"It comes full circle"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This post is a combination post about week 10 with the revelation of my big news after that.

(Can you tell how sleepy I still am? My eyes are all tired, still. heh)

Chef Thompson made a comment this week that this class has "come full circle" for me. I began the quarter week 1 helping on pastry, though I was officially a server, and finished out the quarter this week back on pastry, this time with my usual A La Carte partner, Stacy.

Noone had changed up the platings of the desserts, even though creative liberty was allowed. Being who I am, I couldn't do what everyone else did all quarter, even though the original decoration of the cookies was mine, too. I had seen these:

one day while squirreling around on pastry blogs and decided to try them out. I've searched for a half hour and can't friggin' find where I originally found it, so please message me if you know where they came from so I can give credit!!

So this is my version of the cookie.

The antlers are much longer and thinner because of the difference in cookie cutters. Chef Thompson's was tall and thin, not short and fat.

I also made some teeeeeeeeeny tiny ones to go on top of the butterscotch pudding.

One more week to go!!!! Only ONE MORE WEEK!!! Portfolio Review is December 15th, and there WILL be a trio of mini cupcakes there for you to sample, if you decide to come say hello. If not, you can come out to Roy's Hawaiian Fusion in Jax Beach in the next few weeks and purchase them off the dessert menu, because my big news is that I am now Head Pastry Chef there!

My friend, Natane, who I have mentioned in this blog numerous times before, was working pastry there ever since the previous Pastry Chef left 3ish months ago. She told them about me over and over until they finally told her to have me come in. I took in my resume on a Tuesday to the Owner/Chef Partner, Adam Hyatt, and had an interview right then and there. I was hired unofficially until I went online and took the corporate evaluation, and was officially offered the position that Thursday. I immediately drove my two weeks notice to Nippers, and grinned all the way home.

I am so thankful for my time at Nippers. I learned so much there, and being surrounded by such astounding rigidity and people with such work ethic only made me better. I have what I would consider a deep internal drive to work my hardest as it is, but Nippers gave me the tools and practice to work my hardest in the most efficient manner. I can tell that this is noticed at Roy's. I immediately get dressed when I come in and gather my tools, my sanitizer, my bus tubs, my tasting spoons, and pots and pans. I have a list of what I need to get accomplished that day, and have done my work outSIDE of work to make sure that I can knock out my list with speed and efficiency.

I have creative liberty at Roy's, and we have established a plan to replace items on the current menu with my own creations until soon all the items will be mine, with the exception of Roy's Signature Chocolate Souffle. (Amazing, by the way, and well worth the 20 minutes of waiting for it to come piping hot to your table, fresh from the oven.) There were times at the end of Nippers that I was second guessing myself, wondering if I was any good. I know now that I am. Natane messaged me several times during this whole process, giving me words of encouragement that she didn't even know I needed. They literally brought tears to my eyes sometimes. She just believed in me so much, and trusted in my capabilities SO MUCH, that she made me believe her, too.

Am I ready to be Head of Pastry at Roy's? Hell yes. Will I mess up here and there. Undoubtedly. Am I going to give it my all, though? HELL YES! In the last three weeks, I have pushed my anxiety aside so many times and just told it to shut the fuck up. I don't have the time for anxiety at work. I just keep telling myself I can do this. I AM doing this. I will NOT let Natane down. She recommended me so highly, and I want to prove her right. The people at Roy's are absolutely amazing. All of them. It is such a warm environment, with family being a focus. I have been welcomed there with such excitement and open arms, literally, which has been such a soothing balm to my spirit. I love going to work. I have such a love for the people there, truly, already. Chef Adam has such a positive attitude, and it just emanates from him. His passion for the food and coming up with new items shows in the end product. He works hard at building up his team, and is rewarded with a staff who has been with him for a great length of time, many for the entire seven years Roy's Jax Beach has been open. I think that speaks greatly to a positive work environment, and I cannot begin to give enough praise to that aspect.

I have already grown since I have been there. I plated 29 dessert trios at the same time the other night, after prepping two of the three items myself previously. I have taught myself how to temper chocolate and have created beautiful truffles. I have notebooks and scads of ideas and recipes spinning through my mind at any given moment. I have a COTTON CANDY MACHINE and and ice cream machine at my disposal, and instructions to let Adam know what else I want. Seriously! *Can you feel my giddiness coming through?? Sometimes words just are not enough, which is why I put this entry off for so long. It needed time to soak in before I could even begin to communicate how exciting of a venture this is for me.* I am just blown away with gratitude for this job. I am getting paid to do what I am most passionate about (besides my family, of course). I think anyone who can say that, especially in this economy, is extremely fortunate and I plan to never, for a single moment, take that for granted.

