Thursday, 27 March 2014

A veritable surf and turf of dishes!

Week four has not been too technique-heavy, so today I am letting you know about two whole days worth of fun. Get ready for lots of pictures!

Having humanely dispatched Dave the crab, before giving him an aromatic hot tub wake with his mates, it was time to pick his brains. An ingenious idea to photograph this over timelapse failed (technology, eh?) so if you'd like to see the process described below in action, I'd suggest a more thorough YouTube search than I've done, as I can't find one I'm happy to endorse! To prepare a crab like Dave, you will need a large knife you don't mind ruining and a crab pick, and a couple of containers for the white and brown crab meat.

Dave's demise awaits behind him...
First, the legs are removed by pulling them in towards the centre of the body. The bottom two joints can be removed and retained for stock, whilst the joint closer to the body can be opened by placing it on it's curve on a board and tapping it sharply with the back of the knife, before removing the meat within. Then the claws are removed by getting your thumbs behind their top joint and pulling them in towards the body. The joint closest to the body can be removed from the claw with a firm twist, whilst the next two are a little harder to separate but get there with a little brute force! The moveable pincer can be twisted off and the meat removed, and the rest of the claw meat can be removed by tapping the shell firmly with the back of a heavy blade and picking it out. The meat from all of this so far is white.

Next, the body. By now you will be left with a shell with a honeycomb-like structure underneath. This is called the box or purse, and it can be removed by placing thumbs below it and pushing it up towards the head. From this, the lungs, or 'dead man's fingers' - which are not poisonous, just not particularly pleasant, need to be removed, along with the film-like membrane, which is the diaphragm. Remove the face of the crab by pushing up and outwards with your thumbs from below and behind it. Spoon out the brown meat from the shell. If you were dressing the crab, you could tidy the shell at this point by using a teatowel on top of the open shell and gently pushing the inside rim of shell into the cavity to break it along a natural line to tidy it. Nature's clever that way. You could also make a ring from two of the small legs by inserting them into each other, making a little trivet for Dave's shell to rest on.

Using a teaspoon handle, twist the top leg joints from the box to remove them, and pick out the meat. You can then use the heavy knife to cut the box in half, and have a ball picking all the meat from its honeycomb structure. There will be some brown meat on top and white meat behind. And then, you will be done! The brown meat can be blended in a food processor and passed through a fine sieve, and used to flavour a vinaigrette for a seafood salad, or as the filling for savoury profiteroles, or beignets, or can be stirred through a bisque, risotto, bouillabaisse or chowder. Spread the white crab meat on a tray and very carefully pick your way through it all at least three times to remove all traces of shell.
Chef pointed out this was quuite a lot of salsa.
But so tasty!

We mixed white crab meat with half the quantity of brown meat, finely chopped shallot and chives, an egg yolk, a little cayenne and seasoning before blending with water biscuits ground down into a crumb to make slightly moist crab cakes that held themselves together. The biscuit crumb acts as a binding agent, but anything neutral would work, such as chickpeas, flour, oatmeal biscuit crumbs or breadcrumbs. We panfried our crabcakes in clarified butter but rapeseed oil could be used, and we served them with a salsa of pineapple, chilli, lime zest and juice, coriander, shallot and garlic.

Staying with the fish theme, we learned how to prep squid and scallops today. The scallops were incorrectly delivered already out of their shells, so we didn't learn how to do this stage of preparation. Good scallops should be slightly pearlescent, not white, as this shows they have been stored in salted water and slightly cured. We removed the muscle that attaches the scallops to the shell, which takes with it a small ring of membrane/muscle around the scallop. We removed the coral, as this cooks slightly slower than the scallop. If you can see any dark areas on the coral, use the back of the knife to push them out, as this will be leftover products of digestion! Don't wash the scallops, as they will absorb water and become soggy, and don't store them on paper towel as this will dry them.

We prepared whole squid by gently pulling the head and tentacles away from the body, before cutting just below the eyes and removing the beak right at the top of the tentacles, and cutting them into even bite-sized lengths. Then it was onto the body. The plastic-like cartilage can be gently pulled out, along with any remaining stomach sac or innards. The squid wings tend to cook quite tough so can be removed from the body, along with any dark membrane on the surface. Then, HOW COOL IS THIS! - We turned the squid body inside out by pushing the tip through to the base with the top of a wooden spoon handle! We cleaned the inside and removed any membrane before finding the 'seam' and cutting the tube open along this. We gently scored the inside of the squid tube as it is more delicate, by gently running the knife in a criss-cross over the inside surface of the tube a few millimeters apart. The butterflied tube was cut into four squares with tidied edges.

