It’s been awhile since I have written about school. In cuisine we have spent the last few weeks studying different cooking techniques for fish, poultry and meat: roasting, grilling, sautéing, braising, stuffing then roasting, poaching and frying. To serve with all of these proteins we have made a lot of jus, which is, simply put, the drippings and fond (the yummy bits of caramelized goodness that get stuck to a pan), deglazed with wine or stock, reduced, strained and poured over the meat. We have also ventured into other sauces such as beurre blanc, hollandaise and tartare (made from a mayonnaise base), which are not nearly as scary as one would think. One big secret I learned is that a curdled hollandaise can be recovered. A girl in class mistakenly put her hollandaise sauce back on a hot burner thinking that it was turned off, the result was a curdled and separated sauce that seemed hopeless. But our wonderful Chef Stril came to her rescue, informing us that all was not lost. He quickly ordered her to grab an ice cube and a few teaspoons of cold water, he then proceeded to slowly whisk the lumpy hollandaise into the ice water and it returned to its once glorious luscious texture.
In addition to the sauces that accompany our proteins, we have also had the great joy of delving deeper into the French obsession with finely manicured and unnaturally shaped vegetables. To go with our Poulet Rôti we had to cut our carrots and daikon into uniform batons which were then placed into a turned artichoke, all which of course had to be cooked to the brink of death, because the French like their vegetables FULLY cooked. Many of the chefs informed us early on that Americans under-cook all our vegetables and over-cook all our meat, and that since we were in France cooking for French taste buds, we should break that habit quickly. Which of course we have. Teeth really aren’t necessary to enjoy my vegetables, you can simply push them with your tongue to the roof of your mouth and they will become an instant mush. However, batons of vegetables are not nearly as bad as turned carrots. To make turned carrots, we take large hard carrots and using our pairing knives, painstakingly widdle them into small football-like shapes and in the process lose more than half of the vegetable in shavings, very wasteful if you ask me, but since the French don’t like vegetables to look like vegetables, we widdle away. We also turn potatoes, which is easier, but still quite tedious. And to accompany our troçons de colin pochés (poached hake steaks) we made zucchini and carrots into tagliatelle. Below are pictures of the above mentioned dishes and a few more. As ordered they are: poulet rôti et jardinière de légumes; saumon grillé, pommes byron et épinards sautés; suprêmes de volaille farcis sauce aux champignons; lapin à la moutarde, pommes sautées à cru; troçons de colin pochés, sauce hollandaise; filet de barbue durgléré; coeur de contre-filet rôti; l’estouffade de boeuf bourguignonne; beignets de gambas et sauce tartare; soufflé au fromage.