Friday, September 26, 2008

Final Practical, Part 2

Thursday we finished up the final practical - Tennessee and I had good teamwork tonight. We were graded on different categories - I can't remember the exact ones, but he graded our aspic gelee, the design/layout, clean/organization, timeliness, color, pate/terrine/galantine, and canapes. We did well on the design (he described it as "forest-like" - between the two layers of gelee, I laid down patterns of parsley. It looked really pretty!

I didn't really want to put anything on top of it), timeliness, clean/organization, and gelee. We lost some points on the actual food because they were lacking in color (not enough visible red in my galantine and the canapes appeared "messy"). I thought the platter looked a little crowded - we hadn't grabbed a platter quickly enough on Wednesday, so we had to take one of the smaller ones.

The cute boy next door (who I am now nicknaming Simon because his name is in a Simon & Garfunkel song that I always want to break into when I see him): He invited me to look at his platter and encouraged me to eat some. But, I had the exact same platter, and I had done enough sampling of my own. I know, I know, it was flirting, I should have responded, but I was full! And flustered! The boy makes me tongue-tied! He let me borrow a bisquit cutter because I really admired the way he had plated his salad - and I knew it would hide that I had not done a very consistent job of cutting my potatoes...

Ugh, we got out late again - it probably was even later, but at midnight, I told Chef I had to go, and he let me (another student also had to catch her train, so he didn't ask me for an explanation).

Oh! And we had a pop final! Okay, so, technically, he mentioned that we would have a written final at the beginning of the course, but, Chef, if you do not remind students the day before, how can they be expected to prep for it? Especially if they work full time? Anyway, guessing I failed it. Damnit. I am totally fine with doing bad on tests when I refuse to study, but when I don't even know one is makes me upset. He let us review our notes after T requested, but by then I was in panic mode and also, five minutes does nothing for me in terms of studying. I actually went up to him and apologized later for what I predicted my grade would be - not sucking up because I wasn't looking for him to give me extra points - but just because it embarrasses me as a student. Ohhh the training I have received throughout my years of education. Chef said I shouldn't worry about it - there was a lot to learn in the class and it's only a few percent of the grade.

Ha! I just checked my grade - somehow I managed to pull off a B. Now, Chef did tell me that lab grades and the final practical matter way more than tests. I wonder, if I hadn't failed the first quiz and the final, could I have pulled off an A even with my absences? Maybe not.

Final Thoughts:

Well, I definitely will not be working in catering. I find this stuff too tedious and not very rewarding. Why would anyone want to eat something with the gel on top? Granted, I did not taste it, but it made everything look plastic. The canapes, those were really good. When he was grading us, Chef said he would never eat this stuff - he doesn't like it! Isn't that funny? He teaches the class but he has no interest in it? He said he'd much rather make and have things like mashed potatoes.

Chef was a really nice guy. Still a little boring, but when you got him talking about cooking and his experiences, he really was so cute with his enthusiasm and love for this stuff. He really wants to teach us again for Culinary Skills 2, but right now we have a different chef on our schedule. He says if he gets the class next door, he will definitely be cracking down on them - he hates that they aren't in full uniform and that one student is clearly an alcoholic and under the influence during class. By the way, duh, that's dangerous.

Lessons Learned:

Master and I are planning to pair up for Baking II - coming up next. She and I decided that in order to keep our friends, we cannot partner with them.

And I'm looking forward to having a Friday night off! Yay! It will be a whole new world - I can take a nap and work out and hang out with family! Fun!!

Here's some from other people. I think you can click on them to make them bigger.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Final, Part 1

Wednesday we began working on the final.

This is our menu: Chicken Galantine, Potato Salad with Creamy Horseradish Dressing, Smoked Duck Canape, Red Bean and Shiitake Mousse, Cumberland Sauce, Savory Cracker

I was irritated again tonight. I began working right away on the galantine because Tennessee had been absent that night. The galantine was freaking me out because I can't seem to remember how to get the skin and meat off the chicken using Chef's method. But Rico and Irish quietly gave me some tips, and once I got into it, it seemed to come off okay. But while I was doing that, Tennessee didn't seem to be doing anything. She settled into working after about 45 minutes and eventually my irritation went away. She was complaining about things where I didn't really see what she had to complain about (how long it took her to find ingredients - um, it didn't take the hour she claimed and really, it involved her going into the next door kitchen. So what? I do that almost every night). It took me about 2.5 hours to finish the galantine. That is a long time to work on one thing that I won't even eat. At least with cakes you can take breaks.

So during that time, Tennessee finished most of the rest of our menu, and they tasted good. Whoops, we accidentally burned our beans, but then it turned out they were done. And Chef said he's not tasting any of our food, so we figured, why not keep it? Ha. Clearly, we don't care as much as other teams.

Tennessee really did so much in the time it took me to finish the galantine - I just get irritated sometimes, but I know I'll get over it.

Tonight we made the galantine, brined the chicken (there was no duck), made the dressing, mixed the mousse, made the sauce, and made the cracker dough.

We got out late tonight - I didn't get home until 12:15. I did get in a brief run (and I mean brief - just 18 minutes) in the afternoon, and that might have helped keep me awake. But I'll be tired at work on Thursday.

