Classical- Week 1

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wednesday morning begins for me with Classical European with a new twist- Competition Style! We will not be competing in "real" competitions since they cannot require us to attend events outside of our scheduled class time. We will be competing against each other occasionally, however, and more emphasis will be placed on adhering to timelines, making sure our cuts are precise, and our plating is spectacular and clean. When Chef Ridsdale critiques our plates, he will be judging them based on competition guidelines. I think this will be a fun twist and I am really looking forward to this class. I am in a team with Natane and Ian (who were my tablemates from Garde Manger, if you remember) and a "new" member, Matt. We picked a prime table (next to the stoves, sink, and handsink, and very close to the pots and pot sink. Hopefully this will shave off some time. We are also going to be required to have a timeline up every week, as well as sketches of how we plan to plate our dishes. A class where we HAVE to be organized. This couldn't get any better!

I had emailed Chef ahead of time and asked for the menu for this week so I could have recipe cards done. I always hate scrambling on the first day of class to scribble out recipe cards. Since I had them done, our team was able to relax a little and focus on other things. The menu this week consisted of "simple" items that required attention to development of flavors rather than a large quantity of complicated steps. We began with a very simple salad (Bibb lettuce, vinegar, and sugar), followed by French Onion Soup, Chicken Merango, Potatoes Parameter, Braised Endive with Almond Cream, and finished off with Creme Brulee for dessert.

I, of course, chose the Creme Brulee and Natane was given French Onion Soup. Natane doesn't care for French Onion Soup so Ian and myself kept tasting it and giving her input on what was missing. The end product came out phenomenal. It's amazing that someone who hates French Onion Soup can make it so well!

A couple nights before this class, I was watching "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" on the Food Network. The theme was Appetizers and the menu for this week popped into my head when one of the dishes came on. French Onion Soup Dumplings are these little pouches filled with French Onion Soup and places in an escargot dish. They are topped with gruyere cheese and broiled, then skewered with a crouton containing skewer. When they were showing the woman eating it, it looked delectable. When I realized I had ONE dish to complete, I decided to try to make these little dumplings, or something similar. I remembered that we had leftover wonton wrappers from the day before in Asian and Kandice was SOOOOO kind and helped me find them in the walk-in buried deep in the Asian box. Natane and Chef gave me input and Natane helped me with technical points (such as making sure I steamed the dumplings before I sauteed them) while messing around with how to make it work. I ended up making the square pouches, although next time I would research a different way to form the dumplings so they were an actual sphere. We tried a couple ways, but they all looked messy and I wasn't a fan of them. I filled the pouched with just the onions from the soup, no broth, and a little gruyere cheese. Them I steamed them and sauteed them (I would have preferred frying them but the fryer in that lab was out of oil). Then I tried a couple different ways of plating and ended up melting a little more gruyere on top of each dumpling, then putting three in a bowl with strained broth from the soup. I put a skewer with a crouton in each dumpling and there you have it! Everyone agreed they tasted amazing, partially due to Natane's spectacular soup, and partially because the crunch of the sauteed dumpling added a whole other dimension to the dish.

I also, as should be no surprise, made the Creme Brulee. The actual making of the dish was no problem, but when it came time to caramelize the sugar, I had a little trouble. I just need a little more practice with the torch on that one. I burned the sugar pretty badly on one plate and just a smidgen on the other. We had to create two plates for each dish, so I made one "classical" Creme Brulee by leaving it in the ramekin it was baked in and one the other plate I inverted it and unmolded it before sprinkling on the sugar and caramelizing it. The texture of the actual Brulee was perfect and all of them got gobbled up.

As far as the other dishes go, I really loved the Braised Endive with Almond Cream. I had never eaten endive before and I really enjoyed the flavor. I was disappointed there wasn't more of this dish! Here is a picture of the complete dish.

Next week we are making Consomme, Pear Salad, Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, Ratatouille, Tourne Yukon Potatoes, and Chocolate Mousse!


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