Cookery demonstration with Bernard Bach

This was my Christmas present from the Hubby. We don’t usually give each other gifts. He says, it’s because every day we are together is a gift. Aehm. I say, it’s because he received every gift I have ever given him with the wrong facial expression or, worse, remarks on how the leather looks cheap, or how he hopes I didn’t break my piggybank for something that stupid/ugly. (I might add that “Gift” is also the German word for poison… Just saying’.) He’s such a charmer! He has the finesse of a lumberjack from the Pyrenees. Oh wait – that’s because he kind of is a lumberjack from the Pyrenees.

Anyway, this gift was great and I eagerly anticipated the day I would be allowed into the kitchens at the Puits Saint Jacques in Pujaudran.“Are you sure it’s at nine thirty?”, I ask. “Yes!” comes back the Hubby’s answer, “Positive.” So I have another cup of coffee, read through my e-mails, then dawdle to my car and drive the 3km to Pujaudran. I push open the door of the restaurant – silence. No, wait. I can hear a voice from the kitchens. Bernard’s wife comes into the foyer “Can I help you?” I explain that I am here for the cookery demonstration. “Oh, that started an hour ago!” Ack! Hubby!!!!!!

A discreet entrance was not going to be possible. Also, Bernard knows Hubby well enough to laugh out loud when he sees me and tell the dozen attentive people gathered in his kitchen that he is going to call Hubby to have a bit of a go at him later on.

With 12 adults standing in a corner of his not-so-large kitchen and due to a string of health and safety issues regarding civilians, knives, and the absence of steel-toed clogs, we spend the next three hours observing the Man Himself preparing a three-course meal. On the menu:

Terrine de foie gras, miel, poires et pignes de pin au vinaigre balsamique

(Terrine of duck liver pâté with caramelized pears and pine nuts)

Noix de Saint Jacques bardés de lard de porc Noir de Bigorre sur sauté de choux pommé aux châtaignes

(et bouillon de lentilles du Puy à la vanille et à l’huile de noisettes)

(Scallops wrapped in most excellent bacon on a bed of white cabbage and an emulsion of Puy lentils with vanilla and hazelnut oil)

Mousse au chocolat noir et Streusel, lait frappé au touron et noisettes caramélisées

(Chocolate mousse with chocolate crumble and caramelized hazelnut crunch with turron milk)

When I arrive, Bernard and one of his “pupils” are busy deveining two duck livers. It’s a messy business, but absolutely essential for a smooth foie gras terrine. For a short video on how to do it – demonstrated by Bernard Bach – you can click the link: Comment déveiner un foie gras frais?

There are many ways to make foie gras terrine. This one being “mi-cuit” – half cooked, basically – means that the actual cooking time is 4 to 6 minted in the oven. No more. In the short time between making the terrine and eating it as a starter the same day, the main challenge is getting it to set in record time. There is no “…and here is one I made earlier!” It is live and without a safety net. The restaurant obviously has the necessary equipment, and everything turns out perfect. He is a chef, not an amateur. Monsieur Bach would, however, recommend you to make the terrine 4-8 days before you intend to eat it in order to allow the flavours to deepen.

What you need:

For the terrine:

800g of fresh, raw foie gras (duck or goose)

12g fine salt

2g sugar

2g pepper

20ml of red port (or other suitable alcohol)

For the fruit:

400g ripe pears (diced to 1cm3)

80g honey

50g pine kernels

50ml balsamic vinegar

50ml water

4 gelatin leaves

What to do:

For the terrine:

  • Line a disposable tinfoil cake dish with cling film (lightly oil it first so that the cling film sticks). Allow for a bit of overhang so you can cover the top, too.
  • Devein the foie gras (the liver must be at room temperature for this.)
  • In an ovenproof dish, season and pour over the port.
  • Optional: You can set it aside for a while to marinate, if you wish.
  • Put in the preheated oven and cook at 140ºC for 4-6 minutes
  • Take out and let cool for quarter of an hour, then lift out and gently press into the lined aluminium dish. (The oil from the liver will have melted out into the ovenproof dish. Result: Your terrine won’t have a lot of fat in or around it. The foie gras will have reduced to around 600g now.)
  • Cover with cling film and refrigerate to set (minium 4 hours).

For the fruit:

  • Soak the gelatin in cold water, squeeze out.
  • Allow the honey to caramelize a bit in the bottom of a frying pan and add the pear cubes. Let cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the pine kernels and allow to caramelize, also.
  • Pour over the balsamic vinegar, stir and allow to reduce completely before adding the water.
  • Bring to the boil and add the gelatin leaves. Stir well.
  • Let cool.
  • Before it’s cold enough to set, spoon over the top of the terrine, cover, and refrigerate again.

When you are ready to serve, tip the terrine out of its tin onto a chopping board and cut slices with a large knife (Hold it into a jug of hot water between slices to avoid sticking).

Bach mix
The morning wears on. We get to stir the occasional pot or pan and even wrap a couple of scallops in thin slices of bacon, but we mainly watch, listen and take notes: the recipes had been conveniently printed out for us in advance. (If you are interested, Bernard Bach’s new book, “Bernard Bach à table” is available for sale on his website.)

In between tasks, we sit down to eat the starter, then the main course (Fa-bu-lous! I would never have thought of putting vanilla into lentils and it works, it totally works.), and… OH. I hate chocolate. And the dessert is chocolate, because all French people love chocolate and that yucky stuff is EVERYWHERE! Lucky for me, Bernard has a stash of home-made ice-creams in his freezer and he makes me a bowl of ice-cream. It’s mystery ice-cream, since he can’t remember which type it is and since it’s looks like coffee or caramel or so… “Merde!” He exclaims, laughing, “C’est réglisse-sarrazin!” – liquorice and buckwheat! It’s lovely, though, and Hubby gets to taste the Mousse au Chocolat, since Bernard wraps my bowl in cling film with some extra chocolate streusel. My fellow gastro-tourists smile. “Be careful,” one of them warns, “if every time he sends you somewhere late he gets a Michelin star dessert, you’ll never be on time again!”

All in all, a lovely way to spend the morning.

If you want to know how Bernard works, what his kitchens look like, follow this link to see a short portrait of him aired on French TV on the mid-day news: Bernard Bach sur France 3.



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