Days 42-46 and a quick flight home

6 Sep

I have been woefully remiss in posting this past week, so this is going to be a long post. I’m going to start out with a recipe of my new favorite dessert (of the week) – the lemon tart. The filling in this tart is fabulous, as it contains about 4-5 fresh lemons! I’m still having trouble with the tart crust recipes – both the pate brisee and the pate sablee. I haven’t loved how either has turned out in my San Francisco kitchen or Shannon’s kitchen in Hawaii. And, on Thursday at school, I ended up with holes in the tart dough because I rolled it too thinly. So, if you find a crust you’ve made for years that you love, I suggest going with one of those. I also think a pine nut crust or an almond flour crust would be excellent with the lemon filling and I think I’ll try that next time I make it. But, the recipe below contains the FCI sweet tart dough. All in all it’s a very easy recipe with a lot of bang for the buck.

Lemon Tart recipe:

Filling Ingredients: 1) 150 grams fresh squeezed lemon juice (juice of 4-5 med/large lemons), 2) 5 eggs, 3) 200 grams (7 oz) granulated sugar, 4) 150 grams (5 oz) heavy cream, 5) powdered sugar for topping at the end.

Pate sablee (sweet tart dough): 1) 150 grams (5 oz) butter, softened, 2) 90 grams (3 oz) powdered sugar, 3) pinch of salt, 4) 2 egg yolks, 5) 255 grams (9 oz) flour, 6) 1-2 Tablespoons ice water, as needed.

Directions for pie shell:

1) First, if you’re working in Hawaii or in a warm climate, work quickly and try to work on marble or some other surface that will keep the dough somewhat cold when you roll it out, 2) In a bowl, cream the butter, sugar, salt until light and fluffy, 3) Beat both eggs yolks together until fairly well mixed, then add one at a time to the butter/sugar mix, 4) Add flour all at once and mix only until just combined. If dough it too dry and crumbly, add 1 Tablespoon of water at a time until the ball of the dough can be formed, but is not too sticky. 5) Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

Again, try to work quickly here so the dough doesn’t get overworked.

Directions for filling: While the tart dough is chilling, make the pie filling.

1) Wash the lemons and zest two of them. Then, juice 4-5 lemons and add the zest to the juice. 2) In a different bowl, beat the eggs and then add the sugar until mix is smooth and well blended, 3) Add the heavy cream to the egg mixture and mix until thoroughly incorporated, but don’t whisk too much, as you don’t want there to be a lot of bubbles that form (those will stay on top of the tart as you bake it and it won’t look as nice), 4) Add in the lemon juice & zest, and stir until all well combined (this should not be in an aluminum bowl, as the acid will react with the aluminum), 5) Refrigerate until after you blind bake the tart shell.

Directions for blind baking tart shell:
1) Remove dough from the refrigerator and if it’s too hard, leave it on the counter for a minute until it can be rolled out. A dough too cold will crack when you’re trying to roll it out and you’ll end up overworking the gluten if you have to keep working it too long to get it to do what you want it to do. 2) On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about ¼-1/8 in thick – however you like it, and until it’s at least 1 inch greater all the way around in diameter than the 8-9” tart ring. 3) Butter the tart ring and then place the dough inside it, pressing it firmly against all sides. If there are holes, use the extra dough to patch them up. 4) Rest the dough in the tart ring back in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. The point of this is to try to prevent shrinkage when baking. 5) Remove rested dough, line it with foil or parchment paper and fill with beans or something heavy, and blind bake it for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F. 6) Check at 10 minutes or so to see if it’s getting golden. You want it to be slightly golden before you fill it, as the pie filling will only take about 30 minutes to bake and you want the crust to be nearly done and flaky before you put the very wet filling inside it. 7) Once the blind baking is finished, turn the oven down to 300, pour the lemon filling inside the shell and bake approximately 30 minutes until set and the crust is golden brown. You may need to remove the sides of the tart shell halfway through to get even browning on the sides.

