As the final day at Cook In France dawned, there was much excitement, for the final meal we would prepare that day. The day before we had been split into groups, each one to prepare a course.
- Group 1 including my hubby – to prepare 2 types of Amuse Bouche to serve as a starter. They had free reign to use whatever ingredients they could find the store cupboard.
- Group 2 the boys – to prepare the main course of Duck Confit with Pommes Boulangeres and a Balsamic and Fig Jus.
- Group 3 including me – to prepare the dessert of Tarte Tatin and accompaniments of our choice.
Apparently Fridays can be quite frantic in the Cook in France kitchen, with all the sous-chefs doing different things, but with our group, we had all worked together well all week, that Friday was a fantastic day.
The guys doing the Amuse Bouche had their brainstorming session the day before and the plan was for Gazpacho shots, Thai Prawn Skewers and Mini Samosas with Raita. It was an eclectic mix but with lots of different flavours, it sounded good.
Ange was making the Mini Samosas and had spent Thursday evening preparing her onion and potato mix and pastry, so Friday she was able to assemble her samosas with plenty of time. The pastry was light and crispy, whilst the filling was delicately spiced. The second Amuse Bouche was prepared by Sylva, Thai Prawn Skewers, which had been marinated in a chilli and lime dressing.
The final Amuse Bouche was being prepared by the lovely Sian. She had prepared her Gazpacho on the Thursday evening and left to for the flavours to develop. Up early to add a cheffy spin to the Gazpacho by straining it for a smoother texture, she had unknowingly created a gazpacho consomme. So what to do now? Well luckily my hubby had been having Hestonesque dreams and I woke to him mumbling something basil essence foams and quennelles. So Sian and Owen put their heads together, got Chef Jim to get out his Fat Duck Cook Book (Jim is a fan of Heston and has actually just been to the Fat Duck) and the Amuse Bouche took on a whole new level. It was now Gazpacho Consomme with a Basil Foam and sliced olive and a Gazpacho puree with Basil Iles Flottantes,
|Photo by David Bywater|
These were quite tricky to get right, but with expert advice from Chef Jim, the final dishes were impressive due to the level of technical ability to produce a foam full of basil flavour which was layered on the consomme, which whilst being of a dubious colour, did pack a punch of gazpacho flavour. The puree was served on the spoons with the basil Iles Flottantes which was a mixture of basil essence and eqq white turned into quennelles and then poached in hot water to set. The textures and flavours worked well together.
The Duck Confit for the main, we had begun preparation on Tuesday and each day had been shown the various stages of this method of preservation. The duck legs were covered in salt for 24 hours, which draws out all the moisture. Salt curing the meat in this way acts as a preservative. On Wednesday we had rinsed the salt of the legs and dried them out, so by Thursday we could poach them gently in duck fat. Once cooked they can be kept in airtight jars for quite some time.
On Friday the team in charge of mains, just had to grill them to warm them through and get the skin nice and cripsy. In this part of France they leave the skin as it is, but I am definitely a fan of cripsy skin. One of the main tasks of the day was to prepare the Pommes Boulangeres, these are a traditional alternative to Pommes Dauphinoise, and replace the cream with stock. They also prepared Minty Pea Pure, Baby Carrots and Balsamic and Fig Jus.
The duck was devine and melted in the mouth and definitely is something I will replicate at home (once I track down some decent sized duck legs!!). The potato dish was one I had done at home, but now with Chef Jim’s tips, it will be much improved. The Fig and Balsamic Jus was lovely and full of complementing flavours.
In my group we had been tasked with making a Tarte Tatin, with expert tuition from Liz, Jim’s trusty sidekick, and goddess of Tarte Tatins. Under her watchful eye we created the caramel, and then layered in the apples, bearing in mind that this would be the presentation side of the dish. This was then topped with the puff pastry (Not filo as a recent Masterchef professional tried to do!!) and baked in the oven.
We had been given free reign to prepare the accompaniments and as a team we had chosen to make Cinnamon Ice-Cream, Apple Jelly, Butterscotch Sauce and a walnut praline to create a Nut Sugar Dust. It was quite a lot of work but with me, Adele and Linda on the case we got it all prepared and learnt lots of new skills and techniques.4
I loved this and the cinnamon ice-cream was to die for! It’s a dessert for those with a sweet tooth but I’m sure it will be added to my repertoire.
So this was our final meal at Cook In France (apart from the last breakfast before departure) and the evening was rounded off with relaxing with our fellow sous-chefs.Sian even opened her Walnut Liquer to raise a toast to a fab week and for mine and Owen’s 1st Wedding Anniversary which was the next day.
It was with a little sadness that we said goodbye to the group of Sous-chefs the next day as we couldn’t have asked for better people to share the experience with. Thanks guys!!
Hope you’ve stuck with me for these posts on my time at Cook In France. It was such a fab week and one I would love to repeat, Jim varies the course as much as is possible to suit the skill sets and interests of the sous chefs.
If you are interested in going on a course then please check out the availability for 2011 here. I assure you a warm welcome from Jim and Lucy and a brilliant week learning lots of techniques and recipes to wow your dinner party guests.