Atelier Number 1

In Superior the course has changed slightly. Superior Patisserie is divided into three sections: restaurant style, plated deserts; chocolate sculpture; and sugar sculpture. Superior Cuisine isn’t divided into sections, but the overall theme is modern cuisine and throughout the course we have three ateliers to prepare us for our final exam.

An atelier is n practical where we are allowed to create our own dishes with a set list of ingredients and requirements; this past Wednesday was our first one. A few weeks ago we were given a page long list of ingredients, of which some we were required to use (marked by an asterisks). With the provided ingredients we had to create an entrée (first course) and a plat principal (main course), with two servings each and “respecting the techniques” we had learned thus far. There had to be a cold sauce for the entrée and a warm sauce for the plat principal. The plat principal had to include at least three garnitures (side dishes), at least one being composed (including more than one main ingredient). We also were required to make a farce (stuffing), which then obviously had to be stuffed into something else. Oh, the last requirement: we weren’t allowed to use any balsamic vinegar! Yes, I know at first this seemed like a very odd requirement, but it turns out that once balsamic reductions became fashionable most students began using them as a plate decorations. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but the school can be a bit stingy and obviously the cost of a bottle of balsamic vinegar per student per atelier would add up after a while; thus no balsamic vinegar in any way.  The required ingredients were: 1 squab, salmon, 4 prawns, 1 red bell pepper, fingerling potatoes, spinach, pearl onions and white cultivated mushrooms. The remaining ingredients were nothing spectacular, fish stock and veal stock, cooking alcohols, basic vegetables and pantry staples.

Since it was our first atelier I kept it simple, despite the very long time allotment of seven hours I wanted to make sure I created recipes 1) that I enjoyed, 2) that didn’t stray to far from my true style of cooking and most importantly 3) that I knew I could execute cleanly. For the entrée I made salmon and prawn croquettes with a sherry vinegar and roasted red pepper vinaigrette and a garlic herb cream. For the plat principal I made pan roasted squab breast served with braised squab thighs stuffed with squab liver and mushroom mousse, sautéed spinach, crispy spinach chips, sweet and sour glazed pearl onions, and caramelized shallot pomme purée (mashed potatoes).

Overall, I was satisfied with the outcome. I felt that with the entrée, in terms of the atelier, I probably played it a little too safe and I think I’ll try to challenge myself more next time, but in general I am really happy with the recipe I created and I know I’ll be making them again just for fun. For the plat principal it wasn’t perfect by any means, but it worked for the requirements. Below is my recipe for the salmon and prawn croquettes if any of you want to try them.

Salmon and Prawn Croquettes with Sherry Vinegar and Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette and Garlic Herb Cream

serves 2 (can easily be multiplied)

