Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Memoirs of a Saucier

My entrance as an apprentice into the kitchen is one filled with excitement, trepidation and lots of hard work. I dutifully listen and learn from head Chef and ask pertinent questions to achieve proper technique and style. Each class is an awakening of sorts, I sharpen my skills like a knife against steel. And fade to black, role credits and play John William’s score of traditional Japanese music.

The Saucier station is probably one of the most demanding jobs in the kitchen. This person is in charge of all meats and sauces. Our two days as Sauciers involves lots of prep, reinforced stocks as the basis of sauces, careful searing of meat for most dishes and delicate poaching for another.

Our four recipes over the two classes include Boeufs Bourguignon, Poulet Rôti Grand-Mère, then Cote de Porc and Poule au Pot. Our first night we begin with the beef and the roast chicken Grandmother’s style.

The beef has been marinating in wine and some brandy with raw carrots, onions, garlic, bouquet garni and a little corn oil to create a seal on top of the mixture. The marinated beef and vegetables are split up between the two teams of Sauciers and before we do anything we dry off both ingredients with paper towels so they will sauté properly.

We used a third category cut of beef – this meat tends to be tough and needs long, slow cooking to tenderize and bring out its delicious flavor. With a little vegetable oil I sear the beef cubes on all sides with the goal of obtaining a nice crust to seal in juices. Removing the beef I then deglaze the pan with some marinade that has been strained and reduced. I free all those crispy bits of goodness stuck to the bottom – called Sucs. Once that is complete I sauté the marinated, dry vegetables to caramelize them then add the beef back to the same pot. Add flour to the mixture and cook for a minute or so to remove that raw flour taste, add tomato paste off the heat to cook that gently too. Add the reduced marinade, some veal stock to cover, chopped tomatoes, bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Don’t boil the stew for very long or it will toughen the meat and dry it out. Drop it down to a simmer as soon as possible and cover with a parchment round and a lid – roast in a 425 degree oven for 1 to 2 hours.

The Garniture: Traditionally the Boeufs Bourguignon is served with crisp lardons (bacon), mushrooms sautéed in some bacon fat, browned and glazed pearl onions, and a heart-shaped crouton – just to show it was made with love! The garniture is made in advance and cooked & seasoned separately.

My cooking partner that evening has taken the reigns on the Poulet Rôti Grand-Mère and we talk through the recipes as we prepare them so we can both note what the other one is doing since we will both have to master these four dishes since one of them might be on our Mid-term.

At the end of the night, after plating our chicken and beef we get the chance to take a break and dine on all of our hard work.

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