Sunday, December 7, 2008

Day 44

I am still in school. We have been catering and I have been catering and have had to go see family for a funeral and for the holidays. Its been busy. I have lots to share still. Don't worry.
For my 3rd day of our secret ingredient test I have been gifted with filet mignon and scallops. I had no fucking clue as to what to do with scallops. I do know how to cook them I just had no plan whatsoever. Like for meat I could do roast potatoes and a wild mushroom ragout.

I know the presentation is not amazing. Its too crowded with the ragout. And the ragout is very chunky so it spread too much. But I have to say it tasted great. The mushroom ragout starts with bacon (duh) and then sauteed onion, shitakes, dried guajillo chiles, chicken stock (to braise), and then garlic, parsley, maple syrup, and lime juice to finish. I cannot take credit for the madness. Its in the gourmet cookbook. But luckily I had made this before and remembered it. The recipe originally used ribeye but I just did it with the filet. Which unfortunately was shaped like a rubic's cube. Great. Just the kind of steak you want to try to cook medium rare. Why the fuck can't we just get normal shaped protein? That's what I want to know.

So I coated my cube with kosher salt, white pepper, minced garlic, chili powder and olive oil. And then I seared the shit out of it. Pretty much charred and burned. Of course the inside was completely raw. I finished it in the oven to medium rare. I also roasted fingerling potatoes at the same time. I presented it as "crusted" filet mignon over roast fingerling potatoes and wild mushroom ragout.

My feed back on the presentation was that I could have made the ragout fit into the dish better. It looked crowded. Uhhhh. Well, if I had responded I might have said "oh". I had no idea how this was going to plate up. Surprises all around. I was just glad he didn't say it tasted burnt as hell. I then turned to my ugly stepchild, scallops. I normally like scallops. I was just completely unprepared. So searing and pan sauce was my go to idea.

It actually looked nicer in person. I started my potato rosti style cake (that's the light brown disk) which is just julienned potatoes smushed into a teflon pan with some oil and lots of seasoning and slowly browned, then flipped. I held it in the oven where it kept crisping. I then seared my scallops and sauteed my asparagus in different pans but at the same time. At this point my classmate was cursing very loudly at her filet mignon dish. I did my best to ignore her rage against the meat and finish my dish on time. After my scallops were finished searing I moved them to a plate and started my pan sauce with shallots, white wine (to deglaze) and parsley and cream to finish. I simmered the done sauce with the scallops added back in for about 10 minutes. I flipped the scallops halfway through cooking in the sauce. Once finished I plated potato cake, sauce, asparagus, and scallops.

It did look better in person because the colors were all brown tones but not the same colors. That kind of made no sense but I tell you in person IT LOOKED BETTER!. Not sludgy. So after all that stress we then had to be scored and graded on our plates. I was sure my home spun ideas were not going to earn me top marks. I was wrong. I got 20. Out of 20. It was a huge surprise and highlight and exciting moment in my cooking school life. I love perfect scores.
Another terrible secret ingredient day tomorrow. And supposedly harder proteins than today. These were pretty easy. No carving or trimming or filleting or scaling. I don't want to scale and fillet a fish tomorrow. Let's hope its like chicken breasts or something.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 43

I have been doing the fam holiday thing. And it was my birthday. And my brother got engaged. So I have been doing things besides writing and studying and staying home all snuggled in. Lots of eating out, drinking and socializing.

So on day 43 we went to visit the meat distribution center that we order our meat from. They don't slaughter there. They only do small or custom cuts and supply local businesses. For example if you want to order precut filet mignon they will cut the tenderloin into the whatever ounce portion that you need. I don't care for the beef that they sell. Its feedlot and low in flavor and slightly fatty (not in a good way). But they do use natural pork and poultry. Its a start, right? So do you think we could take pictures in there? Hell no. We were not allowed photos. Not that there was anything good to see. Nothing shady or gnarly. Just a distribution plant.

