Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Structured Rule

So far my biggest complaint about L'Academie de Cuisine is that the classes are only 1-3 weeks long. Needless to say this is because I've been enjoying my experience tremendously and would love to continue to grow and develop my culinary technique for weeks to come. Unfortunately I'll just have to savor my one last Thursday class... 

In the meantime, allow me to catch you up to speed on our most recent endeavor...


 - Herb Grilled Swordfish with Beurre Blanc

 - Crisp Noodle and Vegetable Pancake

 - Fruit and Nut Tart with Caramel
    see below for recipe 

This week's class was infinitely superior to last week. I think part of that is simply my adjustment to the facility, the Chef, the people and the process, but I also think that our smaller numbers (several people were out of the class), we were able to get a more hands-on, personal instruction experience. Also I can honestly say that across the board the menu was better. Last week the Pork Tenderloin and the Chocolate Souffle were delicious but the Galette was mediocre and the sauces left something to be desired. Quite the opposite this week-- I look forward to recreating these dishes again soon. 

Tips/Tricks and Highlights of the dishes:

Herb Grilled Swordfish with Beurre Blanc 

   - Swordfish is my favorite fish. I just figured I should get that out of the way so no one thinks I'm patting myself on the back too much when I start talking about how amazing the swordfish was. 
- The Swordfish was marinated in a buttermilk herb marinade. This is very easy to make. It's basically just buttermilk, herbs, garlic, salt pepper and olive oil with a dash of hot sauce. The fish is left in the marinade in a bowl for 30-40 minutes in the refrigerator before it is grilled in either a grill pan or on the grill itself. Basically it's about 3-4 minutes each side and then wrap it in tin foil to allow it to finish steam-cooking the interior for a medium-well finish. 

 - The Swordfish is finished with a Beurre Blanc, turning it from a simple delicious fish into a delicacy. Beurre Blanc isn't particularly hard to make but I wouldn't recommend trying it without either watching someone doing it or trying the following tips.  Beurre Blanc is a white butter sauce (thus the name) that is really just a 'softened' butter sauce with shallots, cream, white wine and white wine vinegar. Add the wine, vinegar and shallots (minced) over medium-high heat until it reduces by 50%. You then add the cream and allow to reduce again. The real trick then is to take the sauce off the heat and add a chunk of butter. Swirl the pan on and off the heat until the butter has just softened (not melted or disappeared). Then add another chunk and repeat. In the end you should have a nice light white sauce (not yellowed) that is made of a creamy softened butter which you strain to remove the shallots etc., -- add judiciously to the top of your swordfish! 
Shown Served with Noodle and Vegetable Pancake

 Noodle and Vegetable Pancakes 

 - Another pan-fried dish this week. Luckily, this one was better than the galette. In fact, this was was not only creative but delicious and a great light accompaniment to any chicken or fish dish.

 - The 'pancakes' are made by taking cold cooked spaghetti, chopping it into large sections.

- Combine it with herbs (your choice) and vegetables (also your choice though we used red pepper, jicama, and fennel). To bind the whole thing together, use one egg, salt, and pepper.

- Heat canola oil in a sautee pan over medium-high heat and add baseball-sized lumps of the pasta mixture into the hot oil until it flattens out (pancakes should be about 4 inches in diameter) and crisps on the bottom. They can then be flipped and cooked on the other side. Cool by resting on paper-towel lined baking sheets. Pancakes can be left in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Put in a 350* oven for 10 minutes prior to serving.

 The noodle/vegetable pancakes make a great bed for the swordfish. I also recommend adding the beurre blanc to the noodle pancake as well. The tangy accents in the sauce bring out the fennel in the pancake.

Musician's Tart

 - The Musician's Tart stole the show. Unlike last week when we made the souffle that you can't really take home, the Musician's Tart kept perfectly well overnight and out of the goodness of my heart I brought the leftovers into the office the next day for my coworkers. Rave reviews ensued. Why is it called a Musician's Tart? Why I'm so glad you asked...

