Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's a Sauce, Mother...

Once again, it’s those pesky expectations that get you. I had expected a class on all the mother sauces, but last night after I got to QualityStreet in Leonardtown, I discovered it was part deux, and would cover only the “brown” sauces, as the “white” ones had been dealt with in a previous edition. Of course by now industrious readers will know that I missed the class dealing with Velouté and Bechamel, and would be learning about Espagnole, tomato, and the “fifth” mother sauce, Hollandaise.

Chef Loic (of Café Des Artistes) obviously is a draw (justifiably so) as we were packed elbow to elbow, and they even added a couple of seats on the end. It’s always amazing what you “learn” at these classes, and it’s not always the recipes. Like last night I learned a better way to cut a (bell) pepper, that Marinara Sauce is NOT Italian, and that if the Duc De Richelieu had not won a battle over the Spanish in 1756 for the Island of Mahon (Minorca), we might not enjoy “Mahon-aise” as a sauce today. Or, that in a classic French kitchen you can tell the hierarchy by the height of their Touque, and the Chef (always addressed as Chef) will be wearing the highest one, and you must request permission to enter the kitchen. Or, that your first year in that French kitchen will be spent washing dishes, and you only get to the stove in your 4th year. Chef Loic lived this life, and apparently learned well as his knife skills are excellent and he handles a whisk expertly. It’s also a treat to listen to his stories.

Back to the class, we began by preparing a Tarte Tatin (named for two impoverished gentlewomen from the French region of Sologne), essentially an upside down apple pie, with halved apples cooked in a caramel sauce (which he prepared), and eventually “Voila!” inverted for serving. Do try this at home. Then, a Hollandaise was prepared classically over a bain marie, never broke, right consistency, and served over some deep fried Panko encrusted Chinese cat fish. The Espangole/Demi-Glace was not prepared on site last night, as any home chef knows it’s a laborious, time consuming process, starting roasting the veal bones at 500 degrees, add stock, etc., and days later you have the sauce. We did a ratatouille, and while that was cooking he made the tomato/marinara sauce.

Chef wanted to use the left-over Hollandaise to prepare a Béarnaise (“invented” by Chef Jules Colette at the Paris restaurant called Le Pavillon Henri IV in the 19th century, named Béarnaise in Henry's honor as he was born in Bearn, France) to go with the beef tenderloin. However, it was discovered that due to some miscommunication with the back kitchen, the left over sauce had been pitched. Most of us would yell and scream a this point, but no, Chef merely asked for 6 more eggs, and calmly did another Hollandaise. Lesson two on that sauce. Our main course (if you will) was poached salmon with the Bearnaise, a beef tenderloin with his Sauce Normandie (mushroom based), and the ratatouille.

We concluded the evening by consuming the Tarte Tatin successfuly exhumed from its cast iron skillet.

Fortunately there were no “yummies” in the audience, and everybody was attentive and polite – with Chef Loic, how could you do otherwise? No new advice here, the “classes” are what you make of them. If what you want is a social evening, a menu, and a visual of somebody making it, most any class will do, but if you know your chefs and pick your spots, you’ll learn more than just the preparation.

and you can be


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