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Mastering Cooking, With Chef

Chef Caroline Ross holds the cooking classes at the restaurant twice each month, schedule permitting. La Bergerie is known for its authentic French country cuisine and its delectable soufflés.

On Oct. 26, three people learned about preparing consume and how to cook a duck. “I try to pick things that the members of our classes want to learn how to cook,” Ross said. “The last class asked about soups and fowl and that’s what we did.”

Ross selected two types of soup: a wild mushroom soup and a consommé. “They are very different and take very different skills,” Ross said. “With the mushroom soup, we teach how to make a basic stock, sweat the mushrooms and prepare the soup. The consume requires learning to cook the bone properly and make the dish from that point.”

Ross can teach up to seven people at one time. “The kitchen is very large but if we have more than seen people it’s too crowded,” she said.

Preparing a duck requires attention to detail. “I taught them to make duck con fit,” Ross said. “The con fit process was used before there was refrigeration as a means of preserving meat. You salt the meat and then cook it in its own fat. Then you preserve it in its own fat.”

Ross taught the class to debone the duck, cook the breast to perfection and use the bones to make consume. Then everyone went into the restaurant to sit down to the meal. Lunch began with duck consommé with truffled duck mousse quenelles. This course was served with Chateau Carbonnieux 1999. Next came frisee and endive salad with walnut vinigrette. Next was pan-seared halibut with procini cream sauce. The wine with the fish was Joseph Matrot 2000.

The main course was roasted duck with a red currant sauce with a chateauneuf-du-pape, chateau simian 2000. Finally, the meal ended with an assortment of soufflés. The wine was beaumes de benise 1999. Sorbet was served between courses to cleanse the pallet.

Before becoming the executive chef at La Bergerie, Ross worked as a sous chef at Bis in Washington, DC. Before that, she was the executive chef at Isabella, Coco Pazzo, Café Milano and Bice Ristorante also in Washington. She graduated from Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France.

“I really enjoy the classes and working with people,” Ross said. “It’s nice to be able to share my knowledge of French cooking with people who are interested and enthusiastic.”

Roasted Duck Breast With Red Currant Sauce

4 duck breasts

1 chopped shallot

½ cup port

2 cups duck stock

¼ cup red currant (substitute with any red berries)

Trim fat and remove silver skin from the duck breasts. Score the fat on the duck breasts. This allows the fat to render evenly. In a heavy skillet, roast the breasts, fat side down over a low hear until the skin has rendered all its fat. Turn the breasts over and continue roasting the desired temperature. Remove the breasts from the skillet and set them aside so they can rest. Remove fat from the pan and duck the stock, reduce to desired flavor. Add red currants or other berries-raspberries or blackberries work very well with this preparation. To serve, slice the duck breast and spoon the sauce over the top. Wild rice or red cabbage makes a great accompaniment to this dish.

DUCK CONSOMME

Clean bones from 2 ducks

2 carrots

2 ribs of celery

1 onion

1 cup of white wine

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Roast duck bones and mirepoix (carrots, celery and onion) until well caramelized. Deglaze roasting pan with white wine, scraping the pan clean. Place bones mirepoix and tomato paste in a stockpot and cover with cold water. Bring stock to a boil and skim all the scum from the top of the stock/ Add thyme and bay leaf. Reduce the temperature and allow the stock to simmer for 8 hours. Replenish the water over the course of the cooking time so that you have the same amount at the end of the 8 hours. Strain the stock and reduce it slowly until it has they flavor you desire. If you cook the stock gently you will have a nice clear consommé. Garnish the consommé with roasted shallots and fresh thyme.