This post is quite late late as my husband and I had an extra, extra long weekend across the other side of Australia, in Perth, where I cooked, for his mothers 70th birthday party for group of 30 friends and family. So…I am only now getting to share with you what we did in the last week of my ‘official’ last lesson of 2018. I say ‘official’ because I need to do a make-up class of Seafood Lesson One given I missed it whilst in hospital. I can’t believe my first year at culinary school is almost at a close, it only seems like yesterday that I first put on my chefs whites (which I still get a buzz when I put on!). The year finishes with three review assessments, also known as Holistic Menus, in which I need to cook a menu of 3- 4 dishes demonstrating my competence in the techniques learned in second semester. I am actually writing this post after completing the first assessment, in which I am pleased to say I was found competent. Lesson Three was a Trio of Salmon, Fish and Fennel Pie, Prawn Cutlets with Tartare Sauce & Mussel & Prawn Chowder (recipe below).
The first task was to prepare the Trio of Salmon, which were Sous Vide, Gravlax and Smoked. For the Sous Vide, the pre-prepared salmon fillet, herbs and butter were placed in a bag which was vacuum sealed and placed in a water bath at 45 degree celsius for 30 minutes. For the Gravlax, the flesh of the salmon was covered with 150g rock salt, 150g sugar and some dill. It was wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, weighted down and left to cure for 4 hours. The dry smoked salmon was prepared by curing it in a 50/50 mix of rock salt and sugar for an hour before smoking over wood chips. It is interesting to see the change in texture in the fish from the different applications. For me, sous vide is the winner, the flesh is moist and tender and there is an integrity to the flavour. It is such a versatile cooking method and has become one of my favourite ways to prepare proteins at home. The Trio of Salmon was served with a simple crunchy salad of red onion, apple, reddish, parsley and horseradish with a dressing of honey, mustard & white wine vinegar.
This class required a lot of preparation and chopping but it was so much fun. Next up was getting the base sauce for the Fish and Fennel pies done. The base comprised of a white roux to which sweated large dice of leek & fennel was added. The sour cream, mustard, chopped dill and lemon zest was then added, followed by the fish. The fish needs to be a firm one & the sauce needs to be quite thick. As the fish cooked in the sauce the pastry lids were prepared, complete with fish motif 🐠. In class the fish pies were made in foil tart tins but at home they could be made in ramekins, which would look very nice, especially with such pretty fishy lids!
Whilst the chowder cooked, we prepped and cooked the prawn cutlets…this is very straight forward and needs no explanation except to say, always, always, always de-vein the prawns. As we butterflied ours, removing the vein was easy but chef also showed us a good ‘chefs hack’ on using a bamboo skewer (or tooth pick) to remove the vein which keeps the whole prawn in tact…( I love tricks).
A chowder always has a base of leek and potato, and this one was particularly tasty. Interestingly, Chef substituted a light chicken stock for the fish stock listed in the recipe, this made it less ‘fishy’ and more subtle in flavour (love Chef Michael – he knows his stuff!). Under his guidance we left the prawns whole….as… who doesn’t like to get a whole prawn in a soup? Chef also changed the recipe in other ways, omitting the garlic and basil, & the end product was not only very attractive, it was also delicious and will be on high rotation in my kitchen.
This post might be my last for 2018 from a ‘cooking school’ adventure perspective….I’ll see how the make-up class goes. As far as documenting the assessments, I doubt that I want to divert my attention from the task/s at hand so as to snap photos as I go. At the beginning of the assessment, Chef tells us when each dish needs to be presented. But (oops shouldn’t start a sentence with ‘but’), as the first assessment is behind me, I can tell you that at 10.30 am I served Eggs Benedict (the hollandaise was the best I have ever made ☺️), at 11.30 am served crispy pan fried Chicken Supreme with pan roasted potatoes and a salad (a chicken was broken down for the Chicken Supreme and a stock was made from the wings, legs and carcass – to be used in the next assessment). Finally at 12 noon I served a wedge of Polenta Cake with Lemon Syrup garnished with julienned lemon zest.
At the beginning of the year I was Kathryn to the chef’s under which I was learning, at the end of the year I am now called ‘chef’ by the other chef’s. I am not fooling myself, there is still such a long way to go but I can honestly say that next to motherhood, this is the most satisfying journey I have consciously embarked on….. it’s never too late to start.