I was amazed to take a look at my calendar this past weekend and notice just how little time I have left as a student here. Just 7 weeks of classes, 5 more days of restaurant service, and 3 more regional menus. I’ll probably miss the regional menus most, as they are by far my favorite thing about this course. It’s nice to do something a little different from the normal day of classes, to actually cook a meal and get to sit down and enjoy it. Most of the time we do get to taste what we make, but we don’t always get to really savor the food and each other’s company. The Picardie menu was no exception….all around delicious.
Picardie isn’t a region I was familiar with before arriving in France. It’s actually located just north of Paris. It has a distinctive cuisine and–perhaps due to it’s proximity to Belgium–a penchant for beer that sets it apart from it’s wine-loving neighbors.
The first course, Creme de Chou-fleur aux moules, was a pretty good start to the meal. I like cauliflower soup, and the mollusks were fried until just crisp, which was appealing. However, I wasn’t really sure these two ingredients really complemented each other…or rather, I really wasn’t sure that mollusks add anything to cauliflower soup. That didn’t stop me from finishing my bowl, though.
There were some scallops left over after prepping the 3rd course, so we pan-seared them in their shells and offered them up alongside the soup as a delicious accompaniment. If you’re ever looking for a quick-and easy way to prepare scallops, simply crack them open, remove the guts, and plop them face down in some butter. voila. Simple, fresh, delicious….exactly how food should be.
Second up is Parmentier de Kippers. Essentially a mashed potato with smoked fish (Kipper) mixed in. Interesting, not bad, but not my favorite.
Next, we have what really became of the scallops, in an interesting and architectural presentation alongside some brussels sprout puree and a carefully balanced, beer-battered onion ring. And look! first green vegetable sighting since this course began!
I worked on the meat course again, which was fine with me. This was an interesting dish—beef rolled in brown sugar, seared, deglazed with beer, and then left to braise for a couple hours. It was perfectly fork-tender and tasted good, but a bit too sweet for most of us to finish. it was served with a side of hand-cut fries and an endive (carefully stuffed with apple sliced and then allowed to caramelize on the stove-top, which helped balance out the endive’s characteristic bitterness). The garnish was actually a dehydrated celery leaf, which i slaved for hours over a microwave to make. (In fact, before this class, I didn’t know this school even had a microwave.) And of course, the best part:: Dessert. This was a Galopin de chicoree and sorbet a la Biere. Two strong flavors, but somehow they worked. The sorbet is, as the name states, made with beer as its primary ingredient, but not just any beer—cherry beer! You don’t have to like beer to enjoy this–it doesn’t taste like your typical beer at all. I wasn’t sure what to think of it at first—it was good, but there was something strangely familiar about it that I couldn’t quite place. I desperately wanted to believe it tasted like cheerwine, but I knew that wasn’t it. Finally, someone said it…it tasted JUST LIKE a cherry Icee.
As an aside, I know that food is supposed to evoke memories and whatnot, but the downfall of that is its hard to find the gourmet in something you associate with gas-station snack stops. But hey, to be honest I’m not really looking for only gourmet around here, I’m just looking for things that taste good. On that count, the beer Icee delivers.
That wraps up the Picardie menu!