So that was my day. Not very exciting. Tomorrow holds more torture in the form of the mystery ingredient time trials again. Wahhhhhh.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 42

So after yesterday's temper tantrum I decided to return to school better planned and organized. I did a test run of what I knew had to be coming. Pork tenderloin medallions.

Above was my first plate at home in the morning before class. I wanted to do pork with potatoes and apples but I knew we only had 2 apples left in the walk in at school and I was in the second group of students to come in. Meaning that if pork was assigned I was out of luck if others used apples. So I chose mangos. We had a few mangos and I didn't think that was going to be on anyones agenda. Except mine. So I picked up a few potatoes, mangos and defrosted some pork from my freezer and set my timer for 1 hour 45 minutes. ( I assumed that is how long we would get after our 2 hours yesterday). I wanted to try the potatoes 2 ways. One plate with pureed and one with dijon roasted.

I enjoyed eating the roasted potatoes more but in the context of the dish the puree was better. I also made a mango chutney (but I guess not the way Chef would have made it). The medallions just got seared. I finished my dish in under an hour which left me more than enough time for my second dish which I assumed would be a seafood protein. So I chose the first picture for my official plan.
So I arrive at school and see the other students still running around the kitchen and it did not look good. They were obviously feeling pressed for time and trying to drop their plates in time. If we did not drop anything we would not be scored at all. So once they finished and cleaned up I went in to hear my sentence. Pork and Shrimp. Two main courses. Two sauces. Plates do not have to be dropped at the same time. That made it easier. I went ahead with my final draft of my morning dish.
I made a few mistakes, however. While boiling my potatoes next to my chutney, I seared the shit out of the side of my chutney from the flame from the high heat burner on the potatoes. So caramelized mango chutney it became. Golden in color with flecks of brown for extra flavor. I also slightly over cooked my pork. I should have known better. It looked fine from the outside but was medium well in the center. Chef was not pleased with that.

So his other complaint on my dish was that it looked too dry. He suggested a simple ladle of seasoned demi glace around the chutney to moisten things up. He said nothing about the potatoes which were the best mashed potatoes I have ever made in my life. I assume that means he liked them too. Its funny how when you throw calorie consciousness to the wind in order to achieve maximum flavor you find the best taste. They had cream, milk, butter, and more salt than I want to actually know about. I just kept adding things (after ricing the potatoes) until they were great. Then I took them home and ate them for dinner. No guilt. Just good.
On to my little shrimps. I had this orzo recipe that I had made many times for myself and entertaining from one of Ina Garten's books. Its orzo with roasted vegetables and a lemon vinaigrette. Its great on its own and I thought it would be a lovely lunch like entree with sauteed shrimp. Now my only problem was that I needed an official sauce and I knew that a vinaigrette would not count. The salad originally called for toasted pine nuts, cheese, and chopped basil so I opted to make a pesto and call it a day. So I cut my bell peppers into lovely little diamonds (lozange cut) and roasted them with garlic and onions (I tried to make them diamonds but I felt short on time so they were not as nice as my peppers). I only had 1 hour 45 minutes. It goes fast, okay? Especially as Chef stares at you working. Probably thinking that his toddler niece can cook faster. You try it. But only if you get someone to stare at you THE WHOLE TIME. You just keep that relaxed look on your face as you scoop charred chutney out of your black pan. Call it caramelized.
So next I cooked the orzo pasta and dressed it with the lemon vinaigrette and stirred in the roasted vegetables. I covered it to keep it warm. Somewhere in the process I made a pesto in the food processor and let it sit at room temp. Lastly I seasoned my shrimp heavily and pan seared them.
I garnished with a lemon twist and basil leaves. The pesto was in little blobs around the five shrimp as you can see. I had I think 10 or so minutes leftover. I used a ring mold to help shape the pasta salad into that circle. Orzo is so slippery you cannot really expect it to hold anything up. I just nestled my shrimp in there. I loved how this turned out. I would like to serve it at a luncheon or have it outdoors on a warm summer night.
Chef liked the shrimp dish. He was pleasantly surprised at the strong flavors in the pasta (which was the lemon dressing). He expected my only sauce to be the pesto, I guess. So my total for today (due to the overcooking of the pork) was 19. Not bad, huh? The pork dress rehearsal really helped. Tomorrow we get a break from the stress to go on a class field trip to the place that supplies us with our meats for school. I'm sure you can't take pictures in there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 41

