Veal the burn

Franche-Comté. Here we are. The most wooded region in France and more than a third is natural grasslands. That means moo-cows. Mostly dairy herds of the Montbéliarde breed, considered one of the finest worldwide. And that means cheese. Comté, of course! Lovely Morbier with its layer of ash. Vacherin Mont D’Or. My knees are weak. I feel a cheese swoon coming on. This region is also the home of Absinthe. 2 wines worth trying. Chef says, “expect the unexpected.” First, vin jaune. Matured in a barrel under a film of yeast, it’s similar to dry sherry but not a fortified wine. Great with Comté. Another pairing goes on the must-try list. Second, vin de paille or straw wine. An expensive liqueur wine where the grapes have been dried over straw. Similar to an ice wine apparently.

Dried Morel mushrooms soaking

Dish of the day? Escalope de Veau aux Morilles avec Pommes Dauphine. A veal escalope cut from the cushion or rump, served with morel sauce and potato Dauphine. The going rate for dried morel mushrooms right now? £800 per kilo.

2 challenges on this dish. To serve the veal pink—tricky when it’s about 5mm thick. And the potato puff thing. More specifically getting the ratio right in the mixture. All will become clear.

The potato was cooked on a bed of rock salt in the oven at 180C for as long as it takes to get super soft. While that was happening I made savoury Choux Pastry and let it cool. Choux is also used to make profiteroles, eclairs, beignets, churros, and many other delicious treats. It doesn’t taste of much but it puffs up like a puffer fish in fear of its life. The potato pulp was scraped from the skin and riced. Butter was beaten in, then the Choux Pastry. Crayzee. Quenelles were made ready for frying later. So, basically, Pommes Dauphine are meant to be puffed mashed potato, fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside. We’ll see.

Choux pastry mix

Quenelles of Pomme Dauphine waiting to fry

The veal escalopes were seasoned and pan fried in clarified butter for about 15 seconds a side. They would be flashed again before serving to put some heat on their surfaces. As usual, the pan was deglazed with shallots. The morels were added. Further deglazed with white wine, reduced to dry. The morel liquor was added and reduced. Then the veal stock. Also reduced. Flavour party in the pan. Cream was added and brought to the boil then simmered to a coating consistency. Oh boy. This sauce is a good one.

Chef’s tip: When cooking meat, if you burn your pan and need the brown proteins for the recipe there is a rescue of sorts. Get a clean pan. Get it really hot. And put the meat in for a few seconds literally. This will at least give you some Sucs to work with.

The Dauphine quenelles on their baking sheet strips went into the deep fat fryer. They need to be served immediately otherwise they lose their puff and deflate. Dropping a set into hot oil rather than 1 by 1 speeds up the process. My ratio of potato purée to Choux Pastry was slightly off. I didn’t have enough Choux in the mix, which meant my Dauphines were more like fried mash croquettes than light and puffy potato puffs. Still quite nice but not correct. It was a fair attempt. Chef predicted if we got anything wrong it would be our ratios.

I also had to serve Soufflé Chaud au Comté as a starter. Very noice. I like most things cheesy barring old socks and belly button fluff so this was largely a foregone conclusion despite my indecision on liking soufflés. In the demo beforehand, there was a small experiment. Chef had been given a tip to aid the straight rise of a soufflé. Basically, rub out a circle of the butter and breadcrumbs from the middle of the ramekin base to anchor the soufflé in the centre. This was done in addition to buttering the sides vertically. Did it make any difference? Nah. You can see in the photos that they all came out pretty much the same—some variation in colour but otherwise consistent. I like it when we get to test tips.

Comté souffle

Double-buttered ramekin lined with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese

Cheese soufflés cooked in the oven in a Bain Marie

Since we had to make so many soufflés, and since we’d eaten 8 in the demo, the big question was can we get them home and revitalise them in some way? At La Gavroche they do a double-rise soufflé with a spell in the fridge in-between. It’s called a soufflé Suissesse. If my understanding is correct, having risen once previously, for service it’s turned out upside-down into a small pond of double cream and baked again. So a double-rise is possible. But what kind of rise? I carefully dropped my soufflés out of their ramekins and packed them away. At home they went back into ramekins and into the oven. And they did rise—a bit—enough to serve to Roberta. Texture wise they were great. A bit more colour than necessary. Ok. This can work.