Archive for March 2009
When we started making sauces, things were all going swimmingly. We made our lovely veloute, our creamy bechamel, and a flavorful sauce espagnol. We cooled them all properly, stored them in individual containers and labelled them all. These containers went into the refrigerator at school on Thursday night and were ready for us to use today in class, so that we can make a few different compound sauces. So what happened? I get to school and I hear that the refrigerator went kaput on Saturday, thus ruining all our sauces. Everything had to be thrown away!
We had to start from scratch. We remade our bechamel and our veloute. We then started on our classic tomato sauce. Once we had those we were able to make our compound sauces. Our sauce allemande was a little thin, but had a good flavor. Our sauce supreme was excellent. Unfortunately, our sauce mornay was undersalted and bitter. The flavor of the gruyere cheese was too pungent and overpowering. Our soubise was also undersalted but had good texture. And our creole sauce was spicy and salty and had a good texture. When I tried other group’s sauces, I realized that our chef was right about the lack of salt in our sauce. I definitely need to work on adding more salt and tasting my sauces more.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to make any fortified wine derivatives or sauce forestiere. These are derivatives of demi-glace which we also made on Thursday. Overall, I think we did well working as a group even though we were the last ones finished. It was also very nice to come home with leftovers again. I made a little bit of pasta and mixed the sauce supreme, which is a creme sauce, and the tomato sauce and then tossed them over some pasta. It was a yummy late night meal! Here’s my booty from class.
These sauces, clockwise from the top left, are Sauce Supreme, Sauce Soubise, Classic Tomato Sauce, a blend of the supreme and the tomato sauce. Since we’re on the topic of sauce, I leave you with a video featuring a character named after one of the next sauces we’ll be making in class.
In culinary school, being active as a student means more than just keeping up with reading and assigned problem sets. It also means practicing knife skills and attending culinary demos. Yesterday, I had teh chance to do both.
One of the first knife skills we need to master is making a medium dice of potatoes. I’ve been working on this a lot. As a matter of fact, I even peeled and cut an entire 5 pound bag of potatoes! Unfortunately, I still can’t do this!! I keep making little rectangles instead of cubes. And they’re always either too big, too small or uneven. If anyone has any tips out there, I’d really appreciate them. In the meantime, I’m going to keep working at it.
Now that I had all these peeled and cut potatoes I had to figure out something to do with them. Instead of just making regular mashed potatoes, I tried a new recipe from my textbook called Dutchess Potatoes. It was actually really easy and very, very yummy! I boiled the potatoes and put them through a food mill, as if I were going to mash them. Then I added some egg yolks and butter and mixed them in. For seasoning, I added some salt, pepper and nutmeg. Then I put the mixture in a pastry bag and piped them onto a baking sheet and baked them until golden. They were very rich and lucious! Here’s a pic of my Dutchess Potatoes.
Once those were done, I headed to school to attend a demo entitled “A Celebration of Spring in Sugar”. The chef, a well known pastry chef was illustrating different techniques for working with sugar. She demonstrated how to cast sugar, how to blow sugar and how to pull a ribbon from sugar. It was really cool to see these different creations all made from sugar! She used the different pieces to make a spring bunny complete with easter eggs. I don’t know that I’d ever want to work with sugar in this way, but it’s definitely beautiful and stunning work. Here’s some shots I managed to get of the finished sculpture.
Spring is synonymous with new beginnings and March was a month full of new beginnings! I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve been working on some of those new things. School this week was focused on poultry and meat fabrication. Basically, taking the animal product in its most primal state and creating cuts that can be cooked in the kitchen. After poultry we worked on beef and then veal. I have to say this week, I can say that I’ve managed to do some complicated meat fabrications, including trussing, and I feel like I know what I’m doing. That’s always a good feeling in school!
At home, I was also beginning to try a few new things. While practicing my medium dice potatoes, (which is a LOT more difficult than it looks) I decided I should use up the scraps and make fries. I did double fry and heat up my oil. Unfortunately, my finished product was more greasy and clumpy than anything else. I did however, make a successful batch of onion rings for the first time ever! I had no idea how simple they were to prepare and it was great watching them puff up in the hot oil. I now want to try to make some beer battered onion rings since those are my favorite. These sides went with the barbecue meatloaf I made for dinner. It’s a simple enough recipe where I just take a pound and a half of ground beef and add some cumin, salt, pepper and a bit of cayenne pepper. I also add an egg to bind it all together and about a quarter cup of good barbecue sauce. The meatloaf is always really flavorful and moist every time I’ve made it. This more than made up for having soggy fries.
While waiting on my meatloaf, I was working on a chocolate cake. It was a simple chocolate cake, with a coffee flavored creme anglaise buttercream frosting. I got the recipe out of Bakewise, a great book that goes into the science behind baking. I really like how each recipe is broken down and explains different concepts. It’s a great way to learn about science and have some fabulous dessert!
Not only were these recipes new to me, I also tried to decorate them using fondant. I’ve NEVER EVER used fondant before and I’ve really only seen it on Ace of Cakes. Yes, I’m a fan of the show and I do secretly just want to make cakes and decorate them all the time. Alas, I’m in the culinary arts program, but I do think that’s the best way to get a well-rounded culinary education. Anway, my cake was very tasty–moist, yet very chocolatey. And the coffee creme anglaise was a nice complement in flavor and texture to the cake. The fondant was a different story. It was difficult to work with. I had trouble getting it even and it broke in a lot of spaces. I’m glad the cake tastes better than it looks. I did try to have the cake look like a spring cake with some bright colors and a nice flower that I made from a cut-out tool. Here’s some pics of my first ever fondant cake.