Tomorrow will be busy - we have to finish the canape spread, smoke the chicken, bake the crackers, poach the mousse, make the salad, design the platter, and plate it! That sounds like a lot, now that I write it. You'll see the final tomorrow!

Chef made us chicken cacciatore and mashed potatoes.

Today was Nemo's birthday - Irish made him a red velvet ice cream cake. She's so sweet! It was good, too. That was really good.

Oh! And I got a 25/25 on the pop quiz! Yay!

Lessons Learned:

Apparently, around midnight, red lights are optional. Somehow I must have missed that lesson in driver's ed. It's best not to think about the other drivers too much, or I might be afraid to get in my car.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Tuesday we practiced for the final. We took what we made Monday, and came up with platter designs. Other teams are making really fancy things, but I don't really see the point and I'm not feeling very artsy at the moment.

So the other reason I wish we took a week off occasionally - I tend to get annoyed with people when I spend too much time around them without breaks. I'm someone who needs their space, and especially this class, where every night has been partner or group work, I just haven't had that.

Anyway, I found out tonight I am paired with Tennessee for the final. Which, if you were Chef, would seem like it makes sense since she and I have been paired up most nights. But I've been getting frustrated. I know I don't always give the best effort, but when it's time to get down to work, I do.

This is the walk-in:

Crowded, right?

Lessons Learned:
At the beginning of class, I was just chatting with Tennessee, but eventually I wanted to actually practice - we have been assigned a meat-heavy final, and I hadn't made any of the dishes on the days they were on the menu. So I practiced making the aspic gelee glaze (a specific ratio of powdered gelatin to consumme), and after she to make the gelee that would cover the bottom of the platter, she didn't try anything else. I screwed up the glaze, and then tried again. And then tried making the crackers. Which I also screwed up. 3 times. But Tennessee, she wasn't doing anything. And then she kept saying "we" weren't doing anything, but I was - at least I was trying to! And then when I finally asked her to try making crackers, she kept trying to tell me my dough looked fine - but I knew rolled out, it would not work. She finally made some, but only near the end of class. It sounds silly, but my grade depends on her making at least a little bit of effort...

I didn't want to tell her to work - we're friends, and I understand not feeling like working. And I was having a really off night, and thought I might be mean if I opened my mouth, so I just kept my mouth shut.

So I just tried to keep to myself. Which I probably did not do that well. I think it was obvious I was irritated.

But I'm not the only one frustrated with partners. Several other people have mentioned frustrations as well.


Monday we were in groups of four - whoops, Chef forgot me! And then when someone else remembered me, he misspelled my name. Oh well - it happens! I was with T., Nemo, and Whiskey.

Our menu was:
Summer Melon with Mint
Apricot Cherry Chutney
Whole Grain Mustard and Tarragon Sauce
Tourneed Spiced Potatoes
Marinated Jicama
Pickled Vegetables
Savory Crackers

I made the Apricot Cherry Chutney and Whole Grain mustard and tarragon sauce. We saved the food for tomorrow to practice building platters.

Here's the Apricot Cherry Chutney:
Sweat red onions and garlic, add cider vinegar, honey, orange juice, water, lemon juice, curry powder, coriander, apricots, and cherries and simmer over low flame until thickened. You want the sauce to coat the back of a spoon - but don't wait until it coats while it's heating. It will still be liquidy in the pot because it's so hot - pull it off the heat and allow it to cool and it will stick to the spoon.
This was really good. Sweet, but not overwhelming - you could still taste the vinegar.

This is the whole grain mustard and tarragon sauce:

This was really tangy - I just wanted to eat the whole bowl. But that might have made me really sick. And really fat. Since it's mostly mayo and sour cream... Mix equal parts mayo and sour cream, then mix in whole grain mustard, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper, tarragon, sugar, and lemon juice.

Lessons Learned:
We had a pop quiz tonight. Luckily it was open note. And we got back the other quiz, and I got an 18/20 on it. Sweet... I may pull off a B if I do well on the final practical - those days I was sick really hurt my chances for an A. That, and I don't really think I'll do that well on the practical.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Terrines, Galantines, Pates, Roulades, and Timbales

Thursday and Friday we made more cold dishes. Supposedly, people at fine dining restaurants eat this stuff. But I don't see why. it takes a really long time and effort to make, so I could see why it's only served at expensive places, but why anyone would want to eat it...I don't really get. It just looks gross.
Thursday we made Seafood Roulade, Pate de Campagne, Fennel Mousse. On Friday we made Roasted Vegetable Terrine with Goat Milk Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper Mousee, Red Bean Timbale, and Classic Chicken Galantine.
Terrines and pates are baked forcemeats (ground meat) - terrines are baked in a dish but pates typically have a crust. In our case, the crust is made from pork fatback. A galantine is forcemeat that is wrapped in the skin of the animal it comes from (duck, chicken) and then usually poached. A mousse as the base of the terrine is the pureed meat/fish/vegetable bound with gelatin and lightened with lightly whipped heavy cream.
This, I think, is the seafood roulade - a smooth paste is made out of pike, seasonings, white bread, egg white, and heavy cream (this makes a mousseline) and then diced salmon, diced shrimp, and spices are folded in.
This is Chef working on his Chicken Galantine. First, he deboned the chicken while barely using his knife. This was really impressive to watch. And so much easier than the way we had been taught.
Then this is layering - skin, proscuitto, chicken breasts, mousseline, tenderloins. Then is was rolled up and wrapped in cheesecloth and poached.
This is what my team's looked like:
Not quite as pretty at all - Chef said T tried to overstuff, a common early mistake for chefs.

