Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Fourth and Fifth Session at the French Kitchen

I have been juvenile. I didn't manage to post my French kitchen session last week - so i'm just going to combine my stories of the past 2 weeks in today's posting.

Last week, i had talked to one of the chefs about the French Laundry by Thomas Keller. He had said it was the book he referred to most often. (All the chefs in the kitchen turn their noses up at Jamie Oliver and other similar 'celebrity chefs' poo-poo-ing at them for not having done their 'time' in the kitchen and not being 'real chefs'. They have something in common with Anthony Bourdain then!

I told him i had just purchased the beautiful book and everything in it looked AMAZING but oh-so-scary to make. I told him i had wanted to learn how to make Basil Oil (it looks great on a plate, and adds that extra panache to a lovingly cooked meal - i cant wait to try it! ) He said thomas Keller's recipe didn't quite work - that he would teach me Dean's version when i came next Tuesday (Dean is the Souz Chef).
So yesterday, true to his word, I walked in, Dean said 'I hear you wanna learn how to make Basil Oil'. I gave a big over eager smile (i wasn't sure if they would entertain my little requests!) and hence came a quick and simple demonstration!

I'm writing it down now just so i don't forget:

Basil Oil Recipe

Take a big bunch of Italian Basil - pluck leaves from their stalks.
Place in a big bowl.
Heat a pot of water until boiling.
Prepare a large bowl of ice cubes (make sure there are lots of ice cubes)
Heat a pot of extra virgin olive oil - take it off the hob when it's warm.

Pour boiling water over Basil.
5 seconds later - dump half the ice cubes into the bowl.
Transfer everything to the large bowl containing half the remaining ice cubes.
Remove basil leaves from ice bowl and dry them on a kitchen towel.
(its ok to squeeze them in the towel - they will look limp and tired - no problem)
Keep squeezing until they are dry.
Dump basil leaves into blender. Pour in warm olive oil.
Blend until the oil turns green.
Pour basil oil through a fine mesh sieve covered with a kitchen cloth.
Let oil drain through towel + sieve. Keep basil oil and store!

Useful tips: Dont leave the boiling water in the basil leaves for too long. If too long, leaves will turn black. blanching it will allow the leaves to release their flavour. Dumping it in cold water allows you to refresh the leaves.

I have tasted this oil, and it tastes really strongly of basil! it's fantastic!

Temper of the chef
Yesterday, i also witnessed Billy Idol losing his temper. He seems like such an upbeat good natured guy, but boy - can he look PISSED when the occassion arises.
2 incidences- a customer had asked for Tuna Medium rare- he had cooked it well done. The Tuna came back with a stern remark from the waitress 'Chef. Read your orders properly next time. I had stated Medium rare'.
Billy Idol threw a bowl into the sink with a loud clash -and clenched his jaw. I think this was his mistake. And if he was pissed, he was probably pissed with himself, but boy, you really did feel like a dark thunderous cloud had fallen over the kitchen. Spilling over with blonde rage, eyes looking crazy angry, he fixed the tuna. The kitchen fell into a hushed silence. The Tuna was sent back out.

Second occurence - a customer had asked for Cod with no miso. This cod was sent to the wrong person (waiter's fault). Waitress came back to whisper the problem to Billy Idol. After he realised he had no more cod left -, he slammed his hand on the steel surface of the plating section, said a whole string of swear words in French and put on the blackest angriest face i had ever seen (apart from the ones i've seen on my dad!). The waiter who had made the mistake came in, he stared at him and said to the waitress- can you please show him were seat 7 is !!

So there you go - the Chef has some characteristics of what chef's are meant to be like after all! (fits of rage! passionate outburts! combustible anger when things do turn out). Im still a die hard fan of his though. At least it is clear he strives for perfection and the eagerness to please his customers.

And it is also clear his staff are eager to please him.

One of the new chefs in the kitchen (graduated straight from Cordon Bleu in Paris) presented to him a ravioli dish. I expect this was his little 'innovation'.

Billy Idol tried it, mused over it for a second, then said '3 things':
One. Creativity - i give you zero.
Two. Lobster Ravioli is not very original
Three. However - I like the flavour of the bisque. The flavour is good. (he tries it again) - i like it a lot. We can use this flavour combination.

Throughout this time, his staff have all stopped their work to listen to what he had to say.

It is clear that his opinion is valued and his compliments cherished. The new chef looked pleased. Ultimately, Billy Idol had ended his 'review' on a positive note.

Buckwheat Cakes
One of the chefs (sweet French guy) had these mini brown muffin shaped things sitting on his side of the kitchen. I stared at it (and prodded it when i thought he wasn't looking). He saw and asked me to try it.
It was sweet - a hybrid between cake and bread. He said it was real easy and sliced out a piece into several piees and left it on the counter, saying to everyone in the kitchen 'Dont touch. This is for Chef. Don't eat!' (another proof that the staff are very eager to please Billy Idol).

Sweet French chef starting writing down the recipe on a piece of paper and presented it to me (i had not even asked for it!)

recipe Posted by Picasa

here it is! (coincidentally, i have 2 packets of buckwheat flour in my pantry - a gift that my luvvie had carted back from Australia on his last visit - along with the cherished Kitchenaid. I had thought about making buckwheat pancakes with them, but i think this might be the better option!)

Buckwheat Cake Recipe
125g Buckwheat flour
220g Caster Sugar
2 tblspoon yeast (dried)
1 pinch salt

Dry mix all above ingredients.

In a mixer, add 3 eggs and 10 cl of sunflower oil.
Mix till the mixture changes colour.

Place in 160 degree oven for 35- 45 mins.

It looks terribly simple, but if his memory is so good, i'll certainly put my faith in it and give it a try. Besides, Buckwheat is gluten free - so no guilt! (well, apart from the sugar and eggs and oil!)

I actually have a lot more to say, but i think this might be boring most to death.

Last words:
Foie Gras terrine (stuffed with dried figs) tastes so creamy it's like eating pure butter! i was happily enjoying my handout from one of the chefs until he said 'it's very fattening. Foie gras is 90% fat.'

gee thanks.


  • okie .. 10 mins away frm my previous comments ..
    now i really envy u ...

    I guess in many ways i lurve my food and would so crave for baking now .. And i do get wht u mean by the midnite madness for bakin in the mid of the nite

    Sighzzz .. Ganbette ~!!!

    By Blogger Sonya, at 12:50 PM  

  • thank you for sharing your recipe for basil oil. i just found a recipe that needed some basil oil :) and was trying to make some.

    By Blogger stef, at 12:58 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:22 PM  

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