The scallops were seasoned and panfried in clarified butter at a medium heat, when they caramelised on one side we turned them. It is easy to overcook them and they should be pearlescent in the middle. They should only take about 45 seconds on each side. Once cooked, they were kept warm on kitchen paper and the heat was turned up. The squid and the coral both take about 45 seconds to cook and the squid will curl up with the scored side outwards, which makes for great presentation. Lemon juice was squeezed over the scallops and squid, which were also seasoned, and we served them with pea puree (cook frozen peas for 5 minutes, drain and blend with a little cooking liquid), fried quails eggs (cook them from cold, and gently!) and parma ham crisps (bake at 150°C with another baking sheet on top and cut into shape once cool).

Fishy lunch, and also a fishy dinner! We made salmon en croute by butterflying open a salmon fillet after removing the skin before stuffing it with chopped cashews, sunblush tomatoes, fresh anchovy fillets, olives and lemon zest, basil leaves and seasoning. We brushed two halves of a sheet of filo pastry with rapeseed oil, layering them up and wrapping the salmon so that the seams were underneath, trimming as necessary to avoid excessive layering. We sprinkled this with poppy seeds and baked it for ten minutes, flipping it topside-down after eight. We served with this a blanched, deskinned, hollowed out tomato filled with a pesto we had made by grinding together basil leaves, garlic, toasted pine nuts, parmesan, lemon juice, olive and rapeseed oils and seasoning in a pestle and mortar, and baked for the last two minutes of salmon cooking time. We cut the salmon parcel open to plate it displaying the stuffing.

Ready for some meat? Yesterday we made pork Holstein. This starts life as a pork escalope, which starts life as a pork tenderloin. After trimming the tenderloin to remove sinew, fat, and membrane, we stood it upright so that all the meat fibres were vertical, between two sandwich bags, and flattened them with a meat hammer. We then pané'd the escalope by dunking in flour, then an eggwash, then fine panko breadcrumbs, as we had our plaice goujons. This was panfried in butter and a little oil, once the sizzling had stopped. While this drained on kitchen paper, we fried a duck egg in the oil (be careful not to use too high a heat, like I did, and burn some escalope crumbs!), and plated up the buckwheat salad we had made earlier. This was a mix of buckwheat cooked in vegetable stock, chopped deskinned and deseeded tomato, spring onion, parsley and coriander with lemon juice, seasoning and olive oil. We made a beurre noisette by cooking butter until it stops foaming and then turns nutty and brown, and stirred through capers off the heat, along with chopped parsley and lemon juice. As per tradition, the Holstein is decorated with a criss-crossed anchovy.

For a lighter dinner option last night, we made a full roast dinner. Having braised our pork belly (not our own, although four weeks into the course, things are definitely heading that way!) on Tuesday, it was time to roast it. But first, the accompaniments. We learned how to 'turn' our vegetables into nice, high-end restaurant shapes - and that we need a lot of practise to get this right! We cut potatoes into beautiful seven-sided pointed barrels, carrots into flower-shaped slices, and parsnips into curve-sided mini-spearheads. We blanched cauliflower florets before making a roux (cooking out butter and flour) and loosening into a sauce with milk (making a béchamel),  before stirring through grated cheddar (making a mornay). We coated the cauliflower in the mornay sauce and put it in a dish, sprinking with parmesan ready to bake at the same time as the belly pork after browning all sides in a hot pan with some rapeseed oil, on top of some parchment paper to stop it sticking to the pan. We boiled the potatoes for about 10 minutes until just cooked, in salted water before draining and allowing to steam, and blanched the parsnips for about a minute and a half. Then we fried the potatoes in duck fat until brown, added the carrots to the pan before covering with a cartouche of parchment with a steam hole, and putting this into the oven along with the pork and cauliflower cheese for 15 minutes at 200°C.
While they were in the oven, we made an apple and tarragon sauce by cooking out apple cubes with a splash of apple juice until the cubes began to break down, before adding sugar to taste and stirring through chopped tarragon. We cooked the parsnips by pan frying in duck fat until they started to colour before adding a little honey to the pan. And the gravy! Of course the gravy. We had been cooking the juices from braising the pork belly with added beef stock, having fried off a mirepoix and reducing red wine in the pan after the vegetables had coloured. Once this had reduced, we strained it and thickened with cornflour and water. All of this had to come together at the same time, and we presented it beautifully. It was the most glamorous roast dinner I have ever seen! I must say that being taken through this dish by Tom Ewings has inspired me as well as giving me the fear of God when it comes to thinking about my presentation and level of technique skills for assessment week! A weekend of practise awaits....

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