Lessons Learned
People will pay good money to eat things that aren't even appetizing. Or maybe I just don't know what's good. No major lessons these nights, except that I'm getting worn out. I wish they would allow us breaks in our training besides one institute day every few months.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cold Soups and Consomme

We had another quiz tonight. He told us to study canapes and smoking/curing, but the quiz was on canapes and sandwiches. I think, though, as a result of everyone's scores on the previous quiz, he thought it would be best to review directly from the quiz. So I might have pulled off a B. I don't really have the best attention span, so even though he was reviewing, I wasn't listening all that well. I really should fix that behavior.
Anyway. I switched teams this night. I worked with Whiskey, Rico, and Irish. Irish made the Aspic Gelee, Whiskey made the Gazpacho Andalusia, Rico made the Cantaloupe soup, and I made the Vichyssoise.
I guess I am able to cook again, since breakfast foods went well, and so did the soup. Vichyssoise is a cold potato soup. I don't usually like cream soups, because I think they're too heavy, but this had less cream because the potatoes help make it thick.
Sweat leeks and onion, then add the sachet (remember: bay leaf, black peppercorns, parsley, and thyme), potatoes and stock. Bring to a full boil, then simmer until potatoes begin to fall apart. Remove and discard the sachet, puree mixture. Mount in butter and cool rapidly. To finish for service, add in half and half, fold in chives, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

All these soups require pureeing. I bought myself a hand blender, which is how I would do this at home. I highly recommend investing in one of those! That way you don't have to make a mess ladling into a blender and then pouring back out again.

We also made a Lime Granite for the cantaloupe soup. This didn't freeze well during class, so we left the cantaloupe soup for the next night. When Irish scraped it up the next day, I had to stop her because she was accidentally scraping up the aluminum from the sheet pan - those curlies were sharp! A granite is just water, sugar, lime zest, and lime juice combined in a shallow pan. Stir evey 25 minutes so it doesn't freeze solid - you want it to be more like slush.

So we have this class next to us, they are also doing the certificate program. There's this one boy, he asked me during baking to send him the photo I took during our huge fest, and he said he would give me his e-mail later. But he never did. But he always smiles at me, and he has a really cute smile. It makes me feel really shy - I always blush and duck my head.
And then there's this other guy. I was in the dish room one night, and this older guy says to me "Smile. I bet you have a beautiful smile." Okay. I hate being told this. I have been told it my entire life. What the hell do people want? Me to walk around with a goofy grin on my face? I smile when I want to, not just randomly. Anyway. Later, this younger guy says something similar to me, and I snapped at him. So then he started saying hello to me before and after class. And this night, I was alone washing dishes, and he came in. He wouldn't come near me, and asked if it's okay - apparently he's worried I'm going to hurt him. I just said I don't believe in violence - not mean or anything. Now, I realize he was flirting. But I'm still sick, and I'm tired in class, and, oh yeah, I kind of am not a fan of boys right now given the way The Boy has been treating me lately. So I don't really feel up for flirting. And then, I was in there alone again, and he came in again, and said we keep running into each other, and what soup did I make? lo and behold, we made the same one... I guess it's fate. Or just that we share the same dish room.
Lessons Learned:
Cold soups are really good and refreshing! I highly recommend the cantaloupe soup for a hot day in summer. Let me know if you want the recipe. But don't eat this vichyssoise unless you can brush your teeth a couple of times: chives, leeks, and onion? That's a strong flavor!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Breakfast Cookery

Chef decided tonight's simple egg recipes did not need to be practiced (scrambled eggs, sunny side up, over easy, over medium, over hard, American omelet, French omelet, and shirred eggs).

We worked in teams of four - me, Nemo, T. and Tennessee. I made the Frittata, French toast, and crepes. T. made the spinach souffle and potato pancakes. Tennesse made the crepe batter and German apple pancake.

Tennessee made a German Apple Pancake. Doesn't that look good? She mixed together eggs, milk, flour, salt, lemon juice, butter, dark brown sugar, and cinnamon. Then she baked and it puffed and browned. She made a simple syrup and warmed the apples, and poured them on top after the pancake was completed.

This was my second try at the crepe.
Compared to someone else's batter, I think our's didn't sit long enough - I don't know much about crepes, but our's seem more like really thin omelettes while their's looked like the ones at the store.

Mmm. I did a good job! My French toast was really good.
Can't you just picture biting into it? That's real maple syrup - we had this giant brown jug of Kraft syrup, but Chef K had the real stuff, and Irish had gotten some from him and gave me her leftovers.

These are the potato pancakes.
I don't know the recipe, because Chef just demoed it, but grate some potatoes, blend in spices and flour with hands, then brown on a griddle. Mmm salty.

