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What Manton Learned at Culinary School Today

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by Manton, Jan 4, 2009.

  1. shoreman1782

    shoreman1782 Senior member

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    Hadn't checked in here in awhile--awesome.

    Hahahaha.
     
  2. TheIdler

    TheIdler Senior member

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    Just wanted to say that I continue to enjoy this thread. Thanks for all of your work!
     
  3. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Day 5 was not that exciting, at least not for me. We moved on to our third four-course meal.

    1.\tShrimp artichoke "salad"
    2.\tSalmon with mushrooms
    3.\tChicken Basque style
    4.\tBasque almond cake ("Gâteau")

    I did nos. 2 and 4, and there were three of us on the team. The other two courses were far more labor intensive and took tons of time. And there were only two people working on them. Hence they worked constantly while we had a lot of downtime. We also helped them prep their mis, but still it was lopsided. I was bored at times.

    Also, the fish dish was too damned similar to one we did last week. Piece of fish, wild mushrooms, dark sauce. Not identical but close enough to be annoying.

    One of my partners essentially made the entire cake by herself. I did the fish sauce and much of the rest. We added a sorbet to the dessert, which we both helped to make. And we got started on a foie gras torchon, about which more later.

    The fish was supposedly Salmon Genevoise, or Geneva style, but I am not sure what was so special about it. The sauce was unusual, though. You start with a fish-veloutÃ[​IMG], blond roux and fish stock. Simmer down by half and set aside. Then you sweat a whole bunch of mirepoix (carrot, onion, parsley, mushroom). At that point you are supposed to add the head from your fish. But we did not get a whole fish this week. Rather, we got a very large filet (one side of the fish only) of salmon. Down toward the belly, the meat thins out quite a bit and is white and fatty. Chef said to trim that off and use it in lieu of the head.

    This goes into the mirepoix. Then you cover and cook on low for 15 minutes. The fish parts will throw out a lot of fat. Strain the mixture through a china cap, return to the pan and deglaze with a lot of red wine. Add some herbs, reduce that down by half. It will really smell like salmon. Then add the veloutÃ[​IMG] and reduce some more. Never added white veloutÃ[​IMG] to a wine reduction, but there's always a first.

    At this point, Chef felt that our plates would need color so we prepared a tomato fondue. Tomatoes cut concassÃ[​IMG], then cooked slowly in butter and stock with a parchment lid and garlic and herbs.

    The mushrooms and salmon were cooked exactly the same way as the "snapper" (or whatever it was) last week. One difference is that we really basted the fish like crazy this time once it was flipped over.

    I felt that the sauce looked grainy. It tasted great. Chef said that's just how it looks. Maybe, but I did not think it looked as nice as it could or should have. Plating was just like last time becuase the damend dish was just like last time.

    [​IMG]

    In retrospect, what I shoud have done was toss the mushrooms in the sauce and serve them to the side.

    Like I said, I really did zero to the cake except eat it. It was essentially a layer of almond batter (traditional cake batter with ground almonds and some aromatic liquid: brandy, anisette, rum, lemon peel, almond extract and orange flower water), then a spiral or coil of pastry cream into which some brandied cherries are pressed, then another layer of the batter on top. All that goes into buttered cake pan, brush on some egg wash, then score the top. Bake at 400 for about 35 minutes.

    The sorbet was fun. You start with a simple syrup, 1:1 water and sugar, boiled. Then we took some canned sour cherries and put them in a Robot Coup (this is the brand of food processer that seems to be found in most professional kitchens). Add the syrup to that, not all at once. We poured it in two batches and maybe used half. You go by how sweet it tastes, mostly. The processor chops up the cherries very fine. Some chunky bits remain but there's also a lot of liquid flavor. You want a good balance between tart and sweet. The syrup provides most of the substance to the final product.

    OK, then you pour it into an ice cream maker. The one at school is commercial and very large. It churns it and freezes it. It will literally freeze it if you leave it in there too long. If you do that, not only will it be ruined, but cleaning the machine becomes very difficult. Ours probably took about seven or eight minutes. It oozes out like soft serve ice cream in to a hotel pan. Then we put it into an air chiller"”another device most home kitchens will not have. That firms it up quickly. Then it can hold in a regular freezer.

    To serve, you use the edge of a spoon to make a quenelle, essentially an egg-shaped roll, or like an old time cartoon cigar. Mine is not that great.

