The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Posted July 26, 2009on:
I know I haven’t been posting much lately. I’ve had some family drama and I briefly started an externship. I say briefly because as events were unfolding with my family, I decided my day would be better spent with them instead of getting a head start on my externship. The chefs at the restaurant understood and I do still have that door open to me should I decide to continue externing there. It is a great environment to start my new food career and I do hope there will still be a place for me.
Aside from that, I was mired with the different concepts of international cooking. Our Mod 3 course was all about regional and international cuisine. I did enjoy learning a lot of the dishes. The one thing I wish we had more of was Asian/Indian cuisine. We only did a few days on different Indian and Thai curries and about two days on Chinese cooking. This was really the most challenging for me since I was very unfamiliar with many of the ingredients and how to use them. Meanwhile, the rest of the mod was dedicated to traditional French and Italian cuisine. I understand these two regions are very important to the development of cuisine but there really is only so much pasta, cream, butter, etc, even I could take!
Here’s some shots of some of our most delicious Mod 3 cuisines.
As usual, this mod ended with a written and a practical exam. I neglected the written. Unfortunately, I paid for that with 4 questions wrong–all stupid mistakes! But, I aced the practical! For me, this was the most stressful practical. We had to prepare a supreme of chicken breast which is basically the entire breast with the first wing bone still attached and the bone is “Frenched”. (Meaning all the skin and flesh is scraped from the bone.) We also had to prepare a pan sauce, potato side dish (anything but potato puree) and a vegetable. In other words, we had to come up with our own dish for this exam! Figuring out the pan sauce was simple for me. I wanted to do something that would ensure the chicken would remain moist and that would be light and still have good texture, so I made a lemon-cream-tarragon sauce. (If you’re interested in my recipes for this test, I’ve included them at the end of the post.) I tried potatoes and vegetables different ways over the weekend before the test, but during the test I went for a simple potato pancake and asparagus with lardons. Chef said my chicken was perfectly cooked and my sauce was still light and flavorful. My potatoes were tasty but greasy. And I should have blanched my asparagus to ensure they would be a nice green instead of slightly grey. I managed to ace this exam and I finished with half the time we had allotted to us remaining!
Since we were all stressed out about this exam, I decided to bring something to cheer us all up. I brought in some rainbow cookies since they are easy to transport and they’re nice, small bite-sized treats. I also didn’t want to spend the day of the test agonizing over it. I had 4 tupperware containers full of cookies and I asked chef if I could put them by his table so people could just help themselves. I ended up only leaving one container there. A few minutes later, chef brought it back empty!! While sitting there he ate all the cookies!! As it turns out, rainbow cookies are one of his favorites and he has a real weakness for them! I was shocked to see such a tough guy have such an intense sweet tooth! I was also pleased that he enjoyed them so much! Since the next mod was all about pastry I felt encouraged that I would do well in the land of desserts!
Chicken with Lemon-Cream Tarragon Sauce
1 whole chicken with breasts cut into supremes
1 shallot, minced
butter (as needed)
1 cup (approx) chicken stock (if not using homemade, try to get one with the lowest sodium possible)
juice of half a lemon
about 1 cup heavy cream
2-3 stalks of tarragon
Step 1: Cut the chicken breasts into supreme. (this means cutting the entire breast off the chicken including the skin and the first wing bone)
(I KNOW there will be a temptation to use pre-cut chicken breasts, but trust me, including the bone and skin will ensure a moist chicken breast, even if you don’t eat the skin later).
Pre-heat your oven to 400F.
(Note: You know your oven best, so if it runs hotter than normal, I would use a lower temp.)
Step 2: Pre-heat a large saute pan and melt some butter in the pan.
Step 3: Season your chicken with salt & pepper. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down.
Step 4: After the chicken has achieved a nice, golden color, turn to the other side.
Step 5: Once the second side has also become browned, place the pan into the oven to finish the cooking. After 3-4 minutes in the oven, turn the chicken and continue another 3-4 minutes.
Note: This step of course depends on how hot or cool your oven may run, so just keep an eye on it.
Step 6: Remove your chicken from the oven and place on a cooing rack. Now you’re ready to make your sauce!
To make sauce
Step 1: De-grease the pan you used to make the chicken, removing only excess grease–NOT everything.
Step 2: Heat you pan and add minced shallots. Cook until translucent.
Step 3: Add chicken stock and scrape the pan to remove all the bits stuck to it. (This is known as the “fond” and will add TREMENDOUS flavor to your sauce, as long as it’s not burnt!)
Step 4: Simmer until reduced by 3/4.
Step 5: Add lemon juice.
Step 6: Reduce heat to low and add cream. (Be careful with the cream because adding too much heat to dairy can cause it to curdle. Take care to make sure it doesn’t boil! Also the acid from the lemon can cause it to curdle so it should be well-incorporated)
Step 7: Check your sauce for seasoning and add salt & pepper as necessary. Add tarragon, stir and remove from heat. Top your chicken breast with the sauce.
2 potatoes, shredded on the box grater
4 oz clarified butter
salt & pepper to taste
1. Shred your potatoes on the box grater using the medium holes.
2. Heat a saute pan with some clarified butter.
3. Squeeze out all the moisture from your potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Remember, potatoes are bland so you may feel like you’re adding a lot more than you’d need, but you do probably need it!)
4. In the heated pan, mound your potatoes and flatten them with a spoon to create a pancake. Cook until golden brown.
5. To cook the other side, either flip your pancake. Or, you can finish in the oven until golden brown.
6. Place on a rack to cool and slice.
Asparagus with Lardons.
half a bunch of asparagus (about 6-10 good spears), with the tough ends trimmed
1 shallot, minced
2 oz white wine
garlic, 1 clove, sliced
1 oz olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1. Place a large pot of boiling, salted water to boil and set up an ice bath. This will be to blanch your asparagus to ensure they retain their lovely green color. Once your water is ready, blanch your asparagus for 30 -60 seconds.
2. Place the lardons in a heated saute pan. Cook until they become crisp and the fat has rendered.
3. Add the shallots and cook until translucent
4. Add the olive oil and slices of garlic.
5. Once the garlic has started to infuse the oil, add your blanched asparagus.
6. De-glaze the pan with white wine.
7. Cook until the wine has reduced and the asparagus is tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.