This is my spinach frittata.
Wilt spinach, add mushrooms and cook until light brown. Cool. Beat eggs and pour into oven-safe pan. Add in vegetables, and push under egg batter. Cook in the oven. Slide the frittata onto a plate and cute into wedges - make sure to serve before it deflates!

Here's T.'s spinach souffle.
In the bowl, it looked like the whip had fallen and it wouldn't rise in the oven, but it managed to work! I didn't have one - too much food at that point. And you can't save them for later because they fall.

I had to drive to my parent's home after class because I had a conference out by them in the morning. It was just easier doing the drive at midnight than sitting in traffic on the interstate in the morning.

Chef is turning out to be a really nice guy. I think his meds and the pain really got to him last week, because he's been a little more lively this week. He tells stories about his catering of parties, and he's so cute - he gets so excited explaining the menus he's created.

And Chef K, from Culinary I, he's teaching the class next door, and he's always coming over. Supposedly, as a class, we make quite the impression - our chefs love us.
Lessons Learned:
Even when there appear to be a lot of recipes to finish during class, if you work together and divide duties, it isn't really that hard to finish.
And we've been getting out around 11:30 every night - which is great. Just that extra 15 minutes allows me to get to bed around 12:15 or 12:30. I'm still tired the next day, but it's nice to get those 15 minutes.


Monday night we made sandwiches. The story is that the Earl of Sandwich needed a fast way to serve luncheon meat to gamblers without making them leave the table.
We split up the work by the whole class tonight - we did not have very many people in class. Lots of people had flooding damage from the weekend, and some people took the night off.

I made the braised sauerkraut for the Reuben sandwiches. I did a good job! Mince some onions, then saute in bacon fat over low heat. Add the sauerkraut, sugar, stock, salt and pepper. Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed.

To make a Reuben, butter each slice of rye bread. spread each piece with Thousand Island, lay the slices butter side down on a sheet pan and top with a slice of Swiss cheese. Place two oz of corned beef brisket, sliced thin, on each bread slice. Top sandwich halves with 2 oz sauerkraut. Toast both sides in a skillet.

We also made Turkey Club Sandwiches. Use either white or wheat Pullman bread (named after the Pullman tain car). Toast the bread. Spread mayo on each slice. Arrange lettuce, tomato, and bacon on one slice of toast. Top with a slice of bread, and arrange turkey and 1 piece of lettuce. Top with the last piece of bread. Place frill picks on all four sides. Cut diagonally into four pieces. Plate triangle up, with french fries in the center.
Thousand Island Dressing:
whisk red wine vinegar, sugar, mayo, ketchup, chopped pickles, chopped hard-cooked egg, chopped parsley, salt and pepper, and worcestershire.
I got my quiz back. 20 out of 40. ouch. well, that's not really surprising since I didn't know about it and he wouldn't give me time to review my notes. Good. Times.
Lessons Learned:
Reubens are good! And I need to stop eating. I don't have time to work out anymore, so I really should not be eating in class. Everything is full fat, which is not helping. Ick. I feel gross.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Curing and Smoking cont'd - Canapes

Friday we worked in teams of 4 making canapes. Just in case you don't know, canapes are 1-2 bite, open-faced sandwiches. The base can be made of pretty much anything (wontons, tortillas, crackers, unsweetened pastry shells, etc.) but we used toasted Pullman loaves cut into tiny shapes.

I made the canape spread (16 oz butter creamed with 16 oz cream cheese) - no these are not healthy at all, but then again, you're only supposed to be sampling.

Then I did the Grilled Chicken and Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin. Except, ha, I didn't do any of the meat portions. Apparently, I cannot cook anymore. I have always hated cooking chicken - I'm kind of terrified of it not cooking all the way and tonight I was so busy, I didn't pay enough attention, and totally burned it. Luckily, there actually was extra chicken breasts, so T redid it for me. I also burned the red onions when I went to soften them, but I redid it, without following the recipe, and they turned out much better. And then the beef, well, there was none left by the time I was ready to make it. So Chef said I would just have to have someone share slices with me. But the recipe must have been way off because we as a class ended up with way too much. People did a really good job cooking it though - it was fantastic.

We didn't start plating until after 11, and then it was a rush for us to finish - we ended up not being able to make the tuna carpaccio, but we did everything else.

Here's our platter:

From left to right is: grilled chicken, asparagus and sun-dried tomato, smoked salmon, smoked whiskey shrimp, peppercorn beef tenderloin, and around is smoked trout mousse.
Looks good, don't you think? He didn't critique any of mine, but he said even though the shrimp should have been stood up to add height, he liked it best.

We ate some, but after tasting all the bases all night, I really couldn't eat much. I think the most amazing thing about these canapes is that you don't even taste the individual parts of the dish - it becomes this amazing new flavor combination in your mouth. There was then a rush to clean up - I took home the tenderloin and chicken mixes, because it just seemed such a shame to throw it away. I should have taken some of the others, but it all tends to just sit in my fridge because it's only me to eat it. So it gets thrown away anyway.
We got out 5 minutes late, but considering we didn't start plating until 11:10, that's not bad.

