Out of the ashes the Pheonix rises and the Dolphin swims

Last Friday Chef Dale took off for Paris to join the rest of the students from the last class. He could have left the previous week but he just couldn’t separate himself from his responsibilities at school. Chef Michael and I were ready to take control of the class and move forward, but he couldn’t let go.

I’m glad he got to go. I think it will be real positive for him to get a glimpse at what happens over there.

He thought long and hard about the food order for the upcoming week and probably everything that might go wrong. He needed that week to process.

Last Friday, we had neither cabbage to do Poulet Grand Mère or butternut squash to do Poulet Grand Père, so instead I created Poulet Belle Mère (mother in law). I did what any self respecting son in law would do……….scrounge through the fridge to put something good together.

Our walk-in is rarely lacking in cool stuff to work with so as long as I had chicken and vegetables to purée, I could stay close to recipe. What I came up with looked like this:

Basically a chicken roulade with chicken mousseline and a brunoise of vegetables folded in. This was poached in chicken stock and of course done in the combi to insure perfection. These were taken to an internal of 150°. The purée was of roasted carrot and parsnip and the sauce a straight stratified cream sauce (shallots, BG, WW, Chix stock and Cream). The dish was topped with deep fried parsnips, which look like little flowers when they come out of the oil.

Chef Micheal was slatted to come in for the the first three days of fish week. I was excited to be able to work with him side by side. We had never had the opportunity before.

Monday came and Chef Michael got up for the intro to fish lecture, which I can tell he has down pat.

Chef Michael is a very good lecturer. Simple and to the point. Very easy to understand.

Our first day working together he had the students make a snap pea soup topped with pan-fried king trumpet mushrooms. Very simple but perfect. Great depth of flavor, nice color and the mushrooms nicely complemented the peas.

I had the Sole demo and we used the sole for the en papillotte dish. The dish had saffron poached potato circles, shaved fennel, caramelized shallots and garlic, pernod, white wine. tomato dice, lemon zest and basil chiffonade. The cool thing is that we took one of the whole soles and did it Meuniere so we could show them how it is carved tableside. I cooked it and Chef Michael boned it. It was a great example of the classic dish which won Julia Child (and I) over to French cuisine.

The following day was really exhilarating and a fun day for all. Chef Michael and I both riffed off the concepts that were presented. Chef Michael’s was a dish based on duck Confit and mine was halibut with a nage and spring vegetables. The “theme” is all a chef needs to be able to create a dish and that is what is so exciting about cooking.

Chef Michael made corn pancakes with duck confit and Thai curried coconut sauce. Very tasty and well executed.

Next I was up with a Halibut dish and since I was to use spring vegetables and serve the halibut with a nage and pesto aioli, I decided to take Chef Michael’s lead and take a trip up the Mekong as well. We were a little compromised by the fact that Red Tomato our produce company had gone out of business the night before.

We have this great little asian market (Pacific Mercantile) a few blocks from the school. I took a quick jaunt down there and picked up some asian inspired vegetables. So my nage was infused with lemongrass, thai bird chilis and ginger, my aioli was cilantro and pistachio. I caramelized some pearl onions in honey and estouffade. The halibut was wrapped in potato made in the Japanese turning slicer. This is what the dish looked like:

For Dessert Chef Lexie put together a funky assortment of sorbets with a cactus looking tuile.

I believe the flavors were jalapeño lime, avocado and corn. As a group we took a big deviation from our French and Italian roots.

Wednesday was whole roasted fish day. Chef Michael had clams casino and I had the whole roasted fish. The idea is to teach the students about how to serve a whole fish when it is cooked. Not an easy feat. All I have is a picture of the clam’s casino Chef put together. We had 2 guests from a new hotel in Telluride come to recruit students. They stayed for lunch.

The following day I ran GM and HL solo. I was supposed to have Dave a new employee and former student’s help, but he was too busy trying to prepare for a big catered event to lend a hand. No problem I can easily teach 7 students to put together a nice menu. Pastry had the other 4. On this day it was lobster dispatching. We had 20 lobsters which was plenty for the group. We also had oysters to shuck for oysters Rockefeller, however we had no spinach so instead we made oysters Bill Gates (there is no such thing as far as I know, but he is more wealthy and more current). In GM I had them make a Duxelle of mushrooms, a leek confit and a sauce Mornay. Somehow my directions got lost in translation and they folded some of the duxelle into the Mornay. No big deal, but not what I had originally envisioned. The end result:

The lobster à l’Américaine is a very time consuming and labor intensive dish, but more than worth it. My group was up to the challenge. Lobster shells cooked and then flamed and then cooked with roasted mirepoix. The mixture is puréed and cooked some more, then run through a food mill, cooked again and then passed through a fine mesh chinois. It still needs to be reduced so that it is of the right sauce consistency and of course we need to add cream to make it well rounded. Overall it is on par with making a consommé in the amount of work. The rewards are huge. I poached the lobster tails and claws in a court bouillon and removed the shells. Then we did the last bit of cooking in a beurre fondue. This is the way that Thomas Keller mostly cooks his lobster and I must admit the meat is meltingly good. We added rice pilaf as a starch and folded lobster coral into the rice. I noticed there was corn and asparagus in the walk-in and decided to incorporated them into the dish, to Americanize it further.

It was a spectacular example of the dish.

For dessert pastry put together this great fruit soup with a half sphere of mousse glacée. Gorgeous and a great finish to the meal.

Fish week was almost over and everything had gone smoothly without Chef Dale. Working with Chef Michael was a pleasure and am sorry that we hadn’t worked together sooner. I love his disposition in the kitchen, maybe it is because he is retiring, but he is very easy to work with (I have heard that was not always the case). He communicates often and works within the confines of what is available. A true pleasure.

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