Leonardo Di Vinci stated, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication," a philosophy in line with Űber Chef Joël Robuchon who has garnered an impressive total of 27 Michelin stars, the only chef to hold this worldwide record, and whose culinary style is creating simple, very delicious, and beautifully presented food.
Chef Salvatore Martone, Debra Argen, Chef Christophe Bellanca
On April 29, 2012, I took a class at the prestigious The International Culinary Center in New York, as part of a two-day gastronomic extravaganza hosted by New York magazine and The ICC, where students had the opportunity to take 2 classes per day with some of New York's finest chefs.
Long a fan of Chef Joël Robuchon's culinary style, I eagerly enrolled in the class lead by Chef Christophe Bellanca and Pastry Chef Salvatore Martone, of Robuchon's two-star Michelin restaurant in New York, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
The Brilliant Brothers
The class of approximately 24 traveled from around the United States to attend the New York Culinary Experience, and what an experience it was! A few of my fellow students included the Brilliant brothers, Douglas, Richard, and Philip who hailed from various parts of Florida and Maryland, Francesca Johnston a realtor from Florida, and Kent Gulden from Minnesota. Although we were there to learn, which we certainly did, we also ended up having a lot of fun in the process, and made a few new friends.
Francesca Johnston, Chef Bellanca Kent Gulden
The goal for the 2 hour and 15 minute class was to make three of Joël Robuchon's classic recipes, two savory dishes instructed by French Chef Christophe Bellanca, and a dessert instructed by Italian Pastry Chef Salvatore Martone. Passionate about their chosen professions, endearing accented English, and personal attention to each of the students, resulted in a memorable experience, and recipes for easy, elegant, and sophisticated dishes that I know that I will be adding to my dinner guest repertoire.
Our first task was to make a chilled coriander soup (La Coriandre en fin velouté glace), which used only three ingredients. Simple, elegant, and oh so very tasty, especially when attractively plated and accompanied by a crostini topped with avocado, red, yellow, and green diced peppers, and micro cilantro leaves. Chilled soups are perfect for dinner parties since they are prepared in advance and leave you with time to relax before your guests arrive.
For our second savory course, we made Crispy Langoustine Papillote with Basil Pesto (La Langoustine dans une papillote croustillante au basilica), which I first tasted when I attended a most memorable gala dinner for The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences Star Diamond Award in Berlin, Germany where Chef Robuchon was one of the five featured award-winning chefs. From my first bite at that special dinner, I was smitten, and I would have been more than satisfied if that was the only recipe that I would learn how to make in this course.
This recipe used pre-made purchased brik pastry sheets, fresh langoustines, which we had to clean, fresh basil, and a basil pesto, that we made in class. Unlike most pesto recipes where you process fresh basil with olive oil, and seasonings, this recipe required that we first blanch the basil and then put it in an ice water bath to fix the color, squeeze it dry, and then process it in blender and then pass it through a tamis (flat sieve). The extra step of blanching the basil really made a difference in the color of the pesto, which was an attractive, vibrant green.
Our next task was to separate the head from the tail portion of the langoustine, remove the shell from the tail, remove the entrails from the tail, and then cut off the raggedy end to create an even look.
Preparing the Langoustine
A quick pat to dry it with a paper towel, a light dusting of seasonings, and a basil leaf added to the center of the top of the langoustine, and we were ready to roll it up in the brik shiny side facing up. The brik wrapped langoustine secured with a toothpick inserted through the center to hold it together when we deep-fried it, and we were ready to take turns at the stove.
Langoustine ready to be Deep-fried
Using a slotted spoon, I carefully lowered my langoustine into the hot oil and cooked it until the brik was golden brown, removed it, dried it on a paper towel, and placed it on my presentation plate with a spoon of pesto. After stopping to admire it for a moment, and had Chef Bellanca approve my plating, I took a bite and memories of Berlin came back to me like an old, treasured friend; thank you Chef Bellanca for helping me learn to create this delicious memory whenever I want.
Desserts are the ultimate finale to a wonderful meal, they must be rich, and attractive enough to tempt the eyes and the palate, and yet light enough so that your guests feel satisfied but not overloaded. Mango-Mango, the restaurant's signature dessert easily accomplishes both of those requirements.
Pastry Chef Salvatore Martone explained that we would first make a mango coulis with mango puree, pineapple puree, passion fruit puree, and vanilla bean and then place it in a plastic squeeze bottle, and then we would make the mousse with passion fruit puree, mango puree, powdered sugar, yogurt, gelatin soaked in cold water, and whipped cream.
Pastry Chef Salvatore Martone
Easy to make, we created the coulis and the mousse in our allotted time, and then, under the watchful eyes of Pastry Chef Salvatore Martone, Chef Christophe Bellanca, and Sous Chef David Standridge of the restaurant, we learned to take these simple ingredients and make a little presentation magic happen.
Mixing the Puree
First, we placed a small amount of diced mango dressed with a little mango coulis in the bottom of an attractive dessert bowl, next we spooned the mousse into a plastic bag to pipe the mousse on top of the diced mango.
Piping the Mousse
Using the squeeze bottle with the coulis, we rimmed the mousse with the coulis, added a little specialty item called "puffed rice," a quenelle of coconut sorbet, and a tiny soy paper flower that they had created at the restaurant that had a little gold leaf center for a garnish. Mango-Mango is another stellar recipe that I will be making at home.
I had hoped that I would learn a little about Chef Joël Robuchon's culinary vision and the art of culinary elegance in the class and I did, thanks to Chef Christophe Bellanca and Pastry Chef Salvatore Martone.
Debra Argen and Team from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Read the Chefs' Recipes section where Chef Christophe Belllanca graciously shares the recipes for the restaurant's signature dishes, La Coriandre en fin velouté glace (Chilled Coriander Soup), and La Langoustine dans une papillote croustillante au basilica (Crispy Langoustine Papillote with Basil Pesto).
Read the Chefs' Recipes section where Pastry Chef Salvatore graciously shares the recipe for the restaurant's signature dessert, Mango-Mango onctuosité à la mangue et au coulis exotique (Mango Mousse and Exotic Mango Coulis).
Read about other New York Culinary Experience classes in the Gastronomy section and interviews and recipes from the other classes in the Chefs' Recipes section.
Visit Luxury Experience's Facebook page to listen to interviews with the chefs and see more photos from the event. www.Facebook.com/LuxuryExperience
To attend the New York Culinary Experience 2013, please visit the New York magazine website: www.NYmag.com/nyce.
Regarding taking classes throughout the year with the excellent chef instructors at The International Culinary Center at their New York, California, or Italian Campuses, please visit the website: wwwInternationalCuinaryCnter.com.
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