So at my school they do this mystery ingredient week. It is a week of hell that you realize you paid for. Which makes it way worse. The days are shorter as the class is split up into two groups. You show up at your assigned time and are given a protein to work with, a time frame, and parameters of the dish you must make (main course, soup, sauce). You get to use your notes from class and can bring any supplemental notes you may have. You cannot bring in any ingredients. Does this sound fun? Its NOT. You spend all weekend making lists of proteins and possible ways of combining them with vegetables we may have on hand and starches and sauces... Then you get to school and you find out you have to make soup. Okay, my first day I had 2 hours to make a soup and a main course with a sauce (the protein in the main being halibut). Does it sound easy? It's so fucking NOT.

I decided to make a spicy tomato soup. With a puff pastry lid. We had frozen puff pastry in the freezer. I am not a magician. My soup starts with onion, garlic, ginger, jalepeno and some ground cumin. I added canned tomatoes and chicken stock and simmered until onions were tender. I cut out a round of pastry and put it on top. I brushed it with egg wash and baked it until the pastry was golden.

It was cool looking. I would have liked it in one of those french like bowls that have the footed bottom and curve up the sides. Not our boring school cups. It looks way too mushroomy. Still it was kinda cool. Chef did not seem impressed. He said my soup needed something, like a punch. He suggested oven drying tomatoes. Thats great if you have time, huh? I should have just creamed it. He would have gone for that more than anything else.

For the halibut I made a sauce with Chinese cooking wine, sugar, fennel seed, ginger and some soy. Added a little cornstarch to thicken and let it wait while I made a cinnamon rice pilaf (just added cinnamon stick and cumin seed to rice pilaf) and sauteed some baby patty pan squash. I pan seared my halibut and finished it in the oven. I plated my rice with a ring mold and poured my sauce around, topped with squash and placed halibut on top. My rice leaked around into my sauce.
It looked way better than this when I dropped the plate to Chef. It smooshed more because he tasted it. And cut into the fish and all. I don't think he likes asian food very much. He was not into the sauce. He also said that my rice and protein were underseasoned. Meaning not enough salt. He said to not use rice any more. NOT CREATIVE ENOUGH.

We get scored for the plates. Its a combined score totaling 20 points. We get 5 for plating/presentation, 5 for creativity, 5 for taste, and 5 for work habits. Work habits include station cleanliness, keeping raw proteins out of dangerous temps for too long, and safety. We can use whatever ingredients are in our walk in, but not other proteins (except like eggs). I felt like I was going to throw up most of the day. And the great news? Doing this all week. Except tomorrow the time gets shorter.

So my score for the day? 18

I might not come back tomorrow. It was way too stressful.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 40

The first recipe of the day was not what I pictured as Spanish. It was a shrimp cake that to me seemed like chinese food. I loved it. You saute a brunoise of celery, onion, red bell pepper and garlic. Add saffron to it (okay, not chinese) and chill it until cool. Mix in equal parts chopped raw shrimp. Add eggs to wet mixture and flour and water to thicken to a pancake batter. We fried them in a teflon pan and kept them warm over the stove. The smaller the pancake, the better it worked.

If you thought we were done deep frying, you were wrong. See the picture below? That is cheese, my friend. We are about to deep fry cheese. With HAM IN IT. Ridiculous? Yes.