So here is a ginormous, massive, screaming from the top of my lungs, "THANK YOU" to the universe.

Weeks 8+9

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Week 8 I was serving again. I have come to the point that I am not nearly as anxious about this, and it's pretty much a breeze. Aunt Toshia brought in three of her kids and Harmony and Layla on Tuesday, and since she "never says no!" to my kids, they promptly ordered desserts only (Harmony ordered the whoopie pies

AND the gingerbread men with butterscotch pudding)
and sugary beverages. Oh well. I was in class until 6, what did I care? She got to deal with the aftermath. Haha!! It was a fun surprise, though, and the kids loved getting to see me at school.

Week 9 I was back on Garde Manger with Stacy. Everything went even more smoothly that the first week. The Duck Confit salad had been taken off the menu, and Stacy got to prepare the Amuse Bouche for the day instead, which Chef had prepped the items for. Tuesday, Chef had me mise out a batch of focaccia bread which I then made and baked on Wednesday.

We are getting SO close to the end and I am scrambling to finish up my final projects. There is other big news in my working world, but I will leave that for another post. :D It's pretty friggin' exciting though.

Week 7- Sandwich

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This week Stacy and I were on the Sandwich station. The sandwiches we responsible were Pork Cemitas, Bratwurst, Fried Chicken Sliders, and Fried Green Tomato and Shrimp. I decided to be responsible for the Sliders and the Green Tomato sandwich since they both came off the fryer. This also meant I was responsible for the Sweet Potato chips that come as a side to the majority of the dishes that come out of the kitchen. (These photos are from the food show, again. I never seem to remember/have time to take photos this quarter.)

The sliders are served with AI Bacon, pepperjack cheese, sliced avocado, and a lemon remoulade with a side of pickled green tomatoes.

The Green Tomato Sandwich is served with a red pepper syrup, goat cheese spread, and smoked shrimp.

Monday was prep day, and we, once again, managed to get everything done that needed to be done in a timely and organized fashion. We always decide the week before what two dishes we will be in charge of so we can both make lists of what we need to get accomplished. I got the green tomatoes sliced, breaded, and frozen so they just had to be pulled out and into the fryer for service. All the spreads and garnishes were prepared. The only thing I needed to do Tuesday was breading the chicken.

Service went smoothly. I sliced the sweet potato chips a little too thin, but it wasn't the biggest deal in the world. At least they weren't overcooked like the time Marc and I visited the restaurant to eat. Chef CJ came through and tried my chicken and said *in a surprised voice, might I add* "This is really good!" It was definitely seasoned well (season the flour, eggs, AND panko, people!) and juicy due to NOT overcooking. Not rocket science, but I am happy that this is a skill I have learned.

The most annoying part of this station is breakdown because part of that includes cleaning/emptying the fryer. Once you do this, you smell and feel like used fryer oil. Sexy. (I think someone should invent a sarcasm font. It is desperately needed.)

Chef decided that this week our stations will be chosen by luck of the draw...Stacy and I both got "unlucky" and are serving.......A-freaking-gain. Ah well. Now I am REALLY glad I didn't throw out my shirt, tie, and bistro apron.

Week 6- Garde Manger

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This week Stacy and I were on the Garde Manger station. We had four dishes- A Lebanese Shrimp Salad, BLT Caesar, Duck Confit, and a Sous Vide Chicken Salad. Stacy took the Duck and Chicken salads, and I took the Shrimp and BLT salads. This worked out well because you, by now, should realize how I feel about raw poultry, and Stacy really didn't want to do the emulsions which I have really come to enjoy.

The Lebanese Shrimp salad is served on grilled pita bread, with Za'atar spiced shrimp, lebneh cheese balls, pickled red onions, and a lemon parsley vinaigrette.

The BLT Caesar is served with AI Pancetta, roasted tomatoes, fresh croutons, shaved parmesan (this week it was grated because we didn't have a block to shave), and of COURSE, Caesar dressing.
(This is the photo from the food show day. I didn't get a photo of one of mine)

Prepping is easy peasy for the most part. Stacy and I are both on the same page for the most part when it comes to organization and cleanliness, and on prep days we get to have some tunes playing overhead. This class has a good camaraderie, and many of us are about to graduate. We all are comfortable with each other and get pretty silly together.

