Menu Bordelaise: Asparagus with Bacon and Broad Beans
I’m never really a 100% certain when Chef is joking or not. I was told I was supposed to peel 35 asparagus (asparagi??) and stuff with bacon and onions, and I thought to myself, “This chap’s really funny” and giggled like an imbecil. Is he serious? Oh, yes he is. He assured me that these particular asparagi (asparagus?? Let’s stick to asparagi. Sounds kinda cute anyway) were morbidly obese and hence easily stuffable. I think he may have lied.
These asparagi were bigger than the normal skinny ones back in Blighty, for sure. They were white, pink-tipped and very pretty. But fat they were not. I couldn’t stuff a hair in there. No way. They weren’t even as big as a fat man finger. So I thought the logical solution to making the stuffing a little easier on me would be to be stingy when it came to peeling. I peeled very carefully, which took ages. Since the peeling took ages, and allegedly asparagus takes 12 minutes to cook in simmering water (it’s really 8 minutes) I plunged them all together in the same pot in a bid to save time. Total schoolboy error which sadly could’ve been completely avoided if I’d had two separate pots going.
Chef: “Ohh la la la, you put ze all asparagoos in one pot? But ze ones in zee bottom ees to be overcook!”
Me: Feeling pretty stupid by now, “Uhh yes, that’s probably right. Can I pull out some now?”
Chef: “No no now too late. Where is ze ice bucket?” For cooling the asparagus of course..
Me: “The bar ran out of them. I’ll run downstairs to the economat to grab some!”
I was racing against time now. I considered pulling the asparagus out and putting them in cold water, then run downstairs to grab the ice. Why I decided to run downstairs first instead is inexplicable. I am not that fast on stairs. Especially in those horrible clunky kitchen shoes I have to wear. So the four extra minutes I took to grab the ice proved detrimental to the asparagi – they were overcooked till the heads started dissolving. All forty of them. And at €1 a pop, it meant I’d overcooked €40. Not a happy Shmii, not a happy Chef.
The stingy peeling did no good either. The asparagi were a bit old and fibrous, so by not peeling them well enough I had left many stringy bits on which were nasty when chewed. Overcooked soggy and stringy does not spell three michelin stars. Oh dear. I was back to peeling more asparagi.
The day before wasn’t any more chilled. I had a headless chicken run around trying to salvage my stock which was to be the base of the sauce. The chicken bones had arrived and I was told I was meant to “burn the $hit out of them”. So I stuck them in the oven and let them roast. They got a bit brown…but apparently not “burnt the $hit out of” so I let them be for about thirty minutes while I munched and got back to some pretty burnt looking carcasses. Wonderful…except it actually smelt burnt. Some classmates said, “That’s an awesomely burnt carcass!”, while some others said, “That’s a nastily burnt carcass.” A chef walks by, wriggles his nose and says, “C’est brûlé.” Yes, it is burnt. Now what? I use my gran’s age-old technique of salvaging the least scorched bones and scraping off the burnt bits with the back of a knife, and ran around class trying to procure any other chicken or veal stocks others may have had on them.
And not just that, I had a whole pile of broad beans in the pod to deal with. Apparently, this is proper intern work. I can’t wait…
Asparagus with Bacon and Broad Beans
Overcooked or not, this dish was pretty. The random scatters of bacon and broad beans and sauce drizzled gives it colour. The asparagus wasn’t very good or well-cooked but the extras on top added a lot of much-needed value. And the sauce from the reduced (burnt) chicken stock was mixed with a bit of veal stock and tasted surprisingly very non-burnt.
Declinaison de Couteaux aux Concombres
If Alain Passard had a three michelin starred fish n chippy, this is what I think it would dish up. Couteaux are periwinkles in French (I prefer the English word. Cute. Periwinkles) and taste remarkably similar to squid. I love anything polka-dotted so the little radish circles were very summery and lovely. The tartare was my favourite, followed closely by tied runners-up bacon blanket and breaded periwinkles.
Pave de Brochet Sauce Bordelaise
The pike was pan roasted and finished in the oven to bake. The onions were caramelised and the shallots were cooked in a red wine reduction (turning into a deep purple). The stellar sauce was made from shallots reduced in a whole bottle of red wine and porto. Bodaciously Bordelaise.
Agneau de Lait Réhaussé à la Harissa, Polenta Crémeuse au Parmesan
I’m never going to be a fan of lamb or goat or anything along those lines. The flavours are too dense for my palate. Agneau au lait is a very young lamb that’s only been feeding on milk, so it’s meant to be very mild and tender. To me it was still lamby, albeit a lot more subtle. But as a fairly recent animal-eating convert I was a bit put off by eating a baby suckling lamb.
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Mousse and Vanilla Cream and Chocolate Ganache, Sorbet au Lillet and Canneles
Chef called us in this morning before we even got to lay out our mise en place (workstations).
Chef: With a funny smirk, “Alors…so I theenk we make ze double recipe for ze canneles on Friday. One ‘undred and eighty. We plated three per person, so thirty seex. We do ze maths together…180-36 ees ‘ow much? 144. ‘Ow many we ‘ave left after?”
Us: “Uuh…we kinda snacked on them every now and again…”, “I took a couple home”, “We gave a whole bunch of them to the other group…”
Chef: Seemingly mildly amused, “Oui oui oui, so say we minus feefty…’ow many we ‘ave now? 94. ‘Ow many I find later? Zero.”
So collectively we scoffed down a kilo of sugar. It was just that good. The chocolate cake was very chocolatey and very satisfying. The sorbet was very morishly cleansing and even though it was laden with alcohol, only a hint of the Lillet liquor was standing out. I’d like some more now.
Asparagus with Bacon and Broad Beans
For the Fond Brun de Volaille
1.5kg chicken carcasse
2 onions, peeled, 1 halved and 1 mirepoix
2 carrots, mirepoix
1 leek, mirepoix
2 celery sticks, mirepoix
1 bouquet garni
0.5 cup tomato paste
0.5L red wine
For the Plate
12 white asparagus, peeled and trimmed, cuire a l’anglaise for 6-7 minutes
Cooked and peeled broad beans
1 big salad onion, white ciseler, green emincer
1. Roast the chicken carcasse in some sunflower oil till blackened (but not burnt) in the oven.
2. Add in the stock garniture. Roast together well, and then add in the tomato paste and brown well together.
3. Deglace with red wine. Add in liquid to cover the bones and pop in the bouquet garni. Remove scum and degraisse.
4. Reduce to a demi-glace. Season to taste.
5. Sautee bacon lardons in some butter and once the fat has released add in the chopped onions and season to taste. Sautee the cooked broad beans in some butter.
6. Plate the asparagus with the broad beans and bacon. Drizzle over the sauce.