Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poultry 101 at the Urban Element

Well, it's been a little while since I've indulged in an evening at the Urban Element. It seems if I don't jump on their courses right away, they get filled. That's great for them, and I can't think of anyone who deserves it more. They're so efficient and really do run one of the best evenings out in Ottawa. Carley, Proprietor and Culinary Events Director at the Urban Element, has even been nominated for businesswoman of the year through the Women's Business Network. I wish her the best of luck!

This course was a 2 part series of poultry. I didn't attend the first one, but made it into the second. The hands-on class focused mostly on duck, with a bit of quail. Now, before I start, let me shamefully say that I've never, ever done anything with a raw chicken. Ok, maybe I touched it a little bit, but I've never cut into one or even cooked one. So when I was given a whole duck to separate, I was at a loss. And Candice, their resident chef extraordinaire was there to help. She took one and demonstrated. Ok, not too bad, but once she was gone, I mangled that poor duck. When she came back around to see how I did, I craftily tried to hold the flopping pieces back up in place, the ones I cut by accident. Her patience and encouragement helped me continue onto the other half of the duck, which I did a bit better. The good news though, is that I now have the confidence to do it at home, and that's all that matters. What's a true art however, is her ability to take the meat afterward and make the most beautiful looking plates ever.

After all our hard work in the kitchen, it's nice to sit back, relax and let the final plating take place in front of us. The first dish to get devoured, was a moist and savoury pear, onion and Stilton bread pudding topped with pan-seared foie gras. Held together so delicately by it's singed edges, it didn't take much to release the rich buttery inside of the foie. Bright green bok choy microgreens from Bryson Farms were like jewelry on the food. While a puddle of balsamic and caramelized onion sauce completed the course. Food-friendly Gruner Veltliner Kamptal wine from Austria was the perfect pairing.

A comforting Asian-inspired soup followed, filled with duck wontons. The distinctive flavours brought on by the Asian cinnamon stick, ginger and anise in the stock were amazing, but light enough to not overpower the spiciness and pungency of the Chinese barbecued duck wrapped in wontons.

Next came a warm finger-licking quail salad with fresh figs and a dollop of creamy goat cheese. The bird here is cooked in bacon fat, breast side down, and then wrapped in a piece of bacon before roasting, which results in a tremendously tender and juicy piece of meat. Bits of salty bacon were in the final dressing that poured over the mixed greens. If you can get a sliver of quail, fig and goat cheese onto your fork in one bite, it's like heaven. But the majority of the quail was eaten with my fingers, tearing as much meat off the few brittle bones leftover from the deboning as I could. Farm Boy, I learned, is a great place to find fresh quail. They served a Cave Springs Chardonnay with this dish.

As I was about ready to explode, our final dish came out. How I made room for this duck trio is beyond me. It was so fun to explore the different textures though. The duck confit, with it's crisp tile of skin had me in a trance, as did the warm lentil salad it was paired with. The duck carpaccio sprinkled in clilantro lime soya sauce was so light and palate-cleansing compared to the other two. And the third, a pan-seared dark red and chewy duck breast, thinly sliced and coated in a sweet blackberry sauce was divine. The meat sat neatly over a pile of gingered sweet potato mash that I deliberately saved for last. These potatoes are sweet on their own, but amplified when combined with sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Terra Noble Pinot Noir was the drink of choice for this main.

Thank god dessert goes into a separate stomach! Otherwise I would not have had room for the Dulce de leche crème brulée. Once you broke through the sticky lacquer of torched sugar, the velvety center was revealed, and boy was it decadent!

Once again I can't rave enough about my experience at the Urban Element. I think I have to start planting the seed at work for a team building outing. It's so much fun getting to know new people in these classes but I'm also very interested to see how exciting it would be to do it with a group of people I work so closely with on a daily basis. I'm sure it would result in a lot of laughs and smiling stomachs. Until my next culinary experience!


Anonymous said...

That sounds like so much fun! Great pictures.

Eva said...

I've got to get my act together and take a class there! Thanks for sharing!

pinkghost said...

looks like another great one!

melodie1974 said...

Very nice! I have actually signed up for the Tuscan cooking class this June. Can't wait! This might be the beginning of something...

Anabelle Kienle said...

Rachelle, love, love, love your blog. Even though this dinner actually made me feel ill. Too much duck in one night!

Suporna Roy said...

so delicious....................!
Very Nice Blog !
I Like This Very Much.
Methods of Modern Farming
Poultry Food