Tuesday was service. I love how much I have picked up working in the industry as far as setting up stations for service. It's pretty much second nature now, which is comforting to feel. The one comment we got from the dining room was that the pita bread under the shrimp salad was hard to eat and a little impractical. Wednesday when I came in, Chef Thompson approached me and we said, almost together, that we should cut the pita into wedges. "You knooooow, Heather...You're alright." That is Chef's classic praise in this lab when someone has done something right or thought ahead.

Next week, Stacy and I will be on sandwich station. We will see how THAT goes, since they seemed to be in the weeds the whole class this week.

Weeks 4+5- Saute

Thursday, November 3, 2011

(This is my plating. The other photos are the ones from the food show on week 1. I didn't get the time to take a photo of my veloute this week.)

The last two weeks I was on the saute station for A La Carte. The four dishes that come off saute are:

a Shell Bowl (mussels, clams, and scallops)

Short Ribs and Chili Mac with Potlikker Greens (yes, that's spelled correctly)

A Mushroom Veloute (soup)

and Seared Scallops with Spaghetti Squash. There are two of us on the station, so we each are responsible for two dishes. I was in charge of the Veloute and the Scallops.

Prior to the first Monday, I made a list of everything that needed done and the time each would take. I also made a list of mise en place to gather. This ended up being a huge time saver, as well as helping us stay organized.

Mondays we prep everything for service. I made the Veloute, roasted the squash, and prepped all the items for the Bouillabaisse for the shell bowl. Stacy seared and braised the short ribs and prepared it's sauce, cooked the pasta, and cleaned her shellfish. The Roundswoman prepared the Bechamel for the Chili Mac.

Tuesday we have an hour prior to service to get everything ready. I, again, had made a list of everything left to do and the order we needed to do it in (IE, prepare crackers asap!), the utensils and pots I would need for service, and the plates we were going to need to gather. I realized how much I have actually learned working the line at Nippers when it came time to set up the station and get ready for service. I immediately set up a bain marie on the stove to hold all our hot items that are not prepared a la minute. I set up a sani bucket for my utensils in addition to the one for the station. I gathered our plates and put them in an oven at 175F to keep warm for service. I gathered all the pots and utensils I would need during service. Chef came by and began to tell us several items on that list we needed, and everything was already done.

We warmed our items that were prepared the day before, and I made the crackers and a buerre blanc, as well as thawed and panned the scallops. We set up the cold station and it was time for service!

Service is only two hours long and was over before I knew it. I stayed calm and my scallops came out so wonderfully. It was actually kind of fun working saute, and I enjoyed the experience. Our homework was to prepare a list of what we could do better to improve the flow of service.

The second week on the station was a little...well, absent. This quarter has just been a terrible quarter for being sick and the kids being sick. Such is life, I suppose, but I still felt guilty about leaving Stacy to manage a couple of the days with who(m?)ever Chef decided to throw on the station with her.

Next week we will be moving to Garde Manger!

Weeks 2 and 3

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weeks 3 and 4 were spent serving. This was fairly easy since I did it for a whole quarter previously. Mondays are spent getting the restaurant ready for service. We iron the tablecloths, polish the glasses and silverware and fold napkins, make simple syrup for tea, set the tables, and cut paper for the table tops. When we come in Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, we put together bread baskets, fill the ice well with ice, brew coffee and tea, fill the tiny pitchers with simple syrups and cream for coffee, fill the mini fridge with sodas, place flowers on the tables, turn on the *horrible* music, wheel out the hostess stand, hear about the special of the day and the amuse bouche, pipe butters into ramekins for service, and we are ready for customers.

The restaurant is open from 11-1 Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I was hostess on Tuesday of week 2. As hostess, it is my job to greet and seat customers, ring in to go orders and take payment for them, and answer the phone.

The internet at the school was down that day, so noone received an email letting them know we were open. We had barely any customers. Wednesday I had two tables, one of which was the new head of culinary at AI, and also the HEAD of culinary at all AI who was visiting the school. No pressure. It all went well, though, and the week was over.

Monday of week 3 I had a mandatory meeting I had to attend at work at 10AM. Tuesday and Wednesday were service days, again, and I had one table each day.
(Chef Heidi and three staff of AI)

I am finding it more and more challenging to keep a positive attitude as I near the very end. Actually, I'm finding it downright impossible. The majority of this is due to the changes that have been taking place at the Art Institutes. The rest of it is due to the fact that I am completely burned out. School, work, kids, homework, housework...I am mentally breaking down. I've been informed that I "will not just flip the eff out and lose it" by a licensed professional. That is slightly comforting. "Make it to the end of December" has become my mantra. 8 more weeks. 8. More. Weeks.

Last Quarter!

