I was moving slowly this morning. Last night saw some carnivorous corruption at chef’s table in Hawksmoor at Borough Market, or Cooks’ Room as they call it. Set menu. Wonderful food. Wine pairing. Great fun. Great value. No cows, molluscs or fishies died in vain. Recommended. Thank god school started at 11:30.
I faced the third of the 4 possible exam dishes: Suprême de Volaille Farci, Beurre de Tomate et Spaghettis de Courgette. A chicken breast stuffed with herby chicken mousse poached in clingfilm like a ballotine. Served with courgette spaghetti warmed in oil that had been infused with rosemary and garlic, and tomato sauce emulsified with butter. Then there’s the chicken skin. Delicious as everything else is, the skin is still the best bit!
The mousse is whizzed white meat pushed through a sieve; add salt, cayenne pepper and a load of double cream whipped in with chives, tarragon, parsley and chervil. What’s key is to keep everything cold, so the mixer bowl gets time in the blast chiller beforehand and the cream is folded in over ice.
Mousse is one of those trigger words for me. I hear it and start singing “Strawberry mooooouuuuusssee!” It’s from Carry On Up the Khyber. In stiff-upper-lip fashion, the governor, his wife and army officers are enjoying a black-tie dinner while under attack from tribesmen. As the situation intensifies the Captain asks to be excused to check on the defence but is persuaded to stay for dessert—“it’s strawberry mousse”. With increasing devastation all around, missionary Peter Butterworth can’t rationalise this behaviour and cracks. “Don’t worry, we’ll save you some strawberry mousse” he says, then bursts into song “STRAWBERRY MOUSSE! Strawberry mooooouuuuusssee!” while playing a stick of celery. Ahh childhood memories.
There was speculation chef would have us julienne the courgette to create the spaghetti. Silly thought in hindsight. Enter the mandoline stage left. These things are terrifying. They look like a torture device and they’re absolutely capable of inflicting terrible injury. Chef said in one restaurant the use of mandolines was banned before 9am. And indeed, a finger top was lost today—it wasn’t mine. A flap of skin sliced off. Chef asked where’s the missing bit? Apparently healing is faster if you can stick the severed skin back on. It wasn’t the mandoline though. Just a 10-inch chef’s knife chopping herbs. So, SO easily done.
The mousse was piped into pockets carefully carved into chicken breasts then rolled tightly in clingfilm, tied off and into water maintained at 80C. A nice tip here—rather than keep tweaking the hob setting, it’s easier and quicker to moderate the temperature by adding an ice cube or two every time it gets too hot.
I had plenty of mousse left over so I poached a sausage. If you’ve been to Munich or Oktoberfest, it’s just like weisswurst but without the skin.
The sauce started with shallots, crushed garlic and coriander seeds sweated in butter. Tomato puree was stirred in and cooked for a couple of minutes. In with concasser plum tomatoes, a bouquet garni and white chicken stock. Simmer. Pass. Reduce by half and like I said, emulsified with a lot of cold butter. Seasoned with salt and sugar depending on the natural sweetness of the tomatoes.
Today I served on time and I got my textures and seasonings right. Happy days. I whistled on the way home.