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Classes » digest LA
sur la table class

Learning to quenelle whipped cream

I am still getting the hang of working classes at Sur La Table while still getting pics to share. On Monday, I worked the Eating Local: Casual Summer Dinner class. All of the recipes we made were from Sur La Table’s Eating Local cook book.

I worked the first course; Summer Squash Carpaccio with Arugula, Pecorino, and Almonds. We basically shaved zucchini very thin with a mandoline, added arugula and made a lemon vinaigrette. We garnished the salad with pecorino and toasted almonds. It was very summery, but a bit bland for my tastes. I would through in some bacon.

We made Grilled Country Pork Chops with Bourbon-Basted Grilled Peaches. Oh the grilled peaches. Delicious. We also made a Yellow Tomato Gazpacho. I usually don’t love gazpacho, but this one was amazing. Dense bread is blended in with the soup, which really makes a wonderful texture.

Warm Cornmeal Shortcake with Farm Stand Berries

Warm Cornmeal Shortcake with Farm Stand Berries

We finished with Warm Cornmeal Shortcake with Farm Stand Berries. Oh I love me a good corn cake.

It has been a long week and a half since I got back from Cannes. I haven’t had the energy to take a single picture. Last Friday, I started working as a sous chef for the culinary classes at Sur La Table taught by Chef Martin Gilligan. I have to pause here and say that none of the views expressed by me or on this blog represent the views of Sur La Table. So, with that out of the way, man being a sous chef is hard. The first class I worked on was Recipe’s from LA’s Top Chefs. I was in charge of Govind Armstrong’s Truffled Gruyere Fondue. Fondue was definitely an easy start for me. The class was still hard work. It was a whirlwind of running around and doing dishes. When we paused to taste the dishes, the food was amazing. I can’t wait to try to makeBen Ford’s Crispy Flattened Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Corn and Black-Eyed Peas Succotash. I am not sure if I will make it, but Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Budino with Caramel Sauce and Rosemary Pine Nut Cookies is pretty darn delicious.

The next class I covered was a knife skills course. Knife skills? No problem, I got skillz. The thing with the class is that the chef teaches everyone knife skills while the sous chefs whip up dinner for all the students with the veggies that they have been cutting. I really enjoyed the pace of this class. We improvised and made a butternut squash soup, glazed carrots, potato gratin, penne with tomato relish and french fries with truffle oil. Everything turned out really well and I got to say to someone, “oh you want me to chiffonade that?”

salad and bread

I am not going to pull a Julie and Julia, but I have started reading through Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.

Here is what I have learned so far:

Oil – French cooking doesn’t use olive oil. It has too strong a taste. For French cooking use odorless and tasteless vegetable oils. Since I moved to LA, I already have gone through a big bottle of olive oil. Now on to Canola.

Butter – French butter is more akin to salted butter in the U.S. So there is use for salted butter besides for bread after all.

Bacon – If you use American smoked bacon in a French recipe, you should blanch it first.

Creme fraiche - Creme fraiche can be recreated with whipping cream and buttermilk. It takes a long time so luckily Pavilions carries creme fraiche.

Flour – French household flour is like 3 parts all purpose flour and 1 part bleached cake flour.

Vinaigrette – Sugar is heresy in vinaigrettes. I can’t get behind that rule because of my Aunt Sara’s Poppy Seed Vinaigrette Dressing in the picture above.

Here is what I learned from my own kitchen experiments:

Tapioca starch – Tapioca starch and tapioca starch modified is not the same thing. Especially when the modified tapioca starch is called Ultratex 3. If you know what Ultratex 3 is, then you know what I tried to do is pretty funny. I will stop buying weird chemicals that I don’t know what they are. I will buy tapioca starch and make pao de queijo.

Oh and if you want to know more about the title of the post, you may want to check out What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by my favorite author Haruki Murakami.

chefs working with liquid nitrogen

Chef Whitney Werner and Chef Martin Gilligan working with liquid nitrogen

I am just back from a very long Molecular Gastronomy class at Sur La Table. Maybe it was because it was my fourth class in two months, but I wasn’t feeling this one as much. We did make an amazing NY Strip Steak with a coffee rub and parsnip puree. I also learned why my reverse spherification turned out so awful. It ends up I used Calcium Chloride instead of Calcium Gluconate. How silly of me. The teacher, Chef Whitney Werner, said that Calcium Chloride is toxic! Luckily for me, I don’t think that is true. It does, however, taste awful.

