Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Pork with Apples and Gravy, Bulgur Wheat Pilaf with Lemon, and Braised Cabbage (4.5 out of 5)
*Note on grading: I'm not sure how the new system is going to be, but today we presented an entire plate and got graded on everything together.
I feel bad because I did the braised cabbage, but it only wasn't perfect because we timed things a bit wrong. We all underestimated how long the cabbage would take to cook perfectly and get the seasoning right, but I totally take the blame for it. 4.5 out of 5 isn't awful, though. Our pilaf was great; I love bulgur wheat, and the pork with the gravy was out of this world. We ended up roasting it even though we were supposed to braise it, because we were in a different classroom/kitchen with maybe eight burners and just two ovens. We had to use those portable burners on the countertops because there were too many of us for such a small kitchen. Everyone either got a 4.5 or a 5, though, and yet again, my team finished first.
Tomorrow is fish and a couple of side dishes. I think we have five things to make tomorrow.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Chef wants us to be a little more creative for Foundations III, which is a nice change of pace from the II class where we had to just do exactly as we were told. I can't wait for glazed sweet potatoes, which is Friday, and I should have a more exciting post by tomorrow. We're still just starting out in this class, after all.
Monday, September 28, 2009
I guess I'll let you know. The chef instructor seems cool, but I need to be in real class before I can say for sure. Today we introduced ourselves and watched a gross video about beef production.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
These aren't 0-4 grades; our practical exams are graded out of 100.
Fish en Papillote, Green Beans with Peppers and Bacon, Rice Pilaf, and Citrus Beurre Blanc sauce (90!)
I freaked out when I got my assignment; it was exactly what I wanted: the fish, a rice dish, an easy side, and a fairly simple sauce. The fish was perfect last time I made it, but I was rushing. I didn't have to rush since I finished with an hour and a half to spare, but I was so glad to be done with it that it didn't bother me. Both the fish and the rice pilaf take 20 minutes in the oven. The fish and vegetables could have been cooked more, but I'm guessing it's because I kept opening the oven to check on them, which was dumb. Anyway, I said I'd be thrilled if I got a 90, and I am! I got 140 right out of 150 on the written final today, and was one of the few that ended up with an A. I still have straight As in school, go me!
I felt really bad for some people; five people (we work solo on practicals) each had to make a roasted chicken, ratatouille, risotto, and a sauce that I forget- something kinda simple, but after those three all on one person, that's rough! I didn't feel that the assignments everybody got were of equal difficulty, so I feel bad for them, but hey, I lucked out. I'm impressed the people who got that set of dishes didn't complain, but I guess I would have held back too. No one wants to hear that.
Everyone passed both classes, which makes me really happy, because we're all a team at this point.
After the practical, and I can't believe I agreed to this, I went straight to the event downtown to volunteer. I ended up working with Chef Vincent, the Executive Chef at Aureole, which is a Charlie Palmer restaurant. I prepared appetizers and talked to people at their booth. It was fun, and Chef Megan, who is actually the head pastry chef for all Charlie Palmer restaurants, asked me to work with them at another event next Friday! When we left (I was with Robert and Tim from my class) after five and a half hours of work, they gave us all Charlie Palmer hats and cookbooks!
It was a long day. I haven't worked a 12 hour day in a very long time. We get three day weekends in between blocks, so here we go!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I will freak out if I have to make Espagnole sauce or one of its derivatives. I almost hope I get Eggs Benedict, but I really doubt I will, since "cooking" the Canadian bacon just involves heating it up. Something with Bechamel or Veloute, or heck, even Tomato sauce would be fine. In fact, I hope I get the Fish en Papillote, since I made that from start to finish last time and it worked perfectly. I am over-thinking this.
My friend Tim is coming over later to watch cooking shows with Devin and me, and to go over recipes. We're also both working at that event that I mentioned last Friday after the practical exam, so tomorrow should be a rough one, but satisfying.
