Au Petit Salut – Cooking Demo Class

26 Feb 2010

I was invited to attend a cooking session at Au Petit Salut yesterday, and it was conducted in the private dining section on the second floor (Dempsey location). Before I go on any further, let me explain that in this cooking class, students were not hands-on participants and it was more a cooking demonstration by the chef, where he explained the cooking procedure and shared tips during the process.

The kitchen set-up was a stand-alone island equipped with two conduction stovetops and students were seated on bar stools around this island. This set-up kinda reminded me of Mario Batali’s earlier tv show, in which he’d cook, explain what he was doing, and then serve the completed dishes right away to his invited guests who’d be sitting around the kitchen island. I’d always imagined these guests salivating from seeing the food prep up-close and intoxicated by the delicious smells in the kitchen. Who wouldn’t be?

Chef Karl, who helms the Private Dining section of the restaurant, was demonstrating a 4-course meal on this day. The menu was selected based on the most popular dishes served by the restaurant.

Lobster Bisque

Smoked Salmon with Daikon and Wasabi Dressing

Roasted Black Angus Beef with Truffle Mash and Shallots Glaze

Passion Fruit Souffle

It was my first time at Au Petit Salut and I was told that it’s one of the prestigious French restaurants in town, so I knew I was in for a treat. *rubbing palms in excitement*

Lobster Bisque

A quick abridged version of the recipe: Start by first roasting lobster heads and shells to the point of caramelization. They were then sauteed in olive oil and flambeed in cognac. In an separate heavy-based pot, vegetables, tomato paste, fresh herbs were sauteed before the lobster heads were added back in, then deglazed with white wine and stock. Boil over medium heat, add cream, reduce broth to a creamy consistency then blend. (This is where an immersion blender will come in handy!) Lastly, strain the broth and add a dab of whipped cream on top before serving, if desired.

Smoked Salmon with Daikon and Wasabi Dressing

I’m generally not a fan of salmon but this turned out to be my favourite dish from the session. The salmon was semi-cooked from the smoking, which yielded a nice texture. Moist inside and out, without any fishy smell and the bite was soft and buttery. The delicious dressing also rounded out all the flavours nicely.

Seeing the method of smoking in a kitchen was a first for me, and it was surprisingly easy to put together! Basically, line the bottom of a deep pot (or wok) with aluminium foil, then place a wire rack over a pair of round cookie-cutter moulds (to prop up the wire rack and create a height of 4-5cm from the base of the pot). The smoking itself comes from burning rice grains, brown sugar and fresh herbs, via a stovetop open flame. Definitely can be done in a home kitchen.

Chef Karl and his kitchen assistant, Jason, plating the salmon dish. Here you can see the salmon pieces sitting over a wire rack inside the pot, setup just like my illustration above. Chef Karl emphasized that only the freshest salmon must be used; fillets pre-cut and packaged at generic supermarkets or fishmongers aren’t good enough, gotta be sashimi-grade. Oh, the one tip he shared which I found to be interesting was the handling of salmon. He said do not wash salmon, because that will wash away the protein layer which keeps the salmon flavourful and juicy. Wipe using paper towels instead. Hmmm…

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Roasted Black Angus Beef with Truffle Mash and Shallots Glaze

These were sliced off a 4″ thick piece of Rib Eye. Chef Karl instructed that prior to the prerequisite searing of the meat, it should be seasoned with pepper only and hold off on the salt until the last minute before you put the steak into the oven. If I remember and heard correctly, the reason for this is to prevent the meat from sweating while being seared and resulting in a not-so-crispy crust on the steak.

The truffle mash potatoes which accompanied the steak were done via mashing boiled potatoes with a spoon over a fine-mesh strainer. This yielded very fine rice-like potato bits, which when whisked with cream and butter, became really smooth and creamy. Frankly it was way too creamy for me because personally I prefer a very chunky texture to my mash potatoes (especially versions with visible potato skin bits).

Passion Fruit Souffle
Served with Apple Mint Sorbet and Raspberry Coulis.

These souffles were kinda cute as they came out of the oven all wobbly.

Fresh passion fruit was used to flavour this souffle, and I found it to be really nice and refreshing. Not too tart. The texture of this souffle was extremely light and fluffy! I’m definitely gonna try making this when I host a small dinner party next time.

Here’s Chef Karl and me. I asked him whether he has a preference between conduction stovetop or gas stovetop and he revealed that he uses a gas stovetop in his house; not because he prefers it but because his maid can only use a gas stovetop. It’s kinda funny and I am amused that this chef leaves the cooking at home to his maid. :p But I suppose after cooking and serving food to customers day-in, day-out on the job everyday, when it’s time to go home and recharge, it’s best to let someone else make food for you.

I must say, I like the idea of a private dining space with an adjoining open kitchen, where you can see a chef preparing and cooking food exclusively just for your party. Awesome for special occasions, and the interactivity factor of asking questions about certain ingredients used, or how to go about a particular method, is a nice option.


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