Friday, October 21, 2011

This quarter is my last. I am taking A La Carte, which is the class that produces the food for the school's restaurant, Passport, and is a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday class. I am also taking Capstone, which is the class that ties all the previous classes together so you walk out with a business plan for opening a restaurant and is scheduled on Tuesday after A La Carte. It is also the class in which you take your final cooking exit practical.

A La Carte started week 1 with us being given the menu for the restaurant and choosing stations for the first three weeks. Since I hated serving SO MUCH, I decided to just get it out of the way. The servers were split among the stations for the first week to help with some prep items, as well as to just kind of get a feel for how it would go. I was put on Pastry.

Tuesday of week 1, I woke up not feeling well AND it was my birthday, so I decided to stay home and take a mental health day. Wednesday I returned to school and we had a "Food Show" so we could view all the dishes the restaurant would be putting out.

Pastry items include Butterscotch Pudding with Gingerbread Men (too large, in my opinion), and Whoopie Pies.

I may not end up working the Pastry Station in the actual rotation, since I need the least practice on this station, so I'm including the photos here. Pastry is also in charge of putting out the bread baskets daily.

Next week I will be serving. Again.

Almost There

Saturday, September 10, 2011

This will cover weeks 8 and 9. I didn't post last week, week 8, because it was only a one day class due to Labor Day, and because my dish turned out horribly. I think we all need days like that sometimes to keep us humble. haha. I had a good idea for the dish, but it just didn't work out like I wanted it to.

I wasn't too thrilled about the recipe anyways, but disliked it the least out of all the other recipes. The recipe was for Warm Berry Soup. *pauses to let this sink in* It was to be served with a mint ice cream. This was where I ran into the first problem. We were low on mint. One table used all that was left, so I went down to the "herb garden" to pick more. There was hardly any there. This meant I had to overcompensate for the mint taste by adding more creme de menthe than the recipe called for. It was ok tasting, but definitely not what it could have been. I put it in the freezer to hold it and finish setting up while I worked on the other components.

The soup itself called for raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries simmered and slightly mashed. I hate, hate, HATE raspberry seeds. I simmered the strawberries and raspberries, strained them to remove the seeds, them added in the blueberries for the chunks of fruit. This component worked well and tasted good, but a warm berry "soup" doesn't stand well alone.

The recipe said to serve with the ice cream in the soup. Right. Cold ice cream melts when it hits warm soup. So I decided to make a tart dough bowl for the soup, then serve the ice cream on the side. This would have worked, except someone turned off the oven somewhere during the tart baking process so they didn't finish in time. My ice cream was also SUPER soft (maybe due to the added liquor?) so it wasn't holding up when I tried to plate it on the side. This meant I served the soup as the recipe said and it looked like a disaster. I was so annoyed. I didn't even want to talk about it when I got home that night. And I definitely didn't take a picture. Oh well. Can't win 'em all, right?


This week was a different story. Thursday I made a chocolate almond flourless cake. I cheated and used almond flour instead of toasting the almonds and pulsing them in the food processor. This recipe also called for just chopping up the chocolate finely and folding it into the batter as opposed to melting it down and folding it in.
I had the idea of making this plate into a s'more type dessert. I saw a recipe for graham crackers on The Busty Baker's Blog a few days ago and really wanted to try them. I made some tiny ones for garnish, as well as a couple larger ones to use as the base of the dessert. Then I made a simple meringue to pipe on as the marshmallow portion of the s'more, as well as to give it the melty texture that s'mores are known for. I toasted this with a torch. I also made a ganache to use as decoration on the plate, and to fill the cake with for the melted chocolate element.

I also chose to make a chocolate cake shot to go with one of the plates. This is equal parts vodka and frangelico served with a lemon wedge dipped in sugar. You take the shot and immediately bite into the lemon. It tastes just like chocolate cake!!!

Friday I chose to make Salt Cod and Potato Pancakes. Apparently this is a staple dish in Europe that everyone grows up eating. It was to be served as an appetizer. I chose to make a lemon sauce to go with the cakes made by sauteing shallots in butter and olive oil, followed by adding some roasted garlic and fresh thyme. I strained this, then, and whisked in some white wine and lemon juice. It went really well with the cakes. I also took some shredded parmesen to bake and make discs for a garnish, along with some fried thyme. I was surprised by how well it all tasted together. I wasn't thinking that I would be a huge fan of the dish, but I actually enjoyed it with all the components.

Onto week 10!!! Two weeks left in this quarter, then I will be in my LAST QUARTER!!!!!!! It can't come soon enough.

