In week two of this lesson block the tasks included making, Brown Chicken Stock, Cream of Chicken Breast Soup, French Onion Soup, in which we used the frozen Brown Beef Stock made in lesson one, and Demi Glace, which required us to make an Espagnole Sauce. Now that all sounds pretty straight forward, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye, and doing it when dosed up on cold and flu medication and feeling less than par added an extra dimension. Also included in the second class was some revision of week one, plus some other learning studded throughout the class, as Chef Robyn, like Chef Troy, enjoys teaching & sharing as much knowledge as possible.
As I shared with you last week, we have moved to becoming totally and independently responsible for what we cook and serve, what steps need to be done and in what order. Where as Chef is there to demonstrate, guide and provide new information as required, the expectation is that students come prepared for the lesson, meaning recipes are reviewed prior to the class to ensure basic knowledge of what ingredients and resources are required, what is involved in the preparation and cooking and, if really motivated, what the finished dish should look like (hello Google & Utube!). As we move through this semester greater responsibility will be expected of us as we stand solo at our separate workstations & stoves. I am loving this ….
Given that a Demi Glace can take a minimum of two hours, we started on the Espagnole Sauce which forms the basis of a demi glace. First off was getting the gravy beef, mirepoix (carrot, onion, leek and celery), and bacon in the oven to roast off. Espagnole Sauce is simply a ‘brown sauce’ meaning the protein (in this case beef) and vegetables are browned and a brown roux is used as the thickening agent. The ratio for a roux for sauces is, 25g unsalted butter, 25g plain flour to 250 mls liquid (in the case of Espagnole it’s beef stock). The base sauce is made by making a brown roux to which is added tomato paste and wine and then the beef stock (gradually). To this the browned beef and vegetables are added and all is let to slowly simmer and do ‘it’s thang’ until sufficiently reduced. You may have to add more beef stock as you go, the important thing is to continually taste to ensure the right balance is maintained. When the flavour and consistency is right, the meat and vegetables are strained off and the sauce returned to the pan for further reduction and seasoning. All going well, the result will be a glossy sauce which leaves a coating on the metal spoon and tastes out of this world. Chef supplemented our beef stock with some pre-prepared veal stock which certainly kicked our demi glace up a notch! We combined our sauces, clearly marked and dated it, adding “Please don’t touch” and set it aside in the freezer for a later class. I hope the added ‘please’ ensures it is still there when Chef goes looking in a few weeks.
Whilst the meat and vegetables for the Espagnole Sauce were browning in the oven we made the French Onion Soup. I had only just made this soup a few weeks ago (recipe below) and where as the dish we made in class was delicious, I preferred the recipe I made at home which includes garlic and white wine. The must have croutons were a feature of both versions of the dish and I did like the addition of finely chopped parsley to the finished dish made in class. As we continue through the course I am looking forward to my presentation improving, given I have always been a bit of a ‘rustic’ cook my dishes could do with some refinement.
To make the Brown Chicken Stock, which like the demi-glace, was frozen for future use, we needed to bone a chicken. I enjoy these technical tasks and am delighted that we’ll have more opportunity to learn more later in the semester when we do poultry and fish. Once the wishbone was removed, I jointed the chicken, reserving the breasts and the skin (crisped up in the oven for garnish) and cooked the legs and the carcass with the mirepoix until golden.
The Cream of Chicken Breast soup made for a nice lunch (we’d been going since 7.30am). The chicken breasts were steamed in the oven whilst we made the veloute. As shared last week, veloute is made using a blonde roux, but rather than making it on the stove, this week, after making the roux and adding the stock, we covered the sauce with a cartouche & placed the saucepan in a low oven to allow it to cook out & develop more intense favour. When ready we simply added cream, seasoning & finely chopped tarragon to the soup, ladled it into a heated bowl, placed sliced steamed chicken breast in the centre & garnished with the roasted chicken skin and tarragon. What’s not to like?
Much like last week, the pace of lesson two was fast and what needed to be covered allowed no time for a break. I don’t expect this will change going forward (which I don’t mind at all) and next week, in addition to the the sauces planned, Chef is adding Hollandaise Sauce to the lesson. It was serendipitous that recently I received a copy of Michel Roux’s “Sauces – sweet and savoury” from my father, you might understand that it has become my new bed time reading in preparation for class.
French Onion Soup
This recipe is from a lovely book I picked up on a ‘bargain bench’ years ago; ‘Cooking French’. No author is credited but it’s a Canadian publication published in 2006 by Murdoch Books. I think I have cooked everything in this book …and this one most of all.
- 50 gm unsalted butter
- 750 gm Onions finely sliced ((approximately 6 large onions))
- 2 cloves Garlic finely chopped
- 45 gm Plain (all purpose) flour
- 2 litres Brown beef stock ((approximately 8 cups))
- 250 ml White wine
- 1 Bay leaf (dried)
- 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 8 slices Toasted baguette
- 100 gm Gruyere Cheese – grated
- 1 tbsp Parsley finely chopped ((garnish))
In a large thick based saucepan melt the butter
Add the onion and gently cook, low and slow for approximately 25 minutes. Stir occasionally and cook until the onions are soft and have started to caramelise (not burn).
Off the heat, add the garlic and the flour and stir for 2 minutes.
Replace pan to the heat and gradually add the stock.
Add the wine and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat so as the broth is simmering and add the bay leaf and thyme. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 25 minutes.
Slice the baguette, butter and toast under the grill (broiler). Once toasted sprinkle with the cheese and return to the grill to melt the cheese.
Taste and adjust the seasoning as required.
Ladle the soup into warm bowls, top with 2 slices of the gruyere croutons and a sprinkle of prepared parsley.