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.

Week 4- Cold Hors d’oeuvres

Natane's California Rolls.

Today we prepared cold hors d’oeuvres. We tried a different tactic this week and split the food recipes up between three of us and had the fourth person prepare all the sauces and dips that went with the main items. When the sauces were complete, the fourth person helped the rest of us where needed, an opened the oysters for Oysters Rockefeller. I was in charge of the Chicken Salad on Profiteroles, as well as Crab and Somen Summer Rolls. Ian prepared the Beef Carpachio, the Adalusion Gazpacho in Cucumber Cups, and the parmesan pepper tartlet shells. Natane prepared the California Rolls and the Shrimp Mousse in Bouchee.
I was excited to get to make profiteroles again. I made them in Pastry my first quarter at AI. I was glad I remembered how to make them correctly. They turned out perfectly- they tasted like they should and they rose perfectly. I know that I am a good baker, and I know I have talent, but sometimes you get that niggling little voice of self doubt telling you that it’s just a fluke when things turn out right. That little voice is quieting as time goes by. I am beginning to trust myself and my instincts more. One of the other students tried to pull my profiteroles out 3 or 4 minutes earlier than I ended up pulling them out. He said they were dry enough. I broke one open and instantly put the tray back in the oven. They were perfectly dry when I pulled them out. Instincts.

The chicken salad was tasty. Everything was cut in tiny pieces and it looked bright and colorful. Then the top of the profiterole got put back on and you couldn’t see the cheery chicken salad. Apparently I could have served them with the tops half off and a toothpick through them to hold them together. I had thought that since they were a “passed” hors d’oeuvre, the tops would need to be on securely so they could easily be picked up. Always something to learn.

I was happy to learn to make the summer rolls. This was my first experience making “sushi”, but I found it enjoyable. I definitely could use some practice to get my rolls nice and perfectly tight, but I am sure I will perfect that talent when I take Asian.

I also got to experience oysters for the first time. I was a little apprehensive, but pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the cocktail sauce that accompanied the oysters, and they were served on a bed of ice and therefore REALLY cold. I think that is key. I could see the experience being ruined by the temperature being lukewarm. Not only is it unsafe, but would have the texture of a booger, I would think. Blech.

I didn’t get to taste everything today because I had to duck out as soon as he was done critiquing our food. It’s difficult with this class ending so late to get home in time for Marc to get to work. Chef is already letting me duck out a half hour early and it’s still a scramble to get home on time.

I really enjoyed Ian's presentation of the Beef Carpachio, though. I love how he made the little hummingbird out of a pepper.

Week 3- Tuesday- Tea Sandwiches

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Before I get started, let me apologize for the quality of some of these photos. Everything got set up on silver trays and the blinds were open in the room with the sunlight streaming in juuuuuust so which all made for less than optimal photo taking conditions.

Today we prepared tea sandwiches and canapés. I was in charge of the Watercress and Olive on White Bread, Mozzarella and Tomato Feuille, and Tapenade and Goats Cheese Canapés. The day got off to a slow start because Melissa, the storeroom manager, had been sick so quite a bit got messed up on the orders for the week. One of the other Chefs actually had to make a run to the store to get several ingredients, including bread. You can’t really make sandwiches without bread and we didn’t have time to make our own. Once everything was prepared, Chef again helped us set up a buffet presentation.

The Mozzarella and Tomato Feuille was an interesting sandwich to make. Chef said that in “real life” you would never prepare that as a tea sandwich because the bread gets to soggy. This was an accurate statement. The mozzarella and tomatoes were to be sliced paper thin. I got them pretty darn close. I’ve been noticing that this class has definitely improved my knife skills and I am feeling more confident about them as time progresses. Then they were to be marinated in sherry vinegar, olive oil, and herbs. I chose to use basil because Mozzarella Caprese is one of my favorite combinations of flavors so I wanted to use the same flavors for this. Then they needed to be dried off and the bread was to be spread with a chive butter, which I also prepared. Then you were to layer the mozzarella and tomatoes until you had three layers of each, six layers total. Once that was done, you had to cut the sandwich into tiny, tea sandwich portions. This is difficult without having all those paper thin layers slide out. It tasted amazing, though, even though the bottom bread DID get soggy.

The Watercress and Olive on white bread was pretty tasty, as well. For this sandwich you simply mix butter and cream cheese with chopped watercress and pimento stuffed olives and spread it on the white bread. Cut the sandwiches into two bite portions and call it a day. For something so simple, it was surprisingly tasty. I wouldn’t have more than one because of all the butter and cream cheese, but it was a nice experience anyways.

My least favorite item that I made was the Tapenade and Goats Cheese Canapés. Chef actually picked one up off the table and asked whose it was and then told me it looked really nice, but it was still my least favorite. For this canapé, you blend goat and cream cheese together, spread it on toasted bread, and then top half with chopped black olives and half with chopped green olives. It just looked kind of messy to me, although I used my pastry scraped to make sure I had a nice solid line down the middle that divided the two olive colors.

