Couldn’t find any snails
This was supposed to be a monthly cooking event for the est blog crew. As with most things which are planned, things get in the way and it was hard to get all the EST crew together on the same day for a cook up. Instead, my girlfriend and I decided to cook up a french meal for her family. Most the cooking was her, I was enjoying the life of being crippled by laying in front of the couch but chiming in when required.
The French cuisine is amongst the most highly regarded in the world. Deciding on a couple of dishes from millions was the most difficult task. In saying that, one thing we did want to do is aim for a couple of classics and possibly choose dishes that would challenge our cooking abilities (or lack of in my case).
After coming up with at least 5 things we wanted to try, it was obvious that this was going to be alot more difficult than we had expected.
Salmon Tartare cornet
My girlfriend has never stepped foot on to the good US of A, however I think she knows more about the famed chef Thomas Keller than most Americans. Thomas Keller was first brought to her attention after following French Laundry at Home, and then reminded once again whilst reading a particular post on whiteonricecouple, one of our favourite blogs. Inspired by the post, Linda decided to attempt Keller’s version of the cornette.
The ingredients required were widely available, so that was not a problem. The recipe to follow was also very manageable, so that was good. The biggest hurdle for the dish was actually making the cornette itself. Initially, she did not have the necessary stencil to create a perfect circle, with a little improvisation, she used the piece of plastic that’s usually placed at the bottom of enviro bags which keeps the bottom of the bag flat. she used the lid of a container to trace the circle, and finally cut out the hole. Thomas Keller in his French Laundry book did not mention what a bitch it would be to actually fold the cornets over the mold. After throwing away half a dozen of failed cornets and burning her fingertips, she finally got the hang of
Once all the individual components were assembled, all the pain and frustration was so worth it. Each mouthful of flaky buttery cornette was accompanied by rich salmon belly tartare and tangy onion creme fraiche mixture. What a great way to start off our meal.
French onion soup with gruyere cheese
Besides frogs and snails, what could be more french then French onion soup ? The result of a broth consisting of beef shanks which had been simmering for about 4 hours, and the final inclusion of caramelised onion resulted in a robust soup. Topped with freshly baked crusty bread and plenty of Gruyere cheese which quickly melted under the grill just before serving made this soup belissimo, or should I say délicieux.
Melted cheese atop a piece of soup soaked bread.
Salmon confit with caviar
To prepare us for the main, we once again referred to our bible, The French Laundry. The next dish was chosen due to the inclusion of beluga caviar. As we couldn’t afford Beluga caviar, we substituted it for a cheaper black caviar ($8!) which was available at the Fish markets. The end result of the dish is a citrusy piece of salmon confit served with some sweet/sour white wine vinegared orange segments and a light pea shoot soup. The salmon was very tender despite retaining it’s shape.
Grilled Quail packages with Chicken liver and herbes de Provence, Onion Soubise, & Braised Witloof
Our main for the night was grilled herb marinated quails stuffed with chicken liver, served with onion soubise (bechamel based sauce), braised witloof and parsnip chips. By dipping the grilled quail in the verjus immeditaely after the cooking process ensured that the cooking process was halted, thus preventing the quail flesh from drying out. This reminded me of a sexier version of the usual grilled chicken and chips. I’m not one for offal, thus was quite apprehensive about the liver. One bite into the liver, I was hooked and it kinda reminded me of the meal I had at Ash St Cellar. I don’t know what it was about this liver but it is much more tastier than ones mum had forced me to eat in the past. Possibly it’s due to the fact that the liver was cooked to perfection as opposed to over-cooked. The best way to describe the taste of the liver was creamy and gamey.
Chilled rockmelon soup with creme fraiche
After such a flavourful meal, the best way to prepare ourself for dessert was a refreshing palette cleanser. Our wonderful experience at Assiette was so memorable that we decided to emulate what of our favourite meal. A puree consisting of rockmelon, orange juice and nutmeg accompanied by creme fraiche and a mint leaf helped cleanse the palette, preparing for the next onslaught. You know, you can pretty much use anything for a palette cleanser as long as it’s light and fresh. It’s a rather elaborate name for something so basic.
Lemon Pudding & Basil Sauce and Vanilla Souffle with strawberries and creme fraiche
In continuation of our theme of pre entree and pre mains, we decided to introduce a pre-dessert. The lemon pudding consisted of soft fluffy egg white, gelatine, lemon rind, sugar and lemon juice. The tartness of the pudding harmonised the slightly sweet creamy basil infused sauce. Half a champagne glass full was just not enough, most of us knowing that we had dessert to come requested for seconds.
For me, Souffle had always been one of those elusive desserts. They look too pretty and therefore too difficult to make. Unfortunately our souffle did not rise as much as expected, however the soft and fluffy texture more than made up for it. The creme fraiche and macerated strawberry mix helped break the richness of the dessert.
So another month passes and another challenge is complete, what should we try next month ? I just hope we can get the entire EST crew next month, and it’s slowly creeping round in a few days.