Top | While my sautoir gently sweats — Blog

Shell game

(post, John Dryzga)

My knife kit was feeling heavier than normal as I made my way to the bus on Saturday.  It was our last class with Chef Nic in Culinary Techniques.  Somehow 6 months, 22 lessons and 110 hours of slicing, dicing, turning, braising, sauteing, roasting, and stewing have flitted by.  

Today's lesson was on shell fish.  Chef Nic quickly launched into a lesson on the different varieties of shell fish, how to choose them and how to handle them.  Our first task was to make sauce americaine which was to be used later on our lobsters.  We would be making one huge batch as Chef Nic says the flavor is better.  We were all giving lobster bodies we had to clean up and chop into pieces to add to the lobster stock simmering on the stove.  Lobster stock is not your usual pantry item is it!  The stock had to bubble away for a few hours to extract the most possible flavor from the shells and the mire poix.

Chef Nic found the recipes for this lesson were too old fashioned and heavy, so he would show us some newer ways to prepare the mussels and scallops.  We ended up steaming the mussels in shallots and white wine.  The mussels were removed, the cooking liquid was reduced and emulisified with butter, a little parley then voila!  This dish rocked!  It was so easy and tasted so good.  

The book called for us to make the classic Coquilles St. Jaques out of our scallops.  Instead we made seared scallops with a spinach coulis.  We sweated some shallots in a little butter, then threw in some sliced mushrooms.  After a few minutes, some chicken stock was thrown in to finish cooking the mushrooms.  In another pot, we cooked then shocked the spinach.  The mushrooms, chicken stock and spinach were whirred up in a blender.  The resulting coulis was seasoned and warmed up and served with the seared scallops.  Again, another big winner.  Plus, please be seated for this, no added butter or cream!  An actual, fairly light dish.

It was now time for the drama, lobster sauted in a pan.  Once you got the lobster broken down and thrown in a pan, you added brandy to the pan and flambeed.  Some of the groups were a little heavy on the brandy and the kitchen resembled a KISS concert as towers of flame erupted from sautoirs everywhere.  Me, the storeroom miscounted the lobsters, therefore I was robbed of my turn as a pyrotechnician.  I got to eat the lobster that Chef Nic cooked as my concilation prize.

We then cleaned up the kitchen one last time, popped open some wine, and recieved our certificates.  We toasted each other and discussed future plans.  Some of the students are seriously thinking about continuting with the career program, one is going to open a Colombian restaurant and some are making big changes in their lives.  Me, I'll be cooking in my Hoboken condo, straining life through a fine chinois.