This atelier was the same format as the first: a list of required ingredients; a compulsory entrée with cold sauce, and plat principal with a warm sauce (including three garnitures, one being a flan) and at least one protein had to be stuffed. The required ingredients were veal tenderloin, sea bream, veal sweetbreads, caul fat, beets, spinach, artichoke, new onions, asparagus, and cauliflower.
For my entrée I made: Daurade en Croûte d’Épices, Sauce de Betteraves Rôtie, Épinards de Gingembre et Carottes Croustillantes (Spice Crusted Sea Bream with Beet Sauce, Gingered Sautéed Spinach and Shoestring Carrots). I encrusted the sea bream with salt, fennel and coriander seeds and then quickly pan-fried it in 50/50 butter/oil. The beets for the sauce were roasted and puréed, then flavored with honey, cider vinegar and soy sauce. For the shoestring carrots, I simply cut them into a fine julienne, dusted with flour to absorb any excess moisture and then fried and seasoned. The spinach was sautéed with ginger and garlic, then deglazed with soy sauce.
I was happy with the resulting color combination and the taste was also nice, but I wished the beets could have been roasted a little longer to have a smoother texture. I also don’t think the skin got crispy enough for my liking, even though the fish looks better with the skin on, if I make it again, I may remove the skin or crust only the flesh side with spices in order to get a crisper skin and not have to worry about burning he spices.
For the plat principle I made: Filet de Veau Farcie, Flan d’Asperges, Purée d’Oignons Nouveau et Chou Fleur, et Salade d’Artichauts Frits (Roasted and Stuffed Veal Tenderloin, Asparagus Flan, Cauliflower and New Onion Purée, and Fried Artichoke Heart Salad). Using my filet knife I poked a hole through the interior of my veal tenderloin and using a pipping bag stuffed it with a mixture of sautéed veal sweetbreads, pancetta, onions, bell pepper, carrots and celery. I then wrapped it all in one of my favorite things, caul fat. The caul fat served three purposes 1) helped to keep the shape of the loin, 2) basted the meat throughout roasting, and 3) kept the stuffing from creeping out. Caul fat is really an amazing cooking ingredient, it’s like a hair-net that can keep anything in place, but it dissolves during cooking. When the meat is done you forget that it was ever there, but are happily surprised that your meat is the same shape as when you began.
The asparagus flan also included spinach for color and tarragon for added flavor. For one preparation, I lined the bottom of the ramekin with small discs of asparagus stems before cooking; for the other, I topped the finished flan with a salad of steamed asparagus tips and arugula. Cauliflower purée is a staple from my years in San Francisco, when I on an almost weekly basis. It is super quick, easy, healthy and tasty; if you haven’t made it yourself you should. Simply steam cauliflower florets in chicken broth, when soft, purée or mash with an immersion blender, standing blender or just a potato masher, then season with any combination of pepper, salt, butter, milk, cream and/or cheese. I promise you’ll think twice about making mashed potatoes ever again. On this day, I puréed the cauliflower with spring onions that I had boiled in chicken stock until tender, and because the French don’t seem to think dairy fat exists, I finished the purée with the works: lots of butter, cream, grated gruyère, salt, pepper and for a bit of that je ne sais quoi, a pinch of nutmeg.
The fried artichoke heart was just as it sounds, I trimmed down an artichoke to the heart, removed the choke and then fried it twice; first at a low temperature to make sure it was fully cooked and then at high temperature to get crispy. I have to say that I stole the cooking temperatures from a Martha Stewart fried artichoke recipe and unfortunately Martha let me down*. I think next time I would just roast or grill the hearts, or if I did fry them I would steam them first, pat them dry and then just quickly fry at the very end. Of course the error could have been mine and not a flaw in Martha’s recipe, but I found the heart to be tough. Even though it was tender in the center, the lengthy frying times created a dense outer layer that just wasn’t that pleasant.
Then because all meat is better with a jus (well and because I was required to do a warm sauce), I made a veal jus from the trimmings, mirepoix, herbs and white wine. In addition to those main items, I also created some extra garnishes: a phyllo round decoration for one plate to mirror the circles on the flan and for the other plate, sweet and sour, pickled new onion rings that I slowly cooked in a combination of vinegar and honey. The finished dish was pretty tasty. As I mentioned, I felt the artichokes were lacking and the meat could have been slightly more rosé (for my chef’s liking), but all in all I was content. Next big thing in cuisine, drum roll please…the final exam!
* I was disappointed in this one Martha recipe, but my love for Martha is unconditional and she can still do no wrong in my book. Oh yes, I know there was that itsy-bitsy matter concerning insider trading, but I forgot about that one a long time ago.