Tomato Roses – they stole the show!

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I thought I would be clever and post a recipe called ‘Crab-filled Fish Paupiettes with White Wine and Butter Sauce.’ Photographing fish on a plate can look quite bland, so I decided to add a Tomato Rose to the plate to add more colour. I wound up liking the Tomato Roses so much, I decided to forget about the fish (for awhile) and instead feature these little roses.

Tomato Roses are so easy to make- all you do is peel the tomato skin (like an apple) and wind the peel up tightly to form a ‘rose’ (see directions below). These roses are so versatile, you can use them for just about anything. After I made the roses, I started walking around the house saying to myself, “Hmmm, what else could I use a Tomato Rose for?”

Well, you could place one in the middle of a salad as a centrepiece feature:

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Or, you could use the roses as a table centrepiece for a more formal dinner. Here, I placed three tomato roses on a glass cake stand. I think the arrangement looks quite nice and a tomato rose is a lot cheaper than buying real roses!

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The more I look at these roses, the more I think they look real! What do you think?

Now back to my original recipe- ‘Crab-filled Fish Paupiettes with White Wine and Butter Sauce.’ This recipe involves rolling a piece of flat fish around some crab filling, poaching it in liquid on the stove top, then finishing it with a white wine and butter sauce. The crab stuffing is easy to make, but you do need to make sure you don’t overcook the fish. For the wine/butter sauce, you need to gradually whisk in the cold butter pieces to ensure that the sauce thickens properly.

The recipe often uses Sole fish since it is flat and thin, making it easy to wrap around the stuffing. However, I haven’t seen Sole where I live, so I use either Flake fish or Red Snapper.

Crab-filled Fish Paupiettes with White Wine and Butter Sauce

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A few pointers before we begin:

1. Flatten the fish before adding the filling; shape it so that a wider end is nearest to you and the farthest end tapers into a narrower point.

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 2. Spread the filling on the fish, leaving a margin of about 1 inch around the edges. Roll up the fish, starting with the wider end nearest you.

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3. Poaching liquid for the fish should cover at least 1/2 of the fish.

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Crab-filled Fish Paupiettes with White Wine and Butter Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: French
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Fish pieces rolled in a crab filling and cover with a rich white wine and butter sauce.
Ingredients
  • 4 fish pieces (Sole, Red Snapper or Flake)
  • For the Filling
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 2 - 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream
  • 8 ounces crab meat
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. chopped chives
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • For the Fish and Sauce
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 2 - 3 tbsp. butter
  • 200 ml (~ ¾ cup dry white wine)
  • 200 ml (~ ¾ cup chicken or fish stock)
  • 80 g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. For the Filling
  2. 'Sweat' the chopped shallots in butter under medium heat until they are translucent in colour. Add the flour and stir.
  3. Add the dry white wine and stir until the liquid has reduced ⅓ in volume.
  4. Now add the heavy cream, crab meat, lemon juice, chives and seasonings.
  5. Prepare the fish- flatten each fish piece and shape so that the fish is widest at the part nearest you and tapers off to a point.
  6. Spread the filling on top of each fish piece, leaving a 1 inch margin around the edges. Roll up each fish piece, starting with the wide part nearest you. Each piece should not be too bulky, but should be rolled rather tightly. Set these aside while you prepare the poaching liquid.
  7. 'Sweat' the chopped shallots in butter over medium heat in a large skillet until translucent in colour. Add the wine and stock and then place the fish pieces in the skillet with the seam side facing down. Cover and poach until the fish are cooked (around 10 minutes).
  8. Remove the fish pieces and place in a casserole to rest while preparing the sauce. Cover the fish with a little of the poaching liquid to keep moist.
  9. Transfer 1 cup of the poaching liquid to a smaller saucepan and bring to a medium heat. Now gradually add one cube of butter at a time and whisk until the sauce gradually thickens. Add the chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Serve the fish on a plate and cover with the sauce. Add a Tomato Rose as a garnish, if desired.

 

How to Make a Tomato Rose

1. Starting on the bottom of the tomato, cut a circle with a knife, to begin the paring of the tomato skin.

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2. Continue cutting the skin of the tomato with a width of about 1/2 inch, as if paring an apple. Cut in a circular motion while turning the tomato.

