Field Report:
Adventures of a Culinary Padawan
École des Techniques à la Cuisine
Lesson Twelve: Lamb & Mixt


Dear Foodie Voyeur,

Today was ostensibly about lamb, like last week was about chicken or beef. But no, it's about using concentration and extration cooking techniques -- basically, making a good stew. Also, since lamb meat has fans and detractors, this was the first real chance to make some decisions about whether we'd use stock or water, and to demonstrate that this type of cooking can be used when stock is not available. The Jedi Master also told us that while she doesn't advocate the use of prepared powders, she did admit that vegetable stocks can be useful to enhance flavors. Then again, she finds making stock relaxing. I find it stressful because I end up burning it sometimes ...

The first stew was Navarin au Printanièr which is "spring" lamb stew, French style -- with carrots, turnips, potatoes (all of them "turned" into those detestable but wondrous little footballs), and fresh, blanched green peas and stringbeans. That garniture was stuff we'd done before: cooking au brun, au blond, à l'anglaise, blanching, etc. The leg of lamb is broken down by first trimming the outside fat, then removing the hip and femur bones, then separating out the muscle groups. Trim off any other globs of fat and the silver skin, as for beef and veal. Cube the meat across the grain in all instances, to bite sized pieces.

First the concentration method -- brown the lamb pieces very well, getting good dark color all over the meat. Try not to crowd the pan when doing this. You don't want the meat to cool down the pan and force juices to exude and thus steam the meat. Try not to burn the sucs since they are part of the extraction. Do the meat in batches and remove to a bowl while you do the rest of the meat browning.

Now apply the extraction method -- at this point, do you want to use water or stock to deglaze the sucs? You can even use wine, depending on the final flavor you want for the Navarin. I opted for water; while the lamb was cooking, I smelled how strong it was, and decided using stock might be too heavy. To make up for loss of flavor, we opted to add a bouquet garni later. Add the warm water, scrape up the bits at the bottom and allow to boil till the sucs are dissolved. Pour off the liquid, then brown the mirepoix in some oil, then singer flour and cook a couple of minutes, then add tomato paste and the deglazing liquid. Stir to avoid lumps. Add the browned lamb and cook with a foil cover for an hour. Degrease by skimming every 15 minutes, and add more water or stock if the meat isn't immersed in sauce at any point, or if the sauce seems to be too thick.

While that's happening, prepare the garniture, and the next dish, which is similar to the Navarin Agneau, only it's chicken (Fricassée de Volaille) and it's white, meaning the concentration cooking method used is executed with low heat, to sear without browning. Again, we had to quarter the chicken, as a reminder of how to do it: 1) remove breastbone, globs of fat, cut off the furthest two joints of the wings; 2) turn on side and cut the skin to separate the thigh, fillet out the oyster, pop out the thigh, cut thigh meat away from thighbone; 3) cut through ribs by the spine to remove it; 4) spread open the breast rack and press flat to crack the rack; 3) remove keel bone and cartilage, cut in half to split; 4) machonner ("french") the leg and wing tips, open up thigh meat along the femur, score along the knee joint.

After searing the meat, sweat an onion, then make a Velouté with chicken stock, then add back the chicken and let it all simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or so. Add the cooked garniture of turned turnips, turned carrots and pearl onions, then finish with cream and chopped parsley. To serve, bone, halve the four pieces, remove the bone from the thigh. For each plate, put one boneless piece and one bone-in piece, dark and light meat (such as drumstick with lower breast, or wing/upper breast with thigh), then surround with sauce and garniture.

To serve the Navarin, strain the stew, and pick out the meat, adding it back into the sauce (you can toss out the mirepoix, but to be honest, I don't bother straining. I like the chunky bits of onions and carrots. You can toss out the bouquet garni easily enough, of course. Add the potatoes and cook a couple of minutes till "done," then add the cooked garniture of carrots, turnips, pearl onions. Place the string beans and peas on the place and ladle the stew over or around it. Finish with chopped parsley. This was dinner, and to our great surprise, we finished it! I'm glad we used water instead of lamb stock.

Is it my imagination, or is this getting easier? I did keep forgetting to open out the thigh bone and to machonner the joint tips of the birds. I cleaned my boards three times of chicken goop. Argh! Doing some things too late in the class is not a good idea from an energy/logic point of view. I also forgot to wear gloves, but I thankfully didn't cut myself. I did drop a sautoir (empty!) because it just got too heavy to hold.

We found out that Family Meal has a budget of $1 per person, though that can be averaged out over three days. That explains why some meals are great and others are kind of blah. Turned out the Jedi Knight who assists the Master is actually in charge of producing family meal. Wonder if we offended him? Maybe not, since he managed to get a full sheet pan of brioche from the bread making class! They were awesome! Another reason to take that class ...

We were also told that we would likely have to work with a new partner from next lesson onwards. Darn, and I had my partner broken in, too! Wonder if the next one will try to mind-wrestle with me?

With Love,
Susu, the Culinary Padawan

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