Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Salmon Tartare with Pickled Cucumbers, Red Onions and Capers

An amuse bouche usually consists of a small bite-size treat, courtesy of the chef, that opens up your palate for the meal to come. They are sometimes incredibly intricate, sometimes very simple, and are meant to showcase the restaurant's culinary vision. One of the stations at the French Culinary Institute's restaurant comes up with a different amuse bouche every day. When my turn arrived, I came up with this concoction, a fresh way to get your appetite going on a warm sunny day. The tricky part was to plate quickly as the customers ordered their food. The salmon had to be mixed with the marinade at the last minute to ensure that the salmon would maintain its vivid orange color, so we rapidly found ourselves plating a dozen tartares at a time. It was worth it though, as the plates looked beautiful and the salmon turned out tasty, yet simple. You can definitely serve this as an appetizer as I did with the leftovers.

Since then, I have graduated, and been adorned with a proper chef's hat! The real professional kitchen life will come soon, but I am for now savoring a bit of relaxing time after an intense 6 months of training to become a chef.


Salmon fillet
A handful of capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
One diced red onion
2 tablespoons yuzu juice
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar
1/4 lemon, juice and zest
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup of parmesan
Half cucumber, sliced very thin
Chives, to garnish

Place the cucumber in a bowl. Add the rice wine vinegar and yuzu. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Leave for at least an hour in the fridge so that the cucumbers get a nice pickly taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grate parmesan and spread on a silk pad sheet set on top of a sheet pan. If you don't have one, you can use parchment paper. Spread the cheese on an even layer making a rough rectangular shape. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Break into pieces and reserve.

Dice the salmon and place it into a bowl. Remove any gray areas in the flesh, as well as the skin. Cover and place in the fridge. In a separate bowl, mix the red onions, capers, lemon juice and zest. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once you are ready to serve, add the caper and onion mixture to the salmon. Do not do this too much in advance or the salmon will change color with the acidity of the lemon.

Place a mound of salmon tartare on the plate, and serve with cucumber, a piece of parmesan and a piece of chive as you please. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Warm Chocolate Tart with Candied Orange


Chocolate tarts are an easy seller for most people. Warm chocolaty filling and a crunchy crust make for a delicious dessert at any time of year. This tart has been very popular in the restaurant, and is served with homemade caramel ice cream.

The kitchen has been incredibly warm these past few days although the pastry kitchen - which is generally blessed with more fresh air- has made the heat a little more bearable. The pastry kitchen at l'Ecole is cooler than the other stations in the restaurant but even so, it has been quite the challenge to plate ice cream scoops and run to the front of the kitchen before they look like soup. Rolling out dough has also been a little more fussy than usual, and even on cold marble, the tart dough was very quickly too soft to handle. The trick has been to roll it out on floured parchment paper, and to use a second piece of it to flip the dough around and make sure it doesn't stick.

Heat really is the evil cousin of the kitchen and I'm not sure I'm completely used to performing sometimes tedious or physically demanding tasks while all you I am dreaming about is a pool and iced cocktails. But when I start plating dishes such as this chocolate tart, it's easier to put things back into perspective. This beautiful - and tasty! - food will soon be served to a crowd waiting in the dining room who will, hopefully, leave their table satisfied.


Recipe (makes about 30 individual tarts)
Tart Dough:
450 grams butter
200 grams sugar
2 egg yolks
15 milliliters heavy cream
510 grams flour

280 grams of bittersweet chocolate
4 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
55 grams of sugar
Zest of 1 orange
170 grams of softened butter
Icing sugar for garnish

Candied Orange Peel:
Peel of 2 oranges, cut into thin matchsticks
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
Extra water to blanch

Place the butter and sugar in a mixer and mix until softened - don't overbeat. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks and heavy cream and add slowly to the mixer. Once the mixture is smooth, turn off the machine and add the flour all at once. Mix until the dough holds together but do not overbeat. Let the dough rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
Once the dough has rested, take it out and roll in out gently into a thin disc. Butter 3 1/2 inch tartlet molds and gently cut out circles of dough to fit them. Place the circles to chill in the fridge (or freezer) until they are cold. They should be cold and just maleable enough to be placed in the molds. Even if they seem a little bit hard, press them between your two palms and they will be maleable in no time. They should still be cold when placed in the oven, so try to fill your mold quickly and do them in batches if you plan on making a few. Bake at 325 F (making sure to place beans or another heavy element inside so that the dough does not rise. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the sides of the crust are light golden-brown in color.
Remove the beans and bake for another 2 minutes. Leave to cool.

Melt the chocolate. While it is melting, place the yolks, whole eggs and sugar in a mixer. Mix for about 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens and forms ribbons. Add the butter, zest and mix it with a spatula. Add the melted chocolate.
Fill the cooled tart doughs with the filling and bake at 325 F for an additional 6 minutes.

Candied Orange:
Place the peels in a pot of hot water and blanch 3 times to remove bitterness. Make a simple syrup by dissolving 2 cups of sugar in 2 cups of water. Add the peels to the syrup and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes or until the peels are translucent.

Serve the tart warm sprinkled with icing sugar and candied orange.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Chocolate and Raspberry Filled Crepes

Crepes have a always been a sort of weekend tradition in my family. As one of the few recipes that my mother masters to perfection, we were treated to crepes simply dressed with granulated sugar and a squeeze of lemon. At culinary school, we made the classic 'crepes suzette' made with orange compound butter, and flambéed with orange liqueur. The ones featured here were were however filled with melted bittersweet chocolate and raspberries... the main reason being that red berries are delicious at this time of year, and that Oliver and I had an early morning craving for chocolate.

The only real trick to crepes is making sure that there are no lumps in the batter, and that you give the batter time to rest.. so patience is key! I tend to prefer crepes to pancakes because they are so much lighter in taste and texture and really create a blank canvas to play with.. as well as a little taste of home.


125 grams (1 cup) flour
Pinch of salt
20 grams (1 tablespoon) of sugar
2 whole eggs
250 ml milk
2 cups of raspberries
Zest of half an orange and lemon
1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
Room temperature butter

Place the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl and form a well in the center. Add the eggs in the well, whisking constantly to make sure the dry ingredients get incorporated smoothly. Add the milk in small batches. Once the mixture is smooth, leave to rest for an hour in the fridge.

Heat a knob of butter in a non-stick pan. Once the butter starts to foam up, place a ladle of crepe batter in the pan and twirl the mixture to obtain a thin and even layer of crepe. Once the crepe starts to firm up, add a couple tablespoons of chocolate, and sprinkle with orange and lemon zest on one half of the crepe. Add a few raspberries and leave to cook for about 2 minutes until the raspberries start to full apart. Fold in the empty side of the crepe ontop of the filling and cook for another minute. Fold the crepe into a triangle and serve immediately. Garnish with extra raspberries and orange zest. Enjoy!
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