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Getting piggy with it

(post, John Dryzga)

Chef Nic had an impressive porcine prop for Saturday's lesson, a half of a pork loin.  This little piggy must have been an impressive specimen in life. Even without the shoulder or the ham, this loin was a good 4 foot long.  Chef had to use two abutting cutting boards to accomadae it.  After attendance, Chef lauched into lecture about pork in general and a commenced a quick tour through the loin. Chef then demoed todays lesson, how to cook the pork using the poele method.  The poele method is exists in the space between roasting and braising.  Like braising, you brown the protein on all sides and put it in a covered cooking vessel with aromatice vegtables. It deviates from braisin in that you do not add any liquid to the pot.  The meat gets cooked it in a relatively low oven, 350 degrees F, basting frequently, for about an hour.  The poele method is for cuts that lend themselves to roasting.  The short cooking time of this method will not achieve the collagen break down needed to tenderize the tougher cuts.  

This being French cooking, the story did not end with the poeled pork.  Every dish needs a sauce.  In this case, a sauce was to be made with veal stock and the liquids from the cooking pan.  Garnished on the plate included turned potatoes(of course) and brunoised bacon, carrots and onions wrapped in a blanched lettuce leave.  Brunoising entails cutting your product into very tiny, identical cubes.  I handled the trimming, Frenching and cooking the pork rack while my partner started reducing the vegtables and bacon to dust particles.  I took on the potatoe turning and sauce making duties as well.  

The pork was good, but not something to jump up and down about.  The sauce was  really good though, worth making the pork just to have the components of the sauce!  Before presenting everything to Chef, my partner and I play the "Is there enough salt to satisfy Chef" game.  We taste, we salt, we taste some more.  Inevitably, we undersalt.  Today, after we thought the sauce was ready to go, we added some more salt as we have never erred on the oversalting side.  We plated the dish and brought it up to Chef.  He liked every thing, the only comment being that the sauce could have used some more salt.  We could not help but to start laughing at Chef Nic's comment.

The next dish of the day was a straight forward sauteed chicken cutlet.  As in the first dish, the cooking was fairly straight forward, while the garnish was a little elaborate.  I quickly broke down the chicken and removed the breasts.  I whacked them with a mallet to flatten them, then proceeded to bread them and saute them.  My partner, S, set out wrapping anchovy fillets around olives and peeling and slicing lemons.  The chicken came out well and looked great on the plate with the garnish.  Eggs needed to be hard boiled, seperated into whites and yolks, then pressed through a tamis.  The eggs along with capers and parsley were arranged in a wedge shaped design on the plate.  The lemon was placed on the chicken with the olive perched on the lemon.  It did look quite special for a relatively simple dish.  Chef didn't comment on the plating, but he did like chicken's degree of doneness and seasoning.  I glanced up at the clock and saw that we had 15 minutes till the end of class.  Cleaning up our station only took about 10 minutes, so we were completly finished five minutes early.  That has never happened before.  Looking at the upcoming classes, it may never happen again.