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Culinary Arts Project

Another Mock Final, The Trail Report, and dirty dishes – Day 72

TODAY’S TIDBITS

  • Always shave before going to a “trail” (see note below).
  • Rotate your profiterole pan in the oven half-way through the baking. You can really see the different hotspots in oven with a tray of profiteroles. Some definitely get baked before others, so it’s always a good idea to rotate anything you’re baking half-way through.
  • Use an electronic scale for baking. A mechanical scale works well enough for protein cooking, but for baking you need better accuracy.

Today was another mock final. I walked in (just in time, I got a flat tire riding to work today), picked up number B6 which meant I plate at 1:10 (salmon) and 1:50 (profiteroles). We had roll call, chef reminded us of some of the more common errors, and then BAM, we’re off.

Running the elements full flame after clean up to burn off any grit.
Running the elements full flame after clean up to burn off any grit.
Sometimes the dishes pile up, even in a professional kitchen.
Sometimes the dishes pile up, even in a professional kitchen.
Pre-oven profiteroles
Pre-oven profiteroles

I could tell within 10 minutes that my profiterole dough “wasn’t like the others”. It seemed to take forever to absorb the eggs, it didn’t seem to dry well, and when I piped it out it looked a little flat. I stuck them in the oven anyway, but they came out looking like Alton’s macaroons (Alton’s now got a copyright on macaroon-looking profiteroles). Mentally, it seems so hard to throw it all out and start again. If it was just another step in the recipe, it would be no problem, but psychologically starting over seems twice as difficult. Anyway, into the garbage they went, and off to make another batch. I felt slightly better when I saw Emma “bin” all hers as well. Misery likes company I guess. Joe mentioned that I was using an analog scale to measure the ingredients (my digital scale shattered) and that was probably the cause. The analog scale is closeish (and good enough for non-baking recipes), but “4 grams too much of one baking ingredient, and 4 grams too little of another, and suddenly your ratios are all off”. I borrowed Meagan’s digital scale, and the second batch worked fine. I also wasn’t happy with my spinach (I had slightly burned the garlic and slightly over-salted). Having just re-done the profiteroles, it was somehow easier to “bin it” and re-do the spinach as well. I was pretty happy with my dishes, though my white wine sauce came out a bit thick. Chef Joe and I agreed that the wonderful wine-fumet sauce smells sooooo good, and like a fancy French kitchen should. It certainly was one of the WOW flavours we had back in Level 1.

Salade nicoise vinegar infusing with garlic.
Salade nicoise vinegar infusing with garlic.
Miyako searing the dark meats of the chicken before putting in the oven
Miyako searing the dark meats of the chicken before putting in the oven

Many of us are reporting back on the “trails” for our externships. Trails are the kitchen equivalent of a job interview, where you are basically “trailing” someone in the kitchen doing what they tell you to do for a whole shift. For our 200 hour externships, you basically go do a trail and then they tell you if you can do your externship there. This is how it worked for Joe at Betony, and Alton at ABC kitchen for example. Yesterday, Vitor showed up for his trail at The Modern slightly unshaven, so the chef gave him a razor and told him to go shave. Somewhere along the way to the bathroom Vitor lost the razor, so he used his potato peeler!!!!!! Ouch!!!!!! Rachel went to hers all ready to spend the day in the kitchen, but it turned out to be a traditional hour interview which she passed and now she has to go back to trail. Pablo reported being amazed at Le Chevalier – apparently they have a chandelier in the kitchen(?!). Good luck to Dalal “trailing” at Mercer kitchen today. I still haven’t heard back from my restaurants, but Gina is suggesting and alternative: JoJos, which doesn’t “sound” fancy, but JoJo is actually Jean-Georges nickname and is one of his restaurants, so it might be a fantastic experience.

Tomorrow some us start the famed Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy) which is marinading tonight in wine, mirepoix and a garlic bouquet garni (thyme, garlic, bay leaf, pepper corns wrapped in a cheese cloth – see main pic). We also make our own pasta for this. I can’t wait.

