Day 35: Braised Lamb Shanks, Gnocchi, & Chocolate Mousse
I can’t believe that today marked three weeks until we officially start Phase II of my culinary program! Insane, to say the least, and something that will creep up on us way too soon, I’m sure. Ok, enough about that…
On to today’s menu! The whiteboard greeted us today with four new dishes. Sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong! Each dish comprised of many steps, so it was a jam-packed day. The first thing we started upon entering the kitchen this morning was chocolate mousse.
This variation of chocolate mousse was very simple to put together. We whipped up egg yolks, eggs, and sugar until it ribboned (basically becomes thick, very pale yellow and drizzles in a ribbon-like pattern) and combined this with melted semisweet chocolate and finally, whipped cream. Though mousse should really set and chill in the fridge for several hours, if not overnight, we were able to speed up the process using an ice bath and ended up serving it at lunch!
To serve, we piped the mousse into tulip cookies. These are bit tricky to make because they require being molded and shaped immediately after baking. Very similar to the cigarette cookies we made several weeks ago! The batter is spread incredibly thin (using a stencil) with an offset spatula, baked for barely 4-5 minutes, and then immediately picked up and placed in a tulip mold cup. Patience is definitely a virtue with these things!
As you can see, some of ours didn’t turn out too perfectly. It takes a lot of practice to get the hang of it! While my table partner, Blanca, put these together for us, I started to work on our other dishes…
Our appetizer of the day was Parisian gnocchi with duxelles. Duxelles is basically a mixture of sauteed shallot and finely chopped mushroom and used as a component to a lot of different dishes.
However, once again, this was not the type of gnocchi (potato or ricotta) that you are probably expecting to hear about. In fact, I’ve never even heard of this variation before today! It definitely sounds odd to describe. Parisian gnocchi is made with pate a choux dough (yes, the same one that is used to make eclairs, profiteroles, etc.). To assemble these, we piped pate a choux in long strips on a floured baking sheet, allowed them to chill in the freezer to set a bit, and then cut them into 1 inch strips. These were then cooked in boiling water, exactly like regular gnocchi, until they were pillow-y soft!
After cooking, we placed them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process, then dried them quickly before finally sautéing them in clarified butter to color!
And it didn’t stop there…
Once our gnocchi was sautéed and ready to go, we greased gratin dishes, added in some duxelles (mushroom/shallot mixture), a spoonful of gnocchi, and then topped this all with mornay sauce, a cheesy bechamel.
A little sprinkle of cheese on top and these went into the oven to gratinee (brown on top)! These were seriously rich. I did enjoy the gnocchi though—so I would love to make this at home one day with a nice pesto or tomato sauce.
Since I’m going in no particular order at all, we also made braised lamb shanks with lentils. Our lamb shanks were seared and cooked similarly to all our other stews (with mirepoix, wine, veal stock, and aromatics) and then allowed to tenderize in the oven until service.
I’m not a big lamb person (I sometimes find it too game-y), but lamb shanks are my favorite preparation. It was great serving them on a bed of lentils too!
The French green lentils were cooked with onion, celery, and carrot until tender. Funnily enough, this was our first day cooking with dried beans!
Since that clearly wasn’t enough to accomplish in roughly two hours (note sarcasm, haha), we also had to make lady fingers, which will be used to make tiramisu during tomorrow’s class.
Clearly it was too much too accomplish, because none of us were able to get these together by lunch time. So we actually ended up making these quickly after lunch.
Here are mine hanging out on the drying rack until tomorrow! You want them to be super crispy and dry for tiramisu.
By the time we served lunch, made our lady fingers, trimmed chicken bones for stock, and started the cleaning process, we had to scramble to get in the classroom for Chef Francois’s weekly meat lecture.
The agenda for this week was, appropriately, lamb. During lecture, Chef Francois broke down an entire lamb, pointing out all the primal cuts, and putting together a rack of lamb, as well as a roast using the tenderloin. This was the only photo I was able to snag, but it was pretty intense.
But very interesting too, since I have never seen the butchering of a entire animal before today!
Sorry it this is a bit too graphic for you guys! If it is…just scroll down and check out my latest post for Meyer lemon tarts. Much more photogenic, if I do say so myself…