Tennis with Escoffier

This past weekend, I picked up a couple pounds of oxtail from Bluescreek Farm Meats.  There were a number of ways I could have prepared them, but I was itching for a challenge.  Every once in a while, I need to stretch myself, culinarily speaking.  And while none of the ingredients were particularly exotic (ok, aside from the oxtail), I used a very old recipe from my copy of the Escoffier Cookbook as a guideline.  I made oxtail soup.  It’s not what you would call a “quick” recipe.  But that wasn’t really the point on Saturday. 

A perfectly imperfect brunoise.

There were several techniques within the recipe that I felt like trying out, not only to say that I had, but to see how well I could manage them.    Do I regularly cook what amounts to a light first course over the course of six hours?   No.   But I wanted to take a shot at making a raft (an egg white mixed with diced white parts of a leek and a small bit of very lean ground beef) to clarify the soup.  And I wanted to practice my brunoise with some carrots.   As it turns out, I’d be fired pretty quickly from any professional kitchen for how slow and inconsistent I am.  But was it better than I had done before?  Yes!  (And heck, I thought they looked pretty.)

Cooking a difficult recipe like this is for me, a lot like playing tennis with Roger Federer.  You should play tennis with someone who’s much better at it than you.  Otherwise, how can you expect to improve your serve?  Cooking this way teaches me new things about myself as a cook.  I like learning.  And I learn a lot when I make a recipe like this.  I will omit how I can’t actually play tennis anymore because of a torn labrum from a backhand, but you get my point.

What it all boils down to for me is that cooking is a pleasurable way to spend time.  The fact that at the end of all of it, you get to eat something that might not be textbook perfect but tastes pretty great?  Well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

Playlist included Heaven Can Wait, by Charlotte Gainsbourg, featuring Beck.


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