Day 49: Halibut, Stuffed Artichokes & Banana Flambé

Today was jam packed!  It was also full of some of the best dishes of Phase II and I must agree, they were all delicious.  Due to pure exhaustion, I’m going to keep the details down to a minimum, but if you’re curious about anything, don’t hesitate to ask in a comment below!

crusted halibut

Our main course was halibut served with a olive beurre blanc sauce, which is traditionally made with shallots, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, and red wine vinegar and then cream and butter is added to make a creamy emulsion.  Our variation today involved adding olives and a small amount of anchovy.  I wasn’t a fan of the traditional beurre blanc we made in Phase I, but I really liked this variation and it went really well with the fish.

The halibut was crusted with a paste made from sundried tomatoes, toasted walnuts, mustard, and some cooked onions.  And then we topped it with some special fried carrots—which we made into long thin strands using a special machine.  Lastly, this all was placed on some sautéed potatoes, which we shaped  from raw russet potatoes using a melon-baller (although apparently those devices shouldn’t be called melon ballers, according to chef).  Obviously there was a lot of technique and details that went into this dish!  It was really fun to plate though, even if ours didn’t come out nearly as beautiful as Chef Patrice’s (seen above). Unfortunately I didn’t have time to snag a picture of ours during the rush of service!

artichoke salad

For our appetizer, we served artichokes stuffed with goat cheese, mixed with tarragon, basil, and chives, as well as some microplaned garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper.  This involved trimming down the artichokes to the hearts, cooking them in a blanc (flour, water, salt and acid) and then shaping again before spooning and doming in the cheese.  We ended up quartering the artichokes and serving them with a frisee/arugula salad, a blanched cherry tomato, and some balsamic reduction.  Yum!

And to end the production, we made a simple dessert of flambéed bananas.  Basically we cut bananas in half, then lengthwise, coated them with a little granulated sugar and then caramelized them in butter in a sauté pan.  Then we flamed them with some rum, removed them from the pan, and deglazed with a small amount of lemon juice, simple syrup, and a little bit more butter.  Topped with toasted almonds and you have a really delicious dessert.  It’s all about caramelizing to the right degree so its not overly sweet!

flambeed banana

Today’s service went pretty well, but we are still getting used to serving in succession—it is a pretty big adjustment.  Afterwards, we had to clean super quickly, because we had to get back into the classroom for a Sensation of Taste lecture by Chef Francois, the director of the school.

Basically the entire class was recognizing and pairing together the four basic tastes—salty, bitter, sweet, and acid—and how our palates can change very quickly depending the progression of a menu.  We all were given trays with small amounts of water that had all of these flavors, as well as some that had varying amounts of salt and then we would taste them one by one, occasionally going back to the previous, to see how our taste buds changed with each one.  Really interesting and something I will try to consciously think about a lot more when putting together dishes in the future!

season tasting

Tomorrow marks the end of the first week of Phase II.  I’ve already learned a lot, but I have to say, the weekend is more than welcome at this point.  And I’m also looking forward to meeting the new Phase I class next week!  Should be pretty bizarre…

Getting up early as usual tomorrow, because I am helping Chef Michel prep some tartlettes for tomorrow’s dessert and demonstration.  Wish me luck!