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March 15, 2006

Kitchen Academy - Course II - Day 15

Posted by Ernest Miller

Most of today was spent fabricating the biggest piece of meat that we'll work on in the course: Lamb.

First, of course, we needed the fabrication demo by Chef Guevara, which included the requisite Silence of the Lambs reference ("Brave Clarice. You will let me know when those lambs stop screaming, won't you?"). How strange is it that one of the movies most often cited in culinary school is about a serial killer? Or that those watching the demo had to note how much like a dog the lamb carcass looked?

In any case, we worked on fabricating our lambs in groups of four. I payed close attention as the scheduled final calls for fabricating one lamb per student, though I suspect that due to lack of space we'll actually work in groups of two. I don't think there is room in the classroom for everyone to fabricate their own lamb.

We had to prioritize our fabrication because our scheduled production was Braised Lamb Shank Provençal. Proper braising takes time, in this case two hours, so we had to fabricate the shanks first thing in order to get them in the oven and going before tackling the rest of the lamb.

Fabricating shanks is relatively quick. For the final we're going to have to fabricate, debone and butterfly a leg which will be produced the same day. That takes a bit longer, although we won't get a fabrication demo either.

Usually, one of the first things you do when braising is to sear and brown the meat in a bit of oil. This dish was no different. However, the recipe called for pouring out the oil after browning the meat and adding new oil before sweating some onion and garlic. This seemed somewhat strange to me (wouldn't you want to keep the oil for the flavor?) so I asked Chef Knight why. The answer is actually quite simple. The oil used for browning was extremely hot. If you put the onions and garlic immediately in the hot oil, you'd flash saute them, which is not what you want. You could wait until the oil cooled off, or you could simply pour out the hot oil and add new, cooler, oil so that you get a sweat, not a saute. Not everyone followed the recipe though, and I witnessed a quite crispy onion and garlic "sweat".

With the braising shanks in the oven, it was back to the lamb fabrication. Other than the sawing through bones thing, lamb fabrication is fairly easy and straight forward. I'm certainly no expert after just one lamb, but I feel confident I could get pretty good fairly quickly.

With four people working on the lamb, we finished with plenty of time. So, a little deep cleaning while we waited for the shanks to finish braising. Still, at the end, time was tight. Once the shanks were finished braising, you still had to reduce the braising liquid for use as a sauce. I braised my lamb shank as long as possible and then reduced the liquid using one of our largest saute pans, a 12-inch, so that the reduction would go as quickly as possible (more surface area, a faster reduction).

Actually, it worked too well. Chef Knight noted that my sauce should have been a bit looser. The flavor was very good and rich, but as the plate cooled, the sauce would start to become a bit too sticky from the high concentration of gelatin. Although tasty, some might not like the texture of the cooled sauce, and it simply isn't sauce consistency. One has to be careful not to overshoot a reduction, although it is usually easy to fix with the addition of a little water.

Personally, I thought the sauce clung nicely to the meat and, especially, the croutons used for garnish.

Whole Lamb for Fabrication Whole Lamb for Fabrication

Braised Lamb Shank Braised Lamb Shank Provençal

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