13 January 2006

Steak & guinness pie

WARNING: A sizeable dosage of Chefette's ramblings this week are going to be targeted to the foodies. So for those of you who couldn't care less what temperature hollandaise splits at, or the number of rolls & folds to do when making flaky pastry, she will put the brief non-foodie news item up front for you.

To whit. Found out that Shwambo got practically a perfect score on her practical exam, almost 20 points above Chefette's own humble mark. Cue a couple of hours of grumbling envy within when I found out. (Why oh why does she have to be one of those "perfect" ones with looks, smarts, slimness and brains?) I snapped out of it, though, when I remembered how the Scotsman has openly shown displeasure with her little Naomi-esque mood swings.

Now to the foodie bit.

Made steak & guinness pie for the first time and it was really successful. We cooked the filling over 3 days (!), in increments of about 1 to 1 and a 1/2 hours, fridging in between. We got a really lucious gravy with it, mmmmmmm. As for the flaky pastry, bizarrely it turned out to be easier to make shortcrust pastry, although it took a bit of time. The most critical part is remembering where you are at the various stages of rolls and folds. In class we did 6 rolls and folds in all, then topped the pie dishes, and decorated and glazed them. When it was finished, the top third of the pastry was golden and crisp, the middle third was an accordion of flaky layers, and the bottom third was deliciously soggy with the rich, 3-day gravy.

(The roll & fold bit of flaky pastry sounds harder than it is: Basically, you roll the pastry out into a long, thin rectangle. Fold the bottom third up, and the top third down. Turn it 90-degrees. Seal the edges with your rolling pin, and roll out again. Alternate putting in layers of butter or lard on the pastry between folds, and resting the pastry in the fridge.)

Last little titbit of foodie wisdom concerns how to save a curdled hollandaise. I had managed in class this morning to make a beautiful (if slightly underseasoned) hollandaise, and was holding it in a bain marie while poaching my monkfish. To my horror, my hollandaise completely split about 1 minute later when my head was turned, as the bain marie had become too hot (over 55 degrees C). If this ever happens to you, it's saveable. Immediately get it out of the heat into a cooler bowl. In a second bowl, put a room temperature egg yolk. Then, in the bain marie, gradually incorporate your curdled mixture into your new egg yolk. I can wholeheartedly testify that it works. Memo to self: always have an extra egg at room temperature in case you have an emergency.

On that note, I'm off to cook dinner. Making grilled mackerel tonight, with a risotto starter. Not sure yet whether or not the husband and I will eat the two individual pecan pies brought home from class for our dessert. But I suspect we will, seeing as it is Friday night!

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