Tournage and Lamb’s Tongue

Week two of classes started last night with tournage. Now, tournage sounds pretty, but it’s anything but in the beginning. Tournage is the classic French technique for shaping and turning vegetables into a seven-sided “football-like” shape. There are five different sizes: the bouquetière, 3 cm; the cocette, 5 cm; the vapeur, 6 cm;  the château, 7.5 cm; and the fondant, 8-9 cmBasically, it’s miserable. Did I already say that?

Chef warned us on Saturday night that last night’s class would be frustrating, but I didn’t quite understand how frustrating. Each duo had to turn two potatoes, two carrots, and two turnips into at least 10-12 cocettes from each type of vegetable. During his demo, Chef made it seem so easy. I actually fooled myself into thinking it was no big deal. Wrong.

I got the first step down pretty quickly, cut the vegetable down to a triangle of the approximate size and then cut off the points with a slightly curved knife stroke. But then I was totally lost! Chef had said to then curve the ends of the flat sides since nature had already done some of the work for you. It had made so much sense watching him but, as I stood there at my own station potato in hand, I thought…uhhh, what? I pretty much stared blankly at this little nub of a vegetable for awhile and then just started hacking away. Some of them were so embarrassingly bad that I snuck them into the scrap pile to hide them from view. Others, seemed to be surprisingly close to what I was supposed to achieve.

With zero consistency, it took a lot of extra effort to get the amount of veggies we needed (and my hand was basically stuck the way you are supposed to hold the knife for this technique) but we eventually got enough that we deemed somewhat presentable. Guess everyone I know will be eating a lot of carrots, turnips, and potatoes until I get the hang of tournage…

We practiced our a l’anglaise cooking techniques on the turnips we turned and by adding a step in which we let the pot brown (kind of like what I did with the carrots when I wasn’t supposed to…), we learned a new technique called a brun. We cooked pearl onions a brun. We also practiced the l’etuvee technique we learned on green beans and peas. Are you following? Because my head was spinning. I feel like each class we are being asked to do more and more steps, which is good because it means we are advancing, but my head was spinning!

Anyway, we also took the choke out of an artichoke and cooked it in a special solution that helps it keep its pretty green color instead of oxidize and, with the potatoes, we made pommes rissoles. Pommes Rissoles are basically a fried potato (sorry French chefs!) that has way too many steps–first boil the potatoes, drain, let air dry, saute in a lot of oil until browned, put in the oven for 15 minutes, then put a heap of butter and salt on top, and put back in the oven for another few minutes. Really?!  They were SO good though.

Once all of this was done, we arranged it into a platter called “garniture bouquetiere” (I do not know how to pronounce this–perhaps I should learn).  It’s basically an intricately arranged side platter of vegetables that takes a lot of time to construct (then again, maybe I’m just slow still?), but looks pretty. You put the prepped, choked and cooked artichoke in the center of the plate and then use it as a basket to hold peas. You then place the pearl onions and turned carrots, potatoes, and turnips artfully around the plate and sprinkle with parlsey.

At the end of class our assistant chef, who had been prepping something else for another level of students during part of the class, offered the bounty to us. We all eagerly ran up thinking FREE FOOD! (not that we don’t get enough already) only to find out it was lamb tongue for level 2’s organ meat day. Yes, lamb tongue. I wrapped it in a paper towel and brought it home for a very unsuspecting friend. He threw it in the garbage. I guess I’ll not only be cooking but also eating that not too long from now.

Note: I ALWAYS forget to take pictures in class. My camera is on me during every class, so I am really going to try harder. I think right now I am still so overwhelmed and trying to get things done and served to Chef quickly! I’m also planning on doing some of my own recipes/redoing some recipes from school for the blog on Mondays, Tuesday, and Thursdays when I don’t have any stories from class. We’ll see if I can find the time…

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