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3. When you get towards the end of the tomato, reduce the width of your paring cuts. After you have finished, the tomato skin should look like a long snake. With the shiny side of the tomato skin facing outward, start curling the skin into a tight rose shape, finishing with the base of the tomato.

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4. When you get to the end, tuck the base of the tomato under the rose. Finish by adding several basil leaves for decoration.

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Rachel Khoo’s Lemon Meringue Tartlets

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I love Rachel Khoo – she is a food writer/chef who has a TV show called ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’ where she runs a two-table restaurant from her tiny Paris apartment (now closed). I like her charming personality and also that she reminds me of how Paris may have been in the 1950’s, with her bright red lipstick, black eyeliner and polka dot dresses. And she does produce some good dishes. Have you seen her show?

Rachel Khoo pix

She recently demonstrated a dish called ‘Grapefruit and Pepper Meringue Tartlets’- although not intrigued with the idea of using pepper in a sweet dessert, I decided to give this recipe a try. The dish looked delicious with the added bonus I could daydream I was cooking in my very own Paris kitchen!

I decided to diverge from the recipe a bit- I axed the pepper and substituted lemon curd for the grapefruit curd. What resulted was a delicious lemon filling nestled inside a biscuit/cake base, and topped with a swirl of meringue. As I bit into it, I was transported into my imaginary Parisian world, carrying a fresh baguette under my arm from my local Paris bakery, perhaps a chance sighting of Brigitte Bardot (maybe not!)

 Lemon Meringue Tartlets

 For the Biscuit Base

      • 150 g softened butter (5 ounces)
      • 150 g sugar (~ 3/4 cups)
      • Zest from 1/2 lemon
      • pinch of salt
      • 4 egg yolks
      • 200 g plain flour (~ 1 cup)
      • 3 tsp baking powder

For the Lemon Curd

      • Juice from two lemons (~ 3/4 cup)
      • 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
      • 200 g sugar (~ 1 cup)
      • pinch of salt
      • 100 g butter, cubed  (3.5 ounces)

For the Meringue

      •  3 egg whites
      • 150 g sugar (~ 3/4 cup)
      • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. To make the biscuit base, pre-heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Cream together the softened butter, sugar, lemon zest and salt until smooth. Add the egg yolks and continue to beat.
  2. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then add to the creamed mixture. Beat until the dough comes together as a smooth paste.
  3. Grease the inside of 6 pastry rings with melted butter. Place the rings on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread a thin layer of biscuit batter on the bottom of each pastry ring (about 1/4 inch thick), then work a bit of the dough up the sides of the ring so that a little ‘well’ is formed for the lemon curd to sit in.

 IMG_48984. Bake for 12 -15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pastry ring and then gently release each biscuit from the ring.

5. To make the lemon curd, whisk together the juice of two lemons (~ 3/4 cup) in a saucepan with the sugar, salt, egg and egg yolks. Whisk over medium heat until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.

6. Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter, one piece at a time, whisking until the consistency is smooth.

7. Place curd into the fridge for at least one hour until it ‘sets’ then fill each biscuit base with around 2 tablespoons of the curd.

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8. To make the meringue, beat the egg whites and pinch of salt with electric beaters until soft peaks begin to form. Then gradually add the sugar while beating, until stiff peaks form and the meringue has a glossy colour.

9. Swirl the meringue on top of each biscuit base (filled with the lemon curd) and brown the tops with a blowtorch. Alternatively, you can place the tartlets under a hot grill for a few minutes to brown.

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 Tartlet pix

 

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My Life at the Cordon Bleu School- Paris

Chef Stril Sausages

Chef Bruno Stril preparing sausages at the Cordon Bleu School- Paris

People often ask me what it was like studying cuisine at the Cordon Bleu School in Paris. When people think of the Cordon Bleu they conjure up images of students being taught by world-famous chefs and whipping up fancy dishes as they loll about in a perfect culinary utopia.

Some of these images are accurate, but in reality studying at this school can be bloody hard work, working at a frantic pace in a hot kitchen under the watchful (and sometimes grouchy) eye of the supervising chef. Even now, a year later, I still wake up in the middle of the night hearing the words Allez, Allez! or Vite, Vite! as I dream of the French chef waving a spatula in exasperation. But, then again, I loved the experience and will do it all again in 2014 when I return for the 10-week ‘Superior’ course. Here are some basic FAQ and answers:

(Also, see my post on Surviving the Le Cordon Bleu Superior Exam).

