Our mock exam today was nerve-wracking. Everything about it: the weekend leading up to it, the 24 hours leading up to it, preparing the mise en place, plating, and then waiting anxiously to be told I suck. The night before I went through all my notes, recipes and relevant blog entries, so when we were given Oeufs Mollets Florentine and Poulet Chasseur avec Pommes Noisettes I was fairly comfortable with what I needed to get done. So I spent a good ten minutes creating an absolutely ridiculous time-table to get the plates ready in three and a half hours. I was one of the first two people to plate, which in hindsight is actually a lot harder than plating later since I had to set my own pace. For the first time, I felt comfortable with my pace. I felt like I was getting things done, not twiddling thumbs or running around the kitchen, garde manger and dishwashers’ unnecessarily, until I looked at the schedule I set myself. I was juvenile about getting spinach, eggs, potatoes, mushrooms and sauce mornay prepped and cooked in thirty minutes. I set off manically getting it all done simultaneously but kept forgetting about tending to each. I let my spinach and potatoes boil forever instead of blanching, I forgot to plunge them into cold water, and my bechamel was too thick to pass through a chinois. It was evident I was going through a disastrous phase since there was war around my work station.
When potato noisettes are left to boil longer than they should in a lot of water and not plunged into cold water straight away, they get floury. They are also a nightmare to saute or colour in the pan and get a crumbly texture. When spinach is left to boil for ages it could start disintegrating. Luckily this didn’t happen to me but it did leave me with less time to squeeze out all the water before I could saute it in some garlic, nutmeg and seasoning. My hands aren’t quite at asbestos levels yet so I could feel the burn each time I squeezed out boiling water from the spinach before plating. But I plated on time, and that felt good for about forty five minutes.
I got called in by the judge to be told I was a borderline case for the following reasons:
1. Oeufs Mollets Florentine: Despite my eggs being perfectly cooked, my spinach was cold and my sauce mornay was too thick.
2. Poulet Chasseur, Pommes Noisettes: Despite my chicken being perfectly cooked, my sauce was too reduced and my pommes noisettes were crumbly on the outside.
3. General: Presentation was off, and I had too much going on at once 2/3rd-way through the test.
Are these enough to make me a borderline? I’m not sure. I can’t say I’m satisfied with my score or even on some points where I’ve been judged. I suppose it’s human nature to feel upset about failures and defensive about poor scores. It stings massively but if this is how it is, then this is how it is.
But how bad-@ss is it to get a dish served to real-life, real-money-paying customers inspired by my recipe? Very! My dreamt-up roasted veggie cannelloni was paired up with a butter crusted rack of lamb. It looked very nice and colourful. Instead of rolling up the goats cheese in the pasta with the veg, it was served with a goats cheese espuma on top. Purty.
Cromesquis d’escargots are deep-fried butter balls with herbs and snails. They are deadly. I feel like if a human being loves themselves enough then they wouldn’t be necking the three we served. It’s a LOT of butter. And did I mention deep-fried? Yes, I did. It is hard to say no to seemingly innocent-looking golden (or black) balls perched cutely on top of a steamed potato stool and they are delightful little things but…be warned.
And while diners enjoyed the lamb, snails, and this…
this is what us sweaty chefs dived into at any spare moment we could…next to the bins…
For the cromesquis
1 shallot, ciseler
200g bread crumbs
6 egg whites
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
250g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
100g almond powder
For the parsley puree
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
For the garlic puree
10 cloves of garlic
For the potatoes
1L white veal stock
1. Rinse and clean the snails. Saute them with a shallot ciseler and season. Reserve chilled.
2. Bring butter to room temp. Mix in almond powder, finely chopped garlic and parsley to the butter. Pour in a dash of Pastis and place in fridge to chill.
3. Enclose each snail in the butter to make 3cm balls. Make sure they are completely covered. Place on parchment paper and place in fridge to allow butter to harden.
4. Coat each ball with flour, then egg white, then breadcrumbs. Once one coat of breadcrumbs is on, dip in egg white and coat with bread crumbs again. Repeat once more so that three coats are on in total. This is done to make sure the butter doesn’t leak out of the balls when frying and to mitigate risk of breaking.
5. Fry cromesquis at 180C till golden brown. Drain.
6. Cook the parsley for the puree a l’anglaise in salted water for 7 minutes. Shock in ice water. Blend with olive oil and check seasoning. Reserve in fridge.
7. Blanche the garlic in their skin thrice in water. Drain and blanche in cream. When it reaches boiling point, cook for ten minutes. Drain the garlic, reserve the cream. Blend the garlic with some of the cream to get a creamy consistency and check seasoning. Reserve warm.
8. Cook the potatoes cut in “bouchon” cylinders of 3cm diameter, with a bit on one end scooped out to hold the cromesquis in place, in veal stock.
9. Plate each cromesquis on top of the potato stuck in place with some garlic puree. Serve with parsley puree on the side. Serve piping HOT.