Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lesson 2: Cooking and Eating

My first experience with cooking veal went well, with the overall menu getting mixed reviews.  

Veal is the part of this meal that keeps sticking out of this menu, however everyone who ate this menu had something different that they liked...some really liked the soup, others really liked the veal and another liked the caramel the best.  

Let me take you through the cooking and explain how it all went.

The morning started by going to the local farmer's market to pick up the leeks which I didn't find the day before. Once returning, I set off to make the Caramel Custard so that it would have sufficient time to cool. Here is everything ready to go:

I made the caramel and tried my best to coat the charlotte pan, bottom and sides, however having stopped the cooking with cold water, the caramel solidifies extremely quickly. I then made the custard and put it in a water bath to cook.

Cooking time called for 40-50 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. It took 60 minutes and I was still unsure that it was cooked enough...just notice the knife marks in the top.

I left this all day to cool and did all of the normal weekend chores, getting back to cooking after 4pm.

I felt this menu was very manageable, in terms of not having to multitask; instead each item was given enough time to prep and cook without much interference or need to juggle when to do what.

The vegetable soup...cut and blanch the cabbage, cook the cabbage, cut the leeks, cook the leeks, combine everything with the stock I made with the leftovers from Lesson 1, and let simmer for 40 minutes.  

Here's what it looked like in the pot:

Next I prepped the apples, and cut up the mushrooms, prepared the mushrooms and creme fraiche, setting it aside until later.

The dinner guests arrived, this time my parents, sister and her husband joined us for the evening.  When they arrived, I put the pasta in the soup and we chatted for a few minutes before enjoying our first course.

The soup was flavorful and quite hearty, even with just 4 ingredients...cabage, leeks, stock and pasta.  This would make a great fall/winter soup, something for a cold day.  It is also easy to make, although I do need to work on the proper portions for pasta in soup, because within a short time of serving up the first round, my soups tend to turn to some sort of pasta casserole when the pasta soaks up all of the liquid.

After eating the soup, I turned to cooking the veal.  Because it cooks so fast, needs to be served warm, and our kitchen has a place for guests to be close, I was able to both enjoy the cooking and the company.

I was unsure of how long to cook the veal, and was pleased when it wasn't overcooked.  The sauce of mushrooms, creme fraiche, shallots, and brandy to deglaze the frying pan, was a big hit and the amount of sauce did not totally overwhelm the veal.  Along with the veal were baked golden delicious apples, which were supposed to coordinate with the Calvados (apple brandy), however I just used regular brandy. The comments from my family were that the apples were best enjoyed separate, as they seemed to overwhelm the veal, while the mushroom sauce seemed to bring out the flavor of the meat very well.

After seeing this picture, I think I will put plating on my list of things to improve.

Dishes were cleaned with a little time to allow everyone to make room for dessert...

I saved the picture of this for last because I like the action it is...the Carmel Custard with a stream of caramel pouring on top...can't waste the best part!

The caramel was excellent; however I thought the custard tasted very eggy.  My mom loves custard and couldn't get enough.  I pictured this being a light dessert to end on, which would have been nice at the end of this meal.  I personally found it to be very rich and didn't eat too much of it...maybe that is what helps with portion control!?!

Overall...excellent way to introduce myself to cooking veal, which I would definitely want to cook again, just not very often, or I might need a second job.  Mixed reviews on the menu, so look to the next post on what I learned to see what I will try again and what I need to work on.


bricogirl said...

Aren't you wonderful learning how to cook and teaching us as you go! If you want to learn more about Calvados, I just did a page on types of brandy in France. Have fun with the cooking.

The Mediocre Cook said...

It all looks so good and I have to chuckle at your plating comment. I have been trying to work on that myself! The Caramel Custard looks awesome.