Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's back to the same old grind ..... only more so!

With the holidays out of the way, sorry for the lapse in postings but went back to school and we've been covering so much space lately I only have time to come up for air now and then, that I just let it go..... it's the weekend and so I have a couple of minutes to stop and assess the damage (more or less) and I can take some time to give updates on our adventures.....

School is going at a furious pace. Truly. No more "book learning" and time to breathe, it's now "hands on" all the way and so everything we've talked about and seen is now on our plate..... or I should say on the plates we need to present to the Chefs who then criticize it down to: finish (or napè), texture, color, seasoning and look, plus how long it took to produce, did you follow the appropriate sanitation methods, did you work "clean", did you present correctly, did your knife cuts impress?. It better be 100% perfect or points get deducted, so far I've got a 4.00 GPA, I've got to insure I don't lose points or my average will go down (Oh no!)... and we can't have that, can we? So you can say everyone is feeling the pressure which is building each and every day.... plus after doing this, you have to clean the whole kitchen, pots and pans, throw out the trash and mop the floors.... all must be impeccable!

Got handed a 75 recipe PDF file and we're presenting from 4 to 6 recipes on a daily basis. We've got 3 hours to do it, including the base needed and everything else that each recipe entails. These can be from a very basic Bechamel Mother Sauce to a Navarin D’Agneau Printanier :( Lamb stew with Spring Vegetables) sound familiar? Made this for Ricardo's birthday so I've got a head start on this one and I'll take as much help as I can... - Cotes De Porc Charcutiere w/ Pommes Puree :( Pork Chops w/ Mashed Potato & Demi Glace Sauce w/ Gherkins - Escalope De Veau al a Crème Petits Pois al a Francaise: (Escalloped Veal w/ Mushroom Cream Sauce) - Ballotine de Poulet Grandmère (Deboned Chicken w/ Mushroom Dressing) - Canard Poele Aux Navets: (Pan Roasted Duck with Turnips - or other such delights..... (yes, we get to take it home or eat it...YUM!)

Considering that all dishes are classic French Cuisine means that should a recipe call for a specific sauce base or preparation, everything must be made without short cuts! You've got to make the Consomme or stock to use starting with roasting the bones (for color and flavor) along with aromatic vegetables (more color and flavor), cooking it to achieve the desired color, taste and texture expected THEN proceed to prepare the rest of the recipe.... lots of hard work at a fever pitch and people running around like headless chickens as you can imagine! Know something else? We don't use blenders or food processors. All whipping, blending and such is done by hand with a wire whisk and yes, my arm is ready to fall off..... (there are modern appliances here and the kitchens are state of the art, but you need to learn the classic ways before you can proceed to the other stuff which will come later).

This block, Culinary Foundations II, brings new Master Chefs to learn from and we have two, a very experienced female and a strict male Chef from Laos (who sometimes I can't understand, but I get the gist of what he wants mostly.... sometimes not), but they are picky and very demanding. We are doing very well and more than holding our own and it's been quite exciting really..... exhausting, nerve wracking, satisfying and frustrating all at the same time. At the end of the day you are T I R E D! Loving it!

To top of our return to school, we were greeted by a New Year's snowfall just outside the school, it was lovely..... just what we wanted to see and there it was, little plumes of snow floating towards us while all was quiet (seems than whenever it snows, the world get quiet- why is that? I love it!) Once again we're in our warm kitchens while snow falls upon the maples.... MMmmm.
But getting back to food and for those of you that love fish, here are two recipes that are equally wonderful with them. The first one is a traditional "Fish Fumet"..... lovely and light, while the second one is a basic tartar sauce type only much, much better and I like it on almost everything! So tasty..... hope you enjoy them....

Fish Fumet .- The best (the only) bones to use for fish fumet are saltwater white-fleshed fish bones. (If you can get the head included, that’s great, but remove the gills and eyes before using. This is what you want for it contains the most gelatin that will give the flavor you want) Fish to use are sole, halibut, flounder, turbot, etc. Do not use bones from fattier fish like trout, salmon or mackerel. Your best bet is ask your local fishmonger for bones or next time you serve fish, save the bones when you fillet it, freeze and use for this.

1 oz Butter (solid)
4 oz Yellow Onion, chopped fine
2 oz Celery, chopped fine
2 oz Mushrooms, quartered
4 lb Fish Bones
8 fl oz White Wine
Water (as needed to cover)
½ ea Bay Leaf for sachet (put these in some cheesecloth and tie them up, put in)
¼ tsp Black Peppercorns for sachet
8 ea Parsley Stems for sachet

Butter the bottom of a heavy stockpot or sauce pot. Place the onion, celery, mushrooms (called a white mirepoix) in the bottom of the pot and the bones over the top of it. Cover the bones loosely with a round of parchment paper. Set the pot over low heat and cook slowly for about 5 minutes, until the bones are opaque and begin to loose juices.

Add the wine, bring to a simmer, and add the sachet and water to cover. Bring to a simmer again, skim, and let simmer for 30-45 minutes. Strain through a Chinois or fine strainer or even a strainer with some cheesecloth or towel. Cool, in a cold water bath, and refrigerate.
NOTE: This is a lovely fish consomme that can be used alone or as a base for other sauces. Use this as a poaching liquid for fish, you can continue to simmer it until you reduce it and use like a more concentrated sauce or glace, use as a base for fish stew or chowder, paella and many more....

Remoulade Sauce.- A "tartar sauce" with all the trimmings, so if you like a cold sauce for fish, chicken, pork or whatever.... this is it. Easy to make and yummy to eat....

½ fl. oz. White wine vinegar
1/2 oz. Dijon Mustard
2 ea. Egg yolks
1 Pint Canola or vegetable oil
¾ oz. Capers, Chopped Fine
3/4 oz. Gherkins, Chopped fine
1/4 oz. Parsley, Chopped Fine
1/4 oz. Chervil, Chopped fine (you can just use all parsley if you like and omit this)
1/4 oz. Tarragon, Chopped fine
1/4 oz. Dijon Mustard
¼ oz. Anchovy essence (I use the oil from a can of anchovies, a drop at a time)
Salt and Pepper

Place the egg yolks in the bowl and beat with a whisk until pale yellow. Add white wine vinegar and beat well. Combine ingredients (mustard, salt, pepper) and add to the egg yolks. Mix well. Very slowly, almost drop by drop begin adding the oil beating continuously. Once the emulsion forms (it begins to thicken, this is the mayonnaise base), you can add the oil slightly faster. If the mayonnaise becomes too thick, thin with a little of the vinegar. (or water if already tart enough) Gradually beat in the remaining oil until it is fully incorporated and emulsified.

Adjust the tartness and the consistency by beating in a little lemon juice at the end. Add capers, gherkins and the rest of the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 15 min, serve.
NOTE: You could skip over making your own mayonnaise but it's great this way, if you do then just use the mayo you've got and add the rest in and season. You can also add celery, endive, red cabbage or the like and turn it into a dressing for these too.....

Sorry I'm not including more recipes but I will, soon. Right now it's getting late and sleep beckons more than anything else, just need to catch up and get back before I can devote time to fun pursuits. Looking to move closer to school, interviewing all over, doing volunteer projects with other Chefs to get experience, network and job leads while still do my "home" stuff..... The good thing is that it makes you want to get up in the morning and face the new challenges and that's amazing to have. Hoping everyone is well and happy and the New Year is off to a great start for all..... Talk soon

1 comment:

  1. This must be such an adventure for you. It sounds like you are having a fabulous time despite the work involved. I'll stayed tuned. I'm enjoying every minute you spend in school. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary