As promised, I want to describe the dinner part of the cooking class with Julien Charvet. As I do so, I have a brief confession, I am eating dessert and it in only noon. My defense? I can only say that it is my job to describe to you the difference between a macaroon in Paris and one in Provence, and there is a difference. Both are delicious, but the Provencal macaroon is larger, flatter, and is cracked in the top, a bit like one of my holiday cookies with almond paste and pine nuts, but otherwise the flavor is the same, the ingredients the same though in somewhat different proportion (a subtle point that my limited French did not allow me to detail) and it is cooked at different, lower temperature. Most important, it is yummy.
Okay, on to what I learned last night. The workshop was held in Julien's own Bistro, which is small but chic. Our menu included, a fish bisque served with salmon and crab filled ravioli, filet of pork with glazed carrots, and a baked apple with local honey and a ginger syrup. For wine, we began with a picpoul and then enjoyed a great grenache blend from Visan.
Like lunch, the great thing about cooking with Julien is that you learn to make an entire meal, so that it is all completed together, rather than one thing at a time, so we began with the stuffing for the raviolis, then worked on the bisque, back to the stuffing, then the carrots, cleaned the pork, cored the apples, made the stock, reduced the bisque, made the syrup, assembled the ravioli...well, you get the picture. It gives you a sense of what it is like to put the whole meal together, and this is a menu worth trying, particularly because it gives so many of the flavors of the region.
This time, I am going to offer all the instructions, as I wrote them last night, so you can make the whole thing at home. Keep in mind, I am not providing a lot of specifics in measurement because we were not using any, so I will do my best to give you approximate amounts. My second admission is that these notes were taken while we cooked and enjoyed some wine, so forgive me...I will do my best to edit.
concept chef dinner
begin with the seafood ravioli
In a sauce pan, add half an onion in water, about 4 cups thyme, several twigs bay leaves, 2 and add fish, this was the crab substitute, so I suggest using crab, lobster, or shrimp, we used about a pound of fish with the shells and bring to a full boil.
stock for soupe de poisson make stock with one onion, one carrot, bouquet garni and some fish, we used the funny looking guys above, not sure what to suggest, but Julien said this was close to cat fish, he also said it was something with good flavor, but not a fish we would eat the meat from, cover with cold water to enfuse, no additional fat, and do not sauté first just cover with water, and bring to a boil when fish starts to cook, use a heavy metal spoon and break the fish up
stuffing for seafood ravioli.... julienne one zucchini and one small onion tiny dice, as small as you can possible cut, will be sautéed with salmon and some small bits from the galere (substitute crab) small dice salmon as if you were making tartar, we used about a half of a pound of fish and it made about two dozen large ravioli sauté briefly, do not fully cook salmon, and then remove from heat and cool before assembling
apples baked with honey super small dice ginger and core the apples but leave whole make a syrup with sugar, ginger and water ( this is easy, equal parts water and sugar, about a cup, and two tablespoons of diced fresh ginger)
put pad of butter in each apple and drizzle liberally with honey, bake under 300, so not to shock the apple skin, you want to prevent breaking, ideally to place in small cast iron baking dish that supports the apples so that they hold their shape, place in oven and back until the apple is tender to your taste, but still firm to touch, about 30 minutes
strain stock for soup in fine seive and smash materials to extract all juice, but no stuff reduce with cream, about a cup, but add to taste and desired texture, and a quarter of a cup of tomato paste..reduce 45 minutes or so, if it thickens too much add a little cream, if it refuses to thicken, add a little butter to help. do not salt until it is done, as reducing further will make it saltier than you may want...
carrots whistle cut carrot, on angle about a half inch thick or smaller, peeled, and sauté with butter, you want no browning at all, cook very slow in butter, oh, did I mention butter, oui, but not a lot maybe three tablespoons for 6-8 medium carrots, on very low heat...smells amazing...we used a variety of carrots, yellow, purple and orange, and the different flavors really make the dish interesting, so try to find a few different kinds if you can, or substitute some other root vegetables to achieve the same thing ( this is my idea, but it seems like it would work)...
check the apples, baking in oven, remove before they collapse, baste with honey sauce in bottom of the pan
small pan, heat water and sugar equal parts, with ginger and reduce till half, at least, keep in mind it will thicken as it cools...if it is too thick, add water and reheat (learned so many useful tricks!)
assemble pasta, we used precut pasta sheets for speed, and use egg wash to seal, make sure there is no air between the filling and the pasta, crucial part to not exploding when you boil them
refrgerate until ready ( these can be made a day or two in advance, to make life easier the day off the dinner)
brown butter, maximum heat, in a deep sauté pan, brown all sides of the pork, filet about three pounds, which we trimmed of the fat and cut into three or four large pieces, butter is singing, (I suggested sizzle, but Julien prefers singing) wait until it stops singing, then sear the meat on all sides, takes a few minutes, deglaze with water, and stock, if you have it...add a handful of julienne sage and the juice of two or three lemons, and get all that juice! reduce to a little bit, it is not thick, but flavorful and dark. When you are ready for this course, put the meat in the oven to finish it off to your liking, he encourages medium rare for texture and moisture. Oven was at 300. To serve it, thinly slice and serve with glazed carrots and the demi- glaze
boil water for the ravs, not roaring boil, to avoid breaking the pasta, instead, soft boil, gently cook. He used a risotto pan, rather than a pasta pot, which helps to spread out the ravs...great idea, and he removed them after about 4 minutes with a slotted spoon and place on a towel to dry
bring syrup to a boil and reduce bybhalf then allow to cool, whicle still loose enough, so it can thicken as it cools. if it becomes too hard as it cools, just add water and reheat. When ready for dessert, just pour this warm syrup over the apple and serve
assemble pasta with bisque...yes, that is right, put pasta at the bottom of a bowl and pour the rich, creamy delicious bisque over the top:)
and garnish with fresh chives
okay, the bisque served over the pasta was divine, too much but I ate every bite, and I do not regret it at all...
second course, pork loin is perfectly roasted, medium rare, juicy... the thing about this dish that is there is the same complexity of the wine, sweet, juicy, savory, the sage, the salt, the butter, the Visan is fantastic. At this point, I had enough wine to wax on poetic about the garrigue, which is the smell of the air in the south of France, which I have already mentioned, but the thing is that the wine, when done right, tastes and smells of the garrigue. We do not have a word for this, but it is wonderful, and it mirrored the complexity of the mixed glazed carrots.
Lastly, the cheese, ok, an experience. Earlier, at the market, we selected two picadou, a local cake of goat cheese, one three week old and one that is a minimum of six months aged. Being adventurous, and refusing to admit there is anything I cannot eat, I asked for the 6 month old, despite Julien's suggestion otherwise. I love the fresh, 3 week old, it is creamy and rich and fresh, but the 6 months, which I insisted we try... well, we decided that it is cheese for old people who want to remember what it is to suffer...horrible! You cannot eat this and go on a date, no one will kiss you! It is so strong and ripe, yikes, that cheese is birth control!
Thankfully, we still have dessert, and the apple is wonderful, with the ginger and sweet syrup is a lovely and relatively light finish to the meal, and it makes the cheese go away, thank god!
This is Lauren, she did not like the cheese either!
Thanks for reading, cheers, Maria