Oink Oink

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

This week in Art Culinaire, we did something a little different. We had 2 suckling pigs that Chef showed us how to butcher, and then we each chose parts of the pig and researched recipes to prepare out of those parts. We were to use as much of the pig as possible so the waste of the pig would be minimal...basically we used everything but the snout and skull and brains...the cheeks and ears were used.

I chose to prepare ribs. I also knew I wanted to make some crispy pig ears. At work, they prepared crispy pig ears just last weekend, and they were delicious on a Crispy Pork Taco, and I knew others wouldn't be as inclined to take those floppy little bits of pig. We had free range of the storeroom, so we also browsed through there on day 1 to get some ideas of what we had available to use in our dishes.

I love the process of coming up with a new recipe or dish or plate. My brain turns this way and that, running through all the possible variations of items and also the possible preparations. It's like a complicated math problem, except there are no "right" answers. The possibilities are, literally, endless. I had some ideas of what components I wanted to include, but was open to my mind being changed. I had some beautiful asparagus at home that I really wanted to include for height. From there, I headed to The Flavor Bible to see what goes well with asparagus.

Inspiration struck when I had taken a time out from schoolwork to hang out with Marc. All of a sudden I sat straight up with an, "I KNOW!!! Give me my notebook!!!!!" This is one of my favorite things. That "Ah-hah!!!" moment when something comes to you. It's goosebump inducing sometimes. I decided on a potato and leek tart to go on the side with the crispy pig ears on top.

Once I had all my components, I went and found recipes (some from my collection, some from online) to go with my ideas. I had a bbq sauce recipe already, and I pulled the potato leek tart recipe from online. Mashed potatoes and asparagus don't even need recipes, although I caught myself just in time and remembered to peel the potatoes. At home, Marc likes the mashed potatoes with the peels, and I'm so used to leaving them on, I almost forgot to take them off.

Another thing I love is seeing my sketches come to life. What starts as scribbles on paper (and trust me, they are scribbles. As artistic as I can be, I scribble my platings usually since I am the only one that is going to need to "read" them.) translates onto a plate and sometimes it looks exactly as it did in my mind, and sometimes it changes slightly to accommodate variables. This plate came to life wonderfully, in my opinion.

Week 6

Saturday, August 20, 2011

This week I was only able to attend class on Thursday (see previous post). I made Bananas Foster with spiced walnuts and tostones. I was not the only one in the class that wasn't enamored with the recipe that we were given. We decided to sort of follow the basic compilation of elements for the plate, but we definitely changed quite a bit of it.

I decided to make my "French Cakes" instead of the basic French Toast that the recipe called for. French Cakes are my own creation of a very egg-y pancake batter spiked with Saigon Cinnamon that the bread is dipped into instead of just the egg and milk mixture that French Toast usually calls for. This means my batter contains flour and baking powder and puffs up a little bit when cooked. We were using French Bread instead of regular bread for this recipe, so I cut it into squares and dipped it in the batter and cooked it off.

I also made my own spiced walnuts, loosely following the recipe for spiced pecans we make at work, but altering it a little because I like a little more of a cinnamon sugary texture to the outside of my spiced nuts. *insert joke here*

I made several shapes of tostones (fried plantains). I small diced some, made some "french fry" shaped pieces, and also made some long, thin pieces. These all gave a nice crunchy, salty element to the plate.

Then we had the flambeed bananas. I chose to make a separate caramel sauce in addition to the sauce that comes with flambeed bananas. I wanted to garnish the plate with the thick caramel, and then use the banana sauce on top of the French cakes.

I took a piece of banana and hollowed out the top with a melon baller. I added bacardi 151 and lit it just before "service" so it added a cool element to the presentation. The blue flame doesn't show up well in photos, though. I plated two versions, a large and a small. On the big plated version, I also bruleed the outside of the banana for a crunchy factor.

I LOVE how these came out. I like the small plate better, I think, just because it's a little more sophisticated.


It seems I am having to choose more and more between family and my grade. It seems every time I turn around, I'm having to choose. The stress level around here is off the charts. Marc is working literally almost every waking moment. I am either working, doing homework, housework, trying to spend quality time with the kids, or at school literally almost every waking moment. Neither of us have a second to ourselves, much less together, just to RELAX. Four more months. Four. More. Months.

This week, I got a card in the mail letting me know who Harmony's teacher is and that orientation was Friday at 1:45. Marc let me know he had to work. I had to make a choice. Class or meeting Harmony's teacher and making sure Harmony knew where her class was and getting her ready for school to start Monday. Family won out. I have now missed THREE classes this quarter, and AI just cracked down and they are no longer offering make up labs. Each class missed is approximately half of a letter grade. So I am down to a mid B. So much for my 4.0GPA. This is very hurtful to me. I've busted my ass and worked so hard to get and keep that 4.0 and now it's gone. I kind of flipped out the other night with Marc. Not ON Marc, just near him. He had just informed me that he had to work Friday and I started to try to convince him that he indeed did NOT have to work Friday, but after about two sentences I realized the effort was futile. I know he didn't WANT to work Friday. I know he would much RATHER be with the kids. So I stopped. He asked me not to be mad at him. That's when I flipped out.

