John & Brenda's Excellent European Adventure - Part Deux travel blog

Bombel (CookinFrance) In The Morning Mist

The Sun Begins To Burn Off The Mist

Chef Jim Leads The Ragout Prep

Apples Laid Out For The Tarte Tatin

The Lamb Fresh From The Oven After 23 Minutes

The Lamb Rests Under A Stack Of Towels For 1 1/2 Hours

Ready To Carve The Leg Of Lamb

The Finished Mediterranean Plate

Chef Jim Looks On As His Class Dines

August 4, 2011

Thursday dawned a beautiful sunny day after our mixed weather of the last few days. Jim had advised that today would be a fairly full day of kitchen work and cooking was in the air. After a casual 9:00 a.m. breakfast, we began in earnest preparing a ragout of tomatoes, onions and Noilly Prat vermouth, punched up with herbs picked freshly from the school’s garden. In fact, Chef Jim’s first instruction was to send several of us out to the herb garden to select the fresh aromatics.

The chopping and slicing of the veggies along with the tantalizing smells of the chopped and ripped herbs set the tone, as we could have been a class straight out of the movie, “Julie and Julia”. We moved on to the meat preparation and Chef brought out three fresh legs of local lamb which he stroked lovingly as he described the next steps. This part got a little down and nasty as we took our fillet knives and plunged them into the legs and made about 8 holes a side, which we then expanded by inserting a finger and wiggling it around. Into these holes went thinly sliced garlic, orange peel and a rosemary sprig which were pushed in deeply to allow their flavour to permeate the meat gently as it cooked…no namby-pamby external studding for this crowd, we got the flavours deep.

Chef Jim’s assistant Liz then got us working on the day’s dessert, Tarte Tatin, by making a sugar and butter caramel heated carefully in a pan which was then poured into the base of our tart pan. We moved on to cutting up the apples, being careful to maintain uniformity for presentation. The apple slices were layered over the caramel in the pans until they were full. A puff pastry topped the tart before they were placed into the ovens for a 30-minute bake.

A relaxing lunch of French cheeses and local bread accompanied by sips of crisp white wine capped our busy morning and encouraged me to take a nap prior to the afternoon session. Some of the more energetic sorts took advantage of the sun and lounged at the pool or swam.

We reconvened at 2:00 to prepare a Taboulé to go with our lamb…keeping in mind, I hate cous cous (apparently I’m not alone in that). However, CookinFrance’s version of this middle-eastern staple is a variation on the theme that adds flavour through herbs and tomatoes and is carefully cooked as to not be too dry or soggy…I could be a convert. We also prepared some red peppers by first torching the outer flesh to carefully remove it and chopped them up for the Taboulé.

Our last step was to cook the lamb, which was seared outside with the torch to a deep brown colour and then cooked on high heat for 23 minutes before being wrapped in foil and a high layer of towels to rest for 1 ½ hours to complete the cooking. Another break allowed us some more pool time before we reconvened for our outdoor Mediterranean feast of the day’s creations, capped by the Tarte Tatin dessert served with home-made cinnamon ice-cream…a table fit for a Duke if not a King!

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