I didn’t get to taste much else because I had to leave so quickly to get home in time for Marc to go to work. I wasn’t too disappointed, though. Surprisingly, tea sandwiches are NOT my cup of tea...even though you get to use cookies cutters on them.

Week 3- Monday- Cold Soups, Breads, and Spreads

Today we prepared a variety of items. We made Vichyssoise (cold potato and leek soup) and Watermelon Gazpacho. We made a variety of flatbreads and crackers, as well as dips to go with them. Then Chef Thompson showed us how to set it all up into a buffet and gave us some pointers on catering and presentation of the table.

I was in charge of making the Watermelon Gazpacho, Guacamole, and Pumpkin (butternut squash) Chutney. I was so excited to make guacamole!!! It did not disappoint! Natane made some Spinach Tortillas that went AMAZING with it, and it was made even better by the tortillas being fresh out of the fryer. I loved the guacamole so much that I made it again for a few friends for game night. It was a huge hit. Marc had never had it before and was extremely hesitant but loved it once he tried it. Tom said that he had eaten guacamole before and had a “Eh...” reaction. This meant he could take it or leave it but wasn’t overly impressed. He said mine was excellent, though, and he wanted to lick the bowl.

The Watermelon Gazpacho was...interesting. I think it would have been more palatable, and perhaps even good, if it was well chilled. As it was, closer to room temperature, Natane put it best when she described it as “watermelon flavored spit.” It got frothy in the blender and that wasn’t appealing. Mine did not separate like other teams, though. I don’t know what that means, but it made for better pictures. I served these in shot glasses. The Vichyssoise was also served in shot glasses.

The Butternut Squash Chutney was delicious! It was very sweet, though, and could have used something as a dipper that was perhaps a little more salty and had a bigger crunch than the Tostones (fried plantains) that we were using. Maybe if the plantains had been sliced a little more thinly and were crunchier it would have been better.

Also prepared this week was a black bean and papaya salsa, baba ghanoush, spinach and artichoke dip, and hummus. Served with those were toasted pita triangles, rosemary flatbread (yum!), grissini, gruyere and thyme crackers (nom nom nom!), and cheddar poppyseed crackers. It was a busy day!

Hummus with Rosemary Flatbread and Grissini

Week 2- Sandwiches (only one day)

This week we prepared sandwiches. I was in charge of the Club Sandwich, the Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Pita, and the tri (really bi) color bean salad. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to use any of my cute cutters to make the sandwiches shapes, but Chef assured me that next week I can use them for Tea Sandwiches.

The Club Sandwich is a classic. It is three pieces of toasted bread that is spread with mayonnaise and then topped with salt and pepper, lettuce, bacon, tomato and turkey. It is speared with frilled toothpicks and cut in half or quarters. This sandwich has a beautiful, clean look when it is sliced properly and set up on end on the plate. It also, incidentally, can really hit the spot.

The fruit salad was not my favorite as far as fruit salads go. The mango and papaya were not ripe enough for me. I like my mango so juicy that it is dripping when you cut into it and this mango was extremely hard still and practically juiceless. I also am not a huge fan of papaya. The pineapple was fantastic, though, and you can’t go wrong with a honey and yogurt dip in my book.

I was unsure, at first, about the Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Pita. I’ve not really been a big beet fan to this point, but was pleasantly bowled over by how delicious this “sandwich” was. It was light yet packed with flavors. I adored the cream cheese and goat cheese mixture that was spread inside the pita before being stuffed with the baby greens, snow peas, green onion, beets, and cucumber tossed with the dressing. I also was satisfied with the recipe calling for the peas, onion, beets, and cucumber to be julienned. It made the pieces noticeable but not unpalatable. My favorite part was, surprisingly, the beets. They gave a nice sweet flavor that I wasn’t expecting and it contrasted nicely with the tang of the dressing. The only challenge was opening the pita. The pitas we got were pocketless (seriously? I didn’t even know they MADE those...what’s the point??) so they were extremely difficult to open and stuff. One was semi successful, the other I just cut in quarters and made into sandwiches.

The Curly Endive and Apple Salad wasn’t really my favorite either. The dressing was too bitter for me. If the dressing had been sweeter I would have really enjoyed it.

The veggie wrap was a basic veggie wrap. I would definitely have this again if I was looking for something light for lunch.

The tri color bean salad was not in my top favorite dishes I have prepared. I didn’t love the flavors and I slightly undercooked the black beans. Beans are definitely not my strong suit. I could use a little work on them. I have a tough time cooking them to the correct doneness. I either undercook them or overcook them turning them into mush. Not pleasing unless you are having refried beans (and that is DEFINITELY not one of my favorite dishes).

The tuna sandwich wasn’t my favorite either. I just don’t care for canned tuna without mayo unless it is on a salad. On a sandwich, it needs mayo, in my opinion.