The Story of the Musicians Tart

Way back in ye olden times, Musicians wandered the Countryside.
They played their lutes along traveling routes  
and peddled their tunes for dimes.
But fiddles alone, nor harps nor guitars could produce any coin-- there was none to be found
So patrons and friends, they gave what they could
They turned out their pockets of dates, figs and nuts
For payment for songs and to pass away time.
But Musicians need meals and lodging to stay
So in turn they would give to the landlords their pay
and from dried fruit and nuts emerged tarts of the day
With caramel, crust and a marscapone cream these little round treats
are a flute-players dream.

Ok everyone, sorry about that-- it sort of started by accident and then I just had to go with it...

Musician's Tart tips/highlights and tricks:

 - I learned the key to good pie crust. Basically it's ensuring that the butter stays cold right up until the second it's baked. This means that you don't want to overwork the butter into the flour etc., and that you don't want to leave it on the counter or play with it too much in rolling it out. A really good crust dough should also be refrigerated for about 30 minutes before it is rolled out. 

 - The reason for the cold butter is that when it starts to melt in the oven, the water separates from the butter and boils and the steam creates little cracks (which give you the flaky consistency). 

 - The dried fruit mixture that we used was dates and figs and dried pears but you could also use apricots, prunes, or any other dried fruit that you like. It's basically just the fruit, mixed with lime juice and pureed in a food processor with brown sugar until a thick, sticky consistency. 

 - The nut topping is also relatively easy. Combine brown sugar, butter, and light corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat until it boils. Reduce the heat to medium and boil one minute. Remove from heat and add cream until smooth. Then add nuts (previously toasted) and mix until combined. 

- Once everything is put together you blind-bake the tart crust (by poking holes in the bottom, covering it with parchment paper, filling the parchment with beans or rice and baking for 12-15 minutes until just golden. 

 - Remove from the oven, spread the fruit filling into the bottom and then pour the nut topping over the top until full. Bake another 13-15 minutes or until very golden and caramel is slightly bubbling around the edges. 

- The Marscapone cream is amazing. Use it liberally. 

Thanks everyone! I've included the recipe for the Musician's Tart Below but let me know if you'd like any of the other ones. 

Fruit Filling:
1 cup dried pears, cored, coarsely chopped  (4 ounces)
1 cup pitted dates, halved
1/3 cup fruit juice
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 

Nut Topping:
6 Tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup pine nuts (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup dry roasted cashew nuts
1 1/2 tablespoons whipping cream

Pie Crust:
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 T sugar
8 T butter (cold)

3-4 T water (cold)

For the Fruit Filling:
    - Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
    - Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute
    - Puree mixture in food processor to thick paste. Cool completely (at least an hour)

For the Pie Crust:
    - Mix flour, sugar, salt in a food processor for 2-3 seconds. Add the butter and then pulse quickly 4-5 times or until the butter is crumbled in and the whole things has the consistency of cornmeal
    - Gradually add enough cold water to bring together (2-3 tablespoons). When you grab a handful of dough and squeeze you should be able to see your palm prints on it. Additionally, it should pull away easily but not flake or crumble away. 
    - Wrap in plastic wrap and chill overnight or 30 minutes.
    - Roll dough out to desired thickness on a floured surface. Place onto tart dish. Pick up the sides and let the middle fall into place before pushing it into form in the pan. 
    - Tuck the edges up and either press with a fork or scallop the edges. 
    - Perforate the bottom of the crust with fork. Cover with parchment. Fill parchment 'bowl' with beans or rice and cook in a 350 oven for 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown.
    - Remove beans/rice and parchment from crust and let cool. 

For the nut topping:
   - Cook first 3 ingredients in heavy large saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
   - Increase heat and bring to a boil
   - Boil vigorously one minute. Remove from the heat.
   - Add nuts and cream 
To Assemble Tart:
   - Spread fruit filling thickly (about 1/2 of an inch) into the bottom of the tart pan. 
   - Add the nut/caramel filling to the top until tart is full. 
   - Place in the oven on a cookie sheet and bake about 20 minutes.
   - Remove from the oven and the tart pan and place on a wire rack and cool 10 minutes. 

Marscapone Cream
   - 4 oz Marscapone cheese, room temperature
   - 3 T heavy cream
   - 2 T confectioner's sugar
- Blend all ingredients together with beater or a stand-up mixture until light and fluffy. 


No comments:

Post a Comment