Tomato and Basil    

August 6 1998
Team One Rocks Again
Or should that be Team Quail?

The task of the day:

Italian Cooking

Chef today was very casual and funny. A real crack up. He's the PM Chef at the Italian Restaurant here on campus. He doesn't cook out of the course guide because it's not stuff he's familiar with. Instead, he had us turn out what's on the menu at the restaurant right now. Cool!

Today was a good day for Team One again. Although, we do tend to be getting assigned lots of things with quail in it. :-) Today's work was made all the easier because the class was broken into four teams rather than five. We aquired another excellent chef, Bill, who said to me "Nice to be working for the Dream Team."

Dennis and Habib (my two other teammates) are both full time chef's already, as I've mentioned before. Both have little in the way of formal training, but know their way around the kitchen something fierce. Dennis has excellent knife skills, and can consistantly turn out mince or dice of exacting sizes.

* * *

Today's menu:

  • Shrimp in Gorgonzola Sauce
  • Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
  • Baked Stuffed Quail

* * *

The quail needed something to go with them, so we made some pan roasted potatoes with herbs. We also ran off some galic confit (slow cooked garlic in oil) and used that oil for some of our cooking. The soft garlic was used as part of the garnish for the dish. The quail were stuffed with a sausage forcemeat that also had some pinenuts and raisins in them. After plating up the quail, we topped the quail with our secret weapon. About a cup of glace de viande.

Glace de Viande means "meat glaze" and is created quite simply. You take a nice flavorful stock and reduce it down about 20 times the original volume. We used brown veal, but you can get away with non-brown stock as the reduction will cause it to turn brown. The result is sticky and thick. You can add it to an existing sauce to give extra punch to it. It freezes well, and even in the fridge turns into a rubbery mass hard enough that you can bounce it. That's how much concentrated gelatin is in there. We made about two cups of this on Tuesday, and kept it in the fridge, calling it our "secret weapon." The coating on the quail consisting of nothing but glace was sinfully wonderful.

There was time for more. I thought for about 10 minutes about taking the four pounds of shrimp shells we had and turning them into a bisque. It would have been trivial (we had gobs of time), but also would have just been showing off. It also isn't Italian, so that probably wasn't right. It sure was tempting, though.

Plating went very simple today, with platters to be presented family style. We did a nice job with ours, but didn't get any interesting feedback on it from the chef. Oh well.

* * *

Lots of cool demos today. Chef showed us how to make Fresh Mozerella. Neat stuff, and not very hard. I need to find a source of Cheese Curd in the Bay Area and make some at home. When asked what kind of milk he uses, Chef responded that "Water Buffalo are illegal in Hyde Park."

Also got to use caul fat today. Caul fat is a fatty membrane that's around the stomach of veal. It's pure white, completely tasteless, and pure fat. It also looks like alien flesh. You wrap is around something (in our case, the quail) to both hold things together, and to baste the meat while it cooks. The caul fat all cooks away, so nothing weird looking is on the meat, and you don't need to touch the meat as it cooks. Mondo Cool.

* * *

After class, I went over to the Danny Kaye Theater to see another demo. Jasper White (of Legal Seafood and Jasper's) was there giving a presentation/demo and pushing his new book, Lobster at Home. If you've watched Julia Child's Cooking with Master Chefs series, you may have seen him doing this demo there. And if you've watch any of the Culinary Secrets of the CIA, you may have seen the Danny Kaye Theater.

Jasper did a Pan Roasted Lobster that has become his signature dish. He also emparted lots of interesting and useful information about lobsters along the way. I've seen him do this dish on TV before, and foolishly was thinking that I might be bored. Watching a pro break down a lobster is amazing.

The recipe is pretty simple. You cut a live loster up into six pieces and sear shell side down in a hot pan. Then you flip them meat side down and cook in a hot oven for about three minutes. The pan is then returned to the top of the stove and hit with some bourbon (massive flame!), and white wine. Lobster is plated, and then a sauce of chervil and scallions is made, to which butter is added. Poured over top of the lobster. Yum.

past home future


Copyright 1998 Tom Dowdy