Stuffed Chicken Thigh and Breast (4)
This was a really nice dish. I made the stuffing for the chicken while Gus and Lazaro hollowed out the pieces for stuffing. The stuffing we made was ground chicken with cream, cayenne, and nutmeg. Today, since we only had one dish to make, we had free reign to make side dishes. I made the Gratin Dauphinoise again, because I'm good at it, Gus made Rosti Potatoes, and Matt made fries and chicken wings by the time our chicken was done. It ended up perfect, so we got the 4, which makes me feel good about tomorrow, for sure. The sear on the chicken made the skin crispy and it tasted almost fried, yum.
We got out half an hour early today, which is always nice.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The Greek Food Festival was pretty good too, except that I was a little drunk (had just been sitting at home watching NASCAR). We had pastichio and some lamb sausage, which was good, but not as good as the Italian one. I'm not the biggest fan of lamb to begin with.
Today was poeler day (supposed to be two dots over the o in that word), and it went pretty well. Poeler is like roasting, except the dish is covered and basted every 15 minutes.
Poeler of Chicken Rossini (3- overcooked foie gras)
This dish was pretty simple; roasted chicken with a sauce made from mushrooms, white wine, and tomato, with a piece of foie gras on top. I am against foie gras so I didn't eat it, but I did have some chicken and I tried a bite with the sauce, which had the fat from the foie in it as well. I love mushrooms and couldn't resist it. Jamierose got the oyster from the chicken this time; I had to find it because no one else could. I can't believe what a well-kept secret the oyster is! If I have my own restaurant, I'm serving chicken oysters as an appetizer. Anyway, we had never cooked foie gras before, so we ended up overcooking it. Whatever.
Pork Poeler (3- sauce too thin)
We didn't have time to reduce the sauce; by the end of the two hours, we had started it but couldn't finish completely. It was still good, just not as thick as it needed to be. This dish was similar to pork roulade from Friday. We butterflied the pork loin and instead of a mushroom stuffing used garlic and herbs. It was delicious; I love pork so much. This was my baby today, at least until it went into the oven. I prepped it and trussed it.
We had lots of time to wait for things to cook today, so we actually cleaned as we cooked and got out ten minutes early! Tomorrow is the last day we work in groups, and then we have our practical on Wednesday; our written final on Thursday. Math is just all reviews right now, so I skipped it today in favor of two more hours of sleep. I'll go for the next three days, though.
Friday, September 18, 2009
And now, on to the food.
Lamb Chops (2- I know, ugh. It was overcooked)
Lamb chops didn't seem hard to make. Once we're done Frenching the bones, brush with oil, season, wrap the bones in foil, cut, and serve. Thing is, we thought they were undercooked when we cut them, so we put them back in the oven cut open, and they cooked too much. Our port wine reduction was delicious, though.
Chicken with Pan Gravy (4)
This is a fairly straightforward chicken dish; we trussed and roasted a whole chicken on a bed of mirepoix, and then used the pan to make the gravy for the top of the chicken. Our chicken was slightly undercooked but we popped it back in and got it perfect. Mmm, gravy.
Pork Roulade (4)
This is a big stuffed pork roast, so I took the lead on this one - I love pork. I made the filling (mushrooms, onions, shallots, bread crumbs, butter), rolled it up, trussed it, watched it in the oven, and sliced it. It came out perfectly and was so delicious. We had five perfect slices, and there are five people on our team. I did not bring home any pork roulade. This is a dish I will make again, though.
Look for a post soon about the San Gennaro Feast and the Greek Food Festival, both of which I'm going to this weekend.
And finally, I'd like to say hello to my readers, who make me so happy and make posting this all worthwhile, especially the chicks from my board, one of whom has a fun blog too. I'll let her post a link to it as a comment if she wants. And hello to Devin, my supportive, awesome boyfriend, who is very excited that I am learning all the fancy cookin's.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Now, to the recipes! We made a beef dish that I was really excited about, and a chicken dish that I had never heard of or eaten, so I was slightly wary of it. Here we go.
