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.