Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Night Out In Provence

Job 10: 12 
You gave me life and showed me kindness, 
and in your providence watched over my spirit.

For Mother's Day three of my daughters gave me a cooking class at Sur la Table called Friday Night in Provence. The menu for the evening was Pissaladière - Bouillabaisse Served with Rouille - Classic Bistro Roast Chicken with Ratatouille - Profiteroles with Honey Lavender Ice Cream. I thought it was a great present, and I kept checking the card to make sure I didn't miss it. Forgetting to go to things is one of my worst traits.

So yesterday was the day. Riley took the day off, but of course I didn't have it off. Emily was quite full of herself and by the end of the day I knew that it was the end of the week. The house was a mess and I was frazzled. I didn't want to be all worn out and frazzled at the cooking class, so I asked Riley to watch Emily while I went upstairs to get ready. I put on my Sabrina outfit - black capris, black knit shirt with a v-neck and collar, white socks, and little black flats. The I brushed my teeth, combed my hair, and decided to wear my black Army hoodie for a coat, as the weather has gone back to early spring after being in the 90s earlier in the week. I felt as though I looked okay, but I still felt a lack of confidence. Riley sensed this, and assured me that I was going to do great as long as I remembered that I was fine.

Heidi picked up Emily while I was dressing, and Christian had already gone to a birthday party sleep over. Riley drove me to Sur la Table, where I could see, from the great bit window looking into the cooking classroom, that people were already gathering, so I hurried on in. The name tag they had for me was Heidi, so while they were changing it I went over to get my apron on and wash my hands. I was told I could get a bit to eat and a glass of Italian sparkling water, so I did. Then I surveyed the room. There were different prep stations in the room with mats around them and some people were standing quietly in front of the mats. So I decided this must have something to do with how it all worked. But I remained rather confused, as did the other people, as I could tell by the looks on their faces. In all there were twenty students. They all looked unprofessional as cooks, were middle aged for the most part, conservatively dressed, and looked educated, though one older couple didn't seem to fit this description. I'm guessing that I was probably the oldest person there, though one woman who I got into a conversation with thought that i was about 15 years younger than I actually am. That was encouraging.

But despite the fact that they were all quietly standing at work stations - though I never did that - when the class started we were all asked to come up towards where the teacher was standing. I went right up, though it took the others a while to come reasonably close, and I had a great vantage. Our teacher had a difficult name - this is because she had hippy parents - and all I can remember is that she said to call her Say. She was educated at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, and had worked for a couple years at one of the top restaurants in Paris, one that was used in part as a prototype for the restaurant in Ratatouille. She also worked under Pierre Herme. I found that very impressive, and I wanted to ask her about that, but I forgot to do so! She gave us a run down of what we were going to be doing, and gave us some instructions, and then asked us to each pick a part of the meal that we wanted to work on. At this point I was a bit hesitant, and in the end, when I saw that no one was going over to the profiterole station, I went there. Now this was a bit odd, as I know how to make profiteroles, but no matter, I would be perfecting my technique. And that is exactly what happened. It was a bit like the Lord telling me that I was indeed a pastry cook, and not so much a dinner cook.

The recipe I worked on comes from the February 2000 issue of Gourmet Magazine, and was title Profiteroles with Honey Lavender Ice Cream.

Profiteroles with Honey Lavender Ice Cream

Makes about 40

for the lavender ice cream

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup half & half
1 tablespoon dried lavender leaves
5 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons honey

for the profiteroles

3/4 stick butter (unsalted if you have it), cut into pieces
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
a pinch of salt
4 large eggs (approximately)

for decoration

some chocolate sauce or some honey

Making the ice cream

Put the creams and lavender into a saucepan and let the lavender soak for maybe 1/2 hour.
Then put the cream and lavender mixture over medium heat and bring to a boil. Then pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl to strain out the lavender.
In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and honey. Then slowly stir in the cream mixture into the eggs. Pour back into the saucepan and cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is slightly thickened. Do not bring to a boil. You will know when the mixture is sufficiently cooked when you can coat the back of a wooden spoon with the mixture and then draw your finger across the coated spoon and there is an uncoated area where your finger went.