Chicken Fricassee (3-sauce was under-seasoned, dammit)
This is a braised chicken dish. First, we had to break down whole chickens into 8 pieces each. We only used the legs and thighs today. I'm happy that I know how to break down a chicken now. We started on the stovetop with a pan and seared off our chicken with some onion, then made a roux in the pot by adding flour, then covered it with stock. It went into the oven for about 45 minutes, and when it came out it was fall off the bone perfect. We had to take the chicken out, reduce the sauce, and strain it, and then add the creamy liaison consisting of egg yolks and milk to thicken it further. This is where the sauce could break. Lazaro and I did this step, and we didn't break it. Several teams did, I think. Adjust sauce with lemon, salt, pepper, nutmeg. Anyway, chicken on plate, sauce over chicken, and I've written way too much for something that turned out so simple. The sauce just tasted really chicken-y as the end result.
Beef Bourguignon (4)
I loved this dish. Braising a tougher cut of meat is a way to make it more tender and delicious. Bourguignon means that a dish comes from the Burgundy region of France, famous for its wine. There are five ounces of red wine in our recipe, which probably feeds about eight, as well as mushrooms, bacon, onion, garlic, some tomato puree, and pearl onions. The meat and sauce is served over a bed of egg noodles, which are delicious as well. Matt took the lead on this one, so of course it was great. He's really talented and has worked in a kitchen before, plus he's 23 so he's not exactly a child like most of my classmates! Side note: I can't say the name of this dish without pronouncing it in my head like Julia Child.
We made bacon, eggs, and toasted English muffins because the food was cooking, everything was clean, and we had half an hour before we even needed to check our dishes. Plus, we wanted breakfast.
I figured out my role on the team. I'm the person who keeps track of what's going on with everything. At any given time, I'm aware when we're ready to start a dish, and I'll say so. If something is done being chopped, I'm the one who says, "Hey, let's start cooking," and people listen. Sometimes I'll take the lead on a dish, sometimes I'll hang around and see what needs to be done, and remind people of small things or answer,"What's the next step?" I think it's a good role for me, and I wasn't the only one who noticed. Lazaro told me, "It seems like everyone just listens to you; you say, 'Let's start cooking,' and we all start cooking!" I'm pretty sure I'm the one responsible for getting things done on time. We had an hour and 45 minutes today.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
It turns out we are switching teams tomorrow, which doesn't matter much since we're near the end of the class anyway.
We made four dishes today. I'll start with the chicken because it's boring (but delicious!).
Battered Chicken Fingers (4)
Tim and Ethan made these. It's just chicken breast strips in a batter of egg, milk, flour, baking powder, and spices, deep fried. I'd have liked a little more cayenne in it, but I figured we shouldn't mess with the seasoning too much for serving to the Chefs.
Pan Fried Chicken (3- not enough seasoning)
I didn't taste this one before service because Chef Kupper had me chopping 40 lbs of vegetables for a stock we're making*, so I had nothing to do with it being under-seasoned. I didn't even taste it after our judging, to tell you the truth.
Butter Poached Shrimp (4)
Let me tell you right now, Norma is a rock star. Yet another sauce that is breakable, and it turned out perfectly. I wasn't a huge fan of the dish, because I'm not a huge shrimp fan, but the amount of lemon we used made it pretty delicious.
Salmon en Papillote (4)
I was a rock star too today! "En Papillote" is a cooking method that involves cooking something inside foil or parchment paper so it cooks in its own steam. The seasoned salmon went on a bed of fine julienned onions, celery, and carrot, and was then topped with more of the three, then lemon slices, then white wine. We used parchment paper today and I made sure to seal it really well around the fish. It came out really well; salmon is far from my favorite fish, but it was delicious.
*Even though our team has four people on it, one team has five, and two teams have six, Chef Kupper told us that we were chopping the mirepoix for a veal stock we'll be making tomorrow. Since I was done and just waiting for my fish to cook for 20 minutes, it fell on me. Only one person needed to be on chicken at that point, but no one came to assist in chopping. I can see why; it was a pain. I got through ten pounds each of celery and carrots (which I also had to peel, grr). I was going to do the onions last, but it was time to clean the kitchen, so Chef thankfully told me to wrap the vegetables up and we'd finish them tomorrow. I still need 20 pounds of onion, but I think he'll either have the night class or the morning class do it (we're the middle class, and the best class). I came home super tired today.