They were over the top. And wonderful. You mix up flour, egg yolks, and milk. You whip egg whites and fold them in to the yolks. You fold in cheese (tetilla and manchego), serrano ham, grated onion. Fry, fry, fry. Eat while hot so you scald your mouth and suffer severe burns that are worth every blister. I don't have any pictures of cooked cheese balls. They do sit in your stomach a bit though. We prepped our paella next.

That's my cubed swordfish and chopped garlic. We had all our ingredients ready similar to a stir fry. First was Spanish chorizo, then chicken, then shrimp (cut into thirds), then swordfish, then vegetables (onion, red bell pepper, tomato), then "wet seafood" (calamari, clams, mussels), then garlic and saffron, then rice, then chicken stock, fumet, and clam juice. Simmer and put in oven to cook. Finish on stove top to evaporate any extra liquid.

Serve with lemon wedges and parsley. And sangria if you like day drinking like my class does. Our sangria was made from possibly the shittiest wine ever, orange juice, brandy, 7 up, and fruit with skin. Don't leave the fruit in more than half a day or the skin will leach bitterness into the death punch. Oh and you might get a headache. Enjoy.

Next week we have a terrible challenge involving secret proteins and time limits. I might puke. Why can't we just go back to France?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 39

So, I don't want you to worry. I still go to school every day. I just got behind in my notes and my life due to an insane week at school. You will hear about this madness soon and then you will understand why halfway through the insanity I had to go get acupuncture to keep myself from spontaneously combusting. But for today, we fry.

Did you know bread was so good deep fried? No one told me this. I thought it was just something people did at like county fairs. But in class we fried bread to go into our sopa de ajo. I had made this soup before in college because it is cheap. It has garlic, bread, cumin, paprika, saffron, beef broth, and beaten eggs. You lightly fry your garlic in olive oil to infuse it first. Then, fry your bread. Then remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil and add spices. Add beef broth and chopped up fried garlic and simmer for a few minutes. Stir in some beaten eggs and top with fried bread. Its really good. And obviously simple. Our next dish was not so simple. Its a version of "Mar y Montana" which means sea and mountain in Spanish. Its a braise of chicken breast (seasoned with cinnamon) and shrimp with tomatoes, garlic, and brandy. Its actually not complicated but has this annoying paste called picada that you add at the end to thicken and enrich the dish. The picada is almonds, hazelnuts, chocolate, and fried bread. Its not unlike nutella, but rough. You bind it in the food processor with olive oil. Its crazy how the cinnamon comes up later. I wasn't in love with the dish.

It looks like sludge, huh? Well, people liked it. People also like fried potatoes. People like me like fried potatoes. Look how pretty waffle cut chips are. We used a mandoline. Duh.

So waffle chips don't need a first fry. You just deep fry them at about 350. They are amazing in your mouth and feel light and airy. They should be immediately salted and eaten. We had to soak and dry all the potatoes first, though.

These cuts above had to be blanched in the oil at about 325-350 to cook them with no color first. Then the oil was heated to 360 and they fried until golden. We needed homemade aioli to further increase our caloric intake.

Notice the ratio of aioli to ketchup. I find that funny. So after that I had half of a coke which I don't normally drink to wash down the salty fatty starchy mess. I felt sick for like 3 hours. I don't deep fry at home. My parents never deep fried when I was growing up. So this was exciting and slightly naughty. Bad fried food! Bad!
Tomorrow when I recover I will be making paella and sangria. Just the thing to help one feel balanced again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 38

It may be overdone and out of date but I still really like this presentation. Look at that martini of shellfish. In the center is a mound of Spanish cocktail sauce. I had never had this sauce but people seemed to like it. I thought it was foul. It was homemade mayo, ketchup, tomato paste, hard boiled eggs (chopped), tarragon, capers, parsley and Cognac. It was too sweet. Take out the tomato paste and ketchup and add lemon and I might come around.

We had to present all our food at the same time today. All 5 little dishes. In the picture there are two gazpacho. I still don't know why we had to make two of those.

