Yesterday, we wasted no time getting back in the kitchen after last week’s (second) practical exam. We greeted an extremely long menu once we arrived and took our seats in the classroom. Luckily, it was more intimidating to see on the board than to execute, but it still required a lot of multitasking, especially given the fact that each worktable was responsible for plating 10 of everything. That’s a lot of plates on one small worktable!
Basically we are always responsible for feeding the Pastry I students and the front of the house, but yesterday, Phase II pastry was also at school, so we had lots of mouths to feed.
The main dish of the day was roast beef and bearnaise sauce, served with asparagus, carrot puree, and pomme anna (a variation of the potato darphin we were responsible making on the exam). Our roast beef was technically top butt—which apparently is a great piece of meat because it has “loin qualities at sirloin prices”. Basically, you get more bang for your buck! To season our beef, we put holes in the sides and pierced it with garlic and rosemary.
We also wrapped the roast beef in fat back (pork fat, which is sliced very thin), which adds not only flavor, but also keeps the meat extra moist. For such as simple preparation, it adds a lot of flavor.
To cook, we trussed the meat to make sure it cooked evenly, seared it on all sides, and finish it in the oven. The trick with this piece of meat is to cut it in very thin slices (against the grain), otherwise it can become extremely tough and chewy. As Chef Brian says, “Otherwise you’ll be flossing your teeth with it!”
Our carrot puree—which was delicious—was made by cooking carrots etuvee (in a very small amount of water with butter, salt, and covered with a parchment lid. For aromatics, we added in ginger three ways, crystallized, powdered, and fresh. When the carrots were tender, we processed them before slowly incorporating a bit more cold butter.
To go along with the beef, we made another classic French sauce, bearnaise, which is a derivative of hollandaise. Once you make the base for hollandaise (egg yolks and clarified butter), you whisk in a tarragon reduction. The reduction is made by combining crushed black peppercorns, shallots, red wine vinegar, and dried & fresh tarragon and cooking this au sec.
I have to admit…I am not a fan of bearnaise. I find it too rich and I’m beginning to realize I have an aversion to tarragon, but it was probably one of the best I have tried, if that is saying anything. It does goes surprisingly well with the beef! I’d rather have a pan sauce any day though.
For our appetizer, we served LA PISSALADIERE (above)—which is baked puff pastry topped with caramelized onions and crosshatched with anchovy filets and olives. I am a fan of anchovies and olives, so I liked this! And it was fun to assemble…
I can already think of lots of things you could add or switch up with regards to toppings!
And lastly, for dessert, we made molten lava cakes—technically in French “gateau au chocolat”. You can’t really go wrong with these types of desserts! As an added bonus, they can be assembled as soon as the day before and kept in the fridge right until baking.
It certainly made mise en place easier! **Please ignore the hideous coulis decoration—the bottle ran out and that was the last of it. Served with ice cream!
Tomorrow we have our last day (of the week) in the classroom, because…on Thursday, we are taking a field trip to an all organic beef, pork, and poultry farm (Ayrshire Farms) in Northern Virginia.
Should be lots of fun! And I’ll be bringing my good camera to take lots of photos!
Back again tomorrow with an update on today’s crazy day in the kitchen…