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Chophouse – “How to Treat Your Bird”

May 24, 2012

Mel attended the “How To Treat Your Bird” masterclass as a guest of Chophouse and Pacific Restaurants

It’s definitely true that I cook more sweet things than savoury. I actually find cooking meat a bit intimidating, especially chicken. Such a fine line between salmonella and a totally dry and tasteless bird (in my unskilled hands anyway!!).  So when Sarah from Pacific Restaurant Group asked if I’d be interested in participating in a poultry cooking masterclass at Chophouse with head chef Eric Tan, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

If the name isn’t self-evident enough, most people know Chophouse for their steaks. You may even have seen some posts on their famous 1.5-1.8kg Black Angus Tomahawk steaks! But according to Chef Eric, some of their most popular dishes are their chopped salads. In fact there’s a member of staff and a whole section of the kitchen dedicated to making the 6 different salads on offer! Not bad for a steakhouse right?

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

Whether by coincidence or design, all six of us bloggers in our class “How To Treat Your Bird” (a pun that all the chefs loved) happened to be female, and our 3 chefs male (though we were introduced to a female chef later in the day). The class focused on how to cook quail, duck and chicken – really giving the chefs at Chophouse an opportunity to show their skills outside of cooking a perfect cut of steak.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Very thematic light fixtures haha

It was a huge privilege to be welcomed into Chophouse’s kitchen – our teachers Head Chef Eric and his two sous chefs Elliot and Matt were so generous with their time and knowledge, answering all of our novice questions. And let’s face it, I love a good stickybeak. It was really cool being on this side of the pass for the first time.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your BirdChophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Head Chef Eric and Sous Chef Elliot (with a wagyu steak primal cut!)

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Chefs Elliot and Matt kicking it with Miss Piggy

First up came a delivery of some fresh free-range chickens Thirlmere Poultry, and some quails from Alpine Game Meats through Urban Food Market.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

It was really gratifying to hear that all the poultry, eggs and pork used at Chophouse are free range, and that the majority of their beef is pasture fed. With the everyday consumer becoming more and more conscientious about the ethics of their food choices, it’s nice to see a restaurant that helps diners make a more informed choice. If you ever dine at Chophouse, flip over the menu – you’ll see a map that shows exactly where all of your dinner’s produce was sourced from. A really nice touch!

Next, Chef Eric showed us how to debone a chicken into two halves – cuts which I think they use in their “Half an Oven Roasted Chicken” dish funnily enough.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
The finished trimmed half chicken

A very observant Miss Piggy noticed they trimmed off the wings – “That’s the best bit!” A very cheeky Chef Eric replied “That’s what we keep for staff meals.” AHA!

Next, Sous Chef Elliot showed us how to debone quail. A much more fiddly (and bloody) job – especially since the quails come with their organs intact. Not too sure how I’d go doing this one at home. I’ll have to buy a smaller knife that’s for sure!

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Deboned Quail

With that prep done, it was time to start cooking!

Crispy Master Stock Quail

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

Chef Elliot lightly poaches the deboned quails in a very dark and delicious smelling Chinese master stock (full of good things like soy sauce, star anise, cinnamon, black pepper and ginger). Only a very light poach – 20 seconds, before letting it cool in the coolroom, and repeating the process for another 20 seconds.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
See the colour difference after just 20 seconds in the master stock!

Chophouse - How to Treat Your BirdChophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

After resting, the quail is dipped in lightly whipped egg white and dusted in sichuan pepper flour before being deep fried for 2 minutes until it’s golden and crispy!

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Impressive plating!

This was DEFINITELY my favourite dish of the day! I’ve eaten a lot of quail that has just been deep fried to oblivion… dry, stringy and fiddly are a few words that come to mind. But what a difference deboning makes! So much easier to eat. The batter is wonderfully crispy and the inside so plump and meaty with the delicious spiced flavours imparted from the master stock. I reckon I could have eaten the entire plate!

Roasted Half Chicken with Sourdough Stuffing

Using the deboned half chicken from earlier, Chef Matt stuffed the thigh pockets with a sourdough stuffing.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

The chicken is then panfried on the skin in olive oil blended with a “French” amount of butter (read: A DELICIOUS AMOUNT) for a few minutes, before placing the whole pan into a hot oven so that it crisps up. And definitely do rest your chicken after it comes out of the oven – 6 minutes at least, so that the juices are allowed to permeate through the meat.
Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

The skin was cracklingly crisp, and the sourdough stuffing delicious and flavourful. I really enjoyed this dish and can really see myself making this at home.

Chef Eric’s Never-Fail Poached Chicken

Chef Eric confessed that this was one of his favourite lazy after-work recipes to make at home. Two lucky bloggers were asked to go into the Chophouse coolroom to pick out some ingredients for a stock – to which Chef Eric then added a few extra ingredients (cheating!). In the end the ingredients included onion, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, lemongrass, ginger, rice wine and soy sauce. Pretty simple right? I think the object of the lesson was to show us you can make a stock out of whatever you have available.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

After the stock was left to simmer for about 20 minutes, in went the chicken which was then brought to the boil for a very short amount of time before having the heat immediately shut off. On went a lid – leaving the chicken to gently poach for 1/2 an hour. This way the chicken stays incredibly moist and tender!

Chophouse - How to Treat Your BirdChophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Delicious jelly-like skin

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

Served together with a warm haloumi and grilled capsicum salad, this chicken had such lovely clean flavours – such a difference to the roast chicken previous. This was very much like a hainan chicken, and I could totally eat a big bowl of this with some chicken rice made with the leftover stock!