Lessons Learned:
Apparently, when protein is involved, one needs to pick up their portion early. Now, this shouldn't be necessary if we actually got our proper amount of supplies, but I'm being naive to pretend that we ever do, so I should have realized this.
People are really starting to divide in the class - and it's more that almost everyone is furious about certain people, rather than exclusive cliques. I think the one that has the most people frustrated with her is Russia. She really pissed off her group tonight. Apparently, she told them they were making the canapes wrong, so she made all her own (once everything had been put together - she just did her own platter), and her group ended up complaining to Chef because they were really furious about it. I heard about that after class - I was irritated because while we were being critiqued (and he took about 10 minutes to critique), she was just standing there. I'm assuming it was to look like she was busy so she wouldn't have to help clean, but that's rude - critiques are considered private and everyone else is supposed to stay away. Obviously.
I just don't know what she's going to do - everyone in her group is going to make sure on Monday there is no room for her at the table, and she's not welcome at our's, and the last table is full, so where's she going to go? Who is going to get stuck being her partner? There are other people in the class who are annoying, but they have redeeming qualities when it comes to cooking, like Sutra being a really quick producer and willing to help when asked.
I don't know if she understands why even the nicest people in the class want nothing to do with her after working with her. Even when people tell her off, she doesn't change her behavior... Monday should be interesting.
On that note, time to work out - I ate too much at class this week!

Curing and Smoking

Thursday I stayed home from work, but by the time it was afternoon, I wasn't having any more trouble swallowing and I really didn't feel like I could miss another class. I was a bit testy toward people, but that's because of different stressors.
Wednesday I missed Starch and Vegetable Salads, which are going to be on the Final Platter presentation, but we're doing that in groups of two, so I'm hoping I get paired up with someone who was there that day. I also apparently missed a quiz.
But look at the flowers Irish brought me! She's taking a flower arranging course during the day, and she gave me a "Freedom" Rose arrangement because I was out... awww. She's so nice.

We brined Duck Breasts to be smoked tomorrow, marinaded shrimp in bourbon and hot spices to smoke, dry cured salmon to smoke tomorrow, and smoked trout.
I did the smoked salmon cure. But, of course, we didn't actually have enough proteins, so instead of having 1.5 lbs for each team, I had to take one salmon filet and quarter it. And then I shared our group's with Army because there was none left for his group.
I asked Chef if I could make up the quiz, and he said "right now?" And I asked if I could possibly wait until tomorrow (since I didn't know about it, was still a little foggy, and had had no chance to study), and he said that was too late because he wanted to put the grades in and hand the quizzes back. "Um, okay, then I guess I'll take it now." It was fill-in-the-blank about salads. I think I knew maybe five answers. Out of 20. Seriously. I hadn't looked at those notes since I took them in class. That should be an interesting grade.
There really wasn't that much to do today, so we were all kind of dilly-dallying, and then he lectured for a bit, and then we smoked our meats over mesquite chips. This can be done indoors, like we did, but you need to have excellent ventilation. This is our shrimp:

So, we're standing there eating them - because bourbon with hot sauce is an amazing combination, thinking we only had to save four because that's what he said, and Chef is standing right there as we're eating, and when there are only about 6 left, he says, "you know you need 4 each, right?" Well, no, how would we know that? You said that we needed 4. And you are watching us eat. So why wouldn't you mention "4 each" in the first place when we ask you how many to save? I don't think he's doing it to be mean, I just don't really know what's going on there. He did mention he's on a lot of medication because of a fall off of his bike, and he is working doubles. So maybe he's just tired.

Lessons Learned:
Missing days of class is stressful. I feel like I missed a lot of information, and his lectures don't really make sense, so borrowing someone else's notes doesn't really help.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sick day

No story about culinary school tonight.
I left work early today, after lunch, due to the fact that I still couldn't swallow. I stood in my apartment at 6:50 in the morning wondering if it was too late to call in. But I needed to attend an IEP meeting and then work on a BIP. So I figured I'd go half a day.
Went home. Slept for 2 hours and wanted to keep sleeping. Still couldn't swallow, so I called my doctor. Not working this week! Luckily, he had a sub in the same building set up who could see me at 6:30 (school starts at 7:15). She was really great. She wasn't even actually seeing patients that late, but the nurse had told her it was urgent. Turns out it was. She described my throat as "white dots with also a look of someone spreading mayo over it." Gross. And fitting given what we made Monday night... Ha!
Since I'm not running a fever and the quick strep test came back negative, she sent out for a culture because she says it looks like I'm somewhere between strep and a virus. And now I'm on antibiotics. And had her write me a note for class - Ha! Who knew it'd be like I'm back in elementary school and need a note for it to be an excused absence. And I'm taking the day off tomorrow. Well, I still have to drive out for a meeting at 8 with my boss, but I'm going home after that. And I will sleep. And sleep. And sleep.
If I have time, I'll also try to make these this weekend. Missing class makes my grocery bills expensive! Hopefully this chef is more flexible - if you miss too many days, you can automatically fail classes. But I have a note!
I'm off to bed. Being actually sick makes me really tired!