Happy birthday to Joanne who was a welcome sight back in the kitchen today.

Categories
Culinary Arts Project

The Sun Also Rises – Back on our feet – Day 71

TODAY’S TIDBITS

  • Add the powdered sugar to your cream only after it starts to gain some volume. This results in a better whip.
  • When cutting the tops of your profiteroles, align the bread knife parallel to the bottom of profiterole. It’s natural to align the knife with the top that you’re cutting off, but may end up with a wonky base, and the base has to hold the cream.
  • If you buy a knife sharpening stone, get the 1000 grit stone. Ideally you can get a stone that is 300 (rougher) on one side and 1000 on the other and use the 300 grit if your knife is really dull. But regular use of the 1000 grit should be fine.

Today was a much better day than yesterday. It was the second day we were all doing our dishes, we knew what we had to do, we certainly knew what NOT to do (see yesterday’s post!), so it was noses to the grindstone and whisks in the crème chantilly.– time to deliver for the chefs.

Grilled salmon with the sauce "locked in".
Grilled salmon with the sauce “locked in”.
Chef Dominique and Chef Joe prepare bouquet garnis.
Chef Dominique and Chef Joe prepare bouquet garnis.

We were rewarded by a “plates of pride” display, rather than our usual “plates of shame”. In the words of our chefs “A big rebound from yesterday”, “bigtime difference”, “everyone manchonneéd”, “garnitures looked nice”, etc… The two areas we seem to miss are getting the sauces perfect, and those darn pearl onions, but we’ll get there.

I made minor alterations to my dishes today. I grilled the presentation side of the salmon “at 2 oclock” for 20 seconds, and then “at 10 oclock” for 20 seconds. This is way longer than the recipe calls for, but I wanted to get those real nice dark sear lines. I then flipped the fillets over and only seared for 5 seconds. I still ended up with a succulent piece of fish, just a little under-seared on the plate side, but nobody looks at that side anyway. I also plated the dish as Erik recommended which was to make the fillet create a dam to prevent the wonderful wine-cream-herb sauce from spilling all over the plate, and definitely kept my herb out of the sauce till the very last second so they were green and fragrant.

Meagan and Spencer standing at attention
Meagan and Spencer standing at attention
Joe leaning at attention
Joe leaning at attention
Our "plates of pride"
Our “plates of pride”

I experimented with putting more sugar in the cream puff dough, but didn’t really notice any difference. Where I did put more sugar was the Crème Chantilly. “CC” is whipped cream with a bit of vanilla and a pinch of powdered sugar. I’ve decided that if you are using it more as a decoration then it should be “lightly” sugared, but if you’re using it “in” the dessert then it should be more “heavily” sugared – particularly because the dough isn’t sweet. If it is going with fresh fruit, it is better to lighten up on the sugar, because you don’t want the fruit tasting sour.

I plated a total of 12 profiteroles, and definitely wasn’t going to eat them all, so I walked across the hall and gave them to the pastry class. I figured I could pay back them a little for all the wonderful bread we’ve been getting from them. But it was a bit risky giving pastry to the professional pastry class.

Speaking of sweet, we have one more day of practicing these recipes, and then its on to the Lemon Tart, which I’m really looking forward to.

Salmon at "10 o'clock"
Salmon at “10 o’clock”
Me straining my fumet. Thanks Dalal for taking all the pics today!
Me straining my fumet. Thanks Dalal for taking all the pics today!

The class felt a bit smaller today. Joanne was out sick (get better soon!!!!), and Pablo/Vitor/Rachel all add to leave to do their “trails”. This is when you do a shift at a restaurant to see if they want you to extern there. I still haven’t heard back from my restaurants (Jean-Georges, and Lucien) so I’m starting to get nervous. On the good side, the James Beard House called, and I’m working for Chef Kruse on Saturday. He features food from the Lake Champlain area – I see at 16 hour cooked pork belly, and Sous Vide rabbit loins on the menu. Yum.

