Having spent the better part of my life living without gluten I have a fear of making pasta. Not that I am afraid of pasta but it seems when you can’t taste what you are cooking I fear it will turn out badly. Cooking involves all the senses and when you eliminate the use of one, in this case taste, you are sorely at a disadvantage.
The fish in our recipe is brill, a flat fish found in the Mediterranean, and is the feature. A brill has two colors of skin; the face side is brown with a spotty flecked appearance while the back is white. In classic Escoffier French cuisine the white skin can be presented but not the dark so we are to undertake fileting our fishy friend but we have to remove dark side of the skin.
Flat fish are difficult to filet, and in this case the dark skin must be removed before the flesh can be lifted from the bones. A lot of tricky knife work? Not so, a simple slit in the skin near the tail, a little loosening of that skin then drop the knife, grab the skin and pull it off. Sounds easy, but the fish didn’t really want to give up his skin so easily so it was a bit of an effort.
The filets are removed from the bone working from the central vertebrae. The bones are rinsed and then used to create the nage. The word nage was new to me but essentially it is a poaching liquid meant for delicate foods, fish or seafood most often. The chef’s, being ever so versatile, used the nage in this recipe as the base for a butter sauce that was created by simmering the bones of the fish along with Noilly prat (which is a type of vermouth), leeks, onions, shallots, tomato, fennel and a little bit of lemon juice. Once cooked for 25 minutes the nage was strained and thickened by working in cold butter or as the French say “monter au beurre froid”.
Ravioli would seem Italian rather than French; however one can’t be a purist in the kitchen and expect to create innovative food. Borders and boundaries often blur as people move around the globe. I hope there never comes a day when there is just one type of cuisine with little to differentiate one culture from the next. That would be a travesty for the taste buds.
Pasta dough from the demonstration made its way to our practical class so the assistants offered it up to us. My first inclination was to take the chef’s pasta dough rather than try it myself so I raised my hand and took the dough. As I worked on my fish I decided that was a cop out so I made my own dough, asked Ingrid a hundred questions and engaged the chef to check the consistency.
The pasta machine was the next challenge but I figured it out. I had no idea how thick the dough should remain so again asked a thousand questions of anyone standing near. I had my two rolled out pieces of dough so now all that remained was to stuff them, score them into shape with the ravioli stamp and cook them.
The stuffing was a simple mix of mushrooms which went onto one half the dough, the other was placed on top; a little press around the edges and then the stamp was used to cut the shape.
The dish on the plate was simple and elegant. I wish I could have tasted those little ravioli as they looked delicious. Making ravioli was actually fun but I don’t know if I am investing in a pasta machine to attempt gluten free pasta any time soon. On second thought, I do like a challenge so perhaps…..