Protein and Grain Salads

I don't have much to say for Tuesday because...sadly, I had to go home sick after the lecture and demo. Chef discussed the nutritional background behind using grains and how to plate a salad.
Ta da!

Ha. This is definitely Chef's Tuna Nicoise. Look how good it looks. He likes to use a Nike swish formation to plating - follow from the tuna to the beans to the potatoes to the tomatoes. Yum. Would have liked to have tasted this since I didn't get to make my own...

I had to go home after this. I just did not feel I should be touching food other people might eat. I went to Trader Joe's (which, by the way, I am totally obsessed with this store. By far the cheapest grocer in the city - except for the produce up on Devon. But those are really far away now that I have so little time). I bought all the ingredients for the recipes and will make them this weekend.

Lessons Learned:
Um. I guess, lesson learned is when you can't swallow, you probably shouldn't be going to culinary school that evening.

Basic Dressings

Monday we started Garde Manger, and I started to come down with a throat ache.
Chef T. While nice, he is a little boring. He lectured about the history of garde manger, appetizers, salads, and dressings. Then he demoed how to make mayonnaise and vinaigrettes. Wow is there a lot of oil in mayo. I rarely eat mayo, and usually only accidentally, because it hurts my stomach, and now I think I might know why - I just don't eat that much oil or fats in anything except, well, fried foods because I love fried foods.
Basic red wine vinaigrette. To Tennessee and I, this seemed creamier than we expected, but Chef said it looked fine. But other people's seemed less creamy. Oh well. It tasted pretty good. Combine vinegar, Dijon, and shallots. Slowly whisk in oil. Then season with salt, pepper, sugar, and herbs (tarragon, chives, and parsley). This is served on the following salad:
2 oz mixed greens, 1/2 tomato, 1 oz carrot, 1/4 head belgian endive, 1/8 head of radicchio, 2 oz cucumber, 2 oz red onino, and 1/4 apple. We didn't actually make this salad, but doesn't it sound good?
Emulsified Mustard Herb Vinaigrette.
I made this one - combine egg yolk, cider vinegar, dijon mustard, shallots, parsley, chives, and sugar and whisk until lightened. Slowly add in oil while whisking constantly. Continue until all oil and vinegar (add walnut oil) is used. Season with salt and pepper.

This tasted really good. I usually hate vinaigrettes because the vinegar bites too much, but this was a really nice blend. And it tastes like there are walnuts in the salad when it's only a minor amount of oil...

I wanted to drink it. Seriously. I ate almost the entire mixing bowl once I tossed it with Romaine.

Ew. I didn't even taste our's. I tasted Chef's and it felt like I might have just drank from the bottle of oil. But that might be the quality of the oil purchasing gets us. Because, you know, $15,000 for a 8-month program couldn't possibly buy you quality ingredients...
Mix egg yolks, white wine vinegar, and dry mustard. Whisk in oil - drips at first, then a light stream as it starts to thicken. You will whisk. And whisk. And whisk. And add oil. And more oil. And more oil.
Tennessee, Irish and I switched off whisking for at least 10 minutes. I was not much help. Besides being tired, I apparently don't have the arm strength. And, sometimes, whisking just seems dirty - I don't think I need to describe for you what it sometimes looks like a person is doing... but just in case you don't live in the gutter like I do: it involves a hand and a male body part. Ha! This was being saved for tomorrow.

Blue cheese dressing. Irish made this. It tasted good, but I don't really like blue cheese (I think I just haven't tried it often enough). Mix mayo, sour cream, buttermilk, blue cheese, shallot, garlic, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, hot sauce, and worcestershire.
Serve on 1/4 head frisee, 1/4 head Bibb lettuce, 1/4 pear, 2T walnuts, 1/4 head Beligian endive. 1 oz red onion, 4 oz roasted beet.
This was going to be my first opportunity to eat a beet (kind of shocking I've never had one before), but we didn't have time to make it because lecture went too long. I think Irish took this home to her doorman. She's so nice.
Lessons Learned:
Garge Manger goes back to the medieval kitchen. It was where they stored preserved meats and food before big banquets.
We will learn platter presentations (you know, good old nitpicky chef stuff). Guidelines for plating a salad: color, height, ingredients cut uniformly, cold food on cold plates, not overdressed, and no food on rim.
To make a good salad, you need to match the dressing to the lettuce. Two types of dressings: vinaigrettes/citronettes and creamy.
Don't store lettuce with any water on it, but also not totally dry. Use bus tubs, with a damp towel over.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Final and Practical

We did the exam first - as I said for Thursday, luckily he had reviewed every question. I was exhausted Friday.

Then we moved on to making one pastry cream tart and 6 buttermilk bisquits. I was upset with my products Friday. I just know I could have done better but I just didn't have the energy to start over.
I got a 75/90 on the tart - my topping was overwhipped and there was too much cornstarch in my filling so it wasn't smooth enough. But my crust was well-baked. Chef could tell I was upset (I am so quick to tears these days since I am so tired all the time), and he asked me if I thought his products turn out perfect all the time. They don't - we've seen him get really pissed off at himself when he screws up his demos - usually he is so jokey with us, but when he screws up his demos (usually due to the heat of the classroom and how it destroys products quickly) he snaps at us a lot.

I got a 90/90 on the bisquits. 20/20 on overall kitchen behavior. I earned a 95% in the class.

But. I found this a little laughable - I got a 45/50 on the paper. I have a graduate school education - and my paper is not considered good enough? I just wanted to know why I didn't do better, since there was nothing marked on the paper, but all he could tell me was that I didn't give enough detail. Apparently, other people had written 4-5 pages. And then he said I used double-spacing (according to the grading criteria, this was required), and I used too large a font (12point Arial, again, required). I pointed out that I followed the directions, and there were no page requirements, and he just looked at me and told me he still loved me and it had not impacted my grade in any way. I also pointed out that the cupcake shop I went to was about 10 feet big, so there really wasn't that much to describe further, but I don't even know why I was kind-of arguing since I didn't really care. I know I hadn't made much of an effort with the paper. I didn't remember to write it until I woke up from my nap at 4:15 Tuesday, the night it was due. I guess I just think it's weird that my writing wouldn't be considered good enough with all my education - I've read other student's papers when they've shown them to me, and they have grammatical and punctuation errors everywhere, and they did better. Maybe because it's a technical school rather than the educational background I come from?
Rico was taking pretty long to finish, and the rest of us were at our table just standing around eithe after being graded or waiting to be graded. Irish took the piece Chef has sliced to see the inside of the tart and taste it, and pushed it into Rico's face. It was really funny. I was too slow to catch the actual cream on the face though. Later, she said she was wondering why we were all watching her pipe, and then she noticed Irish very close to her but she was concentrating so much on piping that she wasn't quick enough to stop the tart from being pushed into her face. She laughed it off, but the rest of the night she said she kept smelling whipped cream because it got up her nose. Oh, the fun we get into late at night...

Final thoughts/Lessons Learned:
Chef C was great. He told us he will either have us for B&P 2, or definitely the restaurant. He said that he doesn't really see more of us dropping - we lost a few this class - but the other class will lose a lot (he aided in there for Meat Fab) and we will end up combined into one class. He said we all seem very dedicated, whereas students in the other class just sometimes don't show up for class. Interesting. Next up is Garde Manger. We've heard good things about the Chef, but then again, we also hear it's a class that is the breaking point for students. Should be interesting for me given how stressed I already am. Boy stresses aren't helping. It's time for me to state what I need, and I have never been good at that, even if a lot of people have the impression that this would be easy for me. It never has been, but it's the worst when it comes to boys. Sometimes I think it's amazing that I'm a psychologist given all my own issues. Those who can't do, teach, right?

Off to bed - I was up until after 4 both nights this weekend, and though I took a 3 hour nap this afternoon/evening, I think I need to try to fall asleep again. Full week of work ahead - goody. Can you sense the excitement?

Assembly of Tarts

Thursday we put together our tarts, and prepped for the final exam and final practical. It was a really short day. He had to stretch it out to make it to 10:30. He went over the entire exam, which was a good thing, because I have been so busy with new duties at work that I do not have the time I thought I would to study during the day. Otherwise, I probably would have done really bad on it.
Anyway. Assembly just involves placing the filling in the tarts and topping them off. I sadly forgot my camera, but T let me use his. I'm just waiting for him to e-mail me the photos. We put whipped topping on the tart with the pastry cream. Whipped cream is really easy to make on your own - it's just heavy cream and powdered sugar with vanilla extract to taste. Then whip until it has stiff peaks. Use a pastry bag to pipe the cream. I didn't like the shape I did, but Tennessee took her's off because she felt like she was having an off night. Chef said it's most important to be consistent rather than the design itself.
The pear halves were sliced (not all the way through) and spread out over the Frangipane filling, and then baked until golden brown. I was watching our's, and I pulled it out at the exact right time.

Lessons Learned:
I am worn out by Thursdays. I enjoy this much more than my job these days, so I'm going to try to keep up the program, but but I'll just have to take it a week at a time.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tart Fillings

Wednesday we made the ingredients for tarts.

Tart dough: Otherwise known as Pate Sucre (sweet dough). Cream butter, sugar, and eggs. Then flour. Obviously these were baked in tart pans; this was before they were going to be wrapped and cooled overnight.
These are my and Tennessee's three doughs: two par-baked, and one fully-baked.
Except the fully-baked one isn't. It needs to be browner on the bottom. We finished it the next evening before adding the filling.

Frangipane: Warm almond paste with hands, then cream with sugar then butter. Put in bag, and refrigerate overnight.

Pear Poaching:
Basic poaching liquid: water and sugar, but can add white wine. We also had cinnamon sticks and lots of other things. Chef actually had it ready for us, so I don't know what went in it. We each cut up one pear into halves, and cored it. Dig a melon baller into the center to get the seed portion, then do v-cuts to get the hard end pieces. Then poach.

Bourbon Pecan Filling: combine eggs with sugar and corn syrup, molasses, bourbon, butter, vanilla extract, and pecans. Tennessee made this while I did the Frangipane and Pastry Cream.

Pastry Cream: This is a staple of a pastry kitchen, because it fills so many things like cakes, eclairs, etc.
Scald milk and sugar (when see bubbles at edge, pull off heat). Whisk eggs, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth, then temper about 2/3 of the milk in (add slowly; allows you to raise the temp of eggs nearer to temp of milk without cooking the eggs). Then whisk all back into remaining milk. Boil, whisking constantly (if you stop, the eggs will cook), making sure to scrape sides and bottom. Whisk for one minute at full boil. Pull off heat, whisk in flavoring (extracts, zest, etc). Whisk in butter and then whisk in chocolate. Put over ice bath to cool. When cold, it will look like gel. It will congeal overnight, and then will be paddled smooth again the next day. It has a 3-day shelf life.

Lessons learned:
Getting out early is a really nice feeling. I don't think Garde Manger (my next class) will be like that. Sad. I like being asleep by 12:30 since I have to get up before 6am.
If you are using real vanilla beans for the pastry cream, split and scrape them and add them when scalding the milk. Extracts, however, go in near the end.

Introduction to Fruit Pie and Custard Fillings

Tuesday we made old fashioned apple pie, cherry pie, and quiche lorraine.

Apple pie: We were supposed to learn the Cooked Fruit method, but Chef prefers Old Fashioned Apple Pie. In OFAP, the fruit cooks while it bakes. I was paired with T, and he made this one. Having been raised to wash all my fruit, I expressed some surprise during lecture that Chef did not wash the apples before he peeled them. He teased me about this, and said that in the industry, if a chef caught me washing a carton of apples, I would get in trouble. And he said it doesn't matter, since the peel is removed and they'll be cooked, but my father taught me that since you touch the outside with your peeler which then touches the inside as you peel, it transfers whatever is on the outside to the inside. It's not even the pesticides, because we don't worry about that in my family, it's I think the dirt. Actually, I don't know what it is. We've just been taught to wash all fruit. Plus, I love to eat apple peels, so it seems gross not to wash it. Anyway, to core an apple, I'm sure you've seen this on the Food Network, slice it into quarters and then stand it up or lay it down and straight cut the core.
Cut the slices about 1/4 in thick, making sure you're consistent. Mix with lemon juice, sugar, constarch, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Lay the apples in the crust, piling higher in the center. Cut up 1T of butter, and put pieces on top of apples. Pour residual juice over top of apples. Lay crust on top, and pinch together. Use water to seal together. Make sure you make vents, any style you like! Egg wash, and can sprinkle with sugar in the raw. Cover with foil (hole in middle) and bake 45 minutes with foil, and 15 min without foil. Parchment paper is key here, as you can see that apple pie tends to leak as it bakes. You wouldn't want that mess on the oven floor! He did a nice job, don't you think?

Cherry pie: I made the cherry pie. We used IQF fruit, as usual - it's just easier. This uses the Cooked Juice method. Whisk cherry juice, lemon juice, and sugar in a pot to simmer. Make a slurry - cornstarch dissolved in cold water. Add this to the juice mix, bring to a boil, continue whisking. In a few minutes, it will become gel-like. Make sure you didn't allow the sugar to burn, or this won't work, trust me. I had to start over, because I definitely burned my sugar the first time - it's supposed to be this really pretty clearish pink gel, and mine was dark and some parts were brown. Mix this with the cherries in a bowl, and allow to cool. If it is warm when added to the pie, it will melt the dough.

Blind bake the dough (do this with all pie dough): Cover the bottom crust with 'pie weights' - we wrapped a couple cups of beans in plastic wrap, and lay it on the dough. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the crust becomes white/opaque. Pull off beans, and then bake long enough for the bottom to get color. Dough docking: poke holes in the bottom for steam - otherwise when you try to brown the bottom, it will puff up. You can break the puff, but that then creates cracks in the bottom crust.

Fill with cherries, then make a lattice crust. Roll out the remaining dough, and cut strips. Lay four to five strips down, then pull back every other one. Lay a strip perpendicular, then return strips that were pulled back. Now pull back the opposite strips, and repeat with a perpendicular strip. In other words, don't picture this done like I always had - where a person will weave through, like a basket. That, not surprisingly, would be very difficult to do. Press down to seal, egg was, and bake closer to the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes. Looks good, right? It was too sweet for me, but I didn't actually taste mine - we sampled one team's in the class, and the rest are saved for orientations or staff meetings.

The flakes are from the oven - when T put in the apple pie above mine, some stuff from the oven fell off onto the pie. Oh well. Chef said it didn't matter.

Quiche Lorraine: This is really rich. But good. I read about quiche recipes all the time, but I've never made one before. I actually wouldn't have expected to learn it in baking class, but I guess it makes sense, since the crust is important. Whisk cream, eggs, yolks, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Use white pepper so it blends in and there are no specks. Mix bacon, onion, and cheese, and a small amount of base. Pour this mix in the dough, then pour remaining liquid over. Bake for 20 minutes, until when you shake it is seems like set jello.

Ha. TNT. aren't we funny?

Lessons Learned:

There are two types of pies: mealy (one crust; custard) or flaky (double crust; fruit). Mealy pies are either par-baked or fully baked before filling is added (quiche, pecan, chocolate silk). There are eggs in the filling. Flaky pies are fruit pies.