    [​IMG]

    Now, last week Chef asked if there was anything extra we wanted to do. I said foie gras torchon. He managed to get a piece of foie so the game was on. Basically, the liver comes to you whole. You have to break it up and use a paring knife to remove a troublesome and extensive network of veins. Then spread out a layer on plastic wrap, season with a curing mixture. This contains a small amount of pink salt, which has some nitrate in it which acts as a preservative but which you do not want to eat a lot of. We also sprinkled some Armagnac on it. Then spread out another layer on top of the first, season and sprinkle again.

    Then you roll the thing inside the plastic into a log. Twist the ends to compact. We actually did the whole roll-and-twist operation twice to ensure that it got really compact.

    Now, the correct way to do this is chill it overnight and then reform it and poach it the next day. But we, obviously, were not going to be around the next day. So we froze it. Chef had never done this, but he said it would (probably) work. We shall see next week.

    [​IMG]

    We also took the thinner (tail end) part of the big salmon filet and cured it in a salt and sugar (mostly salt) mixture. We will also see the result of that next week.
     
  4. foodguy

    foodguy Senior member

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    great job manton! and i think your solution on the fish was exactly right.
     
  5. kwilkinson

    kwilkinson Senior member

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    Nice job buddy. Food looks good.
    Hope the torchon turns out.

    BTW, quenelling really can be a bitch. Chef told me that I had to learn it soon so in the next few weeks I could move to canapes, but I'm having trouble getting it down.
     
  6. kwilkinson

    kwilkinson Senior member

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    [​IMG]
    We want to hear about the torchon!
     
  7. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    This week we did the "salad" and the chicken. The "salad" is in quotes because there were no leaves of any kind. Can it really be a salad then?

    In any event, we used basically the same ingredients as the other guys used last week but we cooked it all differently. Essentially, they poached everything, and we sautÃ[​IMG]ed and braised. Also, crucially, the diluted their basil puree with stock to make a sort of brothy concoction, whereas we mixed ours with oil and made it into a sauce. The consensus was that this second way was better.

    So the first thing was to turn a bunch of artichokes. We did this the very first (or was it the second?) day of La Tech 1, but of course I never did it again and forgot how. So Chef demoed it for me. You cut off the last half inch or so of the stem, which is very tough. Then you cut off about the top half or so of the crown (is that what it's called?). You want to cut it off down to the heart but no more than that. So it's best to start by cutting off about a third and then cutting thinner slices after that until you reach the heart. Stop when you see the heart.

    Then you take a paring knife and cut away the leafy remains around the sides. They are tough. This takes some pressure with the knife. Keep shaving away "everything green" Chef said, by which he meant bright green. When it's a pale whitish green, you are fine. Then trim away the green edges from the stem, which is woody. Finally, scoop out any remaining purple and leafy pulp from the middle. What you end up with looks sort of like a very large golf tee.

    Drop that in a bowl of acidulated water. I.e., squeeze a lemon into the water. This prevents the artichoke from drying out and turning brown. You should also, as you trim away green, rub the freshly cut parts with a cut lemon to protect it. Eventually we cut the artichokes into slices, about 8 or so per choke. Here they are before the center was scooped out. You can see that I cut one too far down into the heart.

    [​IMG]

    Then we shelled and de-veined a lot of shrimp, sliced some shallots, and diced some tomatoes. We also cut some tomatoes into "petals" to beautify the plates.

    Cooking this was simple. Start with oil, sautÃ[​IMG] the shallots until slightly soft, then add the artichoke slices. SautÃ[​IMG] just a little to get some color on them then add white wine. I ended up adding wine three times. You want it to cook down to a glaze. It's up to you how done you want the chokes. Chef was arguing for some crunch but one of my partners wanted them cooked through. So I kept adding wine until they were tender to a paring knife. Then add the shrimp and toss, toss, toss. Cook until they are pink and white everywhere, no more translucence. Off heat. Add chiffonade of basil and some capers.

    Earlier, we had made a basil oil. We de-stemmed a rather enormous bunch of basil leaves (they really shrink so it takes a lot), cooked them in boiling water for a few seconds, shocked them, then pureed in a Vitamix blender (these are awesome) and added some salt. The color is profoundly GREEN. Really nice. The first batch we thought did not taste enough like basil so we added another to mix.

    Plating was simple. Get a bowl, pile up some of the veg (three artichoke slices) then put three shrimp on top of that, then add the tomato petals, then the basil puree. Chef strained the basil puree and plated his with just the oil. But it looked sort of pallid to me and the oil lacked the intense flavor of the puree.

    [​IMG]

    I plated mine with the puree. The green was nice and vivid. Memorable. Must do for guests.

    [​IMG]

    We had some extra artichokes so Chef showed us a different way to make them. When I was a kid my mother used to simply steam them whole and then they would eat them (I really hated them) by pulling out the leaved, dipping them in mayonnaise and scraping the flesh off the thick part of the leaves with their teeth. We sort of did that. But with some twists.

