Make Up Lab

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Oh. My. Goodness. This lab was so much fun!!! I wish every lab could be this much fun. I needed to make up a lab from the day I missed the week before. When I approached him about making it up, he asked how many classes I had missed. I told him two, but he reminded me that I had made one up already, and tried to convince me that I was fine. I responded with, “Will I have an A? Not an A-, because that doesn’t count towards a 4.0 GPA. I need an A.” He seemed slightly taken aback, possibly a little annoyed, but agreed that I could make it up. Wednesday was a designated make up lab day for anyone who needed to make up labs for the whole culinary department. Natane also needed to make up a day, so we were able to work together. The day I missed was, again, prepping forcemeats and since a.) we have done that a bazillion times and b.) forcemeats are a two day process, Chef just said we could pick whatever we wanted to make Garde Manger related. I was excited.

I had picked a couple recipes offline because there wasn’t enough time to actually order product and I wanted to make sure I had some options. When we got in, Melissa (the storeroom manager) pointed out two speedracks in the walk in, specified that those contained product we couldn’t use, but said we had free reign over the rest of the ingredients. Awesome!!!!!!

We ended up making a Honey Potato Soup with Spicy Sweet Potato Crisps as a garnish. I enjoyed the subtle sweetness of the soup and the contrast with the spicy crisps. A bite that included one or two crisps was perfect. I finished eating the soup for lunch.

Then we made an amazing sandwich that was spread with guacamole, then topped with chicken breast, bacon, and onions and mushrooms that were sautéed with white wine and soy sauce. The chicken was a little overdone because my thermometer is broken, apparently. It does this weird jumping thing and won’t go above 120°F. I didn’t realize this at the time though but when I rechecked the chicken, knew it was time to pull it and that my thermometer was broke. We fried up some tortilla chips to serve with the extra guacamole on the side.

To round out the day, we fried some flour tortilla chips and tossed them with cinnamon sugar, drizzled them with a honey reduction and served them with a side of honey yogurt dip. Delicious!

After that, we had to take the next steps with the class’ salmon that we began to cure for next week. I rinsed all the salt and herbs off the salmon while Natane made a molasses sauce. Then I re-cured the salmon that was to be used to the gravlox next week, and Natane brushed the remaining pieces with the sauce. After that, we cleaned up, took a quiz and went home!

It was so much fun to be able to come up with dishes based on the ingredients we had and to be able to have the time to be completely creative with what we wanted to do.


This week was a much, MUCH better week. I felt my head straighten out and enjoyed the food this week. I had a mental hangup on the smoker since I don’t usually care much for smoked foods, but I pushed past it by reminding myself how much I LOVE BBQ! We made pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, wings, beef and cheddar sandwiches, and a ton of sides. Then we plated a single plate and a family style plate of each to be judged. Our table didn’t win. If we had more time, I think we could have been a top contender, but that’s part of the deal, right? Hands up, utensils down!

This week was truly a team effort and we all had our hand in most of the dishes at some point. I was primarily responsible for the smoked pulled pork and whisky bbq sauce, a smoked cheese fondue, smoked tomato coulis, mango chutney, and I had the idea for the fried smoked cheese as an additional side.

The pulled pork was an interesting feat. I made pulled pork at home and braise it pretty much all day until it falls apart at the slightest touch. We had three hours the first day to braise pork shoulder. I raised an eyebrow but thought, surely, the recipe would tell us to braise it longer if that was necessary, right? Perhaps the smoking makes it go faster? No. The roast was at temp when I pulled it the first day, but it was NOT tender. It wasn’t even close to tender. I had to leave, though, so what was I to do? Apparently everyone had the same problem, though, because the next day Chef said that he had checked them all and none of them were done, so he put them back in to braise more for us in the AM of day two. Phew. I accidentally pulled the pork prior to smoking, but I actually think I ended up being glad I did. I put it in a perforated hotel pan and put it in the cold smoker and the smoke was able to flavor ALL the pork, not just the outside of the roast. The sandwiches were pretty much thrown together because we had two minutes left to plate a ton of stuff. I didn’t actually put that plate together. It was served with coleslaw that Amanda made and was FABULOUS.