In this shot, you can really begin to see how uneven it really is and now I mangled the fondant at certain points.
This is probably the most uneven part. I couldn’t manage to cover the cake well. I did 1 layer of fondant for both layers of the cake so it was rather heavy after it was finished.
One I cut a slice, I also really realized I didn’t level the cakes before icing or putting on the fondant. Still, I’m glad it tasted MUCH better than it looked!
A lot of my classmates tell me that when they go home, they cook. They re-do what we did in class that day or they work on other things they’ve wanted to try. When I go home, I have to admit I want a change and I don’t want to cook. I usually want to bake! I’m sure there are many reasons for this. I like to bake at night, when my house is more peaceful. I’m interested in switching gears and trying something different. And I’m usually interested in satisfying my sweet tooth with some fresh confections. While I do love my Ben & Jerry’s, I love my home made cakes, cookies and pies even more!
The first thing I made last night when I got home was a chocolate chip banana cake. It was a simple recipe I got from all recipes. I topped it with some instant chocolate pudding. I don’t usually do that, but I didn’t have the ingredients to make icing. Unfortunatley, I didn’t really like how this came out. The banana flavor was good, but the chocolate chips didn’t really melt well and were just these huge chunks. It did look very pretty though. Here’s a pic.
At this point in the evening, I was recruited to help with preparing a pernil. A pernil is a traditional Puerto Rican roast pork shoulder. I worked with my mom to prepare this. After rinsing the pernil in cold water, she made incisions in all sides of the pernil.
Then she prepared the rub. She used salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil and vinegar. She mixed them all together into a coarse paste.
At this point, she worked the rub INTO the incisions she made into the pernil. This will serve to flavor the meat all around and will also have a tenderizing effect.
Once the rub was worked into all the incisions, rub it all over the meat.
At this point, the pernil is covered and put in the refrigerator overnight. We cooked it today, covered with aluminum foil for about 2.5 hours. Then, it was uncovered for about another hour to brown and develop a nice, crunchy skin. It was moist and delicious! 🙂 If you’re interested in seeing more details about the preparation of this fabulous meat, check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2M-l2Y8crk.
While that was going, I decided to try making a traditional tarte tatin. I used a recipe from Fine Cooking. This was difficult and labor intensive but it was very yuumy. One thing that I should note was that I did NOT use the apples that were recommended in the recipe and I’m sure that’s why the texture was a bit off–I used macintosh apples really because these were what I had on hand. I also used puff pastry for the crust.
First I peeled and cored all my apples. Since I was short on apples, I also used a few pears.
I then cooked the apples in the sugar, butter, salt mixture until tender.
While that was going, I rolled out my puff pastry. I’ve never worked with puff pastry before and I never realized how delicate it is!
When my apples were cooked, I put them into my tart dish.
Then I covered the entire thing with my lovely, delicate puff pastry and put it in the oven.
The tart came out beautiful, puffy and golden brown.
Then I inverted the dish to reveal the fruit inside.
This was a lovely dessert! The texture could have been better, but it was still really good and the crust was delicious!
After I was done experimenting at home, I went off to school where I learned how to truss and fabricate poultry. We trussed chickens, cut the legs and wings, created a supreme cut and a payard cut. We did the same thing with a duck. It was actually really fun and for the first time in culinary school, I felt like I knew what I was doing! It was great! 🙂
Today was shellfish day at school. I was excited since I’ve never worked with these creatures before although I have heartily devoured them. I was shocked to hear that there was one person in my class who HATES all fish and shellfish. When we asked him what he’s tried, he said he never tried it, but just never liked it. Another student told him he should at least try everything, even starfish assholes!
First, we prepared a white mirepoix and started making a shellfish stock using shrimp shells. Then using the stock, we made a shellfish soup. We spent a considerable amount of time just working on our soups, skimming the surface and tasting to ensure everything was fine.
Then we got to the shellfish fabrication. The first thing we prepared were lobsters. The lobsters were live. Apparently, they have to be live in order to ensure freshness and to get the best meat. Well, we were all taught how to slaughter the poor things in a “humane” way by piercing the brain with our knives. My poor lobster was squirmy, but I apologized and then proceeded to slaughter him as quickly as possible. Then we separated the head from the tail and removed the claws and crawlers. We also had to remove the gills from the head area and slit the tail in half to remove the intestinal tract.
After that, things were much simpler for a while since we just scrubbed some clams and mussles (not forgetting to take off their beards), deveined and shelled some shrimp and fabricated some squid. The squid were messy but not too bad. The next challenging bit was shucking the oysters. Oysters are TIGHT and strangley shaped! I never worked with them before and I’ve only eaten them once raw. I’m not a fan of eating them raw, so I passed them on to some classmates.
I was happy to come home with some nice hearty seafood soup! I was also glad to come home with a small medley of seafood ready to use! Unlike that one student in my class, I do enjoy seafood, but I don’t enjoy killing my own. I hope I don’t have to do that too often.
Anyone have any ideas for how to best use a small mixture of seafood consisting of 1 lobster tail, 4 clams & mussels and 4 shrimp??