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La Technique: Preservation?

Even though this is an amateur series of classes, it still helps to do a little homework. Ya know, read the next lesson ahead of time, make little recipe cards, maybe even try some of the recipes you made in school at home. Elle surprised me again here, clarifying butter, making hollandaise & eggs benedict and even the hunter sauce at home. Maybe I should get her a bit more credit…

Anyway, in the weekend leading up to class five, I read the text. It was all about preserving food. Ya know, salting, smoking, curing, pickling, dehydration. I was happy to see that there was no mention of aspics of jellies. After reading the Julie Julia Project I had vision of making some nasty layered turkey casserole covered in an aspic made of pork calves and set to gel in a fridge for 48 hours.

Instead, we made split pea soup. What does split pea soup have to do with preserving? I’m not really sure. I guess its because you use split peas on the soup? Uhm, ok. I would’ve thought smoking something would’ve been fun. No. Not that. Like a fish or something. K got me an indoor stove-top smoker a year ago and it works pretty well. You can smoke cook a fish in about 20-30 minutes. With little to no smoke getting out of the little contraption, which I was sure prior to would set off the smoke detector.

But the soup was pretty good, as it should be with bacon and butter and leeks and heavy cream, especially after it sat in our fridge for a few days. This happened to be the first time I remembered to bring tupperware to class so I could save some of our food.

We also made brandade de morue, or in American speak: Salt-cod mashed potatoes. What goes in this crazy dish? Well, uh salt-cod and mashed potatoes. It’s not actually that crazy. De-salt the cod over a few days by soaking in water and then poach it, mash it up, fry it with some oil and then mix with mashed potatoes. This dish reminded me of something we had our first day in Paris last August…


I don’t know if you know this story but Kelly and I stayed with a friend of a friend of a friend, which means we had to relation to the woman and she was basically letting a couple of strangers – and Americans at that – to stay in her 17th arroundissement apartment for a week without reservation. In fact, she made us a beautiful salad when we arrived, forced us to sleep in her bed while she slept on the couch, and then had her friend (who happened to be one of the friends in the above connection) make us a duck confit & mashed potato baked thing. It probably has a great French-sounding name but uh, I didn’t catch it. If you’ve ever seen me try to learn French, you’d understand why.

Oh, you haven’t seen me try to speak French?Don’t say I didn’t warn ya…Click here to open Video Player

A friend of a friend tries to teach me how to pronounce French city names – after the four of us split too many bottles of champagne and wine and more champagne.

Anyway, about the duck dish, you do the same thing. Cook the duck and potatoes. Mash it all up. Bake. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Bake a tad more. It comes out like this:

Eh. It was OK (the brandade, not the duck dish). I probably didn’t make it right or maybe that’s just not a magical, winning combination for me and I like salt-cod. Elle thought it was pretty uneatable and I wasn’t far from that conclusion. K makes a Portuguese dish where you use fried potatoes, tomatoes and salt-cod, and it is much better.

Making this dish and the split-pea soup should’ve taken about an hour, right? Right. What did we do with the rest of the time? We made a salad. A salad? Yes. It took 3 hours to make a salad? Yes. Was this some sort of play on the word ‘salad’ and actually some elaborate incarnation of like duck infused into a lettuce leaf or something? No. Is this some amazing salad that makes you re-think all salads you will ever eat in the future? No. It was a basic Nicoise. Was it just totally overcomplicated in that way that only French dishes can be, requiring cooks to pretend as if it is 1689 and the king is coming over for dinner so they can waste hours cooking and seasoning and dressing each component of a simple salad so that can arrange on a plate in a very slightly more ‘classic’ setting? Actually, yes. That’s exactly what it was. Did I mention it took like 3 hours? Ironically enough, this salad was the first dish we created that we actually ate for family meal.

It was pretty good.


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