Sunday, December 5, 2010

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!


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