Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gordon Gets Saucy

Yesterday was another highly-satisfactory cooking class with Gordon Stewart of Gordon's on Blueberrry Hill in Freeland.  The topic of the day was sauces.  This class was a bit more disjointed than others of his I have attended.  He gave us recipes for five 'mother sauces' and then proceeded to make 4 courses using some of the sauces as his base.  He jumped around quite a bit and there were no recipes for the dishes he made as well as no quantities on ingredients.  I did my best to take notes and hopefully I didn't miss too many details.

We were introduced to Gordon's new intern Tim, who plans to intern with Gordon for two years and then have his own cooking show on tv.  Ah, the optimism of youth!

So the five 'mother' sauces we were given recipes for are bechamel, espagnole, hollandaise, mayonnaise, and veloute.  I won't bother to reprint all those recipes here; they are pretty basic.  I will tell you what Gordon does with some of them.  He's a very creative guy and his presentations are a delight.

 The first sauce he covered was mayonnaise, which he calls the 'devil's condiment.'  This is Julia Child's basic mayo recipe. Gordon uses apple cider vinegar in place of the wine vinegar/lemon juice.  He also recommends a mixture of canola oil and olive oil.  He said is you use 100% evoo, it'll be too bitter.  He uses 2-4 T of boiling water and he adds it at the ends of step 2, before adding the oil.  When you add the water, it reduces the chance of the sauce breaking on you as you add the oil and you don't have to be so ultra careful when adding in the oil.

Purists may cringe at this, but as Gordon mentioned, there were no food police at the class so he was allowed to break any rule he felt like!  I'm a born rule breaker.  One of my mottos since birth has been 'rules are made to be broken.'  I suppose this is one of the reasons I adore Gordon.

So that is basically what he told us about mayonnaise.  He then proceeded to make an aioli from it (mayo with garlic added) and turned that into a salad dressing for this delicious salad:

My convoluted notes on how to  make this salad:  grapefruit sections with the pith removed, arugula, watercress, lobster tails.  Add some tarragon and chopped fennel bulb to the aoili.  Mix everything together, set half a grapefruit shell on a small bed of undressed greens, put the salad in the grapefruit cup, and top with toasted sundried tomato tortilla strips. 

To cook the lobster tails, he recommends warm water lobster as it is less expensive, remove the shells (but save them for a fish stock and other uses), soak the tails in a mixture of milk and water (proportions aren't important) for a few hours, then cook it in the same mixture. When it comes to a boil, it's done.  Add ice, let it cool, and then it's ready to use.

I'll tell you right now:  I don't like mayo, and I don't like arugula and things like watercress.  This was delicious.  I cleaned my plate.  Okay,  I didn't eat the grapefruit shell.  But it was really good and it'd make a great first course for a spring dinner party, a special luncheon, or any holiday meal.

So that was yummy.  I was dying to know what came next.  Usually we have the recipes in front of us so I can anticipate what is coming up.  But yesterday we had to wait until he made each item to see where he was going.  Except for dessert. We knew it was going to be creme brulee.  We just didn't know what Gordon was going to do with it.  He is so clever!

Okay, next he made two things at once and it all got very confusing trying to keep the notes on the correct page.  In an attempt to be clear, I'll just do one at a time.

Let's start with the cauliflower gratin. Oh, no, another food I don't like!  Obviously Gordon forgot to consult with me!!  Actually, once many years ago, in another cooking class in Burlingame, California, I had cauliflower au gratin and it was really good.  I decided I did like cauliflower if it was smothered in cheese.  Gordon's was a bit different from that other long-ago dish I had.  (Which I did actually make once but it wasn't a big hit with the picky family and at that time I was still trying to please everyone.  Well, those days are long over.  Maybe we'll have it again tonight...)

Here is Gordon's bechamel sauce recipe because I think it may be different from others I have seen and tried:


5 T butter
4 T sifted all-purpose flour
4 cups milk heated
2 t salt
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
whole white onion (peeled and spiked with 5 whole cloves)

Make a blond roux:
1.  Pour the 4 cups of milk into a sauce pan, add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and the spiked onion.  Remove from heat when the milk has scalded (or overflows from the pan, as was the case in class yesterday.  I love it - Gordon has exactly the same cooking techniques as I do!)

2.  While the milk is heating up, melt 5 T butter in a saucier pan.

3.  Whisk in the 4 T of sifted flour and cook until the flour emits mild nutty aromas.

4.  Pour the scalded milk into the saucier pan containing the blond roux.  The sauce will thicken immediately.

5.  Continue cooking the sauce on a low heat until the desired consistency is reached and then add the salt and pepper to taste.

