Culinary Arts Project

The Battle of the Hollandaise, James Beard House, and Kitchen Vocabulary – Day 74


  • When rolling your pasta dough through the final time to create the fettucine from a wide piece, trim the ends so you don’t end up with spikey and uneven fettucine.
  • If you cut your bread before service, put a damp towel over it to keep it fresh.
  • Never close the oven with your foot – it’s dangerous, and slams the door loudly which impacts not only the food but the chef you’re volunteering for at the James Beard House! Ooops.

While there was much less panic in the kitchen today, I still had my troubles. I’m really wrestling with what should be one of the simpler dishes – poached eggs with Hollandaise. My problem is how to serve this dish pipeing hot!!!!

Stewart vs. Hollandaise - Round 1
Stewart vs. Hollandaise – Round 1
Luis losing his battle with the lemon tart dough
Luis losing his battle with the lemon tart dough
A bass losing his battle with Miyako
A bass losing a battle with Miyako

I started my battle with the Hollandaise early: took 2 eggs yolks, 25ml of water, and started whisking them over a hot water bath. It took for ever to turn into a sabayon (almost liked soft whipped cream).Then off heat, I slowly added the clarified butter, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, “more lemon juice” according to Vitor, and some salt. It tasted ok, but the problem was how to keep it hot. Apparently the trick is to double bowl it and then put it over a hot water bath, which I tried. I got my vegetables reheating in butter, and then tasted the Hollandaise and now it was cold. Ugh. Turned up the heat on the hot water bath, poached my eggs, shocked them in ice, trimmed them, and then got them ready to go into salted hot (not boiling) water so that they would reheat but not cook. I looked up and my Hollandaise had curdled. Aaaaahh!!! Back to the drawing board. Wipe out the bowl, two more egg yolks and some water, and I start to whip again. This time it literally took less than two minutes and I had my sabayon (nothing like a pre-heated bowl I guess). It was like magic. I added the butter, cayenne, juice, salt, and put it back on the doubled water bath, but no way I was going to turn the heat up on it this time. Three minutes till plating time, so I put my poached eggs in the hot water, fill the mold with my vegetables, put the eggs on top, cover with Hollandaise, put the “tomato peel cross” on it, and run to the chef’s table….

Dolma getting accolades from the chef, in front of Chef Sayhac - the dean of the school!!!!!!!!
Dolma getting accolades from the chef, in front of Chef Sailhac – the dean and founder of the school!!!!!!!!
The chef asks "Whose perfect papillote is this?"
The chef asks “Whose perfect papillote is this?”

…total disaster. My Hollandaise was lukewarm with too much lemon and cayenne, the eggs were also only lukewarm, my vegetables were ok but I didn’t have enough of them, and the tomato peel was too thin. Total defeat. The only way I can see to pulling this off is to poach the eggs and make the Hollandaise right at time of service. This reheating business doesn’t work so well, plus you risk “breaking” your Hollandaise (which happened to a lot of people in the class).

The beef bourguignon was better, but I over-reduced my sauce a bit. I just love the smell in the kitchen when people take the cover off the braising dish. Heaven!

The "kitchen cam" at the James Beard House
The “kitchen cam” at the James Beard House

Saturday, I had such and incredible time at the James Beard House. I was the only volunteer, so it was famous Vermont Chef Kruse, his crew and me. I couldn’t believe it but he let me sear all the bacon wrapped sous-vide rabbit (which was one of the signature dishes), the whole team really took me under their arm. The Sous-Chef, Chef Juan (from Costa Rica) was my boss, and taught me all sorts of tricks. I also realized how much Culinary School had taught me particularly in the “kitchen vocabulary” department. Like in most disciplines, the kitchen has its own vocabulary. Had I been volunteering at JBH prior to culinary school, I would have had no idea what the chef’s were talking about: “hotel pan”, “sheet pan”, “half pan”, “china cap”, “chinois”, “circulator”, “Hobart”, “combi”. After the meal, the chef and his team walked around and talked to the tables. I was honored to be asked to join them. When not panicking, I was grinning ear-to-ear all night.