Garde Manger

Saturday, October 9, 2010

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.


jennifer said...

Oh my!! Sounds yummy. And for the unofficial record my friends and I will judge a dining establishment on a salad. If it can make a kick ass salad, then you know for serious that the rest of the food will be great!! :)
All of these salads look and sound yummer!!
For sure I'll be back to grab these ideas for future dinners :)

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