I told him I am not mad at HIM. I'm mad at the situation. I'm mad that we are both SO BUSY ALL the time. I'm mad that this quarter should be the easiest and most fun quarter and it isn't. I'm mad that I've worked so hard for my 4.0 and it's GONE. I'm mad that the kids are with sitters so much. I'm mad about so much more, but it just goes on and on and on. I finished venting and crying and we just sat there. Then I felt better. We are together. We are working together to make things better for our family, it's just really hard right now. We will make it through, though, and in the big scheme of things, these months will be but a blip.

These lyrics have kind of been my theme since the beginning, but now more than ever. Please ignore the fact that it's Miley Cyrus. haha

"The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb"

week 5

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thursday I prepared the Peach Tres Leches cake. A woman made a tres leches for Chef CJ's baby shower, and it was phenomenal. It happened to be the first time I had ever had it. I know!!!! Crazy. Then we ran a special recently with a tres leches. So I was very excited to actually make it myself. I switched it up a little and brought in pineapple and blueberries to go with it, and flambeed the pineapple with some brown sugar butter. The caramel sauce that resulted was to die for all by itself. I macerated the peaches and berries with spices and vanilla bean. I was very happy with how this turned out.

Friday I chose to prepare the savory crepes with a ricotta and spinach filling. It was to be served with a tomato sauce, and the combination of flavors made me think of a lasagna. This inspired me to make the crepes and cut out circles to fit in ramekins so I could make mini lasagna appetizers with crepes substituted for the noodles. I fried up some shallots, thyme, and basil for garnish, along with roasting some cherry tomatoes with herbs. I added a couple things to a portion of the cheese mixture and made it into balls which I coated in seasoned flour and fried as a garnish, as well. I adored these. Apparently everyone else did, too, because the four I made were gone very quickly. I couldn't decide on one presentation so I did two.

Week 4

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I chose the Reconstructed Lemon Egg by Michel Richard to tackle on Day 1 of Week 4. Basically, the original version uses an egg topper to take the top off an egg, and then you fill it with meringue and lemon curd so it looks like a...well, a reconstructed egg.

I, of course, have to be different. I made a version for the adults and a version for the kids, just for fun. For the adult version, I chose to cut the egg in half lengthwise instead of to take the top off. I wanted it to look more like a deviled egg, although some said it turned out more like the inside of a Cadbury egg. Either way, I like how it turned out. The flavor was delicious, too, and it was nice to have such a small portion so it wasn't so full of guilt.

The kid version is more of an Easter theme. I dyed the eggs after I cut the tops off, and then used a special tool Chef has to make "Easter grass" out of pears. I think it turned out cute. None of my eggs were left at the end of class, as they were all eaten. Quickly.

Day 2 of week 4 I forgot to bring the memory card for the camera so I didn't get photos, unfortunately. I made ricotta and artichoke "dumplings" that went with a bed of arugula. I then shaved some artichoke hearts and fried them for some artichoke chip garnish. I definitely need more practice with the artichokes. The first batch I didn't cook long enough and they came out very tough. The second batch came out better, but I think I need more practice in trimming them, for sure, as I had to pull more leaves off even after they were cooked.

Then the artichokes were diced and mixed with ricotta and parmesan and an egg...sort of like a lasagna/stuffed shell mixture. Then they were made into quenelles and frozen, rolled in a seasoned flour mixture, and fried. Oh. My. Goodness. Those little bites were absolutely amazing. I definitely want to make those again.

As much as I am enjoying this class, I am so, so, so, sooooo ready to be graduated from school and able to spend a little more time with my kids. I hate, hate, HATE not seeing them very much, and I know it's about to get worse once Harmony starts back to school. I hate not being able to make sure my kids are eating healthy, because I know they aren't eating the way I want when they are not at home. I hate not being able to give them consistent discipline, because right now they have three sets of rules...one at home and one for each of the sitters. I know it's confusing for them and frustrating for Marc and I. I need our family to be a functioning unit, but right now that isn't exactly how it is. Something needs to give, but there isn't a single thing that CAN right now. Four more months. Gotta make it through FOUR more months. Then we are SO having a party to celebrate.

