How can I forget about my LAST practical exam??
Posted September 14, 2009on:
For some reason, I thought I had written about this. Maybe because I spent so much time telling everyone I know all about how this exam went! Of course, for the days approaching the exam we kept trying to guess the mystery protein. I even contacted some classmates I knew who worked setting up kitchens to see if they saw anything on the class pull sheet. (This is the list of ingredients that are sent to the classroom kitchens.) Of course, I was only told about the slab bacon. But really, how can you make an entree with just slab bacon?
Since I didn’t think this was really the mystery protein, I decided to do a little prep work. I researched a few recipes for proteins I haven’t cooked very often. I had a salmon recipe, a duck recipe and a lamb recipe ready. (I’m glad chef told us we were able to bring resources!) When I walked in to the school that day, I saw some classmates and right away, I knew it was duck!
Now, chef was really fair about how the exam was being run. We were given a start time and a presentation time. We were also told to draw a number, which corresponded with the start & presentation times. And to account for the fact that the people who were allowed to start a bit later would know the mystery protein, those who started earlier were given an additional 10-15 minutes. So, since I drew #4, I was given two hours and 10 minutes total to prepare an entree consisting of duck, a starch and a vegetable. I actually found I had way too much time!
The first thing I did was to fabricate the entire duck. We had to show her the carcass as well as the trimmed pieces of duck. This was actually very much like a chicken and I was done in about 10 minutes. Then it was time to really think about my meal.
Since chef had mentioned the use of a garnish, I started first by trying to make a few garnishes that I thought would go well with the duck. Since duck goes nicely with sweets, I candied some almonds as well as some fennel fronds. I basically just tossed the almonds in some egg whites and then coated them in sugar and baked them. I did the same with the fennel fronds. My first attempt at doing this resulted in burnt fennel fronds, so I tried again. My almonds though were yummy–nice and sweet and pretty!
Then I started to think about a starch. We had potatoes, arborio rice, basmati rice and polenta available to us. I decided to use the polenta. I prepared it simply by boiling it with chicken stock and adding some salt & pepper.
Once that was done, I started to think about a vegetable. I thought it might be cool to use the duck breasts, slice them open and make a stuffing. I sauteed some onion, garlic, carrot, fennel and spinach until they were all nice and tender. While doing that I was also preparing a sweet sauce consisting of a reduction of orange juice and honey. At first I thought I would glaze the duck breast with that sauce, but I decided to use it for the vegetables. Instead of a stuffing, I made a vegetable dressing.
My duck was prepared simply. I scored the fat so that I can get a nice crispy skin. Once I was done sauteeing it, I placed it in the oven to keep it warm. This is where I ran into a problem. I had left the duck in the oven a bit too long and so it became a bit overcooked. If I hadn’t been so hungry, I might have remembered to take a picture of the plate. But, I can describe it! I laid down some polenta and then topped it with my vegetable dressing. I topped the vegetable dressing with sliced duck breast and garnished with the candied almonds & fennel fronds. Chef loved the presentation, the use of savory & sweet flavors and the use of the garnishes. She commented that I used many Italian flavors, which I never realized I use a lot when I cook. My only problem: over cooked duck! Overall, I ended up with a 95 for my FINAL practical exam!