Friday, November 13, 2009

Fifty Five

Friday the 13th! I think everyone was a little wary of their fingers while chopping this morning. I made Brown Yeast Bread (this time with salt and not sugar), Pate de Campagne (AKA Country Pate), Beet and Ginger relish, and flaky pastry. The flaky pastry is not as bad as it sounds. You basically roll out the pastry, dot it with lumps of butter, and then fold it up like a letter and roll it again. You do this in intervals all morning, so that, by lunchtime, your pastry contains approximately 100,000 pounds of butter.

Pate de Campagne is basically a terrine of layered, seemingly random, meats. I honestly think the French started it as some sort of sick joke, and then it somehow caught on. The "farce", or forcemeat, that binds it all together is made of minced meat, beaten eggs, and spices. You intersperse the layers of farce with layers of various non-minced meats like chicken liver, ham, you name it.

During the afternoon demonstration, Pam, one of our teachers, showed us how to made poached salmon with hollandaise, poached bass with beurre blanc, various vegetables (melted leeks, pommes mousseline, etc), a warm salad with a poached egg on top, an apple tart with flaky pastry, and vanilla, or cinnamon, or lemon verbena ice cream. Lemon verbena is an herb that looks a little like long, skinny bay leaves and smells faintly of lemon ("its one of my dessert island herbs" - Pam). After making the apple tart, she rolled the leftover flaky pastry back out, sprinkled it with sugar, and shaped strips into palmiers, or "elephant ears". You could also make savory palmiers and substitute the sprinkled sugar with olive tapenade, or pesto, or sun-dried tomato paste - the sky is the limit! Flaky pastry takes too much work to make and then just throw out the scraps!

Tips from today!

- Once you take the seeds out of a vanilla pod (by splitting it with a sharp knife and scraping them out), the leftover pod is as good as dead. Don't try to use it again, it's just a husk.

- Wild salmon will have much less fat than farmed salmon.

- Peas should be frozen within hours of being harvested or else the sugars will turn into starch. The good "frozen pea" brands will advertise this. We use Bird's Eye peas here.

- The water must be boiling when you add the frozen peas, because you want them to cook as quickly as possible (to preserve color and flavor).

- When you poach a really fresh egg, it leaves hardly any white bits in the water when you take it out. If you don't have farm fresh eggs, try putting the whole egg in the boiling water (shell on) for 30 seconds. This will set the outer layer of the egg. Then, remove the egg and crack it into the simmering poaching water and poach as usual. You'll lose a lot less egg white!

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