Anyone ask for some bacon?
Updated: Apr 23
As with any good liberal pastry arts program, we take a variety of classes to fully round out our education. That involves our classic pastry lab (time in the kitchen to make all our fancy desserts), techno (class time discussing how flour is made and practicing skills like piping), art (ugh), French (should be more helpful than it has turned out to be), wine tasting (BEST.CLASS.EVER.), boulangerie (bread baking time), restaurant (every few weeks, we work in one of our school’s 2 restaurants) and catering.
Catering in school is not what I think of as catering. Catering in France is actually the savory side of pastry – usually found at a bakery as the take-out menu, like quiche and croque monsieur’s. Our class is taught by a chef who used to be a Charcuterie chef. Meaning his specialty was in all things ham, bacon, sausage and in general, meat. Yes, the humor was not lost me either, as the 12 year vegetarian that I am.
Ah, yum. But as I have said and proven, cooking with meat is fine by me as long as I don’t have to eat it.
Actually our chef was really nice and worked with me and a colleague of mine, also a vegetarian, as much as he could to create variations on what our class was making so that it was veg-friendly. So for 2 days, we were surrounded by ham but luckily didn’t have to do much with it. It was a good class regardless and we made some tasty savory treats, so here we go.
First up, we were making a Tatin de Chevre. This is a savory tart, layered with bacon (or zucchini slices if you are veggie),
thinly sliced potatoes,
a huge disk of goat cheese,
more potatoes, and an egg mixture,
and a puff pastry disk, baked and then served flipped upside down.
Must admit, these tatins were pretty delicious. A bit heavy on the goat cheese, but really hearty and a great option to a quiche.
Speaking of quiche…we were next making a Quiche Lorraine, the classic French quiche. But our chef was again very helpful and gathered up some carrots, celery root and leeks for me to use in mine. He might have been confused as to why I don’t eat bacon (as everyone in France is – why are they so obsessed with ham?!), but he went with it and I got a great breakfast for the next day out of it.
First, we blind baked our shells so that the crust wouldn’t get too soggy. Here’s my pre-baked little masterpiece. I must say, I’ve gotten fairly good at lining tart rings by now. Never knew that I could list that on a resume until now…
After its turned a light brown, we brushed the shell with a bit of an eggwash to maintain that crisp layer, then poured in our sautéed veggies. If you were to use bacon, you blanch it to remove excess salt.
With veggies (or bacon, or if you’re wild, both) in the bottom of the shell, then you pour on a layer of grated cheese. Have I mentioned I loved this quiche yet?
Then you pour a mix of eggs and cream over the cheese and pop it in the oven. PS – this is Very Low Fat. Clearly.
Our ovens weren’t the most evenly stacked and so my quiche was a bit browner on one side. I ate the evidence, don’t worry.
After that, we created a Feuillete au Jambon or Feuillete aux Legumes. This made the quiche look like a diet food. Anyway, you start out with a making the mornay sauce, made up of flour, butter, milk, grated gruyere cheese, egg yolks, salt and pepper. We then piped it out onto puff pastry, made with pounds of butter.
On top of the sauce, chef layered about 8 huge pieces of ham that he had cooked in class special. Me, I went the route of layering steamed eggplant, zucchini and yellow peppers. Then top it with more mornay sauce and some grated cheese.
We then placed another piece of puff pastry on top. Because we like to make pretty things in pastry, we egg-washed the top and carved flowers into the puff pastry, as directed to us by the chef. Flowers and ham. Ah, France! You never stop surprising… I went the subtle route of just drawing ivy.
After baked, the design is more obvious. A simple recipe, but rich and filling for sure. A little bit goes a long way.
I felt good at this point. I saw how everything was made with bacon and yet was able to make mine with veggies. Score one for vegetarians! Until…
…Bouchee a la Reine. These are made of puff pastry shells,
baked, then filled with a mixture of white sauce with chicken, ham, poultry quenelles (chicken pieces, pureed with flour, milk, eggs and butter, cooked and formed into a 3D oval), and mushrooms. There was no way around the meat in this one. Not a problem, I grabbed my chicken breasts and got to work as best as I could knowing I wouldn’t be eating my final product.
Looking at this, I was wondering who would be eating this even if chicken and ham were eaten, but it take all kinds. Apparently this can be made with fish instead – still a no-go for me. Anyway, I carved the lid out of my pastry shells, filled the suckers up and popped their top back on. And that’s it, a bouchee a la reine. Go for it, Queen, not my cup of tea.
Our next foodstuff was the perfect traiteur item to bring me back in. This sounded pretty delicious and seemed a bit lighter than the other fare, a savory cake with feta, basil and roasted tomatoes. Cake is the wrong word for this and is a bit off putting, to be honest. But its really a savory loaf, almost bread-like. And really good. First you chop up your ingredients you will be putting in your loaf, in our case, basil, feta and roasted tomatoes.
Then you just add some basic ingredients, like eggs, flour, milk, and a bit more cheese, in gruyere form this time…
…and pour into the loaf pan to bake. Out comes this little guy.
Not the most impressive to see, but truly something delicious. Perfect for a brunch or tea, served with a light green salad. I really liked it. Could have just been the comparison to creamed chicken though, that had me so sold on it…
With our left over time, we also whipped up a few classic traiteur items, like sausage rolls.
Or cheese logs; rolled puff pastry, filled with mornay sauce and dipped in grated emmental.
Another unique item – Parisian Gnocchi. Its pate a choux, poached in water, then mixed with mornay sauce and poured into a pastry shell, covered with cheese and then baked at home. It was…interesting.
And lastly, a croque monsieur. I cheated on this one and made a fancy grilled cheese, though traditionally you have ham inside. Interestingly, there are two ways to make the same sandwich. One, lay down bread, then béchamel sauce, then ham, the more béchamel sauce, then bread and then grated cheese and grill under the salamander. The other, is bread, then grated cheese mixed with crème fraiche, then ham, then more chese/crème mix, bread, melted butter and grated cheese. Both obviously make a nice little snack.
These are things I find interesting. Sorry guys.
That was my intro to savory at school. Think I’ll still with pastry, but always fun to try something new! Plus, there was cheese in everything. Sadly, there was ham in everything too. Tradeoffs, I guess…