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Carr Valley Cheese Cooking School Presents “An Evening Inspired by Julia Child”

May 7, 2010

Last night Mike and I had the good fortune of attending one of Carr Valley Cheese Cooking School classes. Hosted by Sid Cook, owner of Carr Valley Cheese and master cheese maker, attendees were treated to a ‘Julia Child inspired’ dinner prepared by Mike Boss, director of operations and development at the Blue Spoons (in Prairie du Sac and Middleton). What does ‘Julia Child inspired’ mean? In the words of Boss, it’s a meal that is based on Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking but with some additions (or subtractions) that are Boss’ own.
By his own admission, Boss does not consider himself a chef. He learned to cook from his father who owned the Firehouse Restaurant in Prairie du Sac and has cooked in France and Boston. He is also a former restaurateur who retired from the food industry in the late 1990’s. He returned to cooking and the restaurant business when Craig Culver, co-founder of the Culver’s restaurant chain, asked him if he would consider taking over the operations of the Blue Spoon—a Culver spinoff that opened in the former Firehouse Restaurant in 2000. A second Blue Spoon opened in Middleton in 2007 and Boss divides his time between the two.
When I heard that Boss was going to be preparing some of Julia’s dishes, I was intrigued. I am a relatively new fan of Child ever since I saw the movie “Julie and Julia”. I vaguely remember Child’s cooking show on PBS when I was a child—laughing with my friends at the way she talked and her enthusiasm for cooking. But I never had the opportunity to taste any of her French cooking while growing up. Even though my mother qualified as a “servantless American cook”, our typical cuisine was reminiscent of my parents’ native countries—Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and Denmark. So we ate things like lung gravy with dumplings, jiternitze, and fried brains rather than French delicacies like Boeuf Bourguignon or Caneton Roti a l’Alsacienne.
Rumor had it that Boss was going to debone a duck—a feat I wanted to witness in the hopes that someday I would be able to do the same. Duck deboning is the first step in preparing Child’s “Pate de Canard en Croute”. According to Child, “the procedure may take 45 minutes the first time because of fright” but Boss accomplished the feat in much less time than that. In fact, he made it look not only doable, but downright easy! He didn’t prepare the Pate de Canard en Croute but rather the Caneton Roti a l’Alsacienne, which does not require deboning the duck. However, Boss wanted to show us how easy deboning was and emphasized that the dish was only inspired by Child; the interpretation was his.
In addition to the Caneton Roti a l’Alsacienne, Boss and his helper, Bob Armstrong, prepared a delicious Potage Crème de Cresson (cream of watercress soup) made with green onions, watercress, cream and eggs, and plenty of butter. In addition, Boss added ‘a little cayenne pepper’ and some of Carr Valley’s delicious Cave-aged Marisa cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese that added a slight sweet taste to the soup. Coupled with the cayenne pepper and the natural pepperiness of the watercress, the soup was a blend of the subtle and sublime.
After the soup course, Boss demonstrated how to prepare a béchamel sauce, a simple white sauce. It quickly became a mornay sauce with the addition of Sid’s Bahl Baby Swiss cheese, a cow’s milk cheese that offered a slightly nutty flavor. The sauce was then poured over blanched Brussels sprouts for the Choux de Bruxelles a La Mornay Gratines. Shredded swiss cheese was sprinkled on the top and the dish was then broiled for a few minutes to melt the cheese. The dish was superb. The sprouts were served with the Caneton Roti a l’Alsacienne—the deboned duck that had been stuffed with an apple and sausage stuffing. The duck was tender and juicy. The apple and sausage stuffing added a hint of sweetness and herbs that paired perfectly with the mornay sauce.
Boss and Armstrong also prepared a Tarte aux Fruits avec Fromage. The ‘avec fromage’ referred to the Creama Kasa—a triple cream cow’s milk cheese, Ba-Ba Blue, a sheep’s milk blue cheese and Cocoa Cardona, a goat milk cheese rubbed with cocoa powder on the rind. As Boss stirred the crème patissiere (custard) for the tart, he explained how ‘ribbons’ would form as he mixed, and that the custard would not be ready prior to the ribbon formation. After two or three minutes, the ribbons were visible, and the custard was poured into the pastry cru, raspberries and bananas. He finished by glazing the top with an apricot glaze. The tart along with the cheese variety was the perfect complement to a perfectly inspired meal.
We washed down the 3 courses with a Cote du Rhone Domaine Grand Veneur Champauvins—a wine grown a mere stone’s throw from the much more expensive Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. The wine had the same peppery quality as the watercress soup, with hints of black cherry and spice. It was an excellent choice to accompany this exquisite meal.
For information on the Carr Valley Cooking School:
http://www.carrvalleycheese.com/carr-valley-cooking-school/
For information on the Blue Spoon:
http://www.bluespooncafe.com

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anna permalink
    May 11, 2010 6:11 pm

    I also attended the cooking class and was quite impressed by the chef, Mike Boss. My only comment on improvement would be to allow people to bring their own wine. It seemed to be “rationed” during the dinner. And my companion and I would have preferred to enjoy a bit more wine during the various courses.

    • Mike and Jean permalink*
      May 12, 2010 5:44 pm

      Mike doesn’t consider himself a ‘chef’, but that said, I think he did a fantastic job. Regarding the wine, I think they try to limit consumption so we all drive home safely. We have to drive to Madison (west side) so I usually temper my consumption when I’m in Sauk–or anywhere else for that matter. If I have to drive, I don’t want my blood alcohol to be in the ‘drunk driving’ zone. But I think you could ask Sid if he would allow participants to bring in more wine….

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