- When zesting a lemon, turn the lemon as you move down the zester. This insures you get just the outer zest (no bitter rind), and is much faster (courtesy of Erik).
- Peel your celery before making a julienne of it – this removes those tough-to-eat fibers leaving a delicious flavor.
- In making a dramatic centerpiece, the base should be an absolute maximum width of 2/3rds the height and ideally less (courtesy of Jacques).
Today we flip-flopped, which meant I was now doing the Striped Bass Papillote plus the Lemon Tart. The lemon tart had been proving very difficult for many people, but I was semi-confident I was going to be able to pull it off first time…..WRONG! I got my dough and blind baking done quickly, but then a fish interrupted.
The fish papillote is an amazing-tasting dish because there is such a melding of different delicate flavors. It consists of a bass fillet served over a tomato compote (sweated onions, garlic, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, s&p), and a mushroom duxelles (sweated shallots, mushrooms, lemon juice, thyme, bay leaf, s&p), and then covered with julienned and par-cooked carrots, julienned leaks, julienned peeled celery, a dash of white wine and thyme, and then baked/steamed in a parchment bag sealed with egg wash. The bag puffs up, and the diner cuts into it at the table releasing all the delicious odors. It really is delicious. I filleted the bass and got this all done just in time to plate for the chefs….but…..I hadn’t made my lemon curd for the tart, and it should have been in the oven by now. Yikes.
I patiently listened to the chef’s comments about my fish dish and then literally ran back to make my lemon curd. It was hopeless. I had 40 minutes to do about 90 minutes work, i.e. to zest and juice 5 lemons, let the zest infuse the juice, mix 5 eggs and sugar, whip, add cream and lemon juice, whip, fill the tart shell, bake for 25min, cool on a rack, decorate the plates and present. Pablo and I were in exactly the same situation. We cranked the temp on the oven a bit, and then I ran my tart over to the open window to try and rapid cool it. No chance. I had to present it warm. I made a fancy frozen lemon peel garnish (a trick Diana showed me) which I hoped might get me a point or two. Nope. “Next time you start your tart earlier!”. I think most us under-performed the chefs’ expectations “I was expecting more”. Tomorrow will be better. Both dishes today tasted great and were a welcome change from the heavy Bourguignon.
After class Jacques Torres (Mr. Chocolate) demoed the making of a fantastical chocolate centerpiece, tempering chocolate, and letting us taste various chocolate fabrications. The highlight taste was definitely the chocolate covered cinnamon plus praline (almond, caramel, hazelnut) bonbon. Unexpectedly, key tools for a chocolatier include a laser thermometer, a hair dryer, and those compressed air pressure thingies you use to clean your keyboard. The laser thermometer to make sure your chocolate stays just below 90F or it will loose its temper, a hair dryer to slightly heat a bowl of chocolate when needed, and an air duster to ‘weld’ chocolate pieces together by instantly cooling the melted chocolate you used to join two pieces of chocolate together.