Laboratory in the Culinary Arts: Day #5

By Jillian Bernardini - Oct 27, 2011 - 01:37 PM
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July 18th:  Poaching, Steaming, and Eggs; Poached Eggs, Omelets, Poached Pears, Fish in Parchment, Eggs Benedict, Grand Marnier Soufflé

Thank goodness that I don’t have the desire to become a vegan!  Eggs are incredibly versatile and are essential components of so many dishes and recipes.  This may have been one of my favorite classes so far, especially for the fact that I never knew omelets had a variety of preparation techniques.  I had also never successfully poached an egg, and the one time I tried had resulted in what looked like egg drop soup.  Learning how to poach and steam ingredients can be applied to such an incredible range of proteins and other foods, which I am eager to utilize at home. 

                                         Red Wine and White Wine Poached Pears

Fish in parchment was a method of cooking that was so simple to prepare with hardly any labor or preparation.  The ‘papillote’ [parchment in French] trapped in all of the juices that melded perfectly with the julienned vegetables and butter, which kept the char very moist.  Once we sliced open the parchment shell, the aromas that escaped smelled delectable and ocean-like.  It was interesting to incorporate white pepper instead of the usual black pepper to taste, which I thought felt much finer of a grind than the black pepper.  I assume it is mainly to complement the colors of the vegetables and the fish.  Is there an aesthetic quality of black pepper that is off-putting on certain dishes or specific fish?

When it came to the necessity of speed in creating a French style omelet, it looked easier than it was!  The eggs cooked so rapidly and my hands did not want to work in coordination of one another.  Moving the pan instead of the spatula felt awkward, so I need to become more comfortable with that once I practice more.  The poached eggs were more successful for me, especially once I saw the demonstration and which level of simmer I should have my water going at.  A slotted spoon is definitely helpful, and I liked how the use of an ice bath prevented the eggs from overcooking. 

Something as simple as poaching pears in red wine resulted in an elegant dessert.  The subtle spice notes from the clove gave the reduced syrupy wine sauce a nice aroma.  I would love to add a few cinnamon sticks too.  I also fell in love with soufflés all over again!  I used to make chocolate soufflés in a chef’s restaurant on Staten Island, but I was basically her dessert station prep for dinner service.  This was my first time creating a soufflé with a vanilla base and the incorporation of a liqueur!  The base for a soufflé appears very thick, dense and rich, but by whipping and then folding in egg whites, it bakes into a pillow-like cloud of a dessert.  Ours were delicious.  I hope that I can make a chocolate soufflé for our final, and maybe with a berry coulis on the side; that would be perfect.  

                             Grand Marnier Soufflé with Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise