Art of Cuisine: Plating Sauces
Another week in Art of Cuisine class brings new lectures, and more stuff to learn! This week, we learn about plating, especially about plating sauces, and different techniques that can be used.
We learn that in fine dining, the ratio of the food on the plate to negative space should be 40% food and 60% “negative” space, i.e. space that isn’t taken up by food. Putting sauce in this space is okay. However, there shouldn’t be any food on the rims of the plates. The rims are considered de-militarized zone: this is where the cooks and servers will hold the plate when it is on its way to the diner.
Some ways of plating sauces are:
– lines: parallel lines, or intersecting lines; intersecting lines draw the eyes to a certain point on the dish
– droplets: drops around the outside of the plated food can be interesting, either in a pattern or randomly;
– pools: also, droplets within pools can be interesting (if there are two different sauces)
– pulls: a pool with a spoon drawn through, kind of makes it look like a shooting star
– brushes: using a pastry brush, you “paint” the sauce onto the plate
– foams: you can make foams with hand blenders (by frothing up the liquid)
All the above images are examples I found online. Our task this week in class – you guessed it – make a dish with a sauce and use one of the plating techniques we just learned. Additional requirement is to make a gastrique: a gastrique is a sauce made with vinegar, sugar and fruit, and can be used solo, or added to other sauces for flavor. The taste of a gastrique is slightly sweet and sour.
For this challenge, we are again given the choice of various proteins, and this time I want to work with scallops. But that’s really all I know. Once the class has chosen their proteins, everyone moves on towards the kitchen, but I am still sitting there with no ideas about what to make. I know I am using scallops and making some kind of gastrique, but I have no idea how to compose a dish with scallops.
So I ask Chef Ryan for help, and he graciously helps me out by suggested the components of my dish: seared scallops, carrot puree with an apple cider gastrique, parsnip puree, and some kind of wilted green. So I set out with my various tasks: I start with the parsnip puree and the gastrique, because they will take the longest to make. I eventually get everything in order, and finish in the time allotted, which is really great, since I am generally slow in the kitchen.
Here is what the end result looks like:
I placed the three scallops (remember, always use uneven numbers of things, it just looks better) on three little piles of the parsnip puree. You can see that the parsnip puree, which is basically drops in a pool of the carrot coulis. Then I garnish the scallops with the wilted swiss chard, and make pulls away from them with the carrot coulis. I sprinkle one of the pulls with chopped herbs.
Now I’m not really sure whether I like the presentation or not, especially since I didn’t follow the rule of 60% negative space. The sauce kind of takes over, and there is too much going on. However, there’s something intriguing about it. Chef said it looked like a UFO crashed into an orange pool. Haha. Unfortunately, the puree was kind of soft, so the scallops kind of sank in when I plated them, thus creating those nasty brown spots. But the carrot puree was a good consistency for pulls. The great thing about pulls is that they create lots of movement on the plate, which makes it seem more exciting. Chef complimented the consistency of the carrot coulis, and that I decided to put the wilted greens on top of the scallops. For next time, I would need to tighten up the parsnip puree.
Here are some plates made by my classmates.
Pork (I think) on wilted greens and potato “risotto”, with two different sauces.
Seared duck breast with mashed potatoes, blueberry demi, and blueberry garnish.
Lamb with sweet mashed potatoes, asparagus tips, demi, and edible flowers.
Salmon with roasted potatoes, shaved asparagus, and three different sauces. This is a really good example of both the “storyboard” plating technique and also the random droplets technique.
Scallops with grilled leek rings and roasted golden beet.
This particular class very super-interesting. It went more into art and technique than many other classes, and I got to thinking about food and art, and also professional development. It would probably be worth looking at more art, and learning about patterns, negative/positive space, and so on, because that can definitely influence fine dining plating techniques. The finer the dining, the more refined, the more thought out the dish and the plating. Aesthetics are a huge part of plating and eating, and it is worth learning more about the art of food.