Home > Cooking school > Knives and Fire XV (Week 4)

Knives and Fire XV (Week 4)

Brunch day.

We went pretty much straight to work making a brunch menu. We were to “offer” pancakes, apple crepes, french toast, eggs florentine, scrambled eggs, lox, eggs and onions, muffins, strawberry shortcake, mushroom omelet and artichoke frittata. We even had a menu. Different people volunteered or were assigned different preps.

I volunteered for the eggs florentine. This is a version of eggs benedict – poached eggs on English muffins with hollandaise-type sauce. But,while eggs benedict is on a slice of ham or Canadian bacon, eggs florentine is on sautéed spinach (the name is a clue – florentine tends to mean spinach.) And instead of plain hollandaise sauce, it calls for bearnaise, which means tarragon.

And, yes, eggs benedict is the model for the egg mcmuffin – they just use cheese instead of the hollandaise, and a good thing, too. Hollandaise is made and kept at the most dangerous temperatures, and is thus a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

So. First, I melted margarine, which means I stood there skimming it for a long time. And then I made the bearnaise, which means I made a reduction of white wine, white vinegar, crushed white peppercorns and fresh tarragon, reducing it by half, and straining it. And then I beat some egg yolks until they were pale and doubled in volume and slowly added the reduction, and then heating the mixture over hot water until I was red in the face it and it was nearly at the point of scrambling. But not quite, thank goodness.

And then I added clarified margarine too fast, so I broke the sauce. To fix it, Chef had me whip up two more egg yolks and add more reduction, and bring that up to temperature. Then we added the broken sauce bit by bit. When the old sauce was incorporated, I VERY slowly added more margarine until I got a lovely thick sauce, then added salt, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. We put it on a plate on a burner over a hot oven, and there it sat. I set up the rest of the mise en place – spinach, eggs, olive cheeks for garnish, a spoon for lifting the poached eggs, and a dozen English muffins, half of them split – on a couple of sheet pans.

Meanwhile, E made both mango and strawberry coulis, and orange-scented biscuits for strawberry shortcakes, and Y made pancake batter and whipped topping, and M made crepes and apple filling for the crepes, and S set up for the frittata, and D got the mushrooms and eggs and G made potatoes. Someone else (the other Y?) made french toast eggs. T made muffins,which aren’t easy to do pareve, and strawberry “butter”.

Chef demoed all the dishes and then sent us up one by one to cook two different dishes. Meanwhile, we’d set a table with a tablecloth and a centerpiece made of carved vegetables and rosemary, and plates and silver. When it was my turn, I made pancakes (had to do them twice) and french toast. I put the plate with the french toast in the oven while I made the pancakes, and forgot at one point that it was very, very hot, and burned a finger.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with my finger in ice water. But the plates were pretty, so I’m happy. We even fed a few people (I had a mushroom omelet and some of the muffins – one batch was short on sugar, but I like them. I’m strange – I think baked goods have too much sugar. Also, they were blueberry and very small, so the sugar-light ones really tasted of blueberry.) We discussed more egg cookery at the end of the day, and cleaned up fairly thoroughly.

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