french

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Vince Garreffa tells us that you should cook every dish twice; once for yourself and then for your guests. Such careful hospitality is lost on me. I’m a ‘sharing the journey’ host.

Plan
One large salmon. Instead of merely poaching it, I’d make a court bouillon, freeze the court boullion, place the frozen boullion in a vacuum sealer bag with the whole salmon, vacuum seal the bag and then cook it sous vide. Remove gently cooked salmon from bag, remove skin and cover with cucumbers to resemble scales.

The logic was impeccable. The salmon would be gently poached in water but trapped in a sealed bag with a smaller volume of flavoursome stock. The genius part was freezing the court bouillon so it didn’t end up being sucked into the pump of the vacuum sealer. It also meant it could be done well ahead of time without the fish marinating.

salmon sealed

Reality
In retrospect, when the salmon was sealed in a bag with what looked like a pink urinal cake, it should have been a sign of trouble to come but it all came with sound reasons. The carrots, red onions and the white wine turned the court boullion into a pinkish shade. It was just unfortunate that I chose a flat bottomed pudding bowl to freeze it in.

Moving on. Three kilogram salmon are long. Long than any pot or dish you’ll own and longer than any commercially available disposable roasting tray. I used the disposable roasting tray and it looked like a tall man who’d mistakenly booked in for a night at a hobbit bed and breakfast. The weight of the salmon slowly pushed down the sides and simmering water would leak out onto the burners until they filled with water and made a sad gurgling sound.

At this point I realised I had to either change tack or accept the fact that guests would have to suffer food poisoning. It was a tough call but I eventualy wrapped the half poached salmon in foil and tried to fit it in the oven to finish it off. It fitted at an angle, once I snapped the tail off and was eventually cooked at a gentle temperature.

Redemption
The good bit was that I sliced a whole burpless cucumber on a mandoline without losing any bits of fingers. Skin taken off the salmon and the grey bits gently scraped off and the cucumber ‘scales’ added – they hid the ‘join’ on the tail.
It was also damned tasty.
poached salmon

Notes: the court bouillon I used comes from here and adjusted – half a bottle of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, a cup of water, a handful of parsley, a twigs of thyme, half a dozen peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, a chopped red onion, one sliced carrot, one sliced stick of celery with leaves, juice of half a lemon and a tsp of salt.
Simmered for half an hour and then strained.

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veal cooked in milk

I’ve just been painting the nursery (no not the one with the lamps) with this natural paint that’s entirely mineral based and cuts down on the associated non-biodegradable toxic waste. Unfortunately it’s like painting with coffee. It flies everywhere and after two coats it still looks like an undercoat (it takes three). I’ve often wondered what painting in the 17th century was like, now I know. On the plus side it avoids the speckled history of the paint industry, washes off easily enough, and doesn’t smell.

Much easier is this veal dish I made a couple of weeks ago. Not only is it easy, but it’s about as close to a perfect meal you could hope for. It’s a big call I know, but it uses a few simple ingredients that compliment the feature ingredient, is unfuckuppable and you get that elusive feeling of a really special meal without having tried to hard.

There was one minor hitch. It was in a French magazine that I get every quarter in a swap with Gracianne. It means bodgy translation from French by me and this time I found out that Cocos de Paimpol, wasn’t ‘something coconut’ but a kind of white bean from Paimpol and my friends were saved from veal cooked in coconut milk.

The veal is non-bastard veal from White Rocks Veal and cooked as one piece.

two onions
one stick of celery
six button mushrooms
1 litre full cream milk
600ml cream
rack of four veal chops

250 gm dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
three sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf

Brown the veal in a little hot oil – to the brown that you’d like to serve it at..
Sautee the onions, celery and mushrooms in a little oil in a heavy casserole. Add the rack of veal and then filled with the milk and the cream to cover. Allow to very gently simmer, covered for one hour.

Take out the veal to allow it to rest. Strain the cooking liquid and then reduce it to a sauce/one-coat roll on paint like consistency. Reducing in a wide frying pan will hasten things.

The recipe suggests cooking the beans in water for about half an hour. I thought of adding them to the casserole dish at the 25-minutes-from-finish point but ended up finishing the beans in some of the cooking liquid.

Carve the chops and serve on the beans with the sauce. See if you can manage, unlike me, to get the garnish in the middle.

Tastes fabulous, cooks perfectly, and is really only about half and hour of actual kitchen work. Don’t forget the bread.

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