In the above picture you can see the mushrooms with bacon in the tapas style dish. Those were just quartered sauteed mushrooms with diced bacon, garlic, white wine and parsley. I forgot to deglaze mine with white wine. So did someone else in my class. He confessed before Chef came around to taste. I didn't. Chef said they were good and didn't mention the missing wine. Lucky. We made a court bouillon for poaching our shrimp. Once cooked, we drained them and chilled them.

See the simple little gazpacho below? Its your typical blended gazpacho. But let me tell you about my silent fight with Chef over my brunoise garnish. So he gives a demo on how he wants us to cut our brunoise (fillet the pepper, julienne skin side down, cut across into tiny brunoise cubes) (peel cucumber, and cut thin slices lengthwise, turning the cucumber 1/4 each time so that once you get to the seeds you can throw them away). I was slicing my cucumber (not turning it) and cutting around the seeds and he stormed over to my station, takes my knife and loudly asks me if I had watched his demonstration. He proceeded to cut the cucumber (almost all of it) the way he wanted and walked off. Awkward silence. Note to self: cut only in manner of Chef, unless humiliation is desired. Just to spite him I didn't use any of his brunoise and re cut my own. It didn't make the embarrassing sting go away, though. But my soup looked pretty nice.

The gazpacho had marinated overnight and included roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, celery, garlic, tomato paste, tomato juice, salt, and bread soaked in milk. Blend. Garnish with brunoise and bread cubes fried in butter. The milk part creeps me out but it kinda faded away under the garnish. Below is a monkfish dish with tomatoes and almonds. I didn't dig it. My fam and friends ate it up, though. Maybe I was just sick of my own food at this point. It got served over crostini.

We also did a scallop dish from the south of Spain. It had serrano ham, shallot, garlic, tomato sauce, and green olives. Its in the picture of all the dishes at the top. It was tasty but again I was so over my food. I guess that just happens.
Tomorrow I will have a serious stomach ache from gorging on deep fried potatoes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day 37

I don't think I told you yet about my classmate who quit school. Well, he was the one who was seriously hard of hearing and already had not come for a week of school. It was actually Asia week which makes me think he just does not like Asia or the foods of it. He was on a "business" trip. He came back for Italy and then at the end of the week he announced that he would be leaving school because his other "business" endeavors were suffering due to his absence. So odd. But as a parting gift he gave all of us brand new microplanes. Thanks? Good luck? Not sure what to wish someone like that. Oh, did I mention that he also just bought a restaurant (in addition to whatever else he is up to)? So random. Anyways, today I made mayonnaise.

Homemade mayo is so far superior to jarred that if you dislike mayo you need to Pepsi challenge this shit. Jarred mayo vs. homemade. So different. I had made it before at home but wow. How much easier is it when someone else is pouring the oil for you! No wonder it took like 45 minutes at home. Dar. Mayo is great. Everyone should make and eat it. *Except persons with compromised immune systems, pregnant women and the elderly due to the risk of salmonella* I don't think they worry about that in Spain, do they?
I made a Spanish chicken chorizo stew next.

Sauteed chicken legs (boneless/skin on) and chorizo are already great. So when you then add orange zest, thyme, garlic, onion, carrot, red wine and whole plum tomatoes it just get better. We braised it.

This got served over a braised cabbage. We sauteed the cabbage, removed it from the pan, sauteed a brunoise of onion and carrot, deglazed with sherry and added cabbage back in along with veggie stock. It cooked until just tender. It was great with the chicken/chorizo.
Yes, cabbage rocks the stomach, but I think we must need it. It probably helps deal with the digestion of the chicken/chorizo. I think about this stuff.
We made shrimp tapas next. ENJOY MY CROOKED PICTURE.