Categories
Culinary Arts Project

The Hammer Drops: Blood, Sweat and Tears – Day 70

TODAY’S TIDBITS

  • Powdered sugar through a cheese cloth gives a much finer “sprinkle” than through a sieve.
  • Chives+chervil+Tarragon is a great combination of herbs for fish – beats the standard parsley by miles. (especially the tarragon).
  • Gently tap the salmon skillets under plastic with the side of a butcher’s hammer to flatten them out so that they are the same thickness throughout, and therefore cook evenly.

It was pretty chaotic in the kitchen today. Half the class got hit with the tsunami of doing the nicoise/grand mere chicken combined, both dishes for the first time. These dishes have an incredible amount of garniture preparation, and you really don’t have any time to spare, and it’s easy to find behind, as many found out.

Joanne's bandage
Dolma looks at Joanne’s war wound.
Chef Joe and Alton discuss why his profiteroles didn't "texturize"
Chef Joe and Alton discuss why his profiteroles didn’t “texturize”
Terrence nicoise under inspection.
Terrence nicoise under inspection.

One student was 10 minutes late to the chef’s station. Also, many of us did things today that the chefs have been telling us not to over and over, which led to a somewhat exasperated chef’s station. Not only that, but the usual jovial Joe had to leave early to do his externship trail so he was under pressure, Joanne burned her arm, several people “cracked”, and I can’t tell you how many infractions Vitor committed. This all contributed to quite the tension/pressure in the kitchen. To be honest, it was exactly the craziness I thought all of Level 4 was going to be.

To give you a sense, in the words of our frustrated chefs: “Not a good day today”, “lot’s of sloppiness”, “it was like a pizza parlor here today”, “if you don’t have your note cards, next time you’re out”, “peel over your bowl – this is level 1 stuff”, “follow the directions”, “only take what you need”, “a lot of people we’re late”, “the dishes have to be HOT”, “the sautoir has to be very hot, or the chicken skin will come off”, “properly remove the salad from the water, don’t just pour the water out”, “eggs were under-cooked”, “eggs were over-cooked”, “food was under-seasoned”. “manchonner, every day we have to remind you to manchonner”, “the jus was too runny”, “bone with bone-out, white with dark meat”. Ouch! Guaranteed we’re going to do better tomorrow chef!

Meagan "went for it", with four plates.....
Meagan “went for it” with four plates…..
......so did Stewart
……so did Stewart

Amid all this though, with some tag-teaming with Erik, I actually had an ok day, but I could definitely feel the tension all around. My dishes were the easier grilled salmon with a cream herb sauce, and profiteroles. The salmon dish tasted amazing (if I do say so myself!). We made our own fish stock starting with 1L of water, fish parts/bones, mirepoix, thyme, bouquet garni. This was boiled down to half, and then added to wine/butter shallots glaze, and then heavy cream was further added, reduced down, a few drops of lemon juice, s&p, and at the last minute the herbs (chervil, tarragon, chives). Reduce reduce reduce, concentrate concentrate concentrate. This ended up being just a few tablespoons of heaven. The fish was served with a rice pilaf and spinach with garlic, s&p, and the amazing addition of nutmeg.

No eyeballs in the fumet!
No eyeballs in the fumet!
Emma: it's hammer time!
Emma: it’s hammer time!
Vitor, in a rare instance of not committing an infraction today!
Vitor, in a rare instance of not committing an infraction today!

The profiteroles were “easy-ish”. The dough is pretty straightforward – you boil water with butter, salt and sugar, then add in flour, mix, dry it a bit over the heat and then off-heat you gradually add eggs till the “Israelites make it but the Egyptians don’t” (see Day 29). My batter took 4½ eggs. You pipe this out and bake for 20mins, cut them open, stuff with crème Chantilly, sprinkle powdered sugar and place over a dark chocolate sauce. Yum! I always think that “Pate a choux” by itself tastes a bit bland (as its supposed to). I’m going to try and sneak in some extra sugar tomorrow to see the effect.

