Thursday, 25 November 2010

Frost, Frites and Fish

Following the coldest night of the year there was a deep frost and leaves as brittle as my chances of passing the Wine exam crunched and collapsed under my feet as I headed for another day of cooking - only 7 left now!

Today I would be reunited with my Puff Pastry in an attempt to produce a credible dessert, pan fry some Chicken Livers and also make not only Parsnip Crisps but yet more Frites. I think there must be a degree of confusion and someone misheard a comment about a  deep, fat, fryer as I tend to spend many hours per week next to the one appliance that my beloved wife will not let me have. Today there would be an incident of such significance that Darina had to step in to rule on the dispute.

Frites Gate started with a bunch of humble chips. Cut into 1/4 inch batons, rested in acidulated water, lovingly dried and blanched in a 160degree fryer they were rested and then returned to a 190 fryer to finish. The Frites a golden yellow, crispy on the outside, fluffily tasty on the inside and not a milligram of grease in sight were a great hit with my colleagues but not with the teachers. They are underdone, they should be brown. Revolt broke out as colleagues declared them perfect "Like McDonald's but tasty" was one accolade. "That's how we like them" was another. As no reasonable solution was likely and as the evidence diminished as each new participant in the debate had to try them to form an opinion it was agreed that the Headmistress would give a ruling.

The net result was that they went back in to achieve the correct degree of Ballymaloe Brown. The other net result was that no one wanted to eat the little strips of cardboard carbohydrate that now closely resembled the taste of those from a major purveyor of hamburgers to the masses. No photographic evidence exits as the resultant secondary tasting finished the six large potatoes worth that I had cooked. The Parsnip Chips reached the same position on the Pantone chart and the same degree of approval. Still they met the standards expected by the school so no complaints on the marking front.

The Chicken Livers were another matter. Washed and quickly fried in Butter infused with finely grated Ginger and chopped Garlic and plated with a small salad with a Hazelnut Dressing they went down well for taste though it was suggested that the presentation would be enhanced by using petals rather than a whole flower.

The Pastry was retrieved from the fridge, cut in two and one half prepared for a starring role in dessert. A large rectangle had a border attached seamlessly (thanks to a Rory technique) the sides 'knocked up' a pattern applied to the border with the back of a knife, the bottom pricked, an egg wash and was returned to re chill. Half an hour later it was thrust into a preheated oven at 230degrees and, after 15 minutes, turned down to 180 for another 10. Quickly removed any excess pastry from the middle was removed, the pastry returned for 5 minutes to dry out and then an Apricot Glaze applied before it cooled.

Into this gaping chasm a mix of Creme Patisserie and whipped Cream was set as a base and then segmented Orange, Banana and Kiwi Fruit was laid along with (don't snigger) peeled and pipped grapes. This was then covered with a second layer of Apricot Glaze and the whole set aside to chill before presentation.

The result amazed me, especially as far better pastry makers had problems with sagging sides or minimal rising. "You've cracked it" said a teacher, "Hmmm" thought I.

The afternoon concentrated on Fish and Chips, not always connected in that manner. Salt and Pepper Squid, Frito Misto of Seafood, oven baked Plaice and really upmarket Mushy Peas were some of the highlights along with some stunning Crab Cakes. There was also an amazing range of Chocolate or Orange Mousses on view and on tomorrow's menu. The Demo ran late and the additional Wine Lecture due to start at 6 was more like 6:30 and it was gone 8 before we got home. Not good as at 8 tomorrow I shall be making Stock for the entire School before starting my dishes!! Still in the evening it's time for the Trip to Tipp for Thanksgiving Dinner in Cashel courtesy of Jacqui fro our house.

Finally Quote of the Day "Darina, Did I miss something or is that fish you put in the oven about an hour ago still there?"

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