Friday, July 21, 2006

Mais Oui, Je Fais Cuire Comme Les Francais!

Tonight in the CHIC Cafe it was all about being true to my French roots. Well, I don't really have any French roots, but I definitley have some French branches. So I was staying true to my French branches.

I walked in and Chef Gail handed me a Cryovac bag full of red, fatty, Frenched (meaning bone out) lamb chops. Let me first say that I love Chef Gail. Let me also add that lamb is, by FAR, my favorite meat. I was going to say that it's my favorite protein, but that's so not at all true. I would take seafood over a land animal any day. Though the fat in the land animals is so so much more tasty and useful for things like...oh...CONFIT (the thought of which makes me tremble).

I had been talking to my friend Gilbert on MSN this afternoon while I was thumbing through the first French cookbook that I ever owned as a lass. Actually I was 20 when I bought it, never thinking I would ever go to France, much less become a classically trained French chef. THere was a recipe for a dijon-mustard and green herb crusted lambloin (the chops are cut out of the loin, in case there is confusion amongst you). I had to try it. But alas, a thorough perusal of my apartment refrigerator yeilded only the dijon mustard. Not enough to make the lamb. When Chef Gail handed me the lamb tonight, it was like...being kissed for the first time. By Matt Damon. And Brad Pitt. At the same time.

She also handed me a bag of green beans, telling me that they were my vegetable, and for me to think about a starch to put on the plate as well. Since I was going all Francais for my meat, I decided to pull a few more recipes from my classical repertoire to make the perfect French entree. I decided on Haricots Verts au Provencal (green beans with tomatoes and shallots) and glazed carrots and (here's where you gasp) turnips.

I have read a lot about turnips. That's probably the only time you'll ever hear that sentence. You'd better reread it. I have read a lot about turnips. Chef Alain Passard of L'Arpege (doesn't it seem like every French chef's name is Alain? I think I might have to name one of my sons Alain.) calls the turnip "one of the world's great Lost Vegetables." I must agree. I love turnips. Especially glazed with honey and carrots and lots and lots of black pepper. This is weird though. I decided to go out on a limb and cut the turnips into little balls with my melon baller. This turned out to be a fantastic idea, and would have been even more fantastic once someone invents a way to use a melon baller on a carrot. I might die when that happens. So, in essence, I'm left with a masticated turnip that's been melon-balled until it looks like an enormous Whiffle ball, and about 40 little turnipy spheroids. Sitting next to the carrots, the turnips look like mothballs. It looks like I'm glazing MOTH BALLS. I decide not to use the melon aller on turnips anymore. I think sweet potatoes would be a good candidate to be melon-balled.

Everything turned out fabulously. Though I prefer my lamb medium rare to rare, I recognzed that sometimes people are scared of meat that isn't completely done all the way through - so I went for the medium-well route. It was a success on all fronts. The meat was still juicy and SO tender, I can't even stand to think about it even now. The mustard got a kind of smoky flavor. There's nothing like standing in the kitchen surrounded my 10 other chefs in training, holding two Frenched lamb chops by their bones, shaking them like maracas and doing a little shimmy, looking out into the cafe (there's a huge window where everyone in the Cafe can see what goes on in the kitchen (it's part of the 'experience')) and seeing that 20 patrons are watching intently and laughing at your little shimmy, and then biting whole heartedly into one of those delicious and succulent little lamb lollipops. Wow. I wish I had one right now.

That's enough for tonight. More food fun tomorrow.

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