To top all the mayhem off, after we were done, we had a “Poissonier” written exam – thank goodness I studies the skate, salmon, and bass recipes for that one.

Thanks for those that are sending in meatball recipes for the contest. You can email them to me at stewart1234@sympatico.ca if you prefer.

Categories
Culinary Arts Project

Vacuum-infusing a Watermelon, Sous Vide, and Salade Nicoise – Day 67

TODAY’S TIDBITS

  • Magic infusing liquid: Yuzu juice + Elderberry Cordial. This combination of sweet and sour tastes incredible.
  • To instant peel a hard boiled egg – roll it around hard on the counter till it’s all broken like a web and you can peel it off in once piece instantly.
  • “Snap” your green beans AFTER boiling them – if you cut the ends off before boiling they tend to absorb more water and become a little more watery – it’s better to cut “on the bias” after they’re cooked.

Today we all experienced incredible new tastes. Chef Hervé took the afternoon shift and taught us all about Sous Vide, Low Temperature Cooking, and Vacuum Infusing. Sous Vide (literally “Under Vacuum”) is a recent way of cooking where meats or vegetables are vacuum sealed in a bag, and then put in circulating water at the desired “final temperature”.

Chef Herve demonstrating the vacuum machine.
Chef Herve demonstrating the vacuum machine.
Eggs "sous vide"
Eggs “sous vide”
Pickled watermelon rind
Instantly pickled shaved watermelon rind

Conventionally, if you were cooking a medium-rare steak you want an internal temperature of 145F, but you would set your oven way higher at 400F, and wait for the meat to get to that temperature. In all probability, the outside will be more done than the inside, and getting it perfect without drying it can be tough. In Sous Vide cooking the meat would be put in 145F water for many hours, and the whole meat will gradually come up to that temperature but no higher. Perfectly cooked! (and super moist too because nothing is drying out the meat). Meat will be grilled before (or after or both) to get that nice browning flavor to boot. (Apparently Jean-Georges where I’m hoping to extern does all their vegetables this way.)

What this all means is that you can cook food to the exact temperature you want and get PERFECT results every time. Chef Hervé really brought this home by showing us eggs that were cooked at 57C, 62C, 63C, 64C, 65C, etc… The one degree differences were incredible, and we all agreed 62.5C would yield the perfect poached egg. The 65C egg is at the exact temperature that the yolk is “like playdough” and you can fashion it in to a square – crazy.

Chef Dominique demo's the salad nicoise
Chef Dominique demo’s the salad nicoise
Got the thumbs up for my nicoises
Got the thumbs up for my nicoises
Megan building her profiteroles.
Megan building her profiteroles.

The real magic today, however, was using the vacuum machine to infuse foods. Watermelon cubes were put in a bag with a mixture of Yuzu Juice (a nice sour juice) and Elderberry Cordial (mellow sweet). This bag was put into the vacuum machine which first sucks all the air out of the watermelon and then when exposed back to atmospheric pressure, presses all the juice into all the spaces where the air was. It all takes about 10 seconds, and tastes incredible. Chef also took watermelon rind peelings and infused it with a pickling juice. In 30 seconds we had incredibly tasting watermelon rind shavings. The whole class couldn’t believe what we were tasting. Part 2 of the class is tomorrow. We can’t wait.

The morning was Salade Nicoise for half of us, and Profiteroles over Chocolate for the other. I was in the salad group, and tried to remember all the tips: I infused my wine vinegar with crushed garlic (not diced) and s&p before adding the oil, boiled the eggs for exactly 11 minutes, used waxy potatoes cooked with the skin on before cutting and peeling, infuse the potatoes with dressing while they are still warm, cooked the beans before ‘snapping’ them, peeled the green peppers to make them more supple, carefully ‘vinaigretting’ each item separately, alternate between green and not green on the plate, don’t overlap the rim, cut the nicoise olives in half, super fine chop the parsley, and present using a tray. It was worth all the trouble, all the elements got two thumbs up from the chefs.

Keep your eyes open for a meatball competition coming soon!