Today we commenced a four week lesson block which will cover appetisers, salads & sandwiches. After this section there will be another assessment followed by semester break…I can’t believe how quickly this semester has gone. There are a lot of ingredients, preparation and assembly, along with some basic cooking, which is involved in these ‘simple’ dishes, so next time you look at that salad or wrap, know it was time consuming to prepare! The recipes for today are, Potato, Green Bean & Caper Salad with Walnut Dressing, Open Steak Sandwich, Deconstructed BLT, Caesar Salad & Chicken Caesar Wrap.
The ingreients for today’s class are beautifully colourful and as usual Ronald manages to get in my picture! Most of us are very friendly with one another, have a good laugh and work well together.
After washing and spin drying the various lettuces and herbs for todays dishes, the walnuts are dry pan roasted, the tomatoes are prepped and placed in the oven to roast, the bread is cut into croutons for baking, the dressings are made & the beans are blanched and refreshed (see… lots and lots of prep!). We make two types of dressing today; an emulsified dressing and a temporary emulsified dressing. An emulsified dressing will stay together once made (mayonnaise) and a temporary emulsified dressing will separate (vinaigrette).
The first dish we prepare is the Potato, Green Bean & Caper Salad. Chef had already steamed the baby potatoes (Chats) in the combination oven so it was simply a matter of assembling the salad. When preparing the salad greens ensure you dry them well otherwise the dressing will ‘slip off’ the leaves. This salad is a lovely and healthier alternative to the more heavily dressed potato salads and has a good contrast of textures, the soft potato, the crunch of the walnuts and beans (recipe below).
The second dish of the day was the Open Steak Sandwich. The minute steak was marinated in oil, a little crushed garlic and fresh marjoram. The sourdough baguette was rubbed with garlic and brushed with olive oil before toasting on the preheated hot French grill. The minute steak was also cooked on the French grill and took…well… minutes! I like mine medium rare…how do you like yours? Chef made a large batch of caramelised onions to serve with the steak sandwich. I love caramelised onions…watching them change from their crunchy natural state into a delicious slippery dark brown tangle….mmmmm! At assembly time, I spread the heated baguette liberally with mayo, pile on some dressed rocquet and radicchio (these go so well together, the peppery taste of the rocquet complementing the slightly bitter radicchio), add the quartered roasted tomato (sliced into smaller pieces), a layer of caramelised onions and the sliced minute steak. This is topped with a little more caramelised onion and green leaves and the bread top is placed off centre. It was 11.45 am and this (well half of this) was my lunch. It was delicious.
Now for the deconstructed BLT. I have one question….WHY? I am not a fan of the ‘deconstructed’ dish…no doubt others like it but to me it looks like someone ruined a perfectly good dish for no sound reason. In this presentation this dish is a salad …still, I would have preferred it as a sandwich! This dish had an unusual but tasty dressing made with roasted cherry tomatoes, a raw egg yolk, dijon mustard, garlic paste, a dash of olive oil and seasoning. The raw egg put a few people off…I wasn’t put off by it, but having just eaten a steak sandwich I was unable to follow up with the BLT. A second baguette was smeared with mayo, toasted on the French grill and cut into pieces at angles. The bread went onto the plate and the trimmed cos lettuce was added along with the roasted cherry toms. This was topped with the cooked bacon (cut into large pieces) and the controversial dressing. My bacon was a little bit over done but apart from that it was good. Across this we piped a mixture of mayo and bbq sauce …thank goodness I wasn’t hungry…it was a heart attack on a plate!
It’s Caesar salad time! I have heard many stories of the origins of Caesar Salad but it is generally accepted that it’s creator was Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who lived in San Diego and had a restaurant in Tijuana Mexico, (to get around prohibition laws!). The story goes that the salad was invented out of necessity. Due to an unexpected rush in his restaurant, Caesar was left short of ingredients and to cover up it was said he prepared the salad in a flourish in front of the guests at their table (style over substance?). The restaurant is apparently still operating today in Tijuana under the name ‘Avenida Revolucion’. Due to food safety regulations a lot of restaurants use commercial mayonnaise bought in bulk… at home I make my own and Chef did a demonstration as to how easy it is to make it by hand. There really is no comparison …freshly made IS best! The pancetta was cooked in one batch by chef …I think I prefer bacon. The dressed Cos lettuce was topped with a poached egg, croutons, and cooked bacon (or prosciutto). I would be happy to to provide the recipe we used if asked, but feel that most interested home cooks would have their own favourite (mine has Worcestershire sauce added).
Caesar salad made, we added the poached chicken and assembled the wraps. They were rolled in kitchen paper and secured with kitchen string….it made a nice presentation.
Potato, Green Bean & Caper Salad with Walnut Dressing (Serves 2)
Boil or steam 190g Chat potatoes. Dry pan roast 15g of walnuts. Top, tail, blanch and refresh in ice water 125g green beans. Slice 1 spring onion (scallion), pick the leaves off 50g of flat leaf parsley and set aside 12g capers.
Make the dressing: Whisk 2g dijon mustard with 30mls sherry vinegar and 1 crushed garlic clove. Whisk in 15mls of walnut oil and 15 mls of Extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste.
Assemble salad: Add beans, walnuts, capers, spring onions and parsley to the quartered potatoes. Toss to combine and drizzle with the dressing ensuring good coverage.