Sometimes my postings have to be sandwiched between numerous other projects. We had a full week, a full cooking weekend, another big week, followed by a school project weekend (and an trip to the emergency room for sutures – not mine!), and, and…and… Whew!!! It’s yet another full week, with another batch of after-work projects. I just got home from a dinner at a 4-star restaurant as a chaperone for 20 5th graders. That might sound a little intimidating to some, but…these kids are really special, and that’s another story! We’re gathered here to read about Menu #1, so grab your favorite beverage…I did all three dishes at the same time…that’s what I need to learn! Time management!! LOL!
The task before me this time was to prepare 3 separate menu items, either singly or all at one time. The menu items for this class were Aubergines Bayildi (Gratin of Stuffed Eggplant) pages 255-256 of Le Cordon Bleu at Home, Rouelles de Veau Bourgeoise (Veal Shanks with Pearl Onions and Mushrooms) pages 18-19, and Gratin de Fruits au Marasquin (Fruit Gratin with Maraschino Liqueur) page 376, LCBH. Of course, living where I do. there has to be some compromise and substitution. Maraschino Liqueur? Yeah, right. Not in this area, no possible way. I hunted. Figs?? Let’s not push our luck. No chance. I found the veal. I considered that my big coup for this menu! If you follow the “Whisk Chicks” at all (really great nickname donated by Kayte’s son, Matt), you know that substitution has almost become my middle name. I live in a culinary desert!
I told myself that by this time I should know how to execute each cooking method successfully. The only real challenge was to put it all together and get it done at the same time. I compared the recipes for cooking time…what needs to simmer, roast, marinate, cool? The eggplant needed to roast, drain and cool. The veal shanks needed to simmer, then cook. The fruit needed to macerate. Ok. Everything has a little time element and there’s lots of little prep work to do in between.
I finally got a game plan sketched out in my head and went to work. I fired off the oven and prepped the eggplant for roasting. The recipe called for peeling the eggplant, as the plan was to make a 6-8 serving terrine which was to be wrapped in the skin slices. There are only 2 of us. In an effort to reduce the recipe by half, I elected to stuff the terrine mixture back into the eggplant shells. I cut the eggplant in half from stem to blossom end, brushed the surfaces with olive oil and placed them, cut-side-down, on a baking sheet. For some reason, which now totally escapes me, I was also roasting beef bones for stock, so I roasted the two together. Unfortunately, the eggplant took up a bit of the rendered beef fat, and pretty much fried the cut surface. It lifted away harmlessly, and the rest of the pulp went into a strainer to drain and cool for awhile. As I started the roasting, I also started the veal dish. I put the shanks in the water to poach and started the rest of the mise en place.
Onions needed to be peeled. Mushrooms needed to be cleaned and quartered, then sauteed. A roux needed to be prepared and left to cool. We needed chopped red bell pepper, green bell pepper, onion, garlic and tomato. Needless to say, it was easy to pass the time while the eggplant roasted. When the poaching was finished it was time to add the onions and the bouquet garni and let it simmer awhile. Meanwhile, the kettle with the roasted bones went on a back burner to simmer, and I started cutting the fruit for the dessert.
Dessert…What a challenge! There isn’t a bottle of Maraschino Liqueur within 75 miles. Maybe even farther. When I went to pick up my fruit, no figs. Plenty of mangoes, ripe and perfect, but no figs. Ok…what to sub for figs and the requested liqueur… We thought about melon…and using a melon liqueur, but neither of us really cares for Midori. Scratch that choice. I considered kiwi…I’m still not sure about that one. I’ll get back to you on that. *Ü* The only other seasonal fruit availabe was strawberries…Hmmmm….Strawberries? Sure! Why not? But…what liqueur? I considered both Amaretto and Frangelico…I favored nuttiness over a lot of other concepts. And then I ran across a rogue bottle of pomegranate liqueur! Sold! So, the fruit was diced and macerated with Pama, and set in the fridge to chill. Next?
Assembling the eggplant terrine / stuffed eggplant came next. The vegetables needed to be sauteed together and then thoroughly mixed together with some fresh bread crumbs. I mounded the mixture into a single eggplant half-shell and suddenly this little imp started crooning….”Au gratin…cheese…gruyere…mmmmmm!” in my ear! The next thing I knew I had a block of gruyere in one hand and the grater in the other, and the whole top was smothered in an avalanche of finely shredded cheese. So much for the concasse with anchovies.
I decided that I should wait until it was time to finish the veal dish before I put the eggplant into the oven. That worked out just about right. When the veal had finished cooking, I removed it to a platter while I worked the sauce and heated the mushrooms. I had already added the cooked and cooled roux to the dish, and then it was time to add the egg yolks to further thicken the sauce. This is a tricky bit of work. The egg yolks are beaten and the hot cooking liquid from the pot is drizzled in slowly to warm the eggs, but NOT to cook them! The technique is called “tempering.” When the temperature of the eggs has risen to hot, the mixture can be stirred back into the hot cooking liquid to thicken it. This yields a silky, rich looking sauce that doesn’t have any cream in it. A little tricky, but manageable!
I managed to have everything ready to serve all at one time, but I don’t want to talk about how many hours it took me to make these 3 little dishes! LOL! We were kind of neutral on the veal dish. I could be equally happy with beef shanks at a fraction of the cost. It was easy enough to make, it just didn’t “WOW” me. The eggplant, I confess, I came extremely close to tossing in the compost, but I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t “love” eggplant. It’s taken me a lot to merely tolerate it. I’m glad I didn’t. It came out quite different and rather good. We decided next time we’d add even more garlic and we’d mash a few anchovy fillets into the cooking oil somewhere. Both of us were quite taken with the cheese crust too. I’m sorry…I just couldn’t help myself! LOL!
The one thing we didn’t have was dessert. I was so darn late getting it all on the table that we just didn’t care. So, we left the fruit for another time, which turned out to be a few days later. Rather than have the fruit as a dessert, we had it as a light HOT weather brunch item, layered with Greek yogurt and strawberry preserves. Note to self and friends…. Pama is a unique liqueur…very tart. I does NOT go well on strawberries. Do not repeat this mistake. However, Pama goes very well with mango…repeat as needed! LOL!
and dessert…well…it could have been…more on that when I edit!
I’ll come back and finish this post. It’s getting late, it’ s been a BIG day, and tomorrow is still about to happen! And I need to get another post done! LOL!