Classical- weeks 3 and 4

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Escoffier Menu, Week 3

This week I was tasked with rice and beignets. I have a hard time with rice, only when it needs to be held. Because of this, I purposely wanted to make it ahead so I could practice holding it. I pulled it off the heat while it was still al dente and thought it would carryover cook the rest of the way. Then I put it back on high heat just at service. I should have retasted it. I don’t know what I was thinking. I think that’s been one of the hardest things for me to overcome is learning to taste and taste and taste all the way through the process. Being in the pastry world, we can’t really taste things as we go most of the time. We don’t know if it worked until the end, when it comes out of the oven or off the stove. I’m much better than when I first started, but I had a slip up and for whatever reason, didn’t retaste the rice. I knew it needed salt, but thought the people plating would add the salt. Again, don’t know what I was thinking.

I had never made beignets before. To be honest, I’ve never EATEN a beignet before. They looked relatively simple. Basically it’s a choux paste with apricots mixed in and deep fried. They worked out alright, but I should have made them smaller. There wasn’t a smaller scoop in the pastry cage, so I used the smallest they had. I should have just used a spoon or something. In any case, next time I will know better. When I fried them, they didn’t cook all the way through but the outside was getting very brown. So I pulled them out and popped them in a 250 degree oven for about an hour and they finished drying out. Again, next time they would be smaller. I thought the flavors were excellent, though. I made a chocolate ganache dipping sauce and a drinking chocolate to go on the side. They all were eaten by the end so other people must have agreed that the flavors were good.

I absolutely loved Ian’s quenelles. As I say that, I need to inform you that I have never before even LIKED quenelles, so this is a huge step. I could have eaten many, many more of those.

My pictures came out kind of “eh” this week. I got decent ones of the beignets, but not really of anything else.

Week 4- Italy

This week we were a three person team in Classical because Ian was out sick. I made the Saffron Risotto and the Panna Cotta. I also helped Natane make the gnocchi.

The osso buco needed more time in the oven to be more tender, but when you are in a short class, you only have so much time to let things braise. The risotto ended up being a little too al dente according to Chef. I am still working on making and holding rice. I received a tip for next time to cook it al dente and then when I reheat it, add a little chicken stock to finish the cooking. Aaaah. That makes SENSE. Why I didn’t think of that myself, I couldn’t tell you. Next time hopefully my rice will be perfect.

My panna cotta came out gorgeous, but a little too gelatinous, which is funny because I put in exactly how much the recipe called for and was a little concerned when I ended up straining about a quarter of it out because it didn’t dissolve. I was afraid it wouldn’t set up, but somehow the opposite happened. I poured the panna cotta in lightly buttered coffee cups instead of ramekins because I wanted a different shape. Then I made a blackberry gelee and poured a thin layer of that on top of the panna cotta to set up in the mugs, as well. When they were inverted and garnished with a simple spearmint leaf and fresh blackberry, it was gorgeous. The flavor was really nice, especially when I took a bite with the spearmint leaf that was on the top as garnish. I’ve always been a little afraid to try spearmint because I was afraid it would be overpowering. It actually had a really nice mellow flavor that complimented the vanilla in the panna cotta and the blackberry in the gelee. Next time I will alter the recipe and put in a little less gelatin. It’s one of those things that you don’t know how it came out until it literally comes out of the mold. You can’t fix it at that point. I just need to play with the recipe until I get the right amount of gelatin.

The gnocchi came out fine originally when it was boiled, but the sauce was too thick and ended up making the gnocchi kind of fall apart. I think it needs handled WAY less and the sauce, obviously, needed to be thinner.

Our zuppa came out the best of anyone’s, but the presentation could be played with to make it better. Matt put it under the broiler so the top of the egg was actually cooked slightly instead of runny whites like everyone else had.

His bruschetta came out AMAZING. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it. I embarrassingly ate 3 pieces. Delicious.

Overall, I think we did pretty well this week! Apparently Chef thought so too because we “won” out of everyone in the class. We managed to do it with only three people, too!


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