1                medium salmon filet
4               prawns
–                white wine
2 T            olive oil
1/2            red bell pepper (the other half will be used in the vinaigrette)
1                celery stalk
1/2            yellow onion
2 T            mayonnaise (I made it from scratch, but use store bought if you have it available, since you won’t be able to taste the difference in the end)
1/2 cup    fresh or panko bread crumbs
1                lime (zest and juice)
a pinch    ground espelette pepper (could sub. cayenne or a dash of hot sauce)
a few        sprigs of chervil, finely chopped (could sub. parsley or tarragon or some other green herb that you like)
a pinch    sea salt
1                egg yolk
–                additional bread crumbs
–                fat for frying
Place salmon and prawns (de-shelled and de-veined) in a roasting pan, lined with parchment, sprinkle generously with white wine and place in a 150°F oven. It should take around 10 minutes, but take a peak periodically; you want them to be pink and almost completely cooked, if it’s a little less or a little more it shouldn’t matter too much, but underdone is the goal. Remove and chill.
Meanwhile, chop the red pepper, onion and celery into a small brunoise (a very fine dice, preferably in perfectly square cubes, but since you won’t have a French chef hovering over you, I’m sure it will be okay if some of the squares look more like parallelograms or triangle-ish shapes. If you really wanted to, you could throw it all in a mini-cuisinart and pulse it) and sautée in olive oil season with a bit of salt. Remove from heat and chill (tip: stick a metal bowl in the fridge beforehand and once you add the vegetables they will cool faster).
Remove cooled fish from the fridge; flake the salmon and finely chop the prawns, remove the vegetables and mix together. Add the mayonnaise, lime zest and juice (start with half of the juice), espelette pepper, and chopped chervil; mix and taste for seasoning, add more lime juice if desired. Then mix in the egg yolk. (Based on all of the raw cookie dough I have consumed in my lifetime, I shouldn’t be too concerned with eating raw eggs, but I still waited to add the yolk until after I had tasted for seasoning). If your mixture looks too liquidy and isn’t sticking together you can add some more break crumbs, but it should be soft as it will make for a better end result. Chill to firm up, I stuck it in a freezer for a few minutes to make sure it would hold together well.
Turn oven on a low heat to keep the finished croquettes warm. In a non-stick or dark pan heat whatever type of fat you will be using for pan frying. I used clarified butter, which is the tastiest, but any type of fat will work: olive oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil, lard, bacon fat (regular butter on its own will burn, so only use with the addition of oil). Remove the croquette mixture from the fridge and shape into small balls/disks. I used metal molds to keep a particular shape, but you could fry them free form or use a round cookie cutter to help hold the shape in the pan. Pan fry the croquettes until nicely browned on each side, drain any excess fat on a paper towel and place in the oven to stay warm until serving. Plate individual servings with a decorative drizzle of each sauce and a small herb salad, or serve on a platter with the sauces on the side.
Sherry Vinegar and Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
1/2            red bell pepper
1-3 tsp      sherry vinegar
a pinch    ground espelette pepper
a drizzle  honey
a pinch    sea salt
Turn you broiler on and put a rack to the very top. Take the remaining half of red pepper (seeds removed) and place in the oven skin side up on a piece of foil. You want the skin to be charred. When it reaches the desired burnt to a crisp exterior, remove from the oven and wrap the foil around it, forming a packet, set aside to cool. The steam will release the skin. When you can touch it without burning yourself, peel off the skin and discard. Roughly chop the pepper and put in a blender with a few teaspoons of sherry vinegar; the amount will depend on the size of your pepper, you want it to be a loose consistency but not watery. Season with some honey, espelette pepper and salt; just start adding a little of each until you have a balance of flavor you enjoy. Depending on the sweetness of your red bell pepper you may not even need the honey, the seasoning should just enhance the natural flavors of the pepper. If your blender left some chunks, strain through a sieve.
Garlic Herb Cream
6               blanched cloves of garlic
1/2 cup    cream
1 cup        mixed herbs (chervil, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, basil)
a pinch    sea salt
To blanch the garlic, place peeled garlic cloves in a small pot with cold water, bring to a boil, strain and replace with cold water; repeat for a total of three times. After you strain the water the final time add cream to the pan, bring to a simmer until garlic is soft and cream has reduced down. Puree mixture in a blender with herbs, adding an ice cube to cool it down and keep the herbs green. Strain through a fine sieve and season.
I split up the individual recipes, but to do it all simultaneously:
1. Begin blanching the garlic, switching out the water as needed
2. Cook salmon and prawns
3. Sautée veggies
4. Remove salmon and prawns, turn on broiler and put in red bell pepper
5. Finish croquette mixture, chill to firm up
6. Purée both sauces, strain, chill
7. Cook croquettes
8. Plate


Filed under Le Cordon Bleu

3 responses to “Atelier Number 1

  1. Grandma K

    Rose….That whole meal sounded sooooo tasty!!! My mouth was watering !!!! You write so well about a subject that you obviously LOVE. Thanks for sharing…Love you…Gram

  2. Patrick

    You had me at Croquette.
    Those recipes sound amazing. Hope the chefs liked them.

  3. Suzanne Kanner

    Rose, Your dishes look and sound so delicious! Wish you were in Kauai with us now to create some good recipes for the wonderful fish here.

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