I also created a smoked cheese fondue. Fondue is one of my favorite indulgences. We have girls night, not nearly often enough, but I make beer cheese fondue with gruyere and swiss and we all stuff ourselves silly and moan and groan when it comes time for chocolate fondue but somehow find room to stuff ourselves some more. I was excited to make some fondue. We had some smoked gouda that I shredded with some cheddar and tossed with cornstarch. I heated some beer and slowly added the cheese. A tip I learned awhile ago is that you need to stir in a figure eight so the cheese doesn’t get too stringy or wind up in one huge cheese ball. Season it and plate it. So yummy, but since it had to be held for awhile and then plated in a bowl, not a fondue pot, the cheese set up again pretty quickly and made it a little more challenging to dip.

I also made the smoked tomato coulis and mango chutney which were used as sides for the wings and artichoke chips. Yes, artichoke chips. These were surprisingly wonderful! We shaved them very thin and tossed them with a seasoned flour mixture and fried them. They were a nice change of pace and flavor from typical fried sides. At the point we found out about the competition, I got the idea of making fried smoked cheese because I guessed that Chef Ridsdale would be a judge and he friggin’ LOVES cheese. He went on a trip specifically to visit artisian cheese factories and compiled a lengthy powerpoint on it. This just shows his passion for the topic. Yes. I was totally attempting to cater to the judges. The fried cheese wedges disappeared almost immediately.

Because of the scrambled plating time, the kitchen was a total wreck when everyone was getting judged. I always have to leave a little early, so I try to pop back to the kitchen ASAP after critiques so that I can work on cleaning and not leave my team stuck with it all. This week I also wanted to get away from the madhouse of the buffet being swarmed with students and faculty so I headed back to the kitchen with my team and just had to snap a couple pictures. Our kitchen is usually nowhere NEAR this messy which is why I found it so entertaining. A short while later, it was spotless again. As the old saying goes, many hands make light work.

Left to Right- Amanda, Natane, Me, Stacy (missing Ian in this photo)

This was the last production week. Next week is the practical final. Wish me luck!


Friday, November 26, 2010

If you read my last post, you know that I was absent Monday. They were preparing the galantines and ballontines to be cooked off on Tuesday. They made a turduckin- chicken, in duck, in turkey.

Yup. That's basically what galantines and ballontines are- meat within a meat within a meat. Galantines are served cold. Ballontines are served hot. The galantines are, once again, covered in aspic.

Since two of my tablemates and I missed Monday, we got to prepare the fruit platter and the crudites. Crudites are basically a platter of raw veggies with a dip. The other two that missed decided to do the fruit. That left me the veggies to work with.

I remembered that things are supposed to be delicate in high end food. I also knew that just cutting and stacking all the veggies wouldn't go over well. So I got all my veggies out and stood there staring at them all trying to get an inspiration. I got the aspic cutters out (like teeeny tiny cookie cutters) and began messing around with them. I created 4 little discs that looked like poker chips. I loved how they looked, but knew I didn't have time to make ALL of them exactly that way. So I decided to do simpler versions and top off each row with the complicated one. A tablemate made the carrot strands underneath everything for me, I made cups out of zucchini to hold dip, and tucked tiny sprigs of dill into the grape tomatoes. Not too crazy, but I like how it came out and I think it would be awesome at a girls poker night.

I love this table's bird:

This was our fruit tray- I suggested cutting off the bottoms of the strawberries and making them into cups. They are filled with cream cheese whipped with raspberry sauce.

This is the fruit tray table-

This is a fish covered in Chaud Froid (Sho fraw). Chaud Froid is aspic, mayonnaise, and sour cream all mixed together. Ugh. As if the chicken jello wasn't enough on it's own, let's add sour cream and mayo. Geez. I did like the little Swedish Fish this table put on theirs, though.

Ian made the Lemon Sole Paupiettes. Fish was pounded out to be thin, rolled and poached. A sauce was then piped on top.

Weird, weird week this week. Not just in school, but overall. I just haven't felt myself. Hopefully next week will be better. Next week is the last week of production in Garde Manger, then come finals and cleaning. Next quarter I am taking THREE lab classes. Yes. THREE. I will be taking Classical, Asian, and Advanced Patisserie and Display Cakes. I am actually VERY excited about all three of those classes, and you all will be getting three times the blog posts!

