Chef Howard Karp calls the Flathead Valley Community College’s kitchen a culinary laboratory.
Every day, students at FVCC’s Culinary Institute of Montana get to experiment with the knowledge they have gathered in the classroom. Sometimes they burn a steak or dry out a chicken breast, but it’s OK. Laboratories are made for mistakes. They are made for learning.
But there are some days when mistakes are unacceptable — the days when perfection is the rule, not the exception. Those are the days when Chef Karp and his students host a culinary delight called Chef’s Table.
“Your first Chef’s Table is intense. You have no idea what you’re getting into,” said Michaella Irlbeck, a 2013 graduate of the program and Karp’s executive sous chef. “The Chef’s Table allows students to apply what they’ve learned in the kitchen. In class, the students may make one small batch of sauce, but here they have to make a huge batch while maintaining quality.”
FVCC has been holding the Chef’s Table for eight years. Five or six times each spring, the students invite guests into the kitchen to see and taste their craft. Karp said the first Chef’s Table hosted about a dozen people but now it sells out almost every time. Most dinners have a theme — the sold-out Feb. 17 event is aimed at fans of surf and turf — and new this year is a partnership with the college’s theater department where diners can see a show the same night.
Louie Bertino, an FVCC instructional assistant, said the students write the menu themselves but that Karp has the final say on what is served.
“Chef Karp wants the students to understand every component of a dish,” he said.
And there are a lot of components for the entrée being served on Feb. 17: a classic surf-and-turf dish with a French twist. But be forewarned, just making the Bordelaise sauce can be an all-day affair.
Chef’s Table continues through April. Visit www.fvcc.edu/organizer/chefs-table/.
Tenderloin with Bordelaise sauce, shrimp, creamed spinach-stuffed tomato and shallot rings
Yields: 4 servings
4 steaks (filet mignon) cooked medium rare
12 shrimp, raw, deveined, peeled, and butterflied
4 oz butter, room temp, soft
1 shallot, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp tarragon, fresh, chopped
4 fl oz sherry wine
lemon juice to taste
salt to taste
1. In a mixing bowl on medium speed, combine the soft butter with diced shallots, minced garlic, cayenne, and tarragon until thoroughly mixed.
2. Bring the butter mixture to high heat and sauté the shrimp in this butter compound until cooked properly. Shrimp should turn opaque and texture should become firm, while achieving caramelized color on the surface.
3. Add sherry wine and flame. The flame will go out on its own very quickly.
4. Add lemon juice and salt to taste.
5. Adjust seasonings as necessary
6. Remove shrimp from the butter. The shrimp are cooked in the butter compound but not served with it. The butter is not used as a sauce.
7. Spoon red wine reduction down on the plate, then place the filet mignon on top of the sauce, forming a pool around the steak. Place three shrimp, tails pointing upward, evenly around the filet mignon and garnish in between the shrimp with the fried shallot rings. Further garnish the filet with microgreens and garnish the plate with a grilled tomato stuffed with creamed spinach.
8. For fried shallot rings, thinly slice shallots into nice-looking rings. Batter (beer and flour) and deep fry golden brown.
Bordelaise Sauce (three parts)
Espagnole (mother sauce)
2 lb mirepoix, roughly chopped:
1 lb onion
½ lb carrot
½ lb celeriac (or celery)
1 garlic head, cut in half on the equator
8 oz ghee (clarified butter)
8 oz wondra flour (or AP flour)
4 oz tomato paste
5 qt veal stock
8 oz tomato product (tomatoes, cut in half)
1. Caramelize mirepoix in ghee. Add flour and mix well with wooden spoon to make brown roux. Place in 350-degree oven for even cooking. Stir occasionally for approximately 20 minutes or until dark brown color. Add the tomato paste. Leave for 15 minutes and remove from oven.
2. Return to stovetop and add the veal stock and tomato product.
3. Bring to boil, simmer for approximately 1 ½ hours, or until reduced to 1 gallon. Strain through a fine chinois.
Demi-Glace (intermediary sauce)
4 qt espagnole
4 qt veal stock
1. Mix hot veal stock and espagnole together slowly; reduce by half over med-high heat.
2. Strain through a fine chinois.
Red Wine Reduction (final sauce)
2 Cups Mushrooms, white or brown, quartered
4-6 Shallots- quartered
2 Carrots- same size as shallots and mushrooms
handful of Szechuan peppercorns
6 thyme sprigs
1 garlic bulb
1. Caramelize mirepoix in ghee in a pot large enough to make the sauce in.
2. Add the red wine, two bottles typically.
3. Flame the wine to burn out acidity and alcohol.
4. Add 1 tbsp sugar (optional).
5. Go into a full syrup reduction, eliminating moisture and concentrating flavors.
6. Add 4 qt demi-glace when red wine reduction is syrupy. Cook over medium heat to let flavors marry.
7. Strain through a fine chinois.
8. Season to taste with salt
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