Week 7 – France III

Ah, the final week of French cuisine. A fond farewell with a menu consisting of Huitres Chaudes aux Courgettes (Warm Oysters with Zucchini), Poulet Saute Marengo (Chicken Saute Marengo), Endives au Lait d’Amandes Douces (Braised Endive with Almond Cream), Tomato Clamart and Potatoes Parmentier, Salade Bigouden (Lettuce Salad), and Creme Brulee.

First is the Warm Oysters with Zucchini. This seemed as though it was going to be an odd combination. The oyster sauce really gave a powerful oyster flavor and with the cream added, made it nice and rich. I wasn’t crazy about eating oysters warm but thats just because I am used to eating them raw. The addition of zucchini to the dish helped but the sauce and really complimented the oyster well.

Next is the Braised Endive. Chef Bill said not to make the almond sauce because it is quite dredful. Preparation for braised endive became very simple. Braised in lemon juice, oil, sugar and salt. See, simple. When completed, it makes a nice vegetable to a dish however, it is a bit bitter and sour with the ingredients so make sure you pair it properly. I combined the endive with the tomato clamart dish.

Chicken Marengo is a classic french dish. Many ingredients and several steps but such a nice presentation and very tasty. I piped mashed potatoes around the border of the dish, placed the toasted bread hearts ontop of the sunny-side up eggs and placed the shrimp ontop of the chicken in the center. The chicken is browned and removed, then the mushrooms, shallots and garlic are sauteed. Then add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Add wine and reduce, then add the chicken back. Yummm. The shrimp is simmered in stock and the eggs are fried in the remaining chicken fat. Delicious.

Tomato Clamart is next. This one was quite easy to make. Roma tomatoes with the skin peeled off. Cut the base so that they can stand and then cut the top. With a melon-baller, scoop out the insides of the tomato. I then sauteed peas in butter and onions and used it to stuff the tomatoes. Then I baked them for a few minutes to soften the tomato. A nice addition to a meal and fun presentation. They tasted good too.

Salade Bigouden was simply a lettuce salad tossed in a sweet vinegar dressing. Not much to discuss here. Boston lettuce, cider vinegar and sugar. More of a palate cleanser here.

Finally, Creme Brulee. A beautiful and sweet custard topped with sugar and caramalized with a blowtorch. Delicious. It had just the right amount of sweetness and so creamy. I will definitely be making this classic french dessert again.

Published in: on February 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 6 – France II

Week 6 of Classical European cuisine brings us our second week of French cuisine. The menu this week includes Soupe a l Oignon (French Onion Soup), Navarin d’Agneau (Lamb Stew), Farcis de Blettes (Stuffed Swiss Chard), Watercress Salad with Endive and Cucumbers, and Crepe Suzette.

A simple dish, French Onion soup was delicious. Caramelized onions in a beef broth with Gruyee cheese melted on top is very easy to make. The hardest part is cooking the onions and that is only because it takes 15-20 minutes. A deglaze with white wine gives a nice tangy flavor to the soup. I enjoyed this dish and look forward to not only making it but twisting up the recipe a bit.

The next dish was a lamb stew. Yet another braising dish that was simple to make. A few minutes of prep and a couple of hours of braising and its done. I’m not a huge fan of lamb so when I tasted it I wished it was made with beef but overall it was very good. Turnips were a nice addition to the dish. It was flavorful due to the herbs and amount of vegetables, basically a standard braise.

Stuffed Swiss Chard is an interesting side dish. It reminds me of the stuffed cabbage that my mother makes. The chard is a slightly bitter leaf that is blanched and stuffed with rice. The ‘blanc’ technique is used to disperse flour through a strainer with water and used to boil the chard stalks.

For a salad course I made a watercress salad with endive and cucumbers. These are traditional french ingredients tossed in a simple vinaigrette. Nothing to complicated here. The salad was as good as it was simple. An easy dijon mustard vinaigrette was pleasing and complimented the ingredients well.

Finally, I made crepe suzettes. I’ve always wanted to know what it was and how it tasted. The answers are crepes in an orange glaze and delicious. First made a simple crepe batter and gently made my crepes in a non-stick pan. Then you start a simple caramel in a pan, add butter, flambe with your favorite orange liquour (grand marnier) and add the crepes to the pan. I folded the crepes into triagles and plates. Orange zest and fresh squeezed orange juice brightens it up nicely. Simply delicious.

Published in: on February 21, 2011 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 5 – France I

Week 5 of Classical European cuisine is our first of three weeks of French cuisine. The menu consisted of Souipe de Legumes aux Petits Coquillages (Vegetable Soup with Shellfish), Le Blanc de Poisson Belle Mouginoise (Fillet of Fish Bell Mouginoise), Filet de Porc Farci Lyonnaise (Stuffed Pork Tenderloin), Ratatouille, and Salade de Poire (Pear Salad).

