Tuesday, December 8, 2009

80 Days

We got in this morning for one last demonstration! Before Rory kicked off the morning's cooking, a women from Valrhona Chocolate came in to discuss the making of chocolate. Apparently, an entire cocoa tree yields only about 875 grams (around 2 pounds) of pure chocolate nibs ("grue") per harvest. We tasted a Venezuelan 72% cocoa bar, a Brazilian 62% cocoa bar, and a Madagascan 64% cocoa bar. It was a great breakfast!

Hopped up on sugar, we started the morning's class. On today's final menu were hot oysters with champagne sauce, poached whole salmon, beef carpaccio with shaved Parmesan and arugula, tuna carpaccio, fillet of beef with red wine sauce, warm salad of pigeon breast with spiced pears and mushrooms, Quail Veronique, Oeufs a la Neige (also known as ile flottante or floating island), and molten chocolate puddings.

Quail Veronique is quail served with green grapes (whenever you see Veronique, expect green grapes). Champagne sauce is a delicious, incredibly rich, bearnaise-esque sauce made with half a bottle of Champagne (or, realistically, sparkling wine!). Rory made beef carpaccio by slicing a raw beef fillet about 1/4 of an inch thick, putting the slice between two sheets of oiled parchment paper and rolling it with a rolling pin. You serve it cold and raw, drizzled with good olive oil and maybe some arugula. It's simple and delicious - just make sure it's good beef!

For the warm pigeon breast, Rory's assistant placed a whole pigeon ("in the feather"!) in front of him. He somehow neatly tore the "crown", or the breasts, off the bird without plucking it, and hardly using a knife! It was very Lord of the Flies. Finally, Oeufs a la Neige, or ile flottante, is a blob of poached meringue (whipped egg whites poached in simmering milk), which is then cooled and served in a sea of creme anglaise. You can drizzle it with caramel if you feel saucy.

Your final Ballymaloe Tips (these better be good!):

- Gut a salmon before you freeze it. Some people argue the opposite, but Rory finds that if you leave the guts inside, the blood taints the color and the flavor of the flesh.

- When making carpaccio, some argue that you should freeze the beef to make it easier to slice thinly. Unfortunately, when you defrost it, all the moisture runs out. To avoid this, don't freeze the beef and just cut it reasonably thinly. Then, use a rolling pin as described above.

- Egg whites for meringues are better a few days old. They tend to whip up more voluminously than a farm fresh egg.

- Before you serve them, keep oysters rounded shell down in your fridge. The precious briny juices won't squeak out!

- "Empires were built on manners" - Rory

- Try marinating quail or chicken in honey and rosemary. Honey and thyme go well together also.

- Carpaccio is also good with thin slivers of celery, or black olives, or a small amount of lemon zest with a few drops of lemon juice, or some grated horseradish.

- You can roll out carpaccio between parchment paper in the afternoon and place it in the fridge until your guests arrive. Just before dinner, place it on a plate and drizzle with olive oil and any accompaniment. It's easy entertaining!


  1. Ah Binny,

    American chop suey will never pass muster again. Good luck on final exams. We can't wait to have you back in our kitchen. Much love,


  2. Binny, your mom told me about your blog when I caught up with her down at Arnold Hall. When she told me that you were in cooking school in Ireland, I asked if it was in County Cork, because I had seen Ballymaloe profiled on Victory Garden years ago. I've loved reading your blog! It has been inspirational for me. And I have ordered two Ballymaloe cookbooks. Good luck with your cooking career. I'll miss reading your blog.