I’m sorry it’s been so long since I updated my blog but I’ve been Sooooo Busy lately- I just graduated from Superior Cuisine at the Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris! This course was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Not only did we have to attend 30 demonstrations and practical classes, but we had to design a menu for our final exam and execute it in 4 hours (and write up a dossier in French describing our ingredients and technique). Here is a picture taken of me at the graduation ceremony with my favourite chef, Marc Vaca.
I did it!
What is a picture of a verrine doing at the top of my blog page? Well, for my recent final exam at Le Cordon Bleu, we had to invent a verrine using ingredients from a prescribed list. I had never heard of a verrine before coming to Paris to study at the Cordon Bleu school, but they have become popular in France over the past 10 years, and have now made their way to the U.S. and other countries.
What is a Verrine?
A verrine is layered food presented in a glass, usually for an appetizer or dessert. It can be served hot or cold, but if you’re presenting a hot verrine, be sure to use an ovenproof glass without a stem. Verrines are a great way to show off your creativity by using different colors and textures and you can even introduce an element of surprise for your guests (maybe add a quail’s egg at the bottom of your verrine)?
For my verrine, I used marinated shrimp and artichoke hearts nestled in a tomato concassé base and topped with a delicious garlic mousse. We also had to garnish the verrine with a croustillant, or something crunchy, so I used potato chips that I cut in a waffle shape using my mandoline slicer. If you’re not a fan of garlic, don’t be turned off by the garlic mousse. The garlic is first roasted in the oven and the pulp is then folded into some whipped cream with a pinch of salt- producing a nice mild flavour.
So, here is my verrine recipe for Marinated shrimp and artichoke hearts with concassé tomatoes and garlic mousse. The recipe serves 4 people.
Step 1: Roast the garlic head for the garlic mousse
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Slice off the top of a garlic head, revealing a little of the insides of the garlic cloves (a bread knife is handy here). Remove some of the papery outer layers. Brush the top of the garlic head with some olive oil, cover with aluminium foil and bake in the oven until the garlic softens, usually about 30 – 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Cut off top of garlic head, brush with oil and bake in aluminium foil Step 2: Marinate the shrimp and artichoke hearts. While the garlic is roasting in the oven, marinate the shrimp and artichoke hearts. (For my exam, I had to cook my artichokes from scratch in order to get the artichoke hearts, but you can buy them in a jar in a supermarket).Best to use raw shrimp: remove the heads and shells of 4 shrimps or prawns and then coat both the shrimp and 4 artichoke hearts in olive oil and the juice and zest of one lemon. Let marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes (longer, if possible).
After the shrimp are marinated, pan fry them in a little butter for a few minutes until cooked through and then chop them into small pieces.
Step 3: Prepare the Tomato Concassé
Tomato Concassé refers to tomatoes that have been skinned, seeded and chopped into pieces. For detailed instructions on how to skin and seed tomatoes, click here. Add 4 diced tomatoes to a saucepan and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon and 4 tablespoons of white wine to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the mixture becomes soft. Add some water to the pan if the mixture becomes too dry.
Step 4: Prepare the Garlic Mousse
Squeeze the garlic pulp out of each garlic clove and mash into a smooth paste. Whip 90 ml (3/4 cup) of thickened cream with electric beaters until stiff peaks are formed. Gradually fold in the mashed garlic paste into the cream until the mixture is smooth. The garlic taste should not overwhelm the mousse; adjust the amount of garlic paste accordingly. Add a pinch of salt.
Step 5: Prepare the Waffle-shaped potato chips
Peel a small or medium potato. Slice thin pieces using a mandoline; I used a special attachment on my mandoline to produce a ‘waffle’ pattern. Fry the potato chips for several minutes in hot oil until they turn a golden brown.
Step 6: Assemble the Verrine
Place the tomato concassé mixture in the bottom of the verrine and add several pieces of the chopped shrimp and diced artichoke hearts. Spread some garlic mousse on top and finish with several potato chips and a piece of coriander on top.