You have to turn your head so you can see the lovely tomato rose in the middle. I made that! It was one of the most exciting things I have learned so far. Its not difficult at all. Just so crafty. You make it with the skin of a shitty hot house beefsteakish tomato. Start at the bottom and peel carefully with your pairing knife (use a short sawing motion) until you reach the stem. Then roll the skin up and finish it by setting the "rose" on the piece of the bottom that you started with. I would like a whole bouqet of tomato roses. They are fantastic. The shrimp were good too. The toast with the garlic cream sauce was better. The shrimp get sauteed with the tail on, add onion, add garlic, deglaze with wine, add cream and parsley and chile flakes and serve. Preferably with tomato rose.

Tomorrow is going to be rough. All dishes must be presented at the same time. 5 things at once! I am coordinated but still. That's a a lot. I think if I was making dishes that I had made before or maybe had read the recipe before it would be less intimidating. Learning 5 dishes and getting them right and timing them right the first time is tough. I expect crisis.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Day 36

I love when my pictures turn themselves like maybe they are possessed. This is one of my favorite pictures. I love the color of the choke in the artichoke heart. Have you ever tourneed artichokes? Its the worst job. Ever. Its a bitch, really. The payoff is for sure the flavor and texture of the fresh artichoke vs. canned. It can't be beat.

We simmered our hearts with the lemons to help them from turning black until they were tender when pierced with a knife. They then got chopped into about 8 pieces.

We also chopped Serrano ham and parsley and garlic. The artichoke hearts get a fast, hot saute and then in goes the ham, parsley and garlic. Tapas are served!

These were soooo good. It would not be the same with canned/jarred hearts. So the awful tournee was I guess worth it. I will have to make these many times more.
We next made tortilla espagnole. It looks in the picture like mac n cheese. Its not though. Its potatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, and beaten eggs. It gets browned on one side, baked to cook through, and then flipped. We flipped it using a plate and sliding it back into the pan to brown the other side on the stove top.
Look how nice the layers are. Like strata. Its great warm or at room temp. I like to eat it in the morning like a breakfast frittata situation. It takes a lot of seasoning to make it flavorful. We seasoned both the potatoes as they went in and the beaten egg mixture.

We will be continuing our journey through Spain by making more tapas, chorizo/chicken braise, lamb stew, gazpacho, and aioli. Hopefully drinking Spanish wines too. Great values. Cheers.

Day 35

This pizza is purposely rolled into the shape of Sicily. What? It doesn't look like that? Oh. Well, maybe I am just a shitty roller. I am not Italian. I have no nonna.

But I did make a kick ass pizza with arugula, prosciutto, mozzarella, and a little bit of tomato sauce. Don't wish your pizza was this rustic looking? It wasn't by accident. Okay, it was. I also made two more awesome pizzas. I put roasted mushrooms (shitake, portobello, and crimini), thyme, tallegio, and fontina on one. On the other I put sauteed leeks (in butter), goat cheese and thinly sliced pancetta. They were all good. And different from each other. The mushrooms were earthy and the fontina stinky. The leeks were delicate and the goat cheese tangy. My family and I went through a pizza phase this summer where we grilled pizza for like 3 weekends in a row. So this was a nice revisit of homemade pizzas. They usually buy pre-made dough. No more, I tell you. It was simple and worth it. I will make the dough for them come next binge. And maybe if they are lucky I will roll out the dough into beautiful abstract shapes that I obviously am very good at.
This is a fab fall recipe. Its a Chianti risotto. You make a regular risotto, using 1/2 bottle of Chianti before switching to stock. You finish the risotto with sage and Parmesan. Lots of sage. Its great. We made it to plate with a veal costelleta. That is a bone in steak from the end of the veal loin, like a bone in NY strip of veal. Its a perfectly tender and juicy cut of meat that I will make again for sure. Its a nice size too. A little big for one serving for me, but nice for most eaters, I think.
We grilled it and finished it by roasting it in the oven.

We made a porcini sauce to go with it. Just dried porcini, shallot, red wine and demi glace. It was very flavorful. Rich tasting without fats. This is one of the ugliest plates I might have ever made, by the way. And I fucked up by covering the perfectly symmetrical grill marks with sauce. Duh. The sage leaves are pretty, though.