Confit Duck and Pan Fried Duck Breast Salad

This one was prepped in advance, with the duck leg cooked in duck fat for a few hours beforehand.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

To panfry the duck breasts (or ‘duck boobs’ as one certain blogger likes to call them), Chef Eric suggests starting with a cold pan with no oil in it. The aim is to render out the duck fat on a medium heat, so there’s no need to add more!

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Whoahhh look at all that duck fat!

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Perfectly pink duck with crispy skin!

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

The confit leg is then shredded and added to the salad leaves (I spotted some baby rocket, baby spinach, cos and radicchio), along with some blue cheese and candied pecans, and topped with the sliced rare duck breast.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

This dish was just so pretty to look at! All the pinks and greens. The rare duck was nice and juicy, with crispy skin, and the confit duck just fell apart. The slight bitterness of the radicchio and the sweetness of the sugared pecans really balanced out the flavour and stopped it from getting too rich.

Just being in the kitchen as the guys worked together to create these 4 different dishes was unreal. I have to say this part was my favourite of the day (even more than the tasting!). It was like a kind of beautifully choreographed dance – everyone knew where everyone else was, everyone knew what tasks were to be done. I felt like a ginormous clumsy ogre in comparison, bumping into people and getting in people’s way. And Chophouse’s kitchen is not small! The Chophouse team has 16 people in it. A busy service would be fun to see – all those people ducking and weaving around in perfect motion.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Plating up

Such a fun day! And it only reinforced my respect for working chefs – and reiterated the incredible amount of skill, stamina and unbelievably good time management needed to make it in this industry. Some people just thrive off the pressure! All the Chefs talked fondly of the adrenaline high you get during a really good service. (It all makes my office job of sitting down moving things around on a screen sound truly slothful, that’s for sure!)

After my contact high from this class – guess what… I went home and the next day cooked the same oven roasted chicken dish with a free-range chook from my local butcher! I even had some leftover sourdough to use as stuffing, and deboned the whole chook and everything! Gosh my family were so baffled and impressed. Thanks so much Chefs Eric, Matt and Elliot, and of course Sarah for inviting me to the class – couldn’t have done it without any of you!


You can also check out Miss Piggy’s cool blog post from the day!
25 Bligh St,
Sydney 2000

ph: CALL 1300 CHOP IT (1300 246 748)

You can also book online – more details here

17 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2012 10:02 am

    What an AWESOME post Mel (not so awesome picture of me though – I have “old ladies neck”)! Do you remember what went into the sourdough stuffing…I can’t for the life of me remember…I’d probably use that stuff to stuff a whole bird…too lazy to debone (I’d probably lose a finger). Duck boobs….lol. I pan-fried some the other night, nearly set the house on fire but they were SO good. Quack.

    • May 28, 2012 9:43 pm

      I’m sooo impressed you did the duck boobs at home!! (haha! the name still makes me laugh).

      I couldn’t quite remember what was in the sourdough stuffing, so I made it up haha – I blitzed up some sourdough bread, olives, rosemary and some lemon zest & lemon juice… and it seemed to work ok!!

  2. May 24, 2012 11:07 am

    I’ve always wanted to cook quail 🙂 What an awesome masterclass. Such usefull tips. They make it look so easy dont they 😉

    • May 28, 2012 9:44 pm

      They make it look sooo easy. Wish I had that skill for sure!

  3. grabyourfork permalink
    May 24, 2012 2:06 pm

    Sounds like a delicious day indeed. The quail looks incredible and hello crispy duck!

    • May 28, 2012 9:45 pm

      The quail was omg good… I really wanted more than a tiny piece of it. That’s the only prob… they are so small!

  4. May 24, 2012 2:33 pm

    Hello deep fried quail!!! Sounds like a kick ass masterclass!

  5. May 24, 2012 2:43 pm

    read through that whilst eating my lunch.. made my sandwich undesirable lol 😛
    what a great class! think i should attend to learn some trick and impress mum 🙂

    • May 28, 2012 9:44 pm

      Gosh my parents were so impressed (and incredulous haha). Makes me want to do more cooking classes though, it was lots of fun!

  6. oohlookbel permalink
    May 24, 2012 3:43 pm

    A behind-the-scenes peek at the Chophouse kitchen would be the best thing – with tasting that delicious food a very close second! Love the mouth-watering pics.

    • May 28, 2012 9:45 pm

      Thanks Bel! It was heaps of fun… never really get to see that side of things, so having a stickybeak was a great privilege!

  7. May 26, 2012 6:15 pm

    Deep fried quay sounds sooo good!!

    • May 28, 2012 9:47 pm

      You know me, I am a big fan of deep fried anything hehe. But this was sooo tasty.

  8. May 27, 2012 12:41 pm

    Looking at all your photos is making me hungry again! It was great to see all the chefs at work and it really was like watching a well-choreographed dance when they were cooking. The deep fried quail was definitely my favourite dish, with the duck salad coming in at a close second!

    • May 28, 2012 9:46 pm

      Yess! The quail was def my fave too… must work out how to reverse engineer it!

  9. May 30, 2012 6:27 pm

    God, so much yummy go on there! Love your pics, the duck looks so goood!

  10. June 7, 2012 10:02 am

    WOW ! These recipes look soooo delicious ! I don’t think I would have the skills to debone a quail and will leave it to the expert chefs at Chophouse and indulge myself !! Good looking chefs too ! Very professional 🙂 Great Blog too – thank you !

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