Where is the Cordon Bleu School located and what are the facilities like?

The school is located in the 15th District (arrondissement) on the Left Bank in a residential area. The building has 4 stories and used to be a medical supplies building. The quarters can be a bit cramped, particularly in the locker rooms. You have to be careful when bending over to tie your shoes in the locker room, or you might have an ‘eye-to-rump’ encounter with your neighbor.

LCB Building

                                   Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris

I rented an apartment in the Latin Quarter (5th District) close to the quaint rue Mouffetard. I used to take a Metro train to the school and sometimes musicians would come onto the trains and play, in hope you would throw a euro or two their way. One of these men once saw that I was holding a large cake on my lap as I rode the train home. He stopped and asked me in French if he could have the cake and I said Non!

The kitchens where we did our practice cooking were rather small- just room enough for 10 students maximum. The ceilings were low and the kitchens could get quite hot- I’ve seen much larger kitchens being used for high school ‘home economics’ classes in Australia and the USA.

Practical Kitchen at LCB

Practical Kitchen at LCB

What is the class routine like at the school?

The day would start out with a 2.5 hour Demonstration Class where the chef would demonstrate three courses in French: an entré, main course and dessert. A translator stood next to the chef and translated each step, which included everything from filleting fish, dicing vegetables, cooking lobsters live and making homemade ice creams. Sometimes it was difficult to follow everything because the chef would sometimes jump from one dish to another and then back again, plus the French language sometimes made it très díficile!

This was then followed by a 2.5 hour practical class, where we split up into the individual kitchens and practiced what we learned. Sometimes these ‘practicals’ were held the next day, so we had time to practice some of the techniques before then. I think I was one of the few students who actually practiced making the dish before the practical class, so I would have more confidence!

At the end of the 2.5 hour practical class, we presented our food to the chef to be graded.

Chef Lesourd with translator

Translator getting ready for the Demonstration Class

What sort of techniques and dishes did you learn at the Cordon Bleu School?

In the Basic Class, we learned how to make delicious soups like Crab Bisque, using real live crabs, and Cauliflower Soup (Crème Dubarry):

Crab Bisque

Crab Bisque

 

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

We also learned how to fillet fish, including a trout while leaving the head and tail in tact: 

Filleted Trout with head and tail

Filleted Trout with head and tail in tact

However, we were all excited waiting for the chance to make ‘Lobster American’ (Homard à l’américaine). This dish was seen in the movie ‘Julie and Julia’ with Meryl Streep and involves first preparing the lobster; tying a string from the lobster’s head to the tail to keep it straight while being dropped live into boiling water.

 Live Lobster before cooked

Lobster being prepared for a dip in boiling water

 Lobster American

And now for the finished product:  Homard à l’américaine

Pastry is ‘King’ at Le Cordon Bleu so we learned to make pastry dough by first placing all the ingredients on the marble surface, forming a ball and then pushing the dough along the marble with the palm of your hand. This technique is called fraiser la pâte

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After forming the dough, we made Guinea Fowl Pie which was delicious!

Guinea Fowl Pie

In Intermediate Cuisine, we learned recipes from different regions of France. Rabbit dishes are frequently found in the Loire Valley, so we learned how to completely de-bone a rabbit and then stuff it with a tasty prune stuffing. De-boning a rabbit is not easy- you have to completely remove the spine and there are lots of ‘fiddly bits’, but it was well worth it!

Rabbit De-boned

        A Completely De-boned rabbit-  spine located on the right

Rabbit stuffed with prunes

         Rabbit Stuffed with Prunes; Potatoes Filled with Cheese

Just one more advantage of attending the Cordon Bleu school. Every time the pastry students make cakes or desserts, they place their goodies out on a table in the ‘Winter Garden’ sitting area and you can come by and eat what you want. I have even been known to take an entire cake home with me!

LCB Cakes

So, now I have a whole year to get ready for the 10-week Superior Cuisine course in June 2014. Wish me luck and I’ll keep you posted!

Fran at Int Graduation

Me receiving the Intermediate Certificate at Le Cordon Bleu in 2012