    First, cut off about a quarter (maybe less) of the crown. You want to do this so you can get some bread crumbs in between the leaves. Then clip off the thorny tips of the remaining leaves. Meanwhile, get some panko bread crumbs. Add some finely minced garlic, salt and pepper. If you have grated parm, you could add that too, but we didn't.

    Scoop out some of the goop in the middle to make a hole. Fill that with bread crumbs. Also, spread open the leaves and get some bread crumbs in between the gaps. Now place the chokes in a hotel pan and add some hot water, cover with foil, and put them in the oven. They will sort of steam/roast. A few minutes before you take them out, remove the foil to let the bready toping brown up a little.

    Meanwhile, make your own mayo or, in our case, a garlic aioli. Voila:

    [​IMG]

    The other team made that same fish as we made last time but this time I plated my own and tossed the mushrooms in the sauce. That was definitely the way to go. Awesome flavor. I used some of the basil oil to add color to the plate.

    [​IMG]

    Now, for the chicken, the recipe in the binder is Chicken Basquaise. This is quartered chickens browned then braised with a lot of peppers. Though last week we also used a ton of tomatoes as well. There was not a lot of enthusiasm for doing it again however. One other student brought in a recipe for wrapping a whole bird in dough and then baking it. But that did not seem like a great idea to me. First, the chicken was not to be deboned. That would make it awkward to eat. Second, the dough would prevent the skin from browning and crisping. So I politely demurred. Chef instead suggested that we fry it. The others liked that idea; I was not crazy about it since I already know how to do it and it's not very "haute cuisine," which is what I look for in this class, but that's what we did.

    We used the school's recipe, which is similar to the Keller recipe that I love but not identical. Keller seasons the flour; this recipe you first soak the chicken parts in buttermilk, then season them, then flour them, sprinkle with water, and flour again adding some dried herbs.

    We also fried to ways. We did some in a deep fryer and some in a cast iron skillet. IN the latter, the oil came up halfway; the chicken took longer to cook in the pan, had to be turned over, and didn't get as brown. This was find and tasty, but Keller's recipe is better.

    [​IMG]

    As a side dish, we sautÃ[​IMG]ed a ton of peppers"”red, yellow and orange"”along with lots of sliced onion and some diced prosciutto. (Since this is a Spanish dish, perhaps Serrano ham or something like that would work better.) Tasty. Like everything else we have made in this class, the lack of a starch was noticeable.

    [​IMG]

    For dessert it was the same cake as last time; the other guys made it. I did make (or partly make) their sorbet, which was chocolate this time. Wow, that was super delicious and intense.

    As to the torchon: It was OK. It had been taken from freezer to fridge two days before and had still not completely thawed. We had to leave it out for about two hours.

    Then we broke it into two pieces. There was clearly enough to make two logs. Chef did not like the idea of using a cheesecloth but that is apparently the official school method. So we did one in a cheesecloth and one in plastic. You basically squish it into a log shape and then wrap it again in plastic, twisting the ends to compact it while you keep working it with your hands to maintain an even shape. Then we packed that one into the cheesecloth and tied the ends. The other one we simply left in plastic.

    [​IMG]

    The traditional recipe is to poach in stock. Obviously, there is no point to this if you use plastic wrap. Chef also said that for the stock to flavor the torchon, it would have to be in there for a long time, and we didn't have enough time. So we just used water. Maybe 20 minutes on a low simmer.

    [​IMG]

    The one in plastic came out fine.

    [​IMG]

    We scraped away that yellow fat and it looked very nice.

    The other one was cracked and also paler in color. We were originally told that the only way we could get the foie was if we gave what we made with it to the restaurant. It was too expensive for us just to take. However, the cheesecloth one was deemed too unattractive for the restaurant, so we got to divvy that up and take it home.

    The other one was actually served Saturday night (or so I was told when I left) as an amuse bouche. So, not only was something I prepared served in the restaurant, everybody got that little freebie because I told Chef I wanted to learn to make a torchon. Which I learned about on Style Forum.
     
  8. foodguy

    foodguy Senior member

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    great job manton! your fish looks MUCH better than last week's. and your salad looks cleaner than the chef's.
     
  9. EZETHATSME

    EZETHATSME Senior member

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    Just spent a good long time reading this whole thread. Wonderful job on all counts, Manton. Thank you for doing this.

    EZ
     
  10. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    My two courses this time were grouper and an apple dessert. I also plated, but did not make, a fruiti di mare risotto. The recipe in the book called for squid ink, but Chef protested strongly that squid ink is disgusting so we did not make that.

