Lessons 55-59: Normandy, Alsace, Provence and Beyond ...
Butter. Duck Fat. Pork fat. Olive oil. Pick your weapon.
This week was a whirlwind tour of classic French cuisine. Our palettes traveled from Brittany and Normandy to Alsace and Lorraine, making stops to taste Souffles d’Alencon en Timbales, Tarte Flambée and Cassoulet. With Chef Mike’s instruction, we worked our way through the classic preparation of Duck Confit, which was a 2-day process that began with packing the duck legs with a mixture of salt, shallots and herbs. After a day’s worth of moisture extraction, we then covered the duck legs with melted duck fat and simmered them until tender (images 2, 3, 4 & 5). A final coating of fat (are you sensing a trend here?) and the legs were ready to be shredded and used in our Confit de Canard salad (image 6). This week also marked a return to the once-dreaded tourne (pronounced tor-nay) knife cuts.
I can’t believe I’m actually admitting this, but I’ve come to love fashioning tournes out of potatoes. Chef Mike showed us a great trick about where to place our thumbs, and ever since, I’ve been a tourne machine! Are they all 7-sided and fit for a photo shoot? Nope. But they are greatly improved! Our daily knife drills have turned into speed sessions as we’re timed on how many potatoes we can slice/dice/batonnet in 15 minutes. I welcome the added pressure because I know it’s prepping us for the speed of a real-life kitchen.
Once knife skills are out of the way, we launch full speed into mise en place for the day’s recipes. Kitchen 601 has kicked it into high gear as we measure, whisk, mince and simmer our way through each day’s lesson. We’ll make a final stop in the Burgundy and Lyonnais regions of France before we head to Italy next week for homemade pasta of every size, shape, and flavor.
Coming up next: Introduction to Italian Cooking - Northwest, Northeast and Central Regions