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Lesson 27 Duck and peasThis is the last demonstration in the course where we will mimic the Chef’s creation in our practical.   It’s tragic that the garnishes are so genuinely ugly and tasteless.  Sorry but you must know the truth, cep flan is quite disgusting and the pea puree looks like it came out of a baby bottom.  Cruel!

Let’s focus on the positively gorgeous little duckling which was cooked in two ways, the legs braised and the breasts roasted.  A great idea to use one protein but deliver two textures on the plate.  This could easily translate to chicken or guinea fowl with equally delicious results.

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Lesson 26 Black Prince LambBlack Prince or “Prince Noir” is a pseudonym added to the description of a French dish that includes black truffles.  Oh happy days, today we will stuff a beautiful filet of lamb with veal, cream, mushrooms and the “tres cher” star, truffles.

The lamb filet is removed from the bone and opened like a “wallet” (per Chef Lesourd), the interior is scored in a harlequin pattern, then flattened between two pieces of plastic wrap with a cleaver.  Keep the bones for your jus – as always.

To ensure the stuffing is not too easy on us students, the recipe calls for a brunoise of carrot, shallot, button mushroom (or “champions de Paris” en Francais) and truffle.  Veal is ground and used for the stuffing rather than chicken, which is more luxurious than our standard mousseline farce.   The meat is made even richer by the addition of cream and an egg white to bind it.

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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.Lesson 25 Ravioli

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.

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Lesson 24 Noisette of venisonAs we build towards the climax of Superior Cuisine and the final exam the heat is on.  Pardon the pun J.   We are charged with making one of three sauces in the final, a poivrade, diane, or grand veneur sauce.   In this practical, we must produce a grand veneur sauce.  I have to share, that after failing miserably on the execution of my poivrade sauce, my motivation to succeed in this practical was high.

Venison is a very lean red meat with a rather strong flavor as such it’s not to everyone taste.  As I am from Canada, it is quite usual to see game on the menu in mid range and high end restaurants which I happily order so I can enjoy a big red wine with my main course.

In this preparation the filet of veal is marinated whole for an hour in red wine, a mirepoix of carrot, onion and celery with a few black peppercorns.  Cooking venison requires a special touch as it is very lean.  The whole marinated filet should be seasoned with salt and pepper then quickly sautéed in vegetable oil over medium heat to brown on all sides.  Then into the oven at 180C until the internal temperature reaches 46 C for a thin filet or 52 C for a thick filet.

It is important to rest the meat for at least 5 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches max 55C then carve.  If you like your meat well done or over cook the venison, you might as well serve your leather shoe sole for dinner as will taste about the same.

Sauces should not be truly that hard at this stage of our Superior course but it seems getting the right flavor balance with the classics takes some determination. The new element in the grand veneur sauce is the addition of red currant jelly ou gelée de groseillles en Français.

It is made in the classic manner of all meat sauces.  After the trimmings are browned, the jelly is used to deglaze the pan rather than wine and adds a pleasant sweetness to the sauce.   The sauce flavor is then built up with a little red wine vinegar, a few black peppercorns, veal stock and the reduced marinade from the meat.

Overall the flavor of the sauce comes alive with the rare meat and absolutely demands a Bordeaux or Chateauneuf du Pape which suits me just fine.  It is a grand life, isn’t it!

Lesson 23 Cod BrandadeFrench is a difficult language to master.   The name for instance of a size of a sink or a type of fish may have numerous expressions which are seemingly unrelated.  Blogger David Lebowtiz uncovered during his kitchen renovation that the description of  sink in English translated to at least 5 different words in French. Cod fish for instance in French is cabillaud, whereas salt cod is morue.  Why not “cabillaud sel”?  “Ou sel cabillaud?  As such, you can never assume that adding an adjective to the noun will translate properly.

Salt cod or “brandade morue” is a dried product, which needs to be rehydrated in water and desalinated.  However rather than use traditional morue in this lesson we used fresh filet of cabillaud and applied a cure of salt for about 20 minutes.  Ergo the “new style” label.  Once cured it was skinned and the heart of the fish filet was removed, which is the nicest piece, and sliced into portions with the remaining trimmings poached in cream and few spices.  I say few because there is not really a ton of flavor imparted.

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Piquillo Pepper Coulis

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

100 g canned piquillo peppers  (Ferrer is a good brand)

100 ml chicken stock

Method

Place chicken stock and peppers in a sauce pan and heat through.  Puree in with a hand blender or food processor and then strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Return to heat and let thicken before serving.  Season to taste with salt and serve.  The flavours are bold so less is more!

Lesson 22 Duck breast pommes annaThere are so many reasons to love duck, especially duck breast or magret du canard.  I love the slightly tangy flavor of the meat, the juiciness of a rose pink breast and the crunch of crispy cooked skin.   I am more apt to cook a duck breast or confit duck legs than roast a whole duck, perhaps for me the parts are better than the sum.

The duck breast is trimmed of excess fat and sinew and then the skin is scored with a harlequin pattern.  The breast is seasoned on both sides and placed fat side down in a cold pan onto the med heat.  The skin should be golden and crisp, which will take around 10 min, then the breast is flipped onto the meat side.  Continue to cook on the stove top until the internal temperature reaches 52-53C, then remove from the heat and rest for 5 minutes before slicing.  So simple you will need to prepare all your other elements before you begin cooking the duck!

The duck is served with a puree of cumin spiced carrots, which was a surprise.  Usually carrots are only included as an aromatic in most of our recipes to heighten the flavor of sauces, so once their flavor is extracted they are tossed away.   For this preparation the carrots are simply cooked in salted water, pureed with a little cream and cumin.  Just delicious!  This is an easy accompaniment that could make any weeknight meal more special.

This recipe included a new potato preparation, Pommes Anna. Anna potatoes are a classic French dish of sliced, layered potatoes cooked in a very large amount of melted butter.   For our method we peeled the potatoes then used a metal form to cut them into even rounds.  The rounds were then sliced thinly using a mandolin.   To create small a galette, we used a bilini pan to make single serving size.  There are many sizes the galette can be made, the main decision is the size of the pan or form you decide to use.

The galette is cooked on the stove top until the bottom is crispy, then gently – very gently flipped over, to brown the presentation side.  If you try too soon or the top layer is not stuck together with enough butter it could fall apart, so don’t rush or skimp on the butter.  That’s so French – don’t you think?

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