Amuse Bouche

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

left to right above: angel hair frittata, pea soup with seared scallop, tuna tartar with basil gelee, lamb noisette, stuffed manicotti

I enjoyed this week much more than I did last week. We were preparing amuse bouche, or “teasing the palate.” I have always enjoyed amuse bouche challenges on Top Chef, although I personally have only had the actual experience once before. I also find the name entertaining. It makes me smile.

I had chosen to prepare the buckwheat blini recipe and we were then informed that the person preparing those would be completing a classic caviar service presentation. Yikes! I’ve only had caviar once and it was in baking class. One of the things I LOVE about school is how many foods and experiences I get to try. I try to go into every item with an open mind and give a fair, honest assessment to how much I enjoy a food. Ok, maybe not with the forcemeat, but I feel like I REALLY gave liking the taste of it my best shot. I felt like I asked a million questions this week but Chef Thompson pointed out, “That’s kinda what I’m here for.” He made it crystal clear that caviar presentations are meant to be precise and elegant. All the lines had to be completely clean. Someone is paying almost a couple hundred bucks for this plate. You better make it look friggin’ amazing. I really did my best.

The buckwheat blini is basically a yeast leavened pancake. Most pancakes use baking powder to make them rise and become fluffy. The yeast made these rise and gave them flavor, but took almost two hours to make! That’s a long time for tiny pancakes. While I was letting the blini batter rise, I prepared the garnishes which were parsley, red onions, egg yolk, egg white, crème fraiche and capers.

Chef showed me how to mince parsley correctly. I couldn’t believe something so simple made SUCH a huge difference!!! It was amazing. First, the parsley absolutely must be washed. Then it is dried by squeezing it with a paper towel. Then it is minced. Forever. And ever. But the effect is amazing. Once it is all minced, it is put back in a towel and wrung out. The result is parsley that is almost dust like. It looked far superior to the mincing jobs I thought I was doing on parsley in the past. Is it isn’t wrung out, it will start to deteriorate extremely quickly. I boiled the eggs and then pushed the whites and yolks separately through a mesh strainer. I wasn’t sure about this at the beginning, but it actually made the egg look very delicate. I attempted to fine bruniose the red onion. I knew I was going to get a comment on them because they were absolutely not perfect, but I know I just need more practice. Onions are one of the more difficult vegetables to dice nicely because of the rings inside and how everything falls apart once you hit a certain point. Especially with teeny tiny cuts.

Once all my mise en place was gathered, I began plating. I piped the crème fraiche in a border on the plate, adding a heart as a signature mark. Of course. I used my two pastry scrapers to form lines of the garnishes. The one that came with my school kit is plastic and it made things more challenging. I also realized I probably should have piped after plating the garnishes because I kept having to worry about not getting my scrapers in the crème fraiche border. I pulled out my tweezers to help get the lines as even as possible and then used them to place the capers carefully. I plated my finished blinis and placed caviar in its bowl.

I was happy with the final product, although I know I could improve upon it given the chance. I concentrated very hard on this plate and people kept asking why I was so angry. I wasn’t angry. I was just focused. I wasn’t even too anxious. I was actually enjoying myself even though I was focused so hard on trying to make everything as perfect as possible. I guess I need to practice smiling when I am focused so people don’t get so worried.

This was how another team plated their caviar. It's hard to get good pictures with some of the garnishes being white on a white plate.

Another amuse bouche that was made was tuna tartar on a basil gelee (jello). Let me pause here. I know I was quite passionate last week about the aspic (chicken jello) and how much I hated it. There is a reason I dislike it so intensely. I cannot eat jello. Of any flavor. I have wanted to like jello since I was a kid. It smells so good when you are making it, the colors are so pretty, it’s shiny and jiggly and looks like tons of fun. But I just can’t eat it. The texture (and that of bananas) makes me gag. Give me jello poke cake or banana bread and I’m good to go, but straight jello. Can’t do it. So you can imagine how Chicken Jello makes me react. Now we have basil jello. I did find it amusing how entranced Chef was with one specific tuna tartar amuse bouche presentation. It jiggled every time he gently shook the bowl, and he shook the bowl every time he walked by it. There were even comments about it shaking like a behind. Very amusing. Yes. Pun intended. In any case, I thought it looked amazing and even forced myself to try it. I didn’t vomit since it had other textures with it and the gelee was a thin layer, but I didn’t love the taste of it.

