Tuesday, April 1, 2008

No Bones About It

I can’t begin to tell you how many chicken carcasses I’ve had to debone, quarter, manchonner (to cut the end knuckles and trim the meat from the drumsticks and wings), skin and truss in the past two weeks.

Our focus for these last few classes in Level I has been on a cooking methods. We learned about the extraction method. Extraction cooking methods include, poaching, simmering and braising. When cooking in this method it is best to start out with the item and the medium it is going to be cooked in cold. This allows the natural juices to come out and flavor the cooking liquid. The liquid that the meat is cooked is then can be strained and made into a full flavored sauce.

We prepared two classic dishes under Chef’s (our regular Chef was in the kitchen of Le Bernardin so we had a substitute Chef) watchful eye including Blanquette de Veau à l’Ancienne, Riz Pilaf (Veal Stew in a Cream Sauce with Rice Pilaf) and Poule au Pot, Sauce Raifort (Poached Chicken, Horseradish Cream Sauce). Both dishes required many steps to prepare but were relatively straight forward to complete. Chef seemed to like the flavor of our sauces and the presentation of our dishes.

Last night (our regular Chef was back), we made Jarret d’Agneau Braisé (Braised Lamb Shanks for our dinner) and Fricassée de Voilaille Printanière (Chicken Stewed with Spring Vegetables). These dishes required that we combine our two methods of cooking – concentration and extraction – this method is called mixte cooking. Mixte cooking is ideal for small cuts of meats that generally benefit from longer, slower cooking.

We seared the lamb shanks with some clarified butter on top of the stove until they had some nice color. Then we removed the shanks and added our mirepoix to give it some color. Herbs, red and white wine, tomatoes, and brown stock completed the cooking liquid. The lamb was returned to the pan, covered and allowed to cook for two hours at 325 degrees. The meat is done when it falls away from the bone. When our shanks were done we removed them from the cooking liquid and set them aside to keep warm while we prepared the sauce. Strain, degrease and reduce: the next steps to finish the sauce. The sauce consistency was excellent, unfortunately we salted it before reducing it making it very salty.
Note to self: don’t season until the very end.

Our chicken was a little more complex, with turned vegetables (carrots & turnips), peas, string beans, and glazed pearl onions (the
Printanière). During the second half of class most of us get a little punchy after working at our normal jobs all day long and being in the kitchen under demanding time constraints tends to wear us down a bit. Chef’s demeanor was focused and demanding and he was having none of our antics – thus creating a slightly more stressful situation when it came to completing our Fricassée. The dish in itself is a little tricky because you need to sear the chicken first but obtain no color to the skin, or to the pearl onions or the base sauce since the presentation should look as white as possible with bursts of color just from the spring vegetable garniture. At the end of the night, many of us felt a little defeated by our nemesis – the chicken.

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