It’s lesson 16 and that means we are just over half way through the course, not counting exam week. There’s a lot of talk among students about what the exams involve. We know there’s a theory test as well as the practical. And it’s not hard to work out that we will be chopping and turning vegetables, making pastry, sauces and stuffing something. And we’ll be poaching, deep frying, sauté-ing and braising plus being tested on heaps of other French techniques. You can see that my attempts to not think about the exams have failed miserably.
Back to the lesson at hand! There’s real nervousness about making crepes. They’re either too thin and break when you turn them over or too thick and heavy, and they’re really easy to burn. The basic recipe is pretty straight forward – it’s the cooking that presents the challenge. We’re serving them with pears which have been macerated in Poire William liquer. Chef’s crepes look and taste divine. They are sprinkled with sugar, butter and the liquor just before serving.
Mine go ok but I don’t manage to get the beautiful caramelized look that’s required and the cooking is a little uneven. The caramel sauce, which is optional, is really good. It’s just sugar, butter and cream.
I have the most fun making the Gratin Dauphinois – thinly sliced potatoes cooked in milk, then cream until only just tender and then topped with butter and cheese and baked in the oven.
We trim the most delectable looking veal tenderloins to serve with the potatoes. They’re from a four day old calf so are light in colour and incredibly tender.
I’m at the last hurdle – just the tarragon cream sauce to go. Chef’s words last week about serving on time have me spooked and I’m determined to make it. But first doesn’t mean best. The sauce isn’t one of my best. It hasn’t reduced enough. It’s got to coat the back of a spoon. The crepes are only passable and I forget to put a smattering of liquer over the top before service. But the Gratin Dauphinois is a triumph though.