Disclosure: I attended the class courtesy of Electrolux.
If you want to cook like a master, you have to learn from a master, right?
Naturally I jumped at the opportunity to attend a masterclass hosted by Chef Peter Gilmore.
That’s right. THE Peter Gilmore from Quay in Sydney and one of Australia’s best chefs. Yeaaaaah.
I rocked up to the Electrolux Cooking School at the Queen Victoria Market on a beautiful Friday afternoon and was greeted with a cold glass of bubbles. Peter Gilmore was already in the kitchen, prepping away.
After we were all seated, Peter started on the first course – poached seafood served on top of garlic custard.
First he prepared the seafood – squid, octopus, prawns and clams. The squid was cleaned and cut horizontally into thin fettucine style ribbons. The octopus received the same treatment.
Prawns were peeld and deveined and cut through the middle into long slivers.
As he worked, Peter told us this was a very labour intensive dish, as all the seafood had to be carefully prepped and cut. Quay has a roster of 30 chefs, which helps with the prep work.
The next part of the dish was a seafood consumme that was made from the seafood trimmings, scallops and fishheads. The seafood trimmings and vegetables were cooked with butter and then deglazed with apple vinegar before cooked for several hours with chicken stock. After this, it’s strained, clarified with an egg white raft, and thickened with fermented corn starch. (The consumme was obviously prepared beforehand.)
The garlic custards were also prepared beforehand and are relatively simple to make. Garlic is sweated in butter, then warm milk is added and left to infuse. Once cold, it’s strained and eggs are added before it’s proued into ramekins. These went into the steamer for about 8 minutes, while Peter quickly cooked the seafood. They were poached in clarified butter at 75°C and only took a couple of minutes.
Then the entire dish was assembled. The base was the steamed garlic custard, which was topped with the poached seafood, blanched radishes and then the warm consumme was spooned over.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
There was so much flavour and texture in this dish. The custard was wonderfully silky and gently garlicky and sweet, while the seafood was tender but still retained a bite. Really lovely.
The second course was smoked confit pork jowl wtih shiitake and shaved scallops. Peter said that this dish was originally inspired by Cantonese cooking, which often mixes different proteins that have different textures. He told us that he had been cooking a dish containing pork and seafood a lot in his career, and this was the latest version with pork jowl and sea scallops.
Again, there was a lot of preparation behind this dish, so many elements were prepared beforehand.
First, Peter showed us the infused butter that he uses to finish the pork jowl. Into a cryovac bag went clarified butter, iberico jamon, a fresh bay leaf, and crushed juniper berries. In the restaurant, the butter bag is steamed at 50°C for an hour and then left to marinate for a day so all the flavours infuse into the butter.
The pork jowl itself goes through several stages of cooking. It’s first cooked in a cryovac bag with salted chicken stock for eight hours until it’s super soft. Next it’s cooled, most of the fat is cut off, it’s cut into portions and then the meat is cold smoked for 5 minutes with maple chips. When ready to be served, the pork jowl is reheated in the butter mixture at about 70°C for about seven minutes.
Because it’s almost impossible to get crackling from pork jowl (it’s too fatty), the crackling is replicated with Jerusalem artichoke chips. The Jerusalem artichokes are steamed, cut in half and the flesh is removed. The skins are then fried very quickly in clarified butter and set aside until required.
Another component of the dish was fresh shiitake mushrooms. Peter peeled them, mostly for presentation purposes and also because he says that it refines the taste. The mushrooms are then thinly shaved across, which requires a sharp knife and a lot of patience. The mushrooms are then briefly sauteed using (quite a lot) of the infused butter.
The final part of the dish was the second protein – sea scallops. These are also thinly shaved (are you noticing a trend? Too cook like Peter Gilmore, it will help to have a very sharp knife!) and are served almost raw and just warmed up slightly for 20 seconds in the oven or for a minute in a frying pan. They were then dressed in a white soy and seaweed mixture.
And the verdict?
AHHHH IT WAS SO GOOD.
The flavours in the dish were quite subtle but it had a fantastic mouthfeel – yes, fatty, but not too much so. It felt very “full” with the tenderness of the pork and the slippery sweetness of the scallops.
And the Jerusalem artichoke crackling was fantastic – so crunchy and light. Yuuuum.
We then moved on to dessert, or “a dish that can be served as an indulgent breakfast” according to Peter.
Dessert was caramelised brioche – a variation on French toast.
At Quay they make their own brioche, and he had brought a loaf down from Sydney. Just like regular French toast, it’s best to use a brioche that’s a couple of days old. The brioche had the crusts sliced off, and then it was cut into 2cm thick pieces.
The slices were then briefly soaked in a custard made with egg yolks, vanilla bean seeds, sugar and milk.
After the soaking, they were wrapped in baking paper and steamed for 3-4 minutes.
While they were steaming, Peter created a dry caramel with sugar and unsalted butter. (A dry caramel doesn’t use any water.) The caramel occurred very quickly on the induction stovetop – within a minute or so – and when it was nice and dark he added in the pieces of steamed brioche and coated them with the caramel.
The caramel covered brioche was then rested for a few minutes to cool down (caramel burns are baaaad, my friends) and then it was topped with a cherry compote and a quinelle of double cream.
That was it. Easy, right? You could totally do this at home. I don’t know about doing it for breakfast – as you know I’m not a morning person and dealing with caramel while I’m still in a zombie state? Not a good idea. But it would be great for a very indulgent dessert.
Here’s the finished result. Glorious. The brioche was all soft and gooey inside, but the outside was slightly chewy with the caramelised edges. It was buttery and sweet, but balanced with the slight bitterness of the caramel and tartness of the cherry compote.
It was a really enjoyable afternoon. Not only did Peter Gilmore PERSONALLY cook my meal, he was really down to earth and personable. And the food was fantastic.
However, despite my opening statement, I could attend a zillion of these classes and never cook like a master. But I’d never pass up the opportunity to watch a chef of Peter’s calibre at work.
For more on the masterclass, check out Food Glorious Food, who attended an evening session.