Peel Me a Grape

26 Sep

Until last week, it was just a sensual jazz standard or Mae West’s decidedly naughty line in “I’m No Angel”, but after making a traditional French fruit salad, I now have a completely different relationship with the phrase “peel me a grape.”

Yes, I thought she was joking at first when Marie-Blanche told me to peel 20 grapes (of course we only used about 14, but we had to have extras in case some weren’t perfectly pretty), although I have to say, my aching wrist and I were relieved that we weren’t making more meringue-inspired dishes for this lesson. After the grapes were peeled, the apples, pears and plums were chopped, and the strawberries artistically arranged, our masterpiece was finished, along with a couple other amazing fruit dishes containing some rather creative combinations.

One of them was a savory fruit salad with avocado, cilantro, and mushrooms all covered in a delicious Xeres (aka. sherry) vinegar dressing. Although I’m not usually a fan of raw mushrooms, the acidity of the dressing slightly cooks what it covers, and makes the mushrooms soft and flavorful in a different way than if they had been sautéed, for example.
 The other fruit dish was a simple but tasty triad I hadn’t previously experienced. We delicately skinned and sliced oranges and covered them in a thin layer of very high quality extra virgin olive oil and some gorgeous fresh honey from the nearby farmers market.

All three dishes were flavorful but light – a perfect compliment to the lunch we made earlier in the day.

The menu was:

  1. Salade de Haricots Verts et Champignons
  2. Terrine de Foies de Volaille
  3. Poires Babeth

Like the savory fruit salad above, the mushroom and green bean salad relied on the aromatic vinaigrette to slightly cook the otherwise corky mushrooms. Because of this, we boiled the green beans ahead of time, let them cool and tossed them with dressing separately from the mushroom mix. Of course this also allows for a beautiful plating arrangement, because things just taste that much better when they’re pleasing to the eyes.

While the terrine was also pleasing to the eyes in the end, the process of making it was most unpleasant. I’m quickly getting over my fears, but I don’t really like touching raw meet. Raw chicken and ground beef were always my two least favorites until I felt the jelly-like texture of liver between my fingers. The fact that she told us to remove the “membranes” made it just that much worse as I was reminded that I was touching an organ specifically deigned to rid the body of toxins and other junk that we probably shouldn’t be re-eating. But as much as the process had me holding back gagging sounds, the end result was quite marvelous. Combined and processed with the correct seasoning and some Spanish bacon, the formerly revolting chicken liver became a yummy and satisfying snack, especially when accompanied with pickles, onions, french butter, and some slices of baguette.

The dessert was a beautifully delicate pear and custard dish. The notes of fresh ground vanilla within the creamy custard perfectly mellowed the sweet sliced poached pear, and the shaved almonds on top supplied the texture variation required to give the dish a bit more excitement. Poires Babeth might be an old fashioned domestic dessert, but combined with the contemporary flavors of the surprising salads and complex terrine, it was the perfect end to yet another perfect meal, making peeling grapes not seem all that bad.

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One Response to “Peel Me a Grape”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Last Supper « Shortt and Sweet - 16/10/2011

    […] de sardines in the post Minimal Chewing Required, or the terrine de foies de volaille in the post Peel Me a Grape, you can taste the raw mix by placing a small spoonful in boiling water until it cooks. This method […]

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