    The grouper was a very handsome fish and quite large.

    [​IMG]

    I must say that I did an excellently non-terrible job at fileting and skinning him.

    The sauce was also delicious. It had a lot of ingredients. First, of course, the obligatory shallots sweated in butter. Then some dry spices: cumin, curry and saffron. The coconut milk, reduced down to almost nothing. Then white wine and white "port" (any sweet white will do; we used Muscadet). Reduce to syrup. Then 1:1 chicken and fish stock. Reduce by ¾. Then cream. Reduce some more. Then season and strain.

    For the garnish, we did a macedoine of red pepper, fennel, mushroom, and apple, plus a brunoise of ginger, slowly cooked in butter. We cooked some Japanese peas a l'anglaise separately and added them at the end. All that got coated in the sauce. Then some sautÃ[​IMG]ed spinach, which we drained after cooking (neat trick, must remember).

    The fish was sautÃ[​IMG]ed, or really just browned, a little on each side, then finished in the oven. It was probably in the oven for six minutes at most.

    I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way to plate fish. You make some garnish, put it in a pile, put the fish on top of that, then spoon the sauce around it. There is no other way. [vox]I had lunch at the Four Seasons last week[/vox] and had fish and they served it exactly that way.

    My plate:

    [​IMG]

    Chef's plate:

    [​IMG]

    Also, here is my plate of the risotto, which I did not make but did plate myself:

    [​IMG]

    Not much one could do with that.

    The desert was an apple ice cream. This is crème anglaise flavored with calvados and almond extract. I had forgotten how to make crème anglaise. Chef ridiculed me for that, justly I suppose. Other than that, it's the same as making the sorbet.

    Then for the compote you macedoine a lot of apples, cook them slowly in sugar and butter until they are soft and set aside. The final element was brioche, which is French Toast essentially. We cut bread into circles (it's best to use stale bread; we used frozen bread) and then when ready to cook, coat them in a milk/egg/cinnamon mixture and pan fry. They are supposed to become crisp. Ours did not. Not sure why.

    Oh, there was one more element, a crème caramel sauce. You can make this with just sugar but it is safer to dissolve the sugar in a little water; that helps prevent (though is not a guaranteed) burning. Cook the sugar until it is quite brown but not burnt. At the last possible second swirl in cream. Strain through a chinois. It should be thick but liquidy.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. kwilkinson

    kwilkinson Senior member

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    Your stuff looks great. But that gray, lifeless risotto.... [​IMG] Good sear on the scallop, but how does one even make a risotto that color? Did they do something wrong?
     
  12. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Your stuff looks great. But that gray, lifeless risotto.... [​IMG] Good sear on the scallop, but how does one even make a risotto that color? Did they do something wrong?
    +1. Also, WTF does you chef mean that squid ink is yucky? Bring back X.
     
  13. SField

    SField Senior member

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    From several of my observations this current chef seems to be quite a step down from your previous one (chef X).
     
  14. SField

    SField Senior member

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    Your stuff looks great. But that gray, lifeless risotto

    what a tragic risotto...
     
  15. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I assume the risotto picked up that color from the shellfish, many of which were cooked separately and added later. It looked better in person and tasted fine.

    There were mussels, clams, rock shrimp, and squid in there. The mussels and clams were steamed open first then set aside. I think the shrimp and the squid were cooked in the risotto. The liquid from cooking the mussels and clams was added to the risotto. Maybe the color came from that.
     
  16. kwilkinson

    kwilkinson Senior member

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    Maybe the color came from that.
    Yeah that explains it. Mussel jus is gray and cloudy and just kinda gross-looking, even though the flavor is outta this world..
     
  17. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Yeah that explains it. Mussel jus is gray and cloudy and just kinda gross-looking, even though the flavor is outta this world..
    Perhaps we now understand why seafood risotto traditionally has that yucky squid ink in it.
     
  18. BDC2823

    BDC2823 Senior member

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    Looks great Manton.

    This squid ink talk sure brings back memories of catching 15-50 lb giant humboldt squid, bringing them back to the apartment, and then fileting them in the kitchen. If your chef thinks squid ink is nasty, he sure would have hated the huge messes I made in that kitchen with the pitch black squid ink getting tossed around everywhere.
     
  19. kwilkinson

    kwilkinson Senior member

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    This is embarrassing to say, but I have never tasted squid ink.
     
  20. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    This is embarrassing to say, but I have never tasted squid ink.

    I don't think I have either.

    I've been pretty fish-a-phobic for most of my life. These courses have gone a long way toward curing that.
     

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