brigitte bardot

With notable exceptions, i.e., Mademoiselle Brigitte Bardot, Pierre Balmain was known for his grown-up “jolie madame” style. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, whom he befriended when they evacuated from Paris during World War II, were front row regulars at the house that Pierre built; Kim and Kanye are among those who flock to the shows of heir Olivier Rousteing, the young Frenchman who has been breathing new life into the house for the past four years. To put it bluntly, Rousteing outfits the mistress, while Monsieur Balmain dressed the wife—and the salad.

In 1954 Toklas published a cookbook. In it were recipes from friends, including one for baking hashish fudge. “This is the food of paradise—of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises,” Toklas wrote. “It might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR.” Less, um, elevating, but certainly legal, were Pierre Balmain’s offerings for Vent Vert chicken and salad, both named after his popular 1947 fragrance.


pierre balmain

pierre balmain


Photo: Reg Lancaster / Getty Images

In celebration of the longevity of the house of Balmain, founded in 1945, as Paris shook off the Occupation, we share the founder’s recipes, excerpted below from The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook:

“Vent Vert” Chicken
Choose young chickens of about 1 lb. each (2 chickens for 3 people). Carve them uncooked as if they were cooked (legs, wings and breast—put the carcass and the giblets aside). Make a strong bouillon seasoned with thyme, laurel, cloves, onions, celery salt, and Indo-Chinese pepper.

Half an hour before serving, sauté in butter over low heat and for 1/2 hour the pieces of chicken, with salt and pepper. To serve, place on a silver dish. Pour the prepared bouillon with a dash of brandy into the casserole. Stir to incorporate the glaze into the sauce. Then add a large handful of chopped fresh tarragon and let it come to the boil. Cover the pieces of chicken, placed on the silver dish, with this tarragon sauce. Fresh cream may be added according to taste. (Personally I prefer the chicken without cream [commented Toklas].)

Chicken to be served without vegetables, but to be accompanied by:

“Vent Vert” Salad
Cut in small right angles, not omitting the stalks, the hearts of young romaine salads. Add celery, endives, sweet green peppers, and asparagus tips, a quarter of the volume of the romaine salad for each of these last ingredients. Add to this some leaves of corn salad from which the stalks have been removed to make littleperfect ovals and about 1 tablespoon per person of Beaufort cheese, Savoyard cheese of the Gruyère type cut into thin matches.

Prepare a salad sauce with salt, Indo-China pepper, white-wine vinegar, and walnut oil (1 tablespoon vinegar to 2 tablespoons walnut oil). Carefully peel 2 fresh walnuts per person, cut them into very small pieces and sprinkle on the salad, which is to be served in a green unbaked earthenware salad bowl.

Bon appétit!


Photo: Courtesy of Fashion To Max / @fashiontomax

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