For the vegetable soup with shellfish chef surprised us by making Mussels in Pernod. We also made the soup but the mussels were outstanding. O.k., on to the soup. It lacked a little flavor. There is no reason to use vegetable stock when it is not a vegetarian dish. I would’ve made a seafood stock for more flavor.

For the filet of fish we used tilapia. It was alright. I would’ve preferred a better filet like snapper or sea bass rather than such a mild white fish. The vermouth seemed pointless and I felt it needed more white wine. I liked the ingredients however, it lacked in flavor. So far France, I’m not impressed.

Maybe the pork with lift the menu. Tenderloin stuffed with ground pork, onions and breading, how could it be bad. It wasn’t bad at all. The tenderloin needed to be pounded out thinner and it needed more flavor in the stuffing. I reduced the braising liquid and thickened it with arrowroot. Lacked a little salt but overall it was very good.

Ratatouille is next on the menu. This was a nice but I assumed it would be a soup. The recipe only called for the vegetables to be sauteed. The tomato wasn’t enough liquid and it reminded me more of a topping than a dish on its own. Maybe if it were prepared like a soup it would’ve been better.

I must admit, we didn’t spend too much time worrying about the pear salad. A simple vinaigrette added to pears is not on my palate list but it was ok. Nothing real special to mention here. Pear on a plate with dressing. The recipe called for pomegranate which would’ve been a nice touch.

Of course dessert is closing this week. Chocolate mousse is a staple french dessert. Chef gave us a ridiculously easy recipe for a perfect mousse. Whip egg whites and heavy cream separately, temper chocolate over a double boiler. Fold eggs and cream into chocolate. It was that simple…and good.

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 4 – Northern Italy

*Unfortunately, this week I do not have photos because I accidentally deleted them as I was trying to add them to this post.

Week 4 is a sad week. The final week of Italian cuisine for my Classical European class. At least it went out with a bang. The menu consisted of Vitello Tonnato (Veal in Tuna Sauce), Gnocchi Di Patate Salsa Di Parmesan REggiano E Porie (Potato Gnocchi in Parmesan Cheese and Leeks), Osso Bucco Milanese (Braised Veal Shanks), Risotto Alla Zafferano (Risotto with Saffron), Cicorietta Saltata Con Pancetta (Chicory sauteed with Pancetta), and Panna Cotta.

The first veal dish of the day was prepared in an interesting way. It was wrapped in cheesecloth and then cooked in stock like a soup. This style allowed the veal to be super tender. The Tonnato sauce was a nice blend of tuna, anchovy, garlic and capers. I felt it was too much tuna and thus felt like the dish was topped with tuna fish. The sauce can be adjusted to which ingredient you feel should be most dominant.

The next dish was Gnocchi. I love potato gnocchi and this dish did not disappoint. Although it is made with potatoes, the pasta is light and holds sauces well. The dough was a bit too wet and the gnocchi did come out too gummy so I should have added more flour. However, the cheese sauce for the dish was excellent. It did not stray to far from alfredo sauce but I enjoyed the addition of leeks.

The next dish I had been waiting to make since I began my culinary journey; Osso Bucco. I never made it and never ate it and was excited to give it a whirl. I was surprised to see how easy it is to prepare. So much so that I will be making it more often at home. The veal shanks were a beautiful piece of meat. Seasoned, flour and seared, the flavor begins to build. Mirepoix and a deglaze of the pan with red wine and the braising liquid will cook the veal while keeping it nice and moist. The veal was tender and full of flavor. I plated it on top of risotto and topped the veal with a gremolata.

The risotto was a very nice accompaniment to the Osso Bucco. A traditional combination in italy, the risotto with saffron acted as a great vehicle to serve the hearty veal dish. The aborio rice was sauteed in butter and shallots until every grain has opened, then a deglaze of white wine fills the kernels with flavor. A chicken stock is added slowly to create a creamy consistancy. And finally, parmesan cheese is added to make a rich and flavorful risotto.

I also accompanied the risotto and veal with a vegetable. Chicory is a bitter vegetable but sauteed with pancetta and wine gives it a sweetness that is lovely. It is blanched first, then sauteed so it reminds me of collards. I would definitely use this vegetable recipe as a side dish to many other dishes.

Panna Cotta was our closing dessert to the Italian feast created in Week 4. Panna Cotta is a light milk custard and served with fresh fruit takes it to another level. Creamy and sweet with a mix of strawberries and blueberries is the perfect finishing dessert. A garnish of mint and powdered sugar creates a warmth I feel a dessert should allow. Panna Cotta will always be a favorite of mine.

Published in: on February 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment