Week 2 started with Cuisine (at the moment our cuisine classes are at the beginning of the week and the patisserie classes are at the end of the week). Chef Eric has taken all our demo classes in cuisine so far, along with chef Gilles who is new to the school (he started a week before I did) and is learning the ropes. Both are French and very experienced chefs. The 2 of them also took us for the practical last week on Potato Salad and Salad Italienne.
Today’s demo and practical involved cooking that wasn’t just boiling. We were making concassé of tomatoes, duxelle of mushrooms and glazed onions and turnips.
Concassé is tomatoes that have been peeled, deseeded, and finely chopped, then cooked with a little sautéed shallot, garlic and bouquet garni under a cartouche for about 30 minutes until reduced by half. A cartouche is a circle of greaseproof paper cut to about the size of the pan, with a small (about 1 cm) hole at the centre to let steam out. The purpose of the cartouche is to keep the surface of the food being cooked moist.
Duxelle is finely diced musrooms cooked with a little sautéed shallot in butter until just about dry.
Both concassé and duxelle are used in many places within French cooking.
The glazed vegetables involved learning how to turn vegetables. This means taking a block of vegetable and slowly paring it down into a shape like an elongated rugby ball, about 6 cm long and 2cm in diameter. If done perfectly they are meant to be 7 sided. I think mine varied anywhere from 5 to about 17 sided. It takes a bit of practice and is done with a turning knife which has a tiny crescent shaped blade. Since the technique is to pare towards yourself I was expecting lots of cuts in practical but there were hardly any. We were using long white turnips (also called mooli or daikon) as they are quite soft and easy to cut to shape. The chefs made lots of perfectly turned pieces, while even talking and looking at the students!
The other vegetable was to be baby onions, which we had to peel and remove the root.
Each vegetable type was put in a pan (separate pans as they have different cooking times) with some seasoning, a little butter, a pinch of sugar, enough water to not quite cover the vegetables, covered with a cartouche and put on a low heat to cook. The idea is for the water to slowly boil away until the vegetables are cooked through and the liquid is reduced to a glaze about the consistency of honey, which gives the vegetables a lovely glaze. If the vegetable is cooked before the water is reduced enough they can be lifted out and put back in again when the glaze is ready. The idea was to glaze the vegetables without colouring (i.e. caramelising) the glaze.
Here is a picture of the chef’s plated results showing a quenelle of duxelle in the centre, the concassé to the left, the turned turnips at the top and the baby onions at the bottom left:
In the practical we had chef Franck looking after us. Everyone seemed to find that the time was running out and some didn’t get any vegetables turned or vegetables glazed. I did manage a few and got the cooked and glazed. The chef thought my onions and turnips were a little undercooked, but I thought they were pretty well cooked and would have fallen apart if cooked any longer, which was why I had stopped them when I did. The duxelle and concassé were pretty good.
Once the chef had evaluated them, I ate the lot. It all tasted delicious and I hadn’t made enough to warrant taking it home.