Chicken Grand Mere, Celery Root Puree, and a Smoking Gun – Day 68

TODAY’S TIDBITS

  • You don’t need a trussing needle to truss a chicken. By making a cut in the skin near the end of the legs (where you eventually manchonner), the string can grab the legs and keep the chicken together – you can also loop the chicken legs instead.
  • If you’re serving sliced grilled meat, sprinkle a little line of sea salt over them – this dramatically enhances the flavor.
  • Potato chip bags are filled with Nitrogen to prevent crush, not air. Oxygen would cause the chips to oxidize faster.

Today we did either the Chicken Grand Mere (roasted chicken with potatoes, pearl onions, lardons, mushrooms, and jus roti), or Grilled Salmon with White Wine Herb Sauce. For the first time in Level 4 I really really felt the time pressure.

Chef Dominique critiquing my chicken
Chef Dominique critiquing my chicken
Dean Chef Candy gives Pablo some trussing help
Dean Chef Candy gives Pablo some trussing help
Doma grilling her salmon on a grill sitting over the burners
Dolma grilling her salmon on a grill sitting over the burners

I thought the chicken was going to be easy: throw the chicken in the oven and while it’s roasting prepare all the vegetables. But everything took a little longer and more complicated than I anticipated, I put myself on team #1 and decided to do 4 plates, and time ran out pretty quickly. Step one was to de-wish bone and manchonner the wings, half-manchonner the legs, then put thyme s&p and bay leaf in the cavity, truss the chicken (is it officially a truss if you don’t actually use a trussing needle?), sauté/brown the chicken in a pan and put in the oven later adding mirepoix and leftover chicken pieces, make 12 potato cocottes and risolee (blanch-saute-oven), cook pearl onions glacer au brun, render the bacon and sauté the mushrooms in the fat, take the chicken out after 40mins and let rest, make the jus roti by deglazing the pan with white wine and then reducing 500ml of veal stock, finish the manchonners, carefully separate the chicken into 8 pieces, present on each plate the bone/no-bone, white/dark meat combination along with all the garnitures and sauce. Phew, got it done but was 3 minutes late to the chef’s presentation table.

Even though Chef Dominique demo’d the trussing without the needle half-manchonner trick, when I got back to my station I just couldn’t figure out how to start but eventually got rescued by Chef Joe. Then Dean Chef Candy walked in and immediately told me to get a new cutting board (I had grabbed the very last one which was warped). It seems every time Chef Candy walks in I’m doing something wrong. Ugh. Anyway, I did my potatoes pretty well, but then it was those darn pearl onions again. I worked my way through those, but saved two telling Chef “I’m not leaving culinary school without getting the Chef to show me how master these”, so Chef Joe showed me how he does them. (The key is to leave them in warm water and then only slightly cut the root so it holds together and then using the inside edge of the paring knife to make an initial scrape allowing you to quickly peel the one layer off – haven’t quite mastered it). Anyway, my chicken was cooked perfectly (really juicy), but my jus wasn’t reduced anywhere near enough, my potatoes were a little dry, my onions weren’t brown enough and I was late. It still tasted great.

Chef Dominique and our "plates of shame" again.
Chef Dominique and our “plates of shame” again.
Terrence sneaks a bite
Terrence sneaks a bite
Chef Herve uses a smoking gun on the celery puree
Chef Herve uses a smoking gun on the celery puree
A $32 chicken roulade dish.
A $32 chicken roulade dish.
Celebrating at Toad Hall
Celebrating at Toad Hall
Sharing an armagnac with Chef Dominique
Sharing an armagnac with Chef Dominique

The other half of the class was doing a grilled salmon which smelled amazing. They put a cast iron “grill” over the gas burners so that they could achieve those amazing grill marks, and the 4 tablespoons of sauce was reduced from 750ml of liquids, so you can imagine how good that tasted.

We had part 2 of our Sous Vide lesson in the afternoon which was amazing. Chef Hervé took the hanger steak (2 hrs at 133F) and Short Ribs (20 hrs at 133F) and quickly seared them in cast iron pan that had BEEN SITTING ON THE BURNER FOR 2HRS! – apparently it was over 500F. The steak tasted amazing. The best taste experience of the day though was a celery root-butter-cream-salt cooked sous vide pureed, and then infused with smoke using a “smoking gun”. (It reminded me of Boulud’s Chestnut-Celery-Apple soup I used to cook). Chef Hervé used this puree as a base for an amazing chicken-roulade dish (which he used to charge $32 for at his restaurant). We also had a great talk on the economics of restaurants. While obviously there are 1000 variables, he said that at 70 seats and 250+ covers a day you are starting to make money. Often top chefs participate in 5% of the gross as a bonus – totally changes the outlook when a party of 12 walks in at 10pm when you’re thinking of closing.

Paragraph of Sighs: My James Beard House volunteer kitchen gig was cancelled tonight ☹ because of the snow storm – I was really looking forward to it. Sigh. I also haven’t heard back from Jean-Georges, so I’m guessing I probably won’t be externing there. Sigh. We all invaded Toad Hall after class and had a great time doing shots, but I woke up with a headache. Sigh.

On the bright side, there’s nobody out on the streets because the mayor just issued a travel ban so we’re going to build a snowman in the park, and a Happy Birthday goes out to Joe! Off to buy one of the cast iron grill thingies.

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