Natane prepared the clam chowder spoon. Pancetta and potatoes were diced very small and sautéed till crispy. Then they were placed in the bottom of a spoon and a clam chowder liquid was placed in a foam gun and foamed on top. Clam chowder foam. Whodathunkit? It was really difficult to get a decent picture of the foam with definition because it was so white, but you can at least see the general presentation.

There was also a lamb loin served on a parsnip chip with a port syrup reduction. I really loved the lamb. The chip would have been fine plain. I didn’t really like the reduction. I think it got burned a little bit, though. Overall, I would have preferred just the lamb.

Last but not least we had stuffed manicotti. This was ok, but they were cold by the time I got to them which I didn’t love. I loved the presentation of them, though, in the bundles that Ian made.

Tuesday we went to Whole Foods and sampled various cheeses. They were amazing, especially the blue cheese that we tried. I found several exotic cheeses I want to taste, along with the wine pairings listed. I’m considering having a collaborative wine/cheese tasting party where everyone brings one wine and cheese to share. Anyone want to join in?

More Forcemeat...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I’m going to be blunt right off the bat. The taste of this weeks’ food sucked. In my opinion. Again, maybe forcemeats are an acquired taste. I’ve been informed that EVERYTHING is an acquired taste, but I must say that I strongly feel that some things are more so than others. Who has to AQUIRE a taste for cookies? Just saying.

In any case, as you may have guessed, this week we worked with forcemeats again. Natane and I worked together on preparing pate en croute, forcemeat in pastry. I, of course, prepared the pastry. Natane prepared the forcemeat. I put everything together, then poured in the aspic, sliced, garnished, and coated the sliced with aspic. If you aren’t sure what aspic is, you aren’t missing out. Basically, aspic is chicken consommé (REALLY clear chicken stock) thickened with gelatin. So, chicken jello. Ick.

I prepared the dough and rolled it out. Then I took a pan and cut out the corners of the dough so that it would fit perfectly inside the rectangle pan and the sides would match up. Then thinly sliced ham was layered over the dough so none of it was showing. This keeps the dough from getting soggy. Forcemeat is then carefully placed inside, taking care to make sure that no air pockets are present. The ham and dough are folded over the top and sealed with a second piece of dough that fits the top perfectly. Two holes are cut out of the top to form chimneys so the steam can escape and the top is decorated. This is then baked and chilled overnight.

When baking the forcemeat shrinks so you pour aspic jelly into the chimneys to fill the extra space. Mine set too quickly and didn't QUITE fill the whole space.

Once this is set, the pate en croute is sliced and laid on a glazing rack. Each slice is carefully decorated with paper thin garnishes. Aspic is carefully brought *repeatedly* to the right consistency and gently poured over the garnished pate. This is done at least twice to form a clear seal of chicken jello. Again. Ick. Some of them looked pretty, but I am not a fan of forcemeat and am even less of a fan when it is covered in chicken jello.

Quenelles were also made from a mousseline forcemeat. To create a quenelle, you take 2 spoons and shape the mousse into a 3 sided football and drop it into a poaching liquid.

There was a crazy rush of people trying to create a buffet of these items on 3 mirrors. The whole class was to work together to plate one large and two smaller mirrors. Oh my goodness. I just had to step back. Too many people all trying to take control is an anxiety causing situation for me and I just needed to breathe and let them handle it. Plus, they were plating on MIRRORS. OCD. Mirrors and food…you can NEVER get it streak free and crumb free enough. Never. I don’t know if I could work with mirrors on a consistent basis. Note to self. No mirrors in bakery.

Next week we are creating Amuse Bouche and on Tuesday we are going to Whole Foods.

Week 5- Stuffing Sausages ;)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This week was a little rougher than last week. We began working with forcemeats. For those of you who are not aware, forcemeats are items such as sausages, pates, terrines, etc. This week we were making sausages.

