Today we did the other two courses, the fish and the desert.
First thing, as ever, was to get our sauces on the fire. For the fish, this was a port wine and balsamic reduction. The wine went in first (it was a liter of each) with some bay leaves, the stems from the mushrooms that we served with the fish, and some thyme. Chef also suggested peppercorns and coriander seeds. This gets reduced by half before the vinegar goes in, then by half or more again. It is quite syrupy when done.
For the dessert, the reduction was red wine (very cheap "Burgundy"), sugar, star anise, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean (after the insides were scraped out for another use), plus the juices and zests of two oranges and one lemon. Everything but the sugar we added as an ad lib. I think it helped give the sauce some complexity.
For the fish, we stemmed and sliced a bunch of mushrooms. I suppose you could use any combination, but we had cremini, shitake and (my favorite) chanterelles. Equal parts (as I recall, 120g each). These get sautÃ©ed separately since they cook at different rates. Also, add one smashed garlic clove and one thyme sprig to each pan. SautÃ© in a little butter on medium heat until the mushrooms start to brown and their liquid starts to come out. Then add ciseler of shallot. This was the reverse order that I would have done it but Chef thought the shallots would be overcooked otherwise. Then cook until the shallots are soft and the mushroom liquid is gone. Remove garlic and thyme, season, combine and set aside.
The fish was red snapper. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of a whole one. They are handsome looking beasts. Anyway, I did a decent job filleting them.
They were seasoned with S&P plus this Chinese five spice combination. I think we underseasoned both the fish and the mushrooms, but I am getting ahead of myself. The fillets are cooked purely in oil in a pan. Get the oil very, very hot, lay the fish down skin side down away from you (to prevent getting splashed by hot oil) then press down with your spatula. The fish tends to curl and you want the entire skin side to make contact with the pan. Do that for about a minute. By then it should be flat. Turn down the heat. Wait several minutes until you see the fish get white along the sides. Just as the white starts to creep toward the middle, the outer edges should start to look brown. Flip the fish and off heat. It will cook through just sitting there in the pan as the pan cools. You don't want much heat on the flesh side.
The fish, obviously, is on the lower right. The sauce is lower left, the mushrooms above the sauce. The other pan has radishes for the beef dish.
Meanwhile, warm the mushrooms in a pan (you don't need any additional butter or anything) and correct seasoning (I wish we had done that). Heat the sauce in a pan and add a generous heap of butter. The sauce without the butter is super tart. The butter smooths it out and brings out the sweetness.
Then to plate we put the mushrooms in a little pile in the center of the plate, put the fish on top of that skin side up, and then drizzle some sauce in a ring, plus a little onto the fish. Finish with chives.
Perfectly cooked though (I thought) both fish and mushrooms were under seasoned. The sauce is one of the best things I have ever made.
I also want to note (mostly so that I don't forget) that the other guys who did the shrimp fritters made them differently. First, they put chili sauce into the shrimp mixture. Second, we did not have the Moroccan spice mix. Third (and this I thought was genius), the added the shrimp shells to the dipping sauce. It tasted different than when we did it, better I think.
For the dessert, it was poached pears and mascarpone mousse. The pears are peeled and cored and cooked in the wine sauce. This was different than last week, when they were merely steeped in the wine but not literally cooked in it. I though the cooking method was better. We cooked them in the wine mixture until they were tender to a paring knife, then removed them and reduced the wine liquid to a syrup (I think we over-reduced, as you shall see).
The mousse was made with mascarpone (a soft cheese) flavored with the scrapings of vanilla beans, and then folded into a merengue (egg whites and sugar beaten until stiff). My arms got a workout with the balloon whisk. I then put it into a pastry bag (we did not do this last time) with a small star tip and put it in the fridge.
The little cups are made from fillo dough. Once again, a product I had never heard of. It's super thin sheets of pastry dough, as thin as parchment paper and much more delicate. You can tear this stuff with the slightest touch.
To make the cups, you lay out a sheet of fillo, taking care to cover the remaining sheets with damp towels otherwise they will dry out. Then brush the sheet you are using with melted butter"”the whole sheet. Sprinkle with sugar (required) and cinnamon (optional). Repeat two or three times. Last week they made a three layer fillo, I did four. Chef said you could go up to five.
Then you have a sheet pan with some upside down aluminum cups on it. Cut the fillo into large circles and mold them around the cups one at a time. Bake until crisp and golden (10-15 minutes).
To plate, fill the cups with mousse. Slice the pears any way you want (we tried to make little fans) and place next to the cups. Drizzle with sauce. The sauce was much too thick as you can see. But the whole thing was delicious.
One last thing. I mentioned that the recipe in our books is poached filet, but no one wanted to do that. Last week we roasted it whole, this week we cut it up and grilled it (or really grilled it to get the marks, then finished it in the oven). But we took one piece and poached it, mostly to satisfy my curiosity.
Now the correct way to do this is to make consommÃ©, reserve some, poach the beef in some, and then plate the beef in a bowl with the unused liquid and some veg. First, we made consommÃ© but did not really get it very clear (I did a much better job in the last class). Second, we didn't reserve any because we weren't going to make the full dish. I just wanted to see what poached beef tasted like.
Basically, we just cooked it gently in the (cloudy) consommÃ© until it was done. Then sprinkle with sea salt. It was fine, but not great or memorable I don't think. I am not a big filet fan anyway.
The grilled ones were better. We didn't make the horseradish sauce this time since no one was that into it. Instead, the other guys made a brown mushroom sauce. This annoyed me because we already had mushrooms in the prior course. So I made a bÃ©arnaise. But then when I plated my filet, I forgot about it. However, I did eat the steak with the bÃ©arnaise, which was delicious.