Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cooking Class Adventure at The Chopping Block

Perfect Pairing – Julia Child Recipes
For our one year anniversary my boyfriend gave me a cooking class at The Chopping Block at the Merchandise Mart.  The Chopping Block is a well known cooking school in Chicago that offers interactive cooking classes.  I was so excited when I found out that we were going to do this together.  I had been to a class a few years ago at their other location in Lincoln Square, and had always wanted to try the location at the Mart.  He signed us up for the “Celebrating Julia Child” session.  It was so much fun to make some of Julia’s classic recipes, and let someone else clean up the mess.  The menu included Petits Choux au Fromage (Cheese Puffs), Lobster Thermidor with Terragon Béchamel Sauce, Beef Bourguignon, and Apple Tarte Tatin. 
When we arrived the teacher/chef had already made the Petits Choux au Fromage since it was such an aggressive menu to complete in the 3 hours.  I included the recipe below for the cheese puffs but since I did not make them I cannot provide much commentary.  I can tell you that they were very tasty with our wine! 
First up was the Beef Bourguignon.  We started by seasoning the meat, dredging it in flour and browning in a pot.  As soon as the mean was browned on all sides we transferred it to the lid and started cooking the bacon, as seen below. 
Please note… all of the pictures were taken on my phone so the quality is not great, but you get the idea!

Once the bacon was done we added the pearl onions, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and tomato paste.
Next into the pot goes the cognac, stock, and red wine.  We also added a bouquet garni, which is a bundle of celery, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves.  Everything is tied up with kitchen string and submersed in the pot to add flavor. 
Now you just let it cook for a couple of hours.  The chef told us that at this point you could transfer everything to a crock pot and put it on low for about 6 hours, which would make the meat really tender.  I am totally going to try that sometime.
A couple of hours later…..

Time for Lobster Thermidor!  I was really excited about this dish because I am not likely to make anything with live lobsters at home.  Start by boiling a big pot of water with lemons, onion, peppercorns and another bouquet garni.
While the water was heating up we made the Tarragon Béchamel Sauce.  Chopped shallots are cooked in butter….
Then you make a roux with flour, and add wine and whole milk.  Simmer until it is a la nappe.  I learned that is a fancy term for the ideal sauce consistency.  It should coat the surface and stay put if you drag a line through it.
We used live lobsters!
Into the pot they go until they are bright red and the protein starts to push out (the white stuff).
Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process.
Then we received a lobster chopping lesson. Pull off the claws, cut down the back, remove the tomalley (AKA, yucky stuff), and pull the meat out of the tails.
The tail meat is coarsely chopped and folded into the béchamel, with some parmesan. 
The mixture is spooned back into the tails and garnished with the claw meat and more parmesan. Then they go into the oven for about 10 minutes.  YUM.

The dessert for the evening was an Apple Tarte Tatin made with granny smith apples and puff pastry.  The apples are sliced and combined with lemon juice and sugar for one hour.  You drain off the sugary liquid into a skillet and make a caramel sauce.

Once the caramel has browned you arrange the apples in the skillet in a lovely pattern.
When you get tired of doing that, you just toss them in.
Cover everything with puff pastry.

Into the oven it goes for 30 minutes, flip onto a plate and enjoy!
The Chopping Block happened to have some leftover tiramisu base from a party the night before… it didn’t suck on top of the tatin.
We had SUCH a fun time at the Chopping Block and I hope to go back very soon.  Best gift ever!

Keep reading for the recipes....

Petits Choux au Fromage (Cheese Puffs)
Julia Child, via The Chopping Block

·         1 cup water
·         1 tsp salt
·         ¼ tsp sugar
·         1 stick butter
·         1 cup flour
·         5 eggs
·         1 ½ cups Gruyere cheese, grated
·         1 tsp dry mustard
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, salt, sugar and butter, and bring to a boil.  Add the flour all at once, whisking constantly, until it forms a thick paste.  Cook, stirring, for one minute more.  Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl.  Using a handheld mixer, whisk in the eggs one at a time until completely incorporated.  Stir in the cheese and mustard.  While the dough is still warm, scoop or pipe onto parchment-lined sheet trays.  Bake until brown and crisp, about 20-25 minutes.  Serve warm.

Beef Bourguignon
Julia Child, via The Chopping Block

·         ¼ lb bacon, cut into ½ inch slices
·         2 lb boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
·         Salt and pepper to taste
·         Flour for dredging
·         1 lb pearl onions, peeled
·         1 lb mushrooms, quartered
·         3 garlic cloves, minced
·         1 Tb tomato paste
·         ½ cup brandy or cognac
·         1 stalk celery
·         4 parsley stems
·         4 thyme sprigs
·         2 bay leaves
·         ½ bottle (about 2 cups) Burgundy or Cotes du Rhone wine
·         1 cup beef stock
·         2 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼ inch thick slices
·         Salt and pepper to taste
·         ¼ cup parsley, rough chopped
Heat a heavy pot with a lid over medium heat.  Season the beef and dredge in flour.  Add grapeseed oil to the bottom of the pan, add meat and sear until caramelized on all sides (not cooked).  Remove meat from pan and set aside.  Add bacon to pan and cook until browned, add onions and cook until golden.  Add carrots and mushrooms to pan and cook until caramelized, about 6-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and tomato paste, cook one minute.  Deglaze the pan with brandy/cognac scraping free any browned bits, known as fond.  Reduce brandy by half.
Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves onto the celery stalk.  Add the herb bundle to the pot, along with the beef, wine and stock.  (At this point it could all be added to a crock pot, cooked on low for 6 hours.)
Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the beef is tender, about 2 hours.  Remove the bouquet garni and stir in parsley.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lobster Thermidor
Julia Child, via The Chopping Block

·         2 live lobsters, about 1 ½ lb each
·         2 lemons, halved
·         1 yellow onion, quartered
·         1 tsp peppercorns
·         1 bouquet garni (see note below)
·         Tarragon Béchamel  (recipe follows)
·         ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated (plus extra for garnish)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Fill a large pot with water and add the lemons, onion, peppercorns and bouquet garni.  Bring to a boil.  Add the lobsters to the boiling water and cook for 6 minutes, until the white protein starts to push out and they are bright red.  Plunge the cooked lobsters into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  Once the lobster is cold, remove it from the water.
Cut the lobster in half lengthwise with a long, sharp chef’s knife. Remove the light green tomalley and discard, but do not discard the dark green/black roe sack if it is present.  Remove the tail meat from the shells and coarsely chop it.  Fold the tail meat, roe (if present) and parmesan, into about 1 cup of béchamel sauce. 
With back of a knife, crack open the claws and remove the meat, in one piece, if possible.  Spoon the béchamel mixture back into the lobster tail shells, and place the claw on top.  Sprinkle with additional parmesan and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
NOTE:  to make a bouquet garni, lay a bay leaf, 2 thyme sprigs and several parsley stems in the cavity of a 4-inch stalk of celery.  Secure with butchers twine.

Tarragon Béchamel
Julia Child, via The Chopping Block

·         ¼ cup butter
·         1 large shallot, minced
·         ¼ cup flour
·         ¼ cup white wine
·         2 ½ cups whole milk
·         1 Tb Dijon mustard
·         1 Tb tarragon, roughly chopped
·         Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter.  Add the shallot and gently sauté until softened, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in the flour and cook until thickened.  Deglaze with the wine, and whisk in the milk.  Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer until the sauce is of a coating consistency. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the mustard and tarragon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Apple Tarte Tatin
Julia Child, via The Chopping Block

·         3 lb Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced into 1-inch pieces
·         1 Tb lemon juice
·         ½ cup sugar
·         4 Tb butter
·         ¼ cup sugar
·         1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
Combine apples, lemon juice and ½ cup sugar in a bowl and macerate for 1 hour.  Pour the apples into a colander with a bowl below to catch the juices. 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large skillet, combine the reserved apple liquid, butter and ¼ cup sugar.  Cook while whisking until a light caramel is achieved.  Remove the pan from the heat and arrange the apple slices in a large pinwheel, nestled in the caramel.  Return the pan to the burner and cover the pan.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes to soften the apples.  Remove the cover and continue to cook over medium heat 10 minutes more, basting apples with the juices that accumulate.  Let skillet stand for 30 minutes to cool.
Cut the sheet of puff pastry into a circle large enough to cover the pan, lay over apples and cut vent holes.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes. 
Run a small knife around the edge of the tart and place a large serving plate over the tart.  Carefully invert the tart onto the serving plate.  Cut and serve with ice cream or crème fraiche. 

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