June 3, 2007

Techniques of Fine Cooking 1 - Class #3

This lesson was all about braising, shellfish, and heavy cream. We got started with the lecture and Chef told us all about the how and why of braising, how to check shellfish to make sure they’re still alive, how to deglaze and reduce, and how to make mousse. She also showed us how to prepare leeks, endives, peppers, carrots, and bliss potatoes for the dishes we’d be making.

Then we started making.

While one of my group mates starting browning lamb shanks, I got started on the endive salad with vinaigrette. It was a little tedious cutting up six endives, but it had to be done. The other members of my group were preparing the mirepoix for the lamb shank braising, the mixture that the mussels would be steamed in, and the heavy cream for the mousse.

After cutting up the endives, I started making the vinaigrette which had some herbs and shallots in it, and I whipped as another member of my group poured the oil in. After setting that aside, I watched Chef show a member of my group how to melt the chocolate and how to get the other ingredients for the mousse ready. I was very interested in that because it was really my first exposure to a fine dessert. Chef then asked what we wanted to flavor our mousse with and I suggested rum because I’m a big fan of rum and rum flavored things. She then suggested that I pour the shot of rum, which I did, and am proud to say that I had the will power to not take a taste test from the bottle. It was a nice sized shot, I might add.

While the lamb shanks were braising, all of my group mates and I assisted in the preparation of the mousse, each of us taking turns in folding the mousse, and then pouring it into the bowls that were refrigerated.

Once the mousse was all set, we waited around for the lamb shanks to get done. We had about a 20 minute wait, so all the groups started preparing the mussels for steaming. First we washed our mussels and then we tried to figure out which ones were alive. The problem is that the act of washing them made them close so it was very difficult to see which ones were dead or alive. In hindsight, it would have been better to check aliveness before washing. It was then time for the lamb shanks to come out of the oven, and the mussels to go in. After about 2.5 minutes, the mussels were done and we fished them out and plated them.

During the mussel steaming, Chef’s assistants got the tables ready for dining, and we ate. I enjoyed two lamb shanks, some of my endive salad, some braised leeks, some glazed carrots, potatoes, and mussels. I passed on the lentil salad since I’m really not a big fan of lentils. For desert, I enjoyed one of my groups rummy mousses. After clearing my place setting, and seeing that most people had left and that there were a lot of left overs, I packed up about 10 mussels and a small mousse to take home. It was during this packing up that a loud siren blared from the phone on the wall. It was a fire alarm, and after a few conversations between the chef’s assistant and someone on the other end of the phone, it was deemed to be a false alarm.

I left and went home and was a little worried that the heat of the subway would melt the mousse, but it made it home in pretty good condition and was enjoyed the next night. The mussels were going to be used in pasta, but work got in the way and I had to toss them. For homework, I’m leaning towards braised pork chops with cream and mustard sauce.