Our chicken fingers were amazing (we ate them with Frank's Red Hot, of course, with butter), and the salmon with the onions was also really, really good. I'm proud of myself yet again today.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Veal Marsala (3- broken sauce, wasn't me)
Veal is already tender, but pounding it thin makes it even more so. The veal is then dredged and seared, and removed. Then the sauce starts. It's Marsala wine, which is a fortified wine from Tuscany, and it's finished with butter, which is why the sauce can break. Ours was fine when we plated it, but broke as we arrived at the tasting table. It tasted pretty good, but I'm still not sure how I feel about veal. Norma has the same issue with veal that I do, and no, I don't want to discuss it further.
Steak Diane (4- it was the best in the class; we have Norma to thank for that!)
Steak Diane is steak medallions, so you know it's going to be good. It has a similar sauce to the Marsala except it includes mushrooms, so it's even better! Our steak was cooked perfectly, and the Chefs ate almost our entire sample, which they never do, so yay!
Asian Glazed Pork Chops (3- pork undercooked)
This was my baby; I called that I was making this dish before class even started. The glaze is so amazing that I'm going to post the whole damn recipe here.
Finely Ground White Pepper
1. Combine the pineapple juice, water, soy sauce, sugar, scallions, ginger, garlic, and pepper to make a glaze. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce by ¼. Add the cornstarch slurry and cook for 10 additional minutes. The glaze should have a syrupy consistency.
2. Season the pork with salt and finely ground pepper. Grill the pork on both sides until medium temperature is achieved.
3. Finish the pork by brushing it with the glaze.
4. Serve hot.You should have seen the gorgeous grill marks I got on my pork chops. The only reason it was undercooked (not inedible, but not to specifications) is because our other two dishes were done, and they don't hold hot well, so we had to turn them all in. I took the rest of the glaze home and made chops for Devin and me, and put them over rice with butter, soy, and sugar, which was also awesome mixed with the glaze.
Now what am I going to do with these lame store-bought marinades I have sitting around?
Tomorrow is chicken and seafood day.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Tortellini with Creamy Pesto Sauce (4)
The tortellini wasn't hard to shape at all, and the basic pasta dough is super simple. I love using the pasta roller; I used to use the same kind for making clay jewelry when I was a kid. The creamy pesto sauce was so delicious; I thought I broke it at first but I just had to keep whisking the hell out of it and we brought it back. I made the filling for the tortellini, the pesto sauce, and I helped form the tortellini as well. We had four people that day, me, Tim, Ethan, and Norma.
Fettuccine Alfredo (4)
Norma made the Alfredo sauce and we all made the pasta. This was a surprisingly simple dish, and I liked it a lot more than I've liked it before (presumably not homemade, I guess).
Again, we had nothing left to take home, because we ate everything right after we made it.
Eggs Benedict (4)
We had to work alone today and make Eggs Benedict, which requires a poached egg, Hollandaise sauce, a slice of Canadian bacon, and a toasted English muffin. I toasted mine with butter nooks and crannies side down, and it came out amazing. I didn't break my Hollandaise, and I guess my egg was perfect; Chef Mary said so. I'm so proud of myself about today!
I had to make a potato side dish for the Benedict, either Pommes Anna or Rosti potatoes. I chose the Rosti, which is like a hash brown thing, because I tried to make Pommes Anna this weekend and ended up with potato chips (got a little overzealous with my brand new mandolin!). My Rosti could have been better, but in the end we were only graded on the Benedict, and I'm so happy I got a 4! I ate my Benedict after the Chefs tried it, and I loved it! I guess Hollandaise is only gross when I have to taste it by itself for seasoning.
A guy who goes to my bar apparently went to my school, and told me to say hi to Chef Mary and Chef Kupper. He's a tattoo artist, kind of a weirdo, little bit of a douchebag. When I told them he said hi, their reaction was a mix of curiosity, restraint, and glances back and forth at each other which tells me that we are definitely talking about the same person. Chef Kupper asked me, "When did he drop out," and I took great pleasure in telling him, "Right after your class."
Tomorrow we're back into groups and we're starting meat! We've got Veal Marsala, Asian glazed pork chops, and Steak Diane. I'm so stoked about tomorrow.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Foundations I (one, not I as in me) was fine and easy. We learned about different herbs and spices, different cooking techniques, knife skills, kitchen equipment, things like that. I didn't have much to say back then so I'm starting this blog now. That block (we go in six week blocks), I had Communications, as well as Sanitation. I have straight As so far.