This tart is best served at room temperature. To dress it, sift some powdered sugar over it; or whip some heavy cream, throw in a bit of marscapone and a tablespoon of honey, and top it with the whipped cream/marscapone/honey and a side of raspberries.

So, back to my week. Level III is all about timed tests every day. We have a mystery basket from which each of us has to make an amuse bouche, and then we make two other dishes (one is a joint dish with two other partners). Here’s a picture of one amuse last week – bass with curry and what I’m calling the Italian flag (I got overzealous trying to put a lot of color in it). 

Last week I bombed grandmother’s chicken and screwed up the lemon tart on day one of the new food round. I hate the grand-mere’s chicken recipe in the book, as does every other student. We all agreed that we could get the crispy skin the recipe is intending by either doing it beer can chicken style or roasting and basting the whole bird in the oven. And, we all agreed that this time intensive recipe is nothing we’d ever put on our restaurant menus as we can think of several much better recipes that take much less time. At any rate, thankfully I’ll only be responsible for part of that dish one more time this coming week.

The other recipes last week (and for two more days this coming week) included branzino in a sauce americain, which is a lobster and shrimp based sauce, and a warm, composed vegetable salad topped with a poached egg and hollandaise.

Chef Tomm is doing a great job helping us “save” things like hollandaise sauce when it breaks and consommé, when the necessary raft doesn’t form. It’s fabulous learning the tricks of how to save dishes, as it’s likely one of these two will be on the midterm exam and it’s also likely one of us will screw it up trying to get the timing of everything else to be the same. Again, there’s no substitute for doing and screwing it up, and also for the hands on instruction of how to do it. This is one of the things I love about school.

Okay, onto how I was feeling about last week. I love that we’re being asked to step up our game and to learn the timing issues of plating 4 identical plates of each dish we make. I don’t like that I drew #9, which means I’m the last person to present my sequence of dishes. I’d rather be first, or near first, as I think I’m best and focus more under pressure. Having too much time has meant that I “think” I can move more slowly at first but then at the end it’s a mad rush anyway. I think it’s harder to get the timing right and I also think there’s likely a higher expectation of perfection if you go last. This Friday, we’ll draw numbers again and I hope I’m in the first group to go. We’ll also add two new dishes to the mix: beef bourguignon and cream puffs filled with chantilly. Then, the final week prior to our midterm, we add 7 new dishes to the repertoire. Things are heating up!

And, they certainly did this past weekend. I was so glad to get to go home, jump in the ocean and get a few hours of BT (beach time, in my world). Carnet’s going to do a guest post about our Saturday night dinner with Shannon, Fred, Pete, Carol and Igor. I’m hoping he posts the picture I took of him asleep at the table with everyone’s name placards slyly placed all over him 😉 Yes, it was 11:30 p.m., and many delicious wines had been flowing for hours by that point. I was very excited about the way all the food turned out. And, Shannon is always the BEST host, as well as fellow cook in the kitchen (her goat cheese and heart shaped beet salad was to die for). I am so incredibly lucky to have such supportive people in my life and those who share the same zest for cooking and eating.

And, I want to thank all of the foodies who read my blog posts consistently and for those who have posted such kind words of encouragement. You don’t have any idea how much it means to me! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

This time at school is going by too fast. Soon, I have to get my butt in gear and figure out what’s next. I hope by the end of next week I have a staging gig and that I have a plan for after graduation. I have so many ideas but I have to do so much research yet to figure out what is the best, first direction to take.

If you’re a chef in Italy or Spain doing really cool things, I’ll give you 6 months of my time for free in your kitchen. Just give me a ring!

Below are a bunch of pictures from last week to give you a bit more of a flavor for what goes on in our school kitchen. Chef Tomm made us a “treat” one day – duck fat popcorn and kettle corn – yummmmm. He also showed us how to pull noodles. Some of the dishes we made last week are also below. These are not all mine, so I’ll have to thank Mark and Rachelle, my station partners for 6 days, for these.


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