We used a different technique for reverse spherification in this class. The juice to be spherized was frozen in a half sphere shape. It was then dropped in a hot batch of sodium alginate. I am not really clear on why the algin was hot, but freezing the juice means that you don’t have to worry about creating perfect spheres.

On foam… We made foam in this class for the roasted beet salad. It turns out, that you make foam exactly the way I accidentally made foam the other day. You use an immersion blender and introduce air to the mixture and et voila. You got foam. I don’t think I will be making any foam in the near future, but at least I know I am an idiot savant of foam making.

Some pictures from the class

Roasted beets with Walnut Tuile and Parmesan Air

Roasted beets with Walnut Tuile and Parmesan Air

This was pretty delicious actually. I have made tuiles before, but not since I got a Silpat so it may be time. The beets were delicious and I loved the dressing with shallots.

Coffee Rubbed New York Striploin with Cauliflower and Parsnip and Rocky Mountain Wild Blueberry Spheres

Coffee Rubbed New York Striploin with Cauliflower and Parsnip and Rocky Mountain Wild Blueberry Spheres

This was by far the winner of the night. The rub on the steak was delicious, but the sauce that Chef Gilligan made was amazing. Also, who doesn’t love a good cauliflower and parsnip puree?

Swordfish and Cous Cous Involtini with Yuzu Foam and Blood Orange Gastrique

Swordfish and Cous Cous Involtini with Yuzu Foam and Blood Orange Gastrique

I wasn’t a big fan of this one because I just didn’t love the taste of the swordfish. I did learn, however, that you can make your own cous cous at home.

Chef Gilligan Pouring Liquid Nitrogen

Chef Gilligan Pouring Liquid Nitrogen

I think this is how chefs have fun.

Chef Gilligan Plating French Toast

Chef Gilligan Plating French Toast

I would like to say that I signed up for Sur La Table’s “Special Brunch Favorites for Mom” class because I was dying to learn some brunch recipes, but really I was excited that Chef Gilligan sent the email about it to his “favorite students”. I was a little weepy about being away from my sister on her first Mother’s Day and figured the class would pass the time. I ended up enjoying an amazing five course brunch.

Normally there is so much going on in these classes that I just pitch in on some task like chopping vegetables. This time I quickly scanned the menu and realized that the biggest thing that I didn’t know how to do was poach eggs. Maybe if I knew how to poach eggs, it would cure me of my impulse to buy a $450 sous vide machine to make egg 63.

I set myself up by the giant bowl of eggs and made sure that no one could knock me off my task. First I focused on cracking eggs according to the sous chef’s instructions. Instead of cracking them on an edge of a bowl, I hit them once on the table and used my fingers to open the shell. As silly as it seems to practice cracking eggs, this technique was awesome. No shells in my eggs. Next I learned how to drop the eggs in the hot water to get the perfect “pouch.” There was nothing really to it besides slowly dropping the egg in the water and then taking it out before the yolk was too set. I may tempt fate and plan a brunch housewarming party and make some some eggs benedict. I guess I better learn how to make Hollandaise sauce. Of the five courses, quiche with truffle sauce was by far my favorite. The chocolate butter with the french toast was also pretty amazing. Chef Gilligan said you can keep chocolate butter for a month in your fridge, like that’s what I need to have floating around my kitchen mmm… chocolate butter…

Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad with Mango and Fresh Berries Drizzled with Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette

First couse: Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad with Mango and Fresh Berries Drizzled with Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette

Second Course: Brioche French Toast with Chocolate Butter and Vermont Maple Syrup

Wild Mushroom Quiche with Truffle Cream Sauce

Third Course: Wild Mushroom Quiche with Truffle Cream Sauce

Crab Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce

Fourth Course: Crab Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce

New York Cheesecake with Sour Cherry Sauce

Fifth Course: New York Cheesecake with Sour Cherry Sauce

Happy Mother’s Day Joanna and Mom! I wish we could have taken the class together.