Let me just say that cleaning an entire professional kitchen is really hard, as in, takes 20 people an hour to do it hard. I mean, we have to wash all our dishes, but we’re usually cleaning as we go, so I have no idea why it’s so tedious.
I’m in Foundations II right now, which is pretty basic cooking. I have two chefs, Chef Kupper and Chef Mary. Chef Kupper is incredibly long-winded and likes to "motivate" us by yelling or being "relatable," but we all love Chef Mary.
So far, we’ve made stock, sauce, soup, rice and grain dishes, and potato dishes. I’m posting this now because it’s just getting interesting. In fact, we’ve been polishing off everything we’ve been making for the past few days. This is bad for two reasons:
- If Devin wants anything from school, I’m going to have to make it again.
- I am really, really full on the drive home.
I’ll post the dishes that we’ve made each couple of days, and I’ll post the grade my team got on each one. If it’s less than a 4 (an A), I will post the reason.
Here’s the grading scale.
4 = A
3 = B
2 = C
1 = D
0 = F (This only happens if you don’t turn something in)
Any infraction gets you knocked down one point, so if something is undercooked, it would be a 3. If it was undercooked and underseasoned, it would be a 2. I hope that makes sense.
I’ll start with Tuesday’s dishes, so I’ll have three days worth of dishes here. We had Monday off, and hopefully I can post again tomorrow with Friday’s dishes.
Lentils in Cream (4)
This is a lentil dish that incorporates garlic, some herbs, mirepoix (2 parts onion, 1 part each carrot and celery), clarified butter, chicken stock, and heavy cream. It was delicious, almost like a creamy lentil soup.
My team chose me to make this, which is smart considering the facts that a) I’m Lebanese and b) they’ve all already had my hummus. It turned out perfectly, as it usually does when I make it.
Falafel (3- we added too much flour; we had to because one or more of our ingredients was too wet when we added it to the mix)
I have had falafel a few times, but I had never made it. I like its spice- lots of cumin and coriander. You can’t go wrong with chickpeas, either, or using a deep fryer.
Pommes Puree (4)
This is really just very finely ground mashed potatoes. We used the food mill to get them really fine and smooth. It was really good, especially with the bacon we fried on the side when we had a bit of extra time.
Pommes Anna (4)
This is a dish made from very thinly sliced potatoes (watch your fingers on the mandolin, though!) layered in circles in a pan that contains hot clarified butter. Each layer gets some more clarified butter, and once the pancake like potato thing is formed, it goes in the oven. It’s supposed to be cut into wedges for service, but we tore into it after the chefs tasted it too fast for that.
Pommes Frittes (4)
French fries. All we did that isn’t super obvious is blanch the fries (fry them once) before the final fry, so they got fried twice. Ketchup with
You need Pommes Duchess to make Pommes
Gratin Dauphinoise (4)
This is a casserole made of thinly sliced potatoes layered with gruyere cheese. The sauce used to bind it is milk, heavy cream, egg yolk, and thyme. It’s seasoned with salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. We baked this one for 45 minutes, and it turned out heavenly. I think the four of us (plus two people from other teams who stole some) ate the whole thing in five minutes.
Gnocchi with Vodka Sauce (4)
If you’ve never had fresh gnocchi, try to make it. It’s not difficult, and it’s so much softer than the kind from the store. I don’t think I’ll ever buy gnocchi at the store again. Vodka sauce is my favorite pasta sauce and always has been, and I’ve made it before, so that was my pet project today. It came out perfectly!
Rosti Potatoes (3- too thin)
Chef called this the hangover food, because all you really have to do is heat butter in a small sauté pan, grate some potatoes that are halfway cooked, and form them into a sort of pancake. It was like a really nice hash brown. We made three of them, and the one we turned in for a grade was too thin, so we got knocked down a point, but it was still delicious.
Stay tuned for more news and recipes from Le Cordon Bleu.
Small update. Today is Thursday, and for dinner, I’m making Dauphinoise and the gnocchi with vodka sauce. I told you I’d have to make more for Devin when I eat it all at school!