American Regional, week 1

Friday, April 8, 2011

American Regional is a two day class in which we explore the, fairly obviously, different regions of American Cuisine. American Cuisine is completely unoriginal, as it has been molded from the various settlers that originally inhabited this country. That being said, unoriginal does not, in any sense, mean that the food isn’t absolutely delicious. I enjoy the fact that our country’s cuisine is as much a melting pot as our inhabitants.

This week we were focusing on the Mid-Atlantic region. This region includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Virginia, New York, and West Virginia. Since yesterday was the first class and we had less time to cook because of going over the syllabus, we specifically focused on the usage of crab. We prepared Crab Soup with Crab Puffs, Maryland Crab Cakes, Sauteed Soft Shell Crab with Fennel Salad, potato croquettes and roasted spaghetti squash.

I, specifically, made the crab puffs and prepped the soup, as well as adding the final seasonings to the soup. The Crab Puffs were basically a pate a choux with crab and cheese mixed in. They turned out well and puffed up nicely. The only thing that I can say negative about them was that since we used canned crab, we had to pick through it and get all the bits of shell out. Someone else at the table performed this task for the group, and I should have gone through the quantity I was using myself to double check. There were definitely a few bits of shell left in the crab and I bit down pretty hard on a piece with a tooth that has already been bothering me and it hurt. Badly. Other than that, the crab puffs were a delightful experience.

The crab soup was alright. I liked the flavor of the broth in the final soup, but I really didn’t enjoy the texture of the crab in the soup. Again, we used canned crab and it was just kind of stringy and weird. I wouldn’t have minded a bowl of the broth with the crab puffs floating in it, perhaps, but the overall soup wasn’t something I would create at home.

Maryland Crab Cakes are a little larger, are pan seared (NOT fried), and have almost no breading. The Southern version, however, has an extremely high ratio of breading and is usually fried. Everyone in class used too much breading, apparently. Either way, the crab cakes that our group made were absolutely divine. Especially with the sour cream tartar sauce that was prepared to go with it.

Today, Friday, we prepared a large quantity of items. Half the class prepared one menu while the other half prepared a second menu. My team, specifically, prepared braised short ribs, chicken and dumplings, sautéed shaker style turkey cutlets, vichyssoise, cucumber and tomato salad, red swiss chard and spinach sauté, spoon bread, and ginger cake.

I made the turkey cutlets, spoon bread, and ginger cake. I started off by getting the ginger cake in the oven since it needed to bake almost 2 hours. After that I got the spoon bread prepared and let it sit so it would come out of the oven almost exactly at service time. I gave myself and extra 15 minutes bake time so if it was taking a little longer (as tends to happen sometimes with people always opening and closing the oven), I wouldn’t be screwed. The spoon bread was actually a very loose, cornbread based soufflé. It is still very moist, almost wet, when it comes out of the oven and it is actually spooned onto the plate and eaten with a spoon. Hence, SPOON bread. Once the cornmeal is mixed with simmering half and half and has cooled slightly, you beat in egg yolks and then fold in whipped egg whites. I served this underneath the turkey cutlets which only needed about 15 minutes actual cook time.

The turkey cutlets tasted fantastic with the sauce and spoon bread, but were not prepared completely correctly. While I was getting the spoon bread ready, a teammate was at a holding point in their work. They asked if they could help, and I said that they could prep the turkey items if they wanted to. I have decided that from now on, I just always need to do my own work completely. I’ve been trying to work as a team in the way of helping prep other dishes and allowing other to help me, but I am not satisfied with the results. The turkey was not pounded out thin enough and therefore the dish wasn’t exactly correct. I ended up having to braise the cutlets after sautéing them because they were too thick. Again, it still tasted amazing, but it was not as the recipe specified.

At one point I had a little extra time, so I decided to do what I do. In addition to the warm cranberries that were supposed to be served with the ginger cake, I made a delightful lemon sauce and also a cinnamon and ginger flavored whipped cream to go with it. I strained the cranberries through a chinois to make a sauce, and used the actual berry mush underneath the cake. The plating could use a little tweaking, but the flavors were delectable.

One of the things I am enjoying so far in this class is that, since the majority of the class are “newbies” right out of Skills, I can really see how far I have come since I was in that position. I can feel that I have grown in both my palette, knowledge, skills, and plating techniques.


Monica Kaye said...

Real Marylanders would not use canned crab! ;) Everything looks so yummy.

Jennifer said...

your food looks yummy....and your articulation is so pleasant to read. :)

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