Saddled with hare, souffle and foie gras
1) Salade de Haricots Verts et Foie Gras Chaud (Green Bean Salad and Warm Foie Gras)
Okay, we’re off to a good start. The salad was refreshing and crisp, made with frisee and lightly dressed with a tangy vinaigrette. I loved the foie gras; all we did was sear it, so it was warm and velvety with an almost mousse-like consistency. In itself, this dish would have been a perfect lunch for me.
2) Gratin de Blettes (Swiss Chard Gratin)
I’m not saying I’m a chard expert or anything, but whenever I’ve cooked with it in the past, I’ve used the leaves. For this dish, we threw the leaves away and just used the peeled, chopped stems. We blanched them, and then cooked them “a blanc”, which means boiling them in water that has flour mixed into it. It sounds strange because it IS strange …at least to me. I never knew you could add flour to vegetable cooking water before.
The stems were then strained and smothered in mornay sauce, which is béchamel made with the addition of egg yolks and Gruyere. We also added some red wine sauce that we'd whipped up because, hey, why the heck not?
The whole thing was then topped with more Gruyere and baked until brown and bubbly.
I ate some of this, and yes, it did taste good. But my enjoyment was somewhat tempered by the fact that I knew exactly what Gratin de Blettes is made from: cheese, butter, flour, milk, cream, egg yolks and the smallest scraps of completely overwhelmed and boiled-beyond-recognition Swiss chard stems. Why even bother with the chard? Why not just boil up a crock of flour and butter and cream and cheese and yolks and call it a day?
This would be a great dish to serve to someone that hates vegetables, or someone who has been laboring in the fields on a chilly fall day. But I am neither of these people. Too heavy for me.
3) Cote de Boeuf Rotie (Roast Rib Steak)
Somehow our standard French cooking school lunch was evolving into a Dickensian repast. When I think about stereotypical old-fashioned English cuisine, it usually brings to mind excessively complicated dishes that boil the life out of the original ingredients, and giant, dripping hunks of meat (“joints”) served up on big platters. Here’s the giant hulking meat (next to the foie gras):
And here’s what we did with it:
Amy and I started cracking up when we looked around the table and noticed that all the boys in our class were absent that day. Our comically low chairs - combined with the all-female assembly and the giant portions of beef - gave the whole experience a tinge of girls’ boarding school circa 1915.
Then we took a coffee break at our favorite café down the street:
And then we headed back again to class, where we attended a demonstration and ate generous helpings of:
4) Tarte Fine Aux Cepes et Aux Noix (Thin Crusted Porcini Mushroom Tart with Walnuts)
Yum, yum, yum. This was lovely. The crust was made from puff pastry, which meant it was intensely buttery and flaky. Mushrooms are all over the place at the moment, and of the many varieties we’ve sampled, I think I like cepes the best. They’re just so plump and meaty.
5) Rable de Lievre en Casserole, Sauce Porto et Champignons Sauvages (Saddle of Hare with Mushrooms and Port Sauce)
The wild hare was tender, flavorful without being gamey, and deep red in color, but the texture was a tad too pasty for me. Overall it was a nice plate – very autumnal and rich – but I don’t think I’ll be driving out to the country to snare me a hare any time soon.
6) Souffle Chaud a la Framboise (Warm Raspberry Souffle)
Let the record show that I have no problems at all with warm raspberry soufflé.
The food overload continued on late into the night with an evening pastry class, where we made tiny eclairs, lemon mousse petits fours and a host of other diminutive and delicious delicacies. I didn’t make it that far. After the soufflé, I dragged my ass home to meet up with my parents, who had flown in that morning from Chicago and were waiting for me in their hotel room. They were ravenously hungry, of course.
So we went out to an brasserie nearby for dinner. I had a glass of wine and rolled myself home.