The New Potato Salad was delightful. The potatoes were well cooked and everything was well seasoned.

Next week we are preparing tea sandwiches!

Garde Manger Day 2

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The second day of class I felt much more prepared. I had my recipe cards done and was ready to make some more salads! I, of course, asked to make the Caesar Salad that would be served in a tuile (pronounced twill). I say, “Of course” because the tuile is a baking item. I had a little trouble getting the tuile batter to incorporate, but so did the other teams. Chef helped me out a little in figuring out how to make it work a little better and things went better from there. Chef CJ has her Pastry class next door at the same time that I have Garde Manger, so she is popping over here and there to say hello. I was so thankful that she did so on this day because I was stressing out about the tuiles. I kept wanting to pull them out too soon. So she hung around and told me when to pull them out and helped me shape them. She is such a calming presence to me. I feel much more confident when she is around and I am thankful she was willing to help even though it wasn’t her class. Because the tuiles were so frustrating, I was even more proud of the salad in the end. I looped long strands of carrot around the tuile for decoration. I made the Caesar dressing, tossed the salad, and placed it carefully inside the tuile. I could have done more inventive garnish with it, but I just hadn’t thought that far ahead. I am working on that. One thing, though, that is being repeated over and over is that nothing on the plate should be undressed. The tomatoes on the side are dressed with salt and pepper. Even the garnishes need dressed.

Each table also made:
a Cobb Salad

a Caprese Salad (my favorite salad to order!)

a Greek Salad

a Salad Nicoise (That's tuna on that salad. He pulled out this massive, absolutely gorgeous piece of tuna. Oh my goodness, the texture of this tuna was amazing!!)

an Italian Seafood Salad

and a Warm Duck Breast Salad with Asian Spices.

Let me stop there. I had never had duck before. I really enjoyed it. I loved the mouthfeel of it and the flavors were amazing. I really would like to make this dish for Marc and see how he likes it. Natane cooked the duck perfectly.

Next week we are working on sandwiches and I have been looking up various ways to plate. I have a couple of ideas. I hope some of them work out well. We will see!

Garde Manger

As I came to class for the first week of Garde Manger, I really had no idea what to expect. I knew that this class was about “cold foods” but I really didn’t know what all the encompassed. I think I have a slightly better grasp of that now, but know that after I complete the research paper that is due next week, I will hopefully have a complete understanding of it.

This week we prepared numerous salads and dressings. We learned the difference between composed salads (arranged), tossed salads (exactly that- the salad is “tossed” with the dressing), banquet salads (salads that will hold up for an extended period of time. These usually do not contain much, if any, lettuce), and a la carte salads (of the menu- made a la minute, or of the minute. This means they are prepared immediately before serving).

I had never made my own salad dressing before. I know, I know. How is that possible? I am not quite sure, especially since I now know how simple it can be. I made a poppy seed dressing and prepared the Watermelon and Red Onion Salad that went with it. Oh. My. Goodness. This salad was amazing. We learned that if you soak the red onions in ice water for 30 minutes or salt them and let them sit for 20 minutes and rinse them that it takes a lot of the “in your face” taste out of them. The sweetness of the watermelon, the tartness of the dressing, and the acidity of the onions worked perfectly together. Our table made that salad disappear quickly.

I also made the Mesclun (which, I also learned, is a “bastardized term for baby greens”) Salad with Marinated Tomatoes. I learned not to put heavy things on top of a salad when plating. I should have arranged ALL the tomatoes around the base of the salad. I also should have cut them before marinating, which I THOUGHT about, but since it didn’t specify to cut the tomatoes, I didn’t because I didn’t want to do it wrong. “That’s where using your brain comes in.” Next time I will. This was a decent salad but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed the Watermelon Salad.

One of the other girls made a Green Goddess Chicken Salad, however, that was definitely a toss up as my favorite. It had chicken, obviously, as well as celery, red grapes, red onions, scallions, dried cranberries, almonds, ricotta salata, and croutons of ciabatta. This was all mixed together with, you guessed it, Green Goddess Dressing. This dish also disappeared rather quickly from our table.

The last dish of the day that really caught my attention was the Marinated Roasted Pepper Salad. I have a relatively newfound love for peppers, and this salad really accentuated their sweetness. This salad was dressed with a Balsamic Mustard Vinaigrette and just writing about it is making my mouth water.

I think I am going to thoroughly enjoy this class. I love how we are learning to do things well that most people don’t give a second thought to. When you go into most places, a salad is a salad. Not much thought seems to have gone into them. Chef Thompson really seems to have a passion for the food, though, and he already is making me want to be a better chef. He makes me want to try harder to make the food look beautiful. One of the reasons for this is that he is brutally honest. He will tell you your food sucks if it sucks. I appreciate that. Brutal honesty is the only way you will ever really get better. He makes me want to research how to plate things and strive to present my food in the best manner I can. I really feel like this class will help me grow.

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