How to make a caramel without burning it.

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On monday I went for the first instalment of a three week cookery course at the Lycee des Metiers de l’Hotellerie et du Tourisme. This was a birthday present from my Vischclub friend Peter, co-sponsored by Patience and Tessa. This was altogether a very interesting and educational experience.

The course took place in a professional restaurant kitchen, with all the equipment imaginable, using amazing ingredients and led by a professional chef.  This week the theme was “Autour du foie gras” and we prepared two dishes with foie gras as the main ingredient:

  • Escalope de foie gras en nougatine de morilles, pommes céleri
  • Foie gras de canard poêlé et son étuvée de fruits de saison, jus aigre doux au Gaillac, carrottes a la creme

Read on to see how we prepared it all.

First rehydrate the dried morilles (smallish mushroom with a sponge like structure) in, wait for it…., butter, lot’s of it.  Melt a large quantity of butter and until it foams (careful not to burn it), add the dried morilles and keep the butter foaming hot until the mushrooms have re-hydrated. Take the mushrooms out and put them on grease-absorbent paper, squeeze out some of the excess fat. Apart from rehydrating the mushrooms we now have the most amazing “beurre morillée”, which can be put to use in other recipes.

Then it is time to make the caramel. Our chef made it look so easy, and if you follow his advice it should be simple. Here we go. Start of with a thinnish metal pan, preferably with sloping sides. The point is that you want to have controll over the temperature, i.e. when it goes too fast you take the pan off and the temperature drops intantaneously. Sloping sides are better as stuff doesn’t “get stuck” in the corners and it is easier to swirl the contents around. Finally add the sugar bit by bit, again it’s about controlling the temperature, adding more sugar when the sugar melts  lowers the temperature and keeps the process under control.

Pour the caramel over the mushrooms and let it set (this can be speeded up by putting it in all in the freezer). Once the caramel and morilles have fully set break it up and crush in a food-processor, making sure not to crush the morilles completely. The point of all this, is that after lightly panfrying the escalope de foie gras (still frozen and lightly covered in flour and seasoned with butter and salt), you put them on a baking tray with a handful of the nougatine de morilles and finish them off under a hot grill. If you don’t like the idea of foie gras, or can’t get any in your local supermarket you could replace it with say a nice bit of lamb.

As a side dish we prepared some celeriac and apples, cut into small cubes (less than half a centimeter across) sauteed in beurre miélé (1 part honey, 2 parts butter). As my grandmother used to say, with butter you can make anything taste nice, add some honey and you can even make celeriac taste good. Finish the dish off with a splash of cider or nut vinegar.

For dish number two we also prepared some foie gras, panfried again but leaving out the the nougatines, and accompanied by carrot puree, pears and carramelised grapes. The carrot puree was very simple: boil the carrots in salted water until very soft, drain and add lot’s of cream, delicious. If you can’t add butter just add cream instead, my grandmother said. The pears were diced and sauteed in, here it comes…., something we prepared earlier, beurre morillée.   Half of the pears were peeled, the other half were diced with the skin included. This way you create something with a bit of a bite to it.  The dish was finished off with some  nut vinegar before being flambeed with Gaillac Doux. I have to say the result was stunning, best dish of the evening. Finally, for the last aside, we dipped some grapes in caramel which resulted in a very interesting crunchy texture.

The best thing after all this hard work was that we got to eat the results, accompanied by some very decent wines. I think I understood most of what was going on, if I didn’t get all the French, I could definitely understand all of the demonstrations. Next installment will be “Tout Poisson” or everything fishy in plain English. Stay tuned.

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One Response to “How to make a caramel without burning it.”

  1. Emma Hart Says:

    sounds amazing…….even the celeriac…

    Looking forward to enjoying the benefits of your new skills when you get back

    Emma & Jim
    xxx

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