Racks and Reshmi Kebabs
The Final Exam
T-1: Menu Grand Ouest
We had the biggest, flashest, and baddest-assest regional menu ever – Menu Grand Ouest, with gallons of wine to wash it down.
Sardines aren’t my thing but I do love tomate fondue.
The clams were a wonderful vessel to transport mounds of parsley butter into my gob.
The langoustines were fresh, the carpaccio was fresh, and the caviar kept popping in my mouth like suprising little fireworks.
The tuna was seared quickly on all sides and marinated overnight in an asian-influenced sauce. It was absolutely lip-smacking, but I preferred the chorizo paella warm on its own rather than chilled and rolled in nori.
I HEART LOBSTER. Lobster and Linguini are a match made in heaven. The lobster bisque sauce was one of the most delicious sauces I’ve ever had. I HEART LOBSTER.
The terrine of crepes flavoured with orange and Grand Marnier was a bit too jellified for my tastes but OMG that caramel beurre sale ice cream was heavenly. It had just a tiny hint of savoury, and a tiny hint of caramel, and whole load of cream.
This meal was legendary, but did NOTHING for my concentration when I got home as I passed out on my couch for two hours succumbing to an afternoon of drinking and gluttony.
I was selected to be in the first group doing the three hour practical exam. At the time I was britting shicks as it’s always intimidating to venture into the unknown without a precedent set, but in hind-sight it was a blessing in disguise as I got the worrying and anxiety over and done with before everyone else.
We got set a main course for four and a dessert for eight: Carré de Porc Poêlé Choisy and Pâte à Choux Creme Chantilly. The hardest part of the exam for me is figuring out the plan of action, marrying the two recipes together to get a sequence of steps. I knew what to get done and how to get it done for both, which is a good start, but without a clear map I felt lost.
We had to braise lettuce, prepare a rack of pork and roast turned potatoes for the main, and make a dough and whipped cream filling for the dish. Sounds simple when I break it down like that right? Wasn’t so simple in practise. The lettuce takes 45 minutes to braise and needs looking after throughout otherwise it can burn, leading to negative points. The pork needs constant care in the oven otherwise it burns, leading to negative points. The potatoes need to be tossed around the pan every five minutes or so otherwise they burn, leading to negative points. Every single step in this recipe could lead to negative points and this made me sweat. The nerves, the heat, everything made me sweat. And not sweat in a flustered kind of way…sweat in a manic, “I’m running out of dry patches on my sleeves to wipe my face”, kind of way. At one point I was at war with the idiotic rack of pork which was putting up a fair fight against my carving knife and felt like I was under the Niagara Falls of perspiration when the judge came around to inspect my hack job. I took a moment to tidy up my face discreetly, being a lady and all, but clearly not discreetly enough as he spotted me in the act. How embarassing.
I let out a breath of relief when I was about to embark on making the creme chantilly in the garde manger, perhaps the cool climate in there would put an end to the nervous sweats. Unfortunately, whipping the cream for fifteen minutes straight did nothing but add to it. My arm was crying out in pain and I was struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I was quite pleased with myself once I got everything done well within time and got to plating, until I realised I’d completely forgotten to glaze the pork or even re-heat it. The sweats came pouring out all over again.
I was assigned to be a commis for the other test takers. This day had the potential to be boring beyond belief, involving a lot of twiddling thumbs and the occasional trip to the dishwasher’s for pots and pans, but it turned out to be much more interesting as I got to be a fly on the wall, looking into the Big Brother house full of drama, disasters and triumphs, and arrange the spice cupboard alphabetically. It also made me feel a bit better about my test as I saw nobody else was having it easier.
T+2: Chef’s BBQ
Our Chef was very kind to let us into his home and kitchen, after witnessing all our catastrophes and calamities at school. We’d all decided to get a dish and a bottle each, and the result was a lot of food and wine. A lot of great food and great wine.
Every now and then I come across someone or the other asking me if I was named after a kebab or vice versa. No relation. The kebab is named so due to its soft and silken texture after being marinated for a day in cream, and I was named so for no particular reason other than that my maa and paa fancied it.
Carré de Porc Poêlé Choisy
1 rack of pork, reserve trimmings and bone
1L white chicken stock
1L brown veal stock
8 lettuce, cleaned
5 carrots, 2 macedoine, 3 mirepoix
3 onions, hacher
1 bouquet garni
150g bacon, lardons
8 potatoes, turned into chateau
1/2 cup white wine
Salt and sugar
1. Cuire a l’anglaise the lettuce for 1 minute and shock them in ice water. Reserve 8 pretty leaves.
2. Heat some peanut oil and saute 1 onion in a sautoire, and add in bacon and saute. Add in the macedoin carrots and saute in the bacon fat. Arrange the lettuce on the garniture and pour in the chicken stock and bouquet garni. Season. Let braise for 45 minutes to an hour covered with parchment paper in the oven at 180C. Check to top up often to prevent burning.
3. Season the rack well. Heat some peanut oil in a cast iron pot and colour the rack well on all sides. Remove and reserve. Degrease the pot. Add in 1 onion and 2 mirepoix carrots, bone and trimmings and saute. Add the rack back in and cook in the oven at 200C covered for 1 hour. Baste frequently and give the garniture a stir to stop burning.
4. Heat some oil in a pan and colour the potatoes. Finish to cook in the oven.
5. When the pork is done, reserve warm for 20 minutes. Degrease the pot, add in 1 onion and 1 carrot and saute. Add in a few chopped tomatoes if you have at hand and deglaze with white wine. Pour in the brown stock and reduce on a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain out the garniture and return the sauce to heat till the desired consistency is reached. Split the sauce into a third, for glazing, and two thirds, for the sauce, into two saucepans. Using a ladle glaze the pork and pop under the grill for a minute. Repeat at least 3 times. Season the sauce. Trim off the ends.
6. Reheat the lettuce in the liquid it was braised in. Make neat little parcels out of each portion by using the reserved leaves as a wrap.
7. On a plating dish, ladle some sauce, arrange the lettuce and potatoes around, and place the rack in the middle with the sauce on the side.
8 chicken fillets, cubed evenly into chunky chunks
1 cup full cream
1 cup yoghurt
2 bunches coriander
6 garlic cloves
2 lemons, juiced
2 green chillies
2 tbsp almond powder
2 inch chunk of ginger
1. Blitz the almond powder with the coriander, garlic, ginger and chillies. Season. Blend in the lemon juice, and then the cream and yoghurt.
2. Marinate the chicken in the coriander “chutney” overnight and reserve any unused chutney as a dip.
3. Skewer the chicken the next day and place on a grill to bar-b-q or grill on a high heat, basting with butter frequently till cooked through.