Archive | February, 2011

Bittersweet Endings and Semisweet Morsels

7 Feb

It’s quite bittersweet when the end of any journey is near. As my time at The French Culinary Institute comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on these past 5 weeks, and no word seems to sum it up better than bittersweet. Bitter because we all had to turn in our ID cards yesterday and the rollercoaster that was the FCI kitchen is no longer our weekend retreat. Sweet because I’ve had an incredible time throughout the program, learning new techniques, terms, and recipes. VERY sweet because I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know wonderful people from all walks of life. It was truly an adventure unlike any I’ve had before.

 The last two classes of my FCI program were packed, per usual, with exciting plans of learning numerous recipes in a small amount of time. Session seven started with Blanquette de veau à l’ancienne: Veal Stew in Cream Sauce.

Our next two creations were: Grilled Leg of Lamb and Gratin Dauphinois topped with gruyère

Demos and impromptu lessons were interspersed throughout the day, covering topics such as lamb vs. mutton, different classifications of meat, and of course, delicious methods of preparation.  As the Chef-Instructor lectured, we all stood there wide-eyed, pencils and notebooks in hand, hungry for the last bit of knowledge we could soak up. And then there were those of us who were actually hungry. I mean, c’mon, it was lunchtime.

Class eight (aka the final session) started off strong, just like lobster claws.

After a demo on how to poach a (LIVE!) lobster, we all headed to a bin near the back of the kitchen to collect our very own crustacean.

During the 7 minutes of time required to poach the lobster, we were also making tomato jam (which tasted delicious with a scone). After combining a few ingredients, we let the jam simmer away, filling the kitchen with an inviting aroma.

Sweet Red Tomato Chutney:

8oz sugar + 5oz water in a sauce pan–simmer until sugar dissolves.

Raise the heat and add one clove garlic (chopped), 3 bay leaves, 1 tsp anise seed, 1 lb diced tomatoes, 5oz distilled white vinegar, and a pinch of cayenne.

Bring to a boil.

Lower heat to a rolling simmer to reduce and caramelize (about 20 minutes or until the mixture reaches a syrupy texture).

Remove from heat, cool, and enjoy!

After the lobster was finished, Chef Dave and Chef Philippe had a cook-off…

Chef Philippe’s Lobster with Fingerling Potatoes:

Chef Dave’s Shrimp Capellini al Funghi:

It was a tie!

Next up was learning the art of making pasta, starting with fettuccine, capellini, and ravioli. Though it sounded difficult, the dough was actually an easy ratio of 150g flour to 8 egg yolks (with 1 tsp EVOO).

To create a filling for the ravioli, we used some of the poached lobster and chopped herbs.

Using the delicate capellini, we quickly made a shrimp dish with butter, mushrooms, bay leaves, salt, olive oil, and cream. One of the great things about homemade pasta is that it cooks in less than three minutes.

Although it was bittersweet to bid adieu to The FCI, I walked out knowing that I’m taking away SO MANY sweet morsels from the experience.

Bon appétit everyone!