Monday, December 31, 2007

French Laundry, take one.

I did some online research when I got my FL cookbook, and it seems two of the dishes that are most common for those starting with it are the "Parmigiano-Reggiano Custards with Romaine Lettuce, Anchovy Dressing, and Parmesan Crisps" and " Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with Leeks, Pommes Maxim, and a Red Beet Essence". I can see why... two things that are pretty approachable as long as you understand it takes several steps to make them. It's a cooking idea I'm becoming really fond of lately.... cooking steps that don't take a lot of work but may take a bit of time (like stocks) that really impact the final dish. As long as you don't mind spreading it out in stages, it doesn't seem like a lot of work.


Cooking started yesterday, with the parm custards. Easy, although my cheese didn't get melty enough and I had a bit of goop left after straining them. I did them in a mini-muffin tin.

Also did the dressing for the custards, also not difficult.

Today it was getting and early start with the Brunoise and the clarified butter for the pommes Maxim. I really should have had one more cup of coffee before I started my chopping. The pieces started out teeny-tiny, but kept getting bigger as I kept chopping. I also discovered today is NOT a good day for my hands as I kept dropping the knife. Damn you, carpal tunnel!

But still, not too bad.....

All that for the stinkin' 2 tablespoons the recipe calls for. I based it all off the smallest turnip I could find.

Then it was blanching the veggies and the leeks, no big whoop. Blanched and draining....

Also started the beet essence. I do not have a juicer, so I was trying to find beet juice. Some sources indicated it'd be easy to find, since there is a large eastern European population in the area. Ha. I found something that claimed to be 100% beet juice, but a look at the label showed it was beet juice concentrate and apple juice. I decided to just go with the flow. The juice itself is a little apple-y, but not too bad.

After I did the clarified butter, it was time for the actual pommes Maxim. I love what the cookbook says... "They may not hold together completely." Who knew that Keller and Ruhlman were such comedians???

I drained the potatoes as best I could after coated with butter, but they started a full-on slide in the oven. I tried, a few times, to smoosh them back in to the pretty overlapping pattern I originally had them in, with no luck. Oh well.

The pommes - drianing....

Next was getting the lobster meat out of the shells. The recipe states, pretty clearly, to use live lobster, not frozen. The full plan to do this for NYE came together too late to order some live lobsters from the fish dude a couple towns over. And, frankly, frozen tails are much cheaper. Yes, I know, it's all about starting with the high-quality ingredients, but I am still a home cook and I'll commit these horrible crimes against the cookbook every once in awhile. Which is worse.... using frozen lobster or having Hamburger Helper for dinner???

When starting the boiling water, I realized I was out of white wine vinegar after the last plumbing incident where my kitchen sink got plugged up and I tried some vinegar and baking soda to get it unclogged. I did have a LOT of rice wine vinegar, so that got used. I'm not running to the store today. Sorry. I also threw a lemon in the water to just add a little more acid.

The tails steeped for three minutes, then I pulled them out and got the meat out. The cooking made it all pretty easy, I have to say. Cleaned up the tails, halved them, and stuck them in the fridge.

By then, it was time for lunch... frozen veggie enchilads from the freezer for me, and Ravioli-os for the hubby. Seriously. He was so excited to find them in the cabinet.

Another one of the beautiful parts of "stages" cooking... for the final "plating", you're not left with too much to do. I was able to make a complete mess of my kitchen several times over, but know that the final mess would be managable. I like that.

While the dishwasher was running, did the parm crisps.... mmmm...

Yeah. Six went in to the oven. One busted while I was putting it on the paper towels, so I was forced to eat it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Final prep.... and on to the good stuff....

One of the custards went plop and landed on its side when I was trying to get them out. No matter, since you really couldn't tell in the final plating.

This was overall kinda "meh". The taste of the parm just got kinda lost for me. All the cream just made it more mellow, and that's not one thing I want when I think parm. Still tasty, and the dressing made for a damned find ceasar salad on it's own, which we both did.

And the butter poached lobster........

Extra room left on the plate for some more potatoes (steamed in the microwave) and asparagus.

We both decided to pass on the beet sauce. I think it was mostly because it wasn't pure beet.... the sweetness to it was just odd and overpowering.

The lobster was amazing. Not much was said as we ate. I can say for sure I'm never making lobster any other way. I have to imagine that some high-quality cold water lobster would utterly rock. And it is a pretty fool-proof method, so I wouldn't be scared to try this with some damned pricey lobster.

All said and done... a good first impression of the French Laundry cookbook. Not every dish is a winner, which is the way life goes. But I'm excited to keep looking thru the cookbook and figuring out what other recipes and techniques I can use.

And damnit damnit damnit damnit damnit..... I just realized I threw out the lobster shells, hours ago. Damnit. Meant to throw those in the freezer, since I know I have other lobster shells hiding in there somewhere. Sigh.

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

Sounds yummy! Now I've got to settle down and read my new copy of The French Laundry. And what have I been thinking in just tossing the shrimp shells? Thanks for the heads up on that.