Let me begin by saying that I know this is quite odd for a future chef, but raw meat makes me anxious. I have overcome this fear in many circumstances and have come to successfully, and even confidently, break down whole chickens and trim different cuts of beef for cooking. Creating forcemeat, however, was a whole new realm of raw meat. I think the reason I have such anxiety over meat is because there is the large potential of making people sick if not cooked properly. This potential is magnified with forcemeats because of the small parts that are used in the many machines that it is processed on, as well as the fact that it comes into contact with so many surfaces and is handled so much. Every time it touches a new surface, there is the potential for cross contamination. Throw in the temperature factor of each piece of equipment, having to keep all items, food and equipment, on an ice bath and you have an extremely anxious Heather. So much so that I took anti anxiety meds halfway through class on Monday and took them before class even began on Tuesday. My anxiety level was at least a 7 and wasn’t changing over time. For this reason, I decided it was worth it to take one of my pills. It helped bring me down to maybe a 4, which is only 1 over where I usually reside on a constant basis of about a 3. I know. It sucks.

So. Forcemeats. One thing I did enjoy this week was the fact that the class was split into four groups and each group prepared two types of sausage. This meant that we worked as a group on one recipe instead of each person taking on average three recipes to prepare in one class. Amanda and I prepared Mortadella Bolognase, or in American terms, bologna. First we had to dice pork and pork fat back. Then we had to grind the pork through the grinder twice- once on a larger die and once on the small die. Then we had to do the same with the fat back into a separate bowl. They were pureed together with ice and spices, and then dry milk was added. Then additional fat back and pistachios were folded in and the whole mixture was stuffed into a plastic casing to be cooked in a thermocirculator. We did not have a finished product to take pictures of, however, because it took longer to cook than Chef realized. We will see the final product next week.

This is the finished forcemeat to be stuffed in the bright orange casing in the background.

Here is what I think of it.

On Tuesday, we were in the same groups and we used to sausages we prepared the day before to prepare dishes. Amanda and I, along with a couple of other people here and there, worked on Bangers and Mash, and a Muffaletta. I was primarily responsible for the plating of the Bangers and Mash and was SO happy with how it turned out.

Amanda plated the Muffaletta.

I like this week because we had less to do so we were able to take time to think about our plating and if we wanted to create sides. I came up with the fried potatoes and sweet potatoes to go with the Muffaletta and the different look to them. I also fried the thyme and basil that was on the top of the Bangers and Mash.
Overall this week went much better than anticipated. I’m sure the xanax had something to do with that. I’m sure the playful atmosphere had something to do with it, too. I mean, you can’t really have a class on stuffing sausages without some jokes being tossed around, right?

Week 4- Hot Hors d’oeuvres

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Today we prepared hot hors d’oeuvres. Oh my goodness. We rocked it today. Everything turned out amazing and we got done plenty early. I prepared a Fennel and Chorizo Strudel, and prepared the majority of Arancini di Riso recipe (Fried Risotto Balls). Natane prepared the Zucchini Fritters and Grilled Swordfish on Rice Cakes. Ian made the Grilled Beef Roll and Steamed Mussels with Thai Green Curry. Stacy prepared the Oysters Rockefeller, as well as all the sauces and dips to go with the other main dishes.

I began by gathering my mise en place and getting everything prepped for the risotto. I made the risotto and began on the strudel while it was cooling. Ian formed the cooled risotto into balls during a break in his work. A small block of fontina cheese was placed in the middle of the risotto to give it an ooey, gooey center when fried. Natane breaded the formed spheres when she had a break in her work and I fried them off just before “service.” You have not lived until you have tasted these. Risotto alone is heavenly. Fry it in bite sized portions with cheese in the middle and you have reached a whole new level. I am not, as should be obvious, raving about the nutrition benefits. Every once in awhile you just have to let go and eat something strictly for the taste of it. This would be one of those items. It was served with a tomato coulis that I made, as well.

The enjoyment I encountered upon eating the Fennel and Chorizo Strudel was delightfully unanticipated. Fennel, if you have not ever worked with it raw, has stalks like celery and smells strongly like licorice. I chopped up the Chorizo (Spanish Sausage) and Fennel into tiny pieces and cooked them gently until some fat had been rendered and the fennel was soft. Then into the robot coupe it went with and egg, spices, and panko. This was placed along the edge of phyllo dough that had been brushed with butter and sprinkled with crushed panko, and rolled up like a burrito. The top was coated in more butter (again, not health conscious), and baked until golden brown and crispy. The flavors were amazing and the creole honey mustard sauce that went with it really set everything off.

Our plating also went really well today. We all helped each other out in any way we could and our teamwork really paid off this week. I was practically floating as I left the kitchen. I love this feeling. I love cooking. I am so thankful that I get to have this experience.

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