To finish our time in Italy we made tiramisu. It was an easy one. I don't like it really, but people freak out over tiramisu. They love that creamy shit. You separate a bunch of eggs. Beat the yolks with some sugar until sugar is melted. Stir marscapone into the yolks. Whip egg whites to soft peaks and then add sugar and take it to stiff peaks in a separate bowl. Fold whites into yolks. Take ladyfinger cookies and dip them into a mixture of liqueur and espresso (or really strong coffee). Layer into pan. Spread creamy mixture on top. Repeat. Chill.

When chilled up, dust the top with cocoa powder. I think cinnamon would be nice on top too. We used Marsala for the liqueur but my mom uses Kahlua and rum sometimes.
Italy was fine. I am looking forward to Spain next week. Not for the paella (which I think is overrated) but for the yummy paprika and small tapas style plates. Small plates are a great way to convince yourself that you are just way too petite to consume a regular sized portion of food. Pack for sunshine!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I am not blog savvy

So I just realized that when I saved a half done post and then published it later it stays in order of when I half wrote it. So you get to scroll down to see new exciting photos and days at school. At least day 33. And I told you about my test.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I can't be bothered

I have a test tomorrow. A big fucking test. I am a good test taker. But NOT when I have NO IDEA what this test will be like. IT SUCKS. I am super behind with my posts due to serious studying. So I cannot be bothered to tell you what I did in school last week when I can not remember what I did. Because there is way too much information floating around in my head. Is it going to be just ratios? An example of a braise? Specific sauces and exact recipes? I like to know what to expect. And I don't. And I feel vulnerable and powerless. I have to get back to my flash cards. Yes, I am a dork and made flash cards. When I get back I will tell you the story of the guy who quit school on Friday. At least he doesn't have to take this damn test. Did I mention that I want to get 100% on my test? Oh, you couldn't have guessed that? Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day 34

Drinking in the morning? We can only wish. No, these are glasses of consomme and clear beef stock. The consomme is on the left. What? How did I make such culinary feats? Okay, I will tell you.

So you take your clear beef stock and bring it to a simmer while you prepare your Clarification mixture. The magic mixture is ground beef, chopped tomatoes, egg whites and finely chopped carrot and celery. You decide how much mixture you need based on the size of the pot of stock you wish to clarify. Once simmering you dump the grody sticky mixture into the stock and whisk as hard and fast as you can, burning your forearms. You must stop whisking so that your mixture will form a raft and filter your stock. This MUST NOT BOIL. I assume the world ends along with your chances of clarifying your stock. So as is forms the raft you poke a hole in the center, not unlike ice fishing, so that impurities can float up through the hole. You ladle the stock over the sides of your raft and let it filter back down. You can see your stock getting clearer through the hole. If the gods shine on you, you will have consomme. Ladle the consomme out from the hole quickly (the raft will start to sink) into another container. Below is a picture of the raft with the hole in the center.

This would be amazing to watch if the pot was clear. Do they make see through pots? They should. Just for this process. Which is amazing. It's nerdy and awesome. Cloudy to clear via ground beef, egg whites, and tomatoes. You should try it. Plus then you have lots of egg yolks leftover and you can make cinnamon gelato like I did. You can do all sorts of smug culinary tricks with consomme. Float little raviolis in it, or fancy cut vegetables. Just think how crazy things could get!

These are the ingredients for pappa al pomodoro. Its a way simple tomato basil soup that you throw old bread into for thickening. Saute your onion and leek, add your garlic and basil, add your tomatoes (fresh and canned), add stock (we used chicken), and simmer until the onion is tender. Serve with old bread. Its satisfying and light. I ate it for breakfast the next day.

That's it in a big bowl. I don't like that much bread in mine, but that's just the lunch pot. We also made some bruscetta. I'm sure you can figure out how to top bread with stuff. Saute mushrooms and add Parmesan on top of toasted bread. Make a tomato, basil, garlic sauce and top bread. Mix together raw Italian spicy sausage and cream cheese and spread on bread. Bake until bubbling, sausage will be cooked. I did not like the last one. Real white trash like. What's up with that?
The white nuggets with the parsley garnish are spinach/ricotta gnocchi in a Gorgonzola cream sauce.

I had my doubts about whether my stomach could handle the gnocchi sauce but I was okay. The gnocchi are really easy and only involve mixing and chilling and boiling. My favorite flavor in them was the grated nutmeg. They are spinach, ricotta, flour, Parmesan, eggs and nutmeg. The sauce is just onion cisele, delgazed with wine, add cream and simmer, add Gorgonzola cheese and melt it in. Toss gnocchi in sauce. Take aspirin to help with heart attack. If you live through heart attack you can make it for others who wish to suffer myocardial infarction.
Tomorrow we make pizza.

Day 33

Okay, so the test was not that hard. But it was annoying. It was detailed but all over the place. I definitely memorized a bunch of useless shit. Fine, maybe it will be useful at some point. I missed at least 2 questions. I didn't remember why you had to cook a lobster alive. Well, it is so that the lobster does not flush itself out which I guess is what it does when it dies. I thought maybe the meat was just more tender. oops. So the other question was about which flat fish has 4 fillets. I don't know what the answer was but I was for sure wrong. Oh well. I was able to name 5 red and 5 white grape varietals used to make wine. Which I am sure is more important.

So we made clear beef stock using the ingredients below. Those black circles are charred onion halves, it gives some caramelized flavor that complements the beef. We tied up our chunks of beef and tied them to the sides of the pot. It was kind of like fishing. Also into that pot went oxtails, celery, the burnt onions, carrots and large bouquets.
The stock simmered for 8 hours. It came out looking like clear beef stock. But here in Italy week at school, this is not good enough. We went on to clarify said clear beef stock, but that's tomorrow. Today: osso buco. Osso buco is made from veal shank and is simple to make. My recipe was for osso buco a la milanese. Which involves prosciutto and tomato sauce. It works like any other braise. Sear meat. Remove. Add prosciutto and saute. Add small mirepoix and saute. Add garlic and saute lightly. Deglaze with white wine. Add equal parts tomato sauce and demi glace. You need enough liquid to go about 1/2 way up the side of the meat. Bring to simmer, cover, bake until meat is super tender. Add more demi if the liquid gets too low. This should take about 1 1/2 hours, maybe more.

Serve it over homemade egg pasta. People will like you more because of this meal. Make them bring fantastic wines to your dinner. I need to make friends with people who have/drink fantastic wines. Another great dish that we made was a veal scallopine with an artichoke and pancetta pan sauce. You start it by pounding your veal (from the top round) super thin. Flour and season and pan sear. Remove from pan to begin sauce.

Change fat in pan and add thinly sliced pancetta. Saute. Add finely chopped shallots, saute. Add chopped artichoke hearts (cooked), saute. Add chopped garlic, saute. Deglaze with white wine, reduce. Add about 1 cup demi glace and a shot of cream, simmer. Add meat back in to pan and serve. This is also good over egg noodles. Finish it with chopped parsley.
We had some extra time in class (since we had a student drop out last week) so Chef said we would take a short detour back to France for some crepes. He haughtily whipped up a simple crepe batter (no measuring) of flour, eggs, sugar, milk and melted butter. Then he quickly got 2 pans going to start cooking the crepes.

They were light and delicious just like this with sugar sprinkled on top. But nooooo. Chef said "I will make the crepes suzette". And seconds later they were there and gone. I could not photograph them because they were eaten by wild dogs which were me and my classmates. I did remake them though this weekend. It goes like this: equal parts butter/sugar in pan. Melt sugar and once done add orange juice (not too much). Add shot of grand mariner and add folded crepes to the pan. Swirl crepes around in the sauce and pour onto a plate. You can be smug and French too.