Now to make the cauliflower gratin - blanch the cauliflower, break or cut it up into pieces and add it to the bechamel.  Use the onion from the bechamel (remove the cloves) and chop it up into bite sized pieces; add it to the bechamel.  Season with salt and pepper.  Fill your gratin dish (or dishes plural if doing individual portions) and top with grated aged cheddar.  Into the oven at about 250 - 300 degrees for 30-45 minutes.  You want it to just be getting that nice browned look on top.  Then garnish with fried sage and fried pancetta.  You can fry up the pancetta slowly and then use the drippings to fry the sage.

This was yummy.  This was really yummy.  You can do it all ahead, except for the last baking bit.  So it'd be great for a dinner party.  I LOVE do-ahead dishes.  Especially ones that taste fabulous and make me look like a good cook!

One of the women at my table said her husband wouldn't eat cauliflower but if she told him it was au gratin potatoes he wouldn't  know the difference and would eat it all up.  So this is a good one for sneaking the veggies in on the family!

Okay, on to the next dish.  Next he made a soup, sort of a lobster bisque.  He started with the veloute, which is basically thickened stock.


2 cups of chicken, fish, or veal stock
4 T flour
4 T butter
salt and pepper

1.  Make a brown roux
2.  Add the desired stock
3.  Add the salt and pepper once the desired consistency is reached.

To make the bisque, he used the shell from the lobster tail (remember, I told you to save it) and sauteed it in hot oil.  He saved the oil to use on top of the soup and also to use in the aioli he made for the grapefruit/lobster salad up above.

He made a mirepoix, which is carrots, onions, and celery (roughly chopped as it will be strained out) sauteed in oil.

Here's where it got confusing as he was going back and forth so fast.  But he used some of the fennel tops, bay leaves, cold water, and tomato paste.  He added all that to the veloute, I think.  He said to always start out with cold water, or cold stock (you can use chicken stock for all or part of the water), as it gives the best flavors when making a stock.

He also said the more you cook a roux, the less thickening power it'll have.  So if you want it dark, add tomato paste instead of continuing to cook it.  So I think he used all the above to make a thick soup/stock and then strained it.  Then he added jerusalem artichokes which had been chopped and sauteed.  That was basically the soup except that I think somewhere along the line he must have put in some of the oil the lobster had been sauteed in because you could really taste the lobster and I don't think it was from only the drizzle on top.  On top of the soup he garnished with chopped chives, lobster oil, cream, and a bit of spinach which had been flash-cooked in a little bit of oil and salt and pepper.

So not a real clear recipe to follow but it sure was yummy!

Then on to dessert.  Here's his basic creme brulee recipe:

Creme Brulee

8 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
2 quarts heavy cream (or you can use half n half or milk*)
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla extract

*Gordon says, "You get out of a recipe directly in proportion to the ingredients you use."  Gwen says, "Fat is what they put in food to make it taste good."

1.  Heat the cream until it scalds.  Then add the vanilla extract.  (During this process one could infuse the cream with additional flavors.)  I think personally I might just heat the cream with a vanilla bean in it and not use extract.

2.  Before the heavy cream scalds, whisk the eggs and egg yolks with sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is pale yellow and thick.

3  Temper the egg mixture with the heavy cream.

4  Strain the mixture and pour into ramekins.

5  Put into a water bath, cover with foil, and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, just until the custard is setting.  Cool and then remove from water bath.

6  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.  Before serving, top with sugar and use the torch.

Now here's where Gordon got interesting.  He said you could flavor the custard with pretty much anything you wanted to.  He gave us 3 ideas:

Fresh cranberries cooked down with candied crystalized ginger and a teeny bit of sugar.  You can strain this out first if you want the custard smooth.  Top with the crystalized ginger.

For a pumpkin spice creme brulee, add about 1 cup of canned pumpkin, some nutmeg and cinnamon.  Top with toasted pumpkin seeds.

For an aztec chocolate creme brulee, add 1-1/2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate to the hot mixture (it'll all melt in nicely) and some cayenne and cinnamon.  Top with crushed candy canes.

Now we're all wondering which one Gordon is going to serve us.  Being the nice guy he is, we got all three! 

Each person had 3 little spoons filled with these 3 variations.  He had gone to Chinatown and bought up some of those spoons they use to serve soup with in Chinese restaurants and he used those.  It was a fabulous presentation.  I can see this on a holiday buffet table.  I would be soooo impressed if I walked into a party with these.  I don't know how they would hold up to sitting out very long, but it was really a pretty spectacular ending to the class!

"There is no sauce in the world like hunger."

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