Pour the custard through fine sieve into a clean bowl and cool. Chill, covered, until cold - at least two hours. [This part makes me think that the cooking instructor pulled some out of the refrigerator and I didn't notice.} Freeze custard in a ie-cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden. It took about 20 minutes in the ice cream maker.

making the profiteroles

Preheat the over to 400 degrees.
Put the butter, water, sugar and salt into a heavy 3 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. When the butter has melted reduce the heat to moderate and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook the mixture, beating constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Take pan off the heat. This takes about a minute. Break the eggs into a dish and whisk well. Then vigorously stir in the eggs about an egg at a time, until the mixture is runny, but still holds its shape. Reserve just a bit of the egg for brushing onto the tops of the puffs just before baking. Put the mixture into a large pastry bag fitted with a large plane hole tip - maybe 1/2 inch across. Line two baking trays with parchment and pipe 20 1 1/4 inch diameter mounds about 1 inch apart. Brush each profiterole with a big of egg. Bake the profiteroles in the upper third of the oven for about 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking until the outside of the puffs are crisp and golden - about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. For an excellent explanation of making choux paste see Delia.


Cut each profiterole in half horizontally with a serrated knife and sandwich a small scoop of ice cream in between. Place on a plate and drizzle with a little chocolate sauce or honey.

Cooks' notes:

• Custard can be chilled up to 24 hours.

• Ice cream may be made 2 weeks ahead.

• Profiteroles may be made 1 day ahead and recrisped in a 350°F oven about 5 minutes, or 1 month ahead and frozen in an airtight container.

Before we took a "shopping break" we ate the Bouillabaisse [boul ya bess]. It seemed to be easy to make, and was quite tastey, though I wasn't so fond of the mussels, though some times I like them. This was also a Gourmet Magazine recipe, from the July 2002 issue. But the Gourmet Mag called for lobster, which was eliminated from our recipe.

Roast Chicken with Jus

I think that one of the most informative lessons for cooking that the teacher gave was on how to roast a chicken French style. She had us all come forward to watch as she got the bird ready for roasting. The first thing she did was to chop off the wings. These were to be chopped smaller and place in the bottom of the roasting pan along with the mirapoix (carrot, onion, celery). She then proceeded to truss the chicken. She explained that the French like all of their cooking to be tidy. That statement seemed to explain a lot, really. She had a trussing needle (I've probably got one somewhere), and she put a length of string onto it. She then sewed up a wing, then a leg, then the flap, then a leg, and then a wing, and tied the whole thing up. The bird was then placed on its side on top of the mirapoix and chopped wing bits, put into a 400 degree oven, and set for 15 minutes. At the end of that time the bird (which jumped right out of the pan and onto the oven door) was placed on the other side for 15 minutes. Then turn the chicken breast side up - that would look upside down - and bast with pan juices and cook until the chicken juices run clear.

When cooked, remove the chicken from the roasting pan and tent it wil foil to keep it warn. Pour off any fat from the roasting pan and place the pan over medium high heat. Deglaze with some white wine. Onve the wine has redued, add water to almost cover the bones and scrap the pan. Cook until the jus has reduced by half. Strain through a fine mech sieve, discarding the solids. Season jus with salt and pepper to taste.

After the jus was made, our teacher gave us instructions on how to carve up the chicken. She first torn pack the leg, and then cut it off at an exposed joint. She then carefully removed the thighs, being careful not to cut the very special little piece of meat - see Amelie. And lastly she carved off the breast meat by first running the knife to one side of the ridge up the tack, and then cutting along the hard part. Once cut up, she sliced the meat into large hunks and placed it on the platter. The jus is served separately in a bowl with a spoon or ladle.

Continuous effort 
- not strength or intelligence - 
is the key to unlocking our potential.
Winston Churchill


glamah16 said...

Oh how fun and what a great present. Im sure you looked and cooked smashing.

Laurie said...

What a wonderful Mothers Day gift!! I checked out Julia Child's CD, "The French Cook" from the this presentation she gives a very informative illustration on Bouillabaisse preparation..I'm still a little taken back on preparing this by myself! :)