Lobster with Cauliflower, prepared by Laurine, along with Sauce Américaine by Eli, was next on the menu. This classic sauce is actually quite arduous and complicated to prepare, but when done right is one of the most glorious sauces of all. It is made using lobster shells as a flavor base, then adding wine, brandy, herbs, tomatoes and lots of butter (butter plays more than a passing role in French sauce-making, as you may have gathered by now). Their version was actually quite well-prepared, albeit slightly flat. It lacked a brightness we expected, but did show a sense of skill. My question: Why present the cauliflower, apparently without reason, in the middle of the plate? This was followed by Mattin and Ashley’s Seared Poussin (young chicken) & Ravioli with Sauce Velouté and Green Asparagus. Sauce velouté is one of the “mother sauces” of French cuisine, meaning it is classified as one of the main sauces from which all other sauces in French cooking are derived. It is made by whisking equal parts of flour and butter, together forming a “roux,” with a light stock (chicken, for example), and seasoning it generously with salt and pepper. From there, you can add other flavors to give it dimension. It is known for its creamy, velvety texture, hence its name. Mattin made the sauce successfully, but proceeded to add far too much bacon, detracting from its delicate texture and leaving a lingering layer of fat on the tongue. Although Ashley cooked the poussin well enough, I found it under-seasoned and her ravioli extremely heavy.
Thankfully, Michael V.’s Rabbit was another showstopper. Rabbit, a very lean animal, can become dry very quickly if not cooked by experienced hands. His was handled flawlessly in both its butchering and the technique used. Served with Jennifer’s sauce, the dish was, for me, a triumph! Chasseur is a sauce often referred to as “hunter’s sauce,” made with white wine, rich brown stock, mushrooms, shallots and tomatoes. They added a most inventive twist by topping the dish with a perfect, playful noodle made entirely from mustard; a nod to another classic rabbit preparation. It gave the whole plate an intense, savory undertone, another dish that thoroughly impressed our esteemed diners.
Finally, Hector and Ash served their Chateaubriand with Sauce au Poivre. What should have been one of the more straightforward of the dishes served that day, was in fact the most poorly prepared. Clearly, timing was a huge issue for them. They did not get their meat in the oven early enough to allow it to cook, rest and be sliced properly. This caused the meat to bleed all its jus, which in turn thinned out the already scant sauce on the plate. We all felt Ash was not to blame for this mistake, as he was in charge of the sauce and could not control when the meat was plated. Hector’s sloppy, rushed slicing job was the reason for the dish’s failure, so he, subsequently, got the ax.