Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Day 20 of PCA II – Aflac! Duck Season!

We did two duck dishes this evening. I’ve never cooked duck before so a lot of learning for me this evening.

Our first dish was Pan Roasted Breast of Duck with Spiced Butternut Squash, Roasted Plums, Plum Gastrique and Duck Glace. (Yeah say that 3 times fast) I knew duck was a very fatty poultry but had no clue how fatty. If you’re doing the duck breast you need to render the fat out first. After 2 duck breasts for the first dish I think I had enough fat in the bottom of that pan to fill milk jug. This was my favorite of the two dishes because the roasted plums were very tasty. Like Chef Rorschach said “Duck loves fruit” and she was right. The butternut squash had a really good flavor and the ‘spicy’ from the cloves and cinnamon were a nice contrast to the sweet plum sauce. The flavors complimented each other very well. If you get a good sear on the skin it’s very good!

Our second dish was Tea-Smoked Duck Breast with Kabocha Squash Puree, Gingered Tangerines and Tangerine Gastrique with Arugula. To me this recipe was a disaster. (Eddie, my partner this week will tell you it was the first one because I so totally over browned…ok ok…burned the duck breasts) Our tangerine gastrique came out good on flavor…if you like chewing it. We kept adding water to thin it out but to no avail. Eddie had a wonderful idea and drizzled some on parchment paper and put it in the fridge to chill and then we inverted them on the plate for height. It looked great! That is until they started melting from the heat of the duck Hahaha. Ok A+ for effort. The tea smoke was, shall we say aromatic. 7 bain maries filling the air with concentrated smoke even with the exhaust fans going full mill can make ones nose start to twitch. The smoke added a very nice subtle flavor to the duck. The tangerines would not have been my first choice of fruit to use and to me the flavor was not as delicate as the plum. It over powered the flavor of the duck and on this dish the duck was the show.

Chef didn’t like either recipe for the squash because it had us roasting both and mashing them up. The texture is just not pleasant. She wants them to change the recipe and I hope they do. My preference would have been to dice them up in 1 inch cubes and pan sauté them in butter with the spices or with just butter.

Duck has an interesting flavor. Not something I’m opposed to which kind of surprised me.

Then came the controversy. Lol I think we have more drama in our class that of a soap opera. We were each asked to bring in a box of cascade powered dishwashing soap. Our class would be scouring all the pots and pans. Ok I’m not opposed to this, that’s part of ‘working in a kitchen’. What I am opposed to is, there are 3 classes that use these pots and pans, Class A, B and C. We are in C. However, class A nor B was asked to purchase any cascade at their expense nor are they being asked to clean any of the pots and pans. I can’t tell you how many times we come in to a messy kitchen yet they walk in to a pristine one because we do what we are supposed to do. I don’t much care for double standards. Everybody should be held accountable! If you’re not prepared to make all students do something equally then don’t single out one class. Our tuitions are not cheap, yet the students have to pay for cleaning supplies? And later this week we have to each bring in a chicken to fabricate. This is the thorn in my side. The school, based on my tuition should provide me with any and all needed supplies contusive to learning. Chef told Carrie that “…the director, who is a clean freak, has certain high standards and expects us all to meet them. He is also technically your boss…” at this I thought Carrie was going to lose it. She looked at chef and said “…he is not my boss. I don’t pay my boss to come to work. We are his boss because without students he doesn’t have a job or a school.” Carrie is a very intelligent woman and very opinionated. I just love her! She is a no nonsense type of woman and does not tolerate idiocy.

I realize that Chef was only trying to take the initiative to ‘do the right thing’ and got a ear full because of it. To her she just saw a job that needed to get done and decided she’d do it hoping that the rest of us would rally behind her. I think that if we had the same chef instructors throughout the entire course that would happen. You feel a loyalty and sense of pride. But for some they just want to come in, cook and leave. For others we bond with our classmates and our teachers. I have the highest respect for Chef Rorschach. And because it’s her I’ll bust my hump and get things done. I take great pride in most of my classmates and my instructors. And lo to anyone who disrespects them in anyway.

But tomorrow we’re doing Tempura! How’s that for a topic change…no segway just out there Haha. I love tempura! I hope