Art Culinaire, week 3

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I've found that I enjoy creating the one or two bite course that is the amuse bouche. Dessert is still my number one favorite dish to create, but the amuse bouche is definitely my second favorite.

Thursday I prepared a Gorgonzola Stuffed Fig with Prosciutto. The recipe called for wrapping the fig with the prosciutto and roasting it, but I chose to create a rose out of it instead. I cut circles out of the prosciutto and made the rose in the same way you make a rose out of gum paste. I secured the bottom of the rose with wooden skewers and deep fried it. The petals fell open a bit as it fried, and I love how it turned out. I placed the rose in the center of the fig, which I cut partially into three segments to be the "leaves." I love the presentation, but wasn't too fond of the flavor. Gorgonzola is just not my favorite cheese. Combine that with the Balsamic Vinegar Reduction and it's just a combination that made my tastebuds go, "Blech!"

Friday, however, I prepared a Chile Chocolate Sorbet. I took an orange and removed all the insides of it, cut a decorative edge, and then simmered the shell in the chiles and simple syrup before I added the cocoa powder to the mixture. I froze the shell, then, so the container would keep the sorbet nice and chilled. We didn't have Chile Chocolate, so we added some cayenne to the mixture to give it that kick. I also chose to add cinnamon and ground cloves to mine which gave it an added depth of flavor. I had no idea a sorbet, which doesn't include a single drop of cream or butter, could come out so incredibly rich and decadent.

As a garnich, I made my "famous" sugar cookies in several shapes so I could choose what I liked the best and decided to go with the leaves. I LOVE how this presentation came out!!

Harmony's Birthday!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I know, I know. I didn't post last week, but I have a valid excuse. I didn't go to class.

Thursday OR Friday.

*gasps of disbelief here*

I decided that being with my family was MORE important than going to school. And for the first time I hardly felt guilty. My daughter was turning 6 years old, and our schedules are so busy that the best time for the party was on Friday at 10AM. My husband's mother was going to be coming in Thursday around noon, and my brother in law was coming in Thursday evening around 7PM. I figured I could bake the cake Wednesday night, work on the cake Thursday and then go to class, and then finish Thursday night if I needed to. I probably could have handled JUST that and had things go as planned but, as usual, I just HAVE to make things challenging for myself. Marc's other brother was supposed to be coming up sometime Friday, and his birthday was the day before Harmony's, so I wanted to make him a cake, too. I also had a guest coming who is on a dairy and gluten free diet, so I wanted to provide her with a treat, too.

So, three cakes. Before leaving for class at 1:45. Right.

I decided on a flourless chocolate cake for the gluten/dairy free guest. This is best warm out of the oven, in my opinion, so I decided to wait and bake that off Friday right before the party. I baked Harmony's cake's, filled, and dirty iced them Wednesday night. I made the fondant and cut the base, covered and stacked, and added all final touches to Harmony's cakes Thursday morning. I finished around 1PM. Marc's mother got in fairly early, so she helped entertain the kiddos. Marc asked me to stay home from school, and I had so much to do that I finally, after several suggestions of doing so, stayed home from class. I made and baked Nick's cake Thursday night, then wrapped and put them in the fridge to keep until I was ready for them. When I learned that Nick would be in Friday evening, I decided to finish the cake the next night.

Friday morning I made the flourless chocolate cake. I substituted unsweetened, all natural applesauce for the butter in the recipe. It only required chocolate, sugar, applesauce, and eggs. It turned out wonderfully. I baked four of them in ramekins so she could just have her own dessert. I unfortunately didn't get a photo of these. :(

Harmony LOVES dinosaurs, and she has really been wanting the Ned the Brachiosaurus car for her Dinosaur Train toy she got for Christmas. Dinosaur Train is a show on PBS, for those of you unaware. I keep getting people without young children commenting on my photos on facebook going, "Cute cake, but why dinosaurs and trains? I don't get it." This video explains the premise of the show in a rockin' intro song. haha

So I used her toy train and tracks to surround the cake and added a gift of Ned the Brachiosaurus to the train as a surprise. The cake itself was the scenery from the show, places they visit, with the train station at the base of the cake. There is a volcano in the show, along with the "Big Pond" and a waterfall.

The interior of the cake was two flavors. The bottom layer was alternating layers of devil's food cake with graham cracker swirls, milk chocolate cake, and a layer of melted marshmallows mixed with graham cracker crumbs with mini marshmallows sandwiched between. The top tier was, upon Harmony's request, a mint chocolate cake with peppermint buttercream. It was SO. GOOD. A new favorite of mine, for sure. Here is a picture of the interior of the cake.

