Fat Tuesday, but no pancakes on the production list. Instead, we make: Grilled Lobster Tail; Grilled Quail with Israeli Couscous, Pomegranate Molasses, Pomegranate Seeds and Mint; and, Grilled Pizza with Pesto, Prosciutto, and Buffalo Mozzarella. Appetizer plates all.
After getting the mise well under way, we got the demo on lobster fabrication. This was disturbing to several of the students as the process included sticking a bamboo skewer lengthwise through the still living lobster before boiling in order to ensure the tail did not curl during the cooking process. Immediately after the demo, the lobsters were distributed.
The lobsters had come straight from the refrigerators, so they were pretty lethargic initially. I wasn't planning on cooking mine immediately, so I put it in a hotel pan and stuck in my lowboy. When it came time to cook mine, it was still lethargic. Others, however, kept their lobsters on top of their stations, which meant that, as the lobsters warmed up, they became more active and less accommodating to getting a bamboo skewer up their tail. Lesson: keep your lobster chilled, unless you like fighting with it.
Cooking and fabricating the lobsters took very little time, so that was the dish that most people knocked out first. Of course, you have to be a little careful taking the meat out of the claws, as that will be part of the presentation for a dish the next day. Although there are many ways to open the shells, a nutcracker might come in handy next time.
Our quails came deboned, so there wasn't that much prep involved there. The most difficult thing was seeding the pomegranate (really delicious) and making the Israeli Couscous. I've never had Israeli Couscous before and I rather liked their consistency. A nice change of pace. Definitely an ingredient worth playing some more with.
They also reminded me of tapioca pearls, which made me wonder what some savory applications for tapioca might be. Could it be used as a starchy side dish? How so?
The pizza was generally the last thing people prepared, mostly because we wanted to give our dough a chance to rise and develop flavor before use. It was definitely a favorite dish. Students from classes ahead of ours made a point of dropping off some sample dishes in order to grab a couple of slices of pizza on the way out.
We did have some portioning issues with the pizza. People were slathering on ingredients, such as cheese and pesto, when the recipe calls for a thin layer. This isn't the pizza you get from the local delivery service. In this case, when you work with quality ingredients, less is more.
To replace some of the pesto, we also used left over romesco on the pizza. Is there anything you can't use romesco on? Pizza Romesco was great. At home I've used romesco on pasta (fusilli holds the romesco very well) and salad (with kalamata olives and shaved manchego cheese), both worked very well.
In any case, a pretty nice day's work.