Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 79!

Our last morning cooking in the kitchen! I was assigned to make pan-grilled scallops with beurre blanc and a walnut tart with Armagnac icing. I also wanted to make rock salt and rosemary focaccia, so I got in early to get that started.

Soon, it was on to the scallops. Taking a live scallop out of its shell is a surprisingly scarring experience. As soon as you stick a knife in to scrape the scallop off the flat side of its shell, the poor guy clamps up in some last ditch effort to protect itself. I literally had to wrestle the knife between two tightly shut shells, trying to get it over with as soon as possible. You know you've won the duel when the shell stops resisting and pops open. Lobsters I can boil. But scallops, they are heart wrenching!

A beurre blanc sauce is basically a reduced mixture of wine, vinegar, diced shallots, and cream, into which you slowly whisk cold butter. The sauce will emulsify over a very low heat. If your sauce splits (i.e. looks like melted butter instead of a creamy sauce), don't panic! Let it get cold and solidify. Then, reduce a bit more cream in a saucepan, and whisk in the solidified sauce bit by bit. It should re-emulsify! You can use the same technique to bring leftover & refrigerated beurre blanc back from the dead.

For our afternoon demonstration, we watched Rory and our headmistress (a delightful brother/sister duo!) make various chicken dishes, carrot and parsnip puree, more cous cous, orange jelly, and Rory's molted chocolate tart. For the record, the molten chocolate tart wins the Ballymaloe Dessert Prize in my book.

It was fascinating watching Rory artfully debone a chicken thigh and leg all in one piece, stuff it with delicious flavors (onion, thyme, Dijon, and gruyere), and wrap it back up again to roast. It was even more fascinating (I think my jaw actually hit the floor) when our headmistress deboned an entire chicken in one piece, stuffed it, and rolled it back so that it was whole again. The wonderful thing about cooking school is that the teachers take the mystery out of seemingly complicated techniques. They make the impossible possible. I cannot wait to try that chicken maneuver myself!

A couple notes on deboning: it looks great, sounds impressive, and is easy to serve (no carving necessary). But, bones add great flavor when you're roasting meat, so you'll need to compensate for the absence of bone with flavorful stuffing and plenty of seasoning.

Finally, we ended the day with a lecture given by one of our fellow students from Korea. She showed us how to make some traditional Korean dishes, including bibimbab (a Korean "stir fry") and bulgogi (a marinated & fried beef dish). Her mom sent homemade soy sauce all the way from Korea for us to taste! The six go-to flavors in Korean cooking are crushed ginger, crushed garlic, chopped chives, soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds, and sesame oil. Apparently, they put those in everything!

Monday's tips:

- When something has Lyonnaise in its title, it will contain onions (Lyon, France is famous for its onions).

- Kent mangoes are the best type of mangoes to buy at this time of year.

- A skewer is a great friend in the kitchen. You use it to test whether roasts, tarts, cakes, etc are cooked. Have a couple of them hanging within arms reach of your stove top and oven. They also make great toys for toddlers.

- Bay leaves have a totally different flavor when they're dried. Dried ones tend to be sweeter, less abrasive, and "more French" (-Rory).

- Le Creuset casserole handles are designed to double as a pouring device. This comes in handy when pouring off juices from roasting meat into a saucepan to form the base of your sauce.

- Taste your stocks, and develop the sense to recognize the difference between a good one and a bad one ("because that is, to put it mildly, important" - Rory).

- Take your hand and put it palm facing up. Relax. Curl your fingers up like you were cradling a baby chicken, or a handful of M&M's, or something equally precious and delicate. Move your thumb so that your thumbprint touches your pinky. Feel the firmness of the heel of your thumb. You'll know a chicken breast is done when it feels as firm as that.

- Alternatively, take a skewer (away from the toddler) and insert it into the thickest part of the breast. Count to 5. Remove the skewer and touch it to the underside of your wrist. If it's hot, it's done.

- When roasting wedges of sweet potato, place them skin side down on the roasting tray so they don't stick.

- Carrot and Parsnip Puree (or mash) is a delicious winter side dish. Also, try inviting turnips or celeriac to the party. Blend in a food processor, or mash with a potato masher.

1 comment:

  1. I've decided I'm going to print out all your posts and make myself a little cookbook (That is, until you get an official book deal) **NOTE TO EDITORS** We miss you so much and can't wait to have you back on our turf finally!!! Tom B. sends his love xxxx eaddy