I also made her a birthday shirt with a brachiosaurus and a number 6 on it. She picked out the shirt that she wanted it made from. I decided to add a bow to the dinosaur and I LOVE how it came out!!! This was a HUGE week for Harmony, too. Grandma Carleen and Uncle Chris coming in, she lost her first tooth Thursday night, too, AND she finally saved up enough money by doing chores around the house and with her birthday money, to buy this GIANT T-rex she saw at Big Air when we went a few weeks ago. It was $39.99. That's alot of money for a little kid to save up!!! We were so stinkin' proud of her, and she was extremely proud of herself, too. Here she is, in her birthday shirt, lost tooth, with her T-rex.

This girl...this girl is my world. She is why I am doing what I am doing and why I am the person I am today. I love giving her a day where everything is for HER. She is such a wonderful kid and she follows the rules and is polite and SO sweet, I love being able to give her a day where she can eat as much sugar as she wants and can be spoiled by all the people that love her.

Friday evening, we went to Nipper's for dinner. Then the boys went fishing and Marc's mom hung out with me while I finished Nick's cake...moments before he got there. Haha. I was SO tired and worn out and just OVER cake decorating by that time of day that this isn't my best work on the top. Plus I used the last bit of powdered sugar I had and ran super low on icing with no time or energy to procure more. Marc's brother ADORE'S Wicked, so in honor of that I iced and filled the cake with lime green buttercream with a "Wicked" top. A long time ago I saw a cake that was rainbow layers inside and I immediately wanted to make that cake for Nick. I love how it came out, and he was completely surprised and thrilled.

So that is why I missed class Thursday and Friday. In the end, family is much more important than a grade.

Quarter SEVEN

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quarter seven is now underway. I am only taking Art Culinaire and my Internship this quarter. Since I only have 18 credits left, they are split up 9 and 9. I really think I am going to enjoy Art Culinaire. It is taught by the same teacher as Garde Manger, which makes me happy and slightly nervous at the same time. Other than Chef CJ, which taught me more than I can tell you about pastry, I think Chef Thompson has taught me the most practical information, not only about cooking but about presentation. He does not mince words and he will tell you straight up that something sucks...in front of everyone. Normally this would make me dislike someone, but he's so friggin' funny aside from that, that I tend to forgive him pretty quickly when he critiques harshly. He's usually right, anyways.

Art Culinaire, for those who are not familiar with it, is the study of current successful (by this I mean in the top 1% of Chefs) Chefs in cities across America that are known for their culinary delights. This week we were in New York City, and we were learning about and cooking food from Chefs such as Tom Collichio, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, Jacques Torres, Terrance Brennan, Marcus Samuelsson, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Each day, our group prepares an Amuse Bouche, an Appetizer, and Entree, and a Dessert. We have ample time to focus on presentation as that is one of the main components of this class. We are nearing the end of our culinary journey. We know the basics. We SHOULD know something beyond the basics. Our hands are not being held anymore. Now it is time to push ourselves and work on excellence. We haven't come this far to look like we are putting out food from Denny's.

The first day, I prepared a raspberry souffle. I'd made souffles before, but this recipe was a little different. Chef swore up and down that these souffles would not fall after they came out of the oven. I took a picture before I pulled them out anyways because one of the dramatic thrills of souffles is how puffy they are when they first come out of the oven. This is also why they have to be served literally IMMEDIATELY out of the oven.

It didn't collapse as much as most souffles do, but it still fell slightly. I loved the crunchy texture of the top and sides of the souffle that this recipe produced, as well as the immensely light texture. It was almost like a personal serving of angel food cake. I dusted the tops with cocoa powder instead of powdered sugar and I enjoyed the contrast it gave.

I don't want to hijack ALL the desserts this quarter. Again, I want to push myself out of my comfort zone at least one of the two days every week. Day two I created an amuse bouche of fried lotus chips with tuna and white fish. I created several different platings that I had sketched out prior to class. I had so much fun with this dish.

One piece of tuna I decided to season and sear to give it added flavor and color. I also curled the lotus slice into a cylinder and secured it with a wooden skewer prior to frying.

For the second plating, I chose to thinly slice the tuna and roll it up, securing it with a chive.

Finally, I used a flat fried lotus chip as a base and fried a quartered lotus chip to give height. I also candied a lemon rind to give color and to play off the yuzu miso sauce that went with the white fish.

Next week on day two I have already chosen to prepare pumpkin cheesecake with a pumpkin seed brittle. I'm hoping to prepare the black pepper tagliatelle with parsnips and pancetta as an appetizer on day one.

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