Update 17, Part 1: New Year's Goal: Become an "official" Gourmess by August 2010

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child

It was a lovely spring day yesterday, so I thought I'd use the leftover duck breast and try my hand at replicating one of my favorite Thai dishes -- Duck Salad.

I sliced a Granny Smith apple into thin, bite-sized pieces and then I diced some pineapple, chopped some scallions, and added all of it plus a handful of cilantro leaves to a bowl of lettuce and julienned carrots. I heated the duck until warmed through and added it to the bowl, too. Then, I made my dressing: a dash of soy sauce, some chile paste, some honey, lime juice, grated ginger, pinch of salt, pinch of brown sugar, until I had a citrusy, spicy, sweet mixture. I added to the salad bowl, tossed everything together and served it up with a bowl of mixed berries on the side. I thought afterwards that a handful of chopped peanuts thrown in at the end would have been nice on the salad, too -- next time!

A lovely light dinner -- and it tasted very close to the one served at my favorite Thai restaurant -- the one that I have a craving for every couple months.

Another thing I crave every so often is a lovely beefy, medium rare hunk of meat. Luckily for me, the first Demonstration for Session 9, Methods of Cooking Meat: Beef and Veal was Faux Filets Grillés avec Sauce Choron (Grilled Beef Steak with Choron Sauce). My book says that Choron is a béarnaise sauce reduction that has a tomato fondue added for color and flavor.

The Choron was the first thing I had to make-- and the first part of the Choron was the tomato fondue. That involved heating a pan over medium heat and adding 2 tsps of butter. Once the butter was melted, I added crushed garlic and shallots and sautéed them until they had softened and sweated out all of their juices. Then, I added in some coarsley chopped tomato and cooked for about 10 minutes, until almost all of the liquid had evaporated. I seasoned to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Then, was the béarnaise reduction -- if you remember, I wasn't a huge fan of this sauce when we were in Session 4, Sauces. It is a sister sauce of hollandaise and they both use a ridiculous amount of clarified butter (14 TBS). Anyway, I made the reduction by combining water and white vinegar in a pan with shallots, dried tarragon and cracked pepper. I brought to a simmer and let reduce to 1/5 the original volume (remove from heat right away, or it will continue to evaporate and you won't have enough liquid). Once it cooled, I put through my chinois and then added two egg yolks (room temperature) and whisked them together to combine. (When I made this sauce last time, I didn't run through chinois, but I guess that's why this is a different version.) I continued to whisk over a small pot of boiling water on the stove, until I had created a sabayon that was thick and light. I took it away from the heat, and then whisked in the clarified butter in a slow, steady stream. Once all the butter was mixed in I added the tomato fondue, some fresh tarragon, chervil, and salt and pepper and set it aside on warm surface. The sauce was very rich and the tomatoes and tarragon added a nice lightness/brightness to it, but still not a taste that I really enjoyed. Also, the book has the sauce looking very light yellow -- mine was much darker, so not sure why -- maybe the tomatoes?  It thickened up, but when I put it on the hot steak, it got a bit runny...but didn't really take away from the overall flavor/appearance.

I used my handy dandy grill pan and heated it on the stove. I trimmed the fat off the steak (I bought a boneless strip loin), rubbed some vegetable oil on both sides and salted and peppered both sides as well. I put the steak on the grill, quadrillered it (the grill lines) and cooked until medium rare, burning my hand a few times in the process (of course). The book had some technique called the "touch test" where you can tell the doneness of meat by how similar it feels to the fleshy part of your palm. A relaxed hand is rare, and then as you open your hand and tighten that area, it equals medium, well done, etc. But it depends on the type of meat, the age of the meat, etc. so I think it is still a matter of sensing when it's ready, or using a thermometer.

I served the steak with some homemade french fries and the sauce on the side. I still like my own horseradish, butter and herb sauce better, but who am I to question the pros at the FCI?

Still, the steak tasted great, and the fries were good, too.

The next Demonstration is: Blanquette de Veau à l'Ancienne avec Riz Pilaf (Old-Fashioned Veal Stew with Rice Pilaf)