within 8 inches of heat source. Broil until surface lightly browns, about 2 minutes more.

To serve, place 1 small scoop of ice cream on warm gratin. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

203 calories; 41 mg sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 43 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.76 gram fiber.

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