I don’t want to tempt fate, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. It may be because I’m comfortable around red meat, and lesson 7 is all about beef. We are roasting a trimmed and trussed sirloin of beef on a trivet of bones, served with a pan jus, and Chateau potatoes, glazed carrots and zucchini, and beans in butter. And yes, the vegetables are turned. Chef was right. It is getting easier but complacency would lead to cut fingers and wobbly shapes so the concentration remains intense.
I’ve been a bit slack about searing meat in the past and had conveniently forgotten how important it is. In my defense I think I read somewhere that searing meat doesn’t actually seal in juices, so that was enough of an excuse to save on dirty dishes and the fat splatters all over the stove top. But watching Chef go through the process with an elegantly trussed sirloin of beef will make me change my ways. It is beautifully browned all over. And the trussing, which is when you tie it with string to hold its shape, results in beautiful even cooking.
I’m pleased with how my trussed meat looks and the searing has left it dark brown and caramelized. A fire breaks out on the stove at the far end of the kitchen. It’s out pretty quickly with barely a murmur around the room. The focus is on medium rare. We all know that that’s the big test today. It’s 15 minutes cooking time for every 500 grams, plus an extra 15 minutes. My meat looks ready. I press it and it’s bouncy. I am terrified of overcooking it. Given that it’s got to rest, I err on the side of caution and take it out of the oven. It’s how I cook it at home but that’s not what this is about. Chef has asked for medium rare.
I keep a very close eye on the carrots after my near disaster last week. The potatoes have been baking in the oven in duck fat. The zucchinis and beans are last minute. The pan jus tastes well-seasoned and has reduced nicely. I am ready to plate up. My knife is razor sharp. I cut into the beef. It’s like slicing butter. It’s pretty rare, maybe too rare. Chef likes the look of it though. It feels like I have passed yet another exam.
A little aside:
You may have noticed that there is no cream in lesson 7 but there is duck fat, and of course, butter. I’ve never read French Women Don’t Get Fat but I gather that they savour the pleasures of food without obsessing or “hoovering” it up like some of us. I’m the kinda girl who can binge on cruskits on a bad day so in anticipation of the upcoming cream and butter diet, I tried to shed a few kilos. Personal trainer extraordinaire Phil Imray designed my programme so that I would lose weight and build my upper body strength in preparation for those long hours standing in the kitchen. I’m fitter but there hasn’t been much change to the scales. Phil was concerned that cooking school would result in a steady decline in my fitness and eating regime. I am however, pleased to report that I may have made history by being the only person to lose weight in the first two weeks of a Cordon Bleu cooking course. I put it down to nervous energy and a rigid timetable which doesn’t allow time for snacking. I’m also standing rather than being chained to the computer (with a packet of liquorice all sorts within easy reach). It might not last but it’s a great start.