Week 2- Skills

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thursday we made sauces out of the stocks we prepared the week before. Thursday we made a bechamel sauce and a veloute sauce each and as a group we made an espagnole sauce. I got a little frustrated when my onion kept falling apart as I was trying to roast it, but kept plugging along. My sauces all turned out fine and my bechamel was even picked to go to "the table" where people would go to taste good sauces and compare.

Our veloute ended up being made out of fish stock instead of chicken stock. Someone had mislabeled the containers and we quickly realized this as soon as we put it on the stove to cook and a strong fish odor began to waft at us. Chef Harris went and asked to make sure that someone had, indeed, made a fish stock and we weren't just using rancid chicken stock *yuck!*. All turned out well, even after Chef took a spoon of my veloute sauce while it was cooking and before any seasonings were added and literally looked like he almost vomited. Then he pronounces with a thumbs up, "Good!" even as he is grimacing. I had to comment that it was hard to believe someone's "good" comment as they are almost vomiting on me. He said that it was just fishy but it tasted like what it was supposed to taste like at that stage of the sauce. After all the seasonings were added, it tasted fine.
The espagnole sauce turned out ok, too. I know I'm using all these non-committal words like "good" and "ok" and "fine" but that's really how I felt this week. I really think that I just have not HAD these sauces, so I am getting used to the taste. I can't say they were awesome because I have nothing to compare them to. Also, we are tasting these sauces alone and not with food. How many of you open a jar of mayonaise and just eat it with a spoon? Exactly.
I was sous chef again on Thursday. At one point I kind of flipped out on everyone for leaving their dirty dishes on the end of the sink and not cleaning as they went. Then I had to yell again when people CLEANED their dishes, but then left them either in the sanitizing liquid or on the other end of the sink and didn't put them away. I was surprised, again, at how authoritative and LOUD I was able to be. It shocked me as the sound was leaving my body, but it came at a time I was extremely frustrated and it actually was a great release. At the end of class, Chef reiterated that yes, you should be cleaning as you go and no, you shouldn't leave pans at the sink. My pastry classmates jumped in and reinforced the idea, as well. Clean as you go. It makes the end cleaning so much quicker, it keeps the kitchen looking nice, and we get to go home faster. By Friday they got it and did a really great job. At the end of class, they were even commenting on how easy it was to do, and how it DID make cleaning at the end so much quicker.
Friday we worked on emulsified sauces: hollandaise and mayonaise. Then as a group, we made a classic tomato sauce. The tomato sauce turned out great! However, the hollandaise and mayonaise were disgusting. Apparently they were RIGHT, but they were disgusting. Another chef brought his sauce for me to taste and, not thinking or knowing, I took a spoonful of the hollandaise and literally heaved. I had to spit it out in a cup and scramble for a piece of carrot to try and unsuccessfully get the taste out of my mouth. I eventually had to go get coffee to "chase" my tastes with. The mayonaise had a tangy taste due to white wine vinegar and lemon juice. I'm a Hellmann's girl and I HATE the tangy zip of Miracle Whip so that may have been my problem with the mayonaise. Again, it apparently tasted correct, but my palate apparently isn't sophisticated enough yet to enjoy it.
(top clockwise: tomato, mayonaise, hollandaise)

For those of you who are not aware what hollandaise or mayonaise contain, let me give you the short version. Hollandaise is a ratio of 2 egg yolks emulsified with 6-8 oz of butter and seasonings such as tabasco, white wine, lemon juice, and salt. It tasted SO oily. The first time I made it, I wasn't thinking in the chef mindset and was thinking more in the pastry chef mindset and followed the recipe (which called for 8 oz butter) to the letter. This means I used the entire 8 oz of butter. My hollandaise got really thick and kept swirly around the bowl in one mass. No matter how much water I added, it would NOT thin out. Once Chef talked to Chef Ridsdale, Ridsdale informed him that I am a baker. With baking, you have to follow the recipe exactly or your food won't turn out. The ratios are very important. Harris, once he realized what the problem was, came to me and reminded me that cooking is less of an exact science. You add butter until the sauce looks and tastes right, not until you use all the recipe calls for. This helped. I redid my hollandaise and it turned out fine the next time. I got the mayonaise right the first time, but it still didn't taste the way I thought it should taste.
Thankfully my tablemates are understanding of my quirkiness and also accepting of the fact that they may need to help me out more this time around. In pastry, I was the go to girl for questions. Now, they are giving me tips. At least we can kind of lean on each other. We keep joking that we are going to all open a restaurant and they will do the real food, and I will do the desserts.
I did get a note in Chef Harris' notebook, though, on my recipe cards. I printed them out on 4x6 cards on the computer and then used clear contact paper to laminate them. Then I punched 2 holes in them and put them on rings and I clip them into my notebook. There had been a glitch in the system and the recipes weren't loaded on ecompanion this week. I emailed Chef and he emailed me the recipes. Apparently only a couple of us did that. At least they can tell that I am trying, even if I am not as confident in my actual skills as I was in pastry. I'm hoping once we get into real food, and not just condiments that I will feel a little more in my element.
In the meantime, it is kind of difficult to balance school and home life right now. I feel like I don't see the kids very much and I don't get much done around the house. Marc has definitely taken over in the cleaning and upkeep of the house, which I am so thankful for. When I'm not in school, I feel like I need to be spending as much time with the kids as possible. I miss them. Then, when they go to bed, it's time to study and do homework on the nights Marc works *Saturday-Wednesday nights.* This leaves little time for doing anything else around the house, much less relaxing or working on the project that Marc and I are working on. He is antsy for us to finish. Or, rather, he is antsy for ME to finish. His part is done. He is very willing to watch the kids while I work on the project, but I see the kids so little compared to what I USED to see them, that I feel guilty not spending every minute I can with them. Then try to fit in exercise. It's a balancing act that sometimes feels like one little hiccup or one more thing to add to the tower and it's all going to come crashing down. I think once summer break rolls around, it will be a long enough break to recharge our family batteries and Marc and I can hopefully get some time alone together as well as individually. That's what I'm counting on, anyways.
Next quarter, I am going to TRY to get my classes earlier in the week. I am not loving this early Thursday and Friday schedule. Early in the week I am charged and ready to go, but by the end of the week, I am dragging and not wanting to get up so early. Also, Marc has only Thursday and Friday off, and those days I go to school. This doesn't leave either of us with much leniency to do much of anything relaxing. At least the quarters are only 11 weeks long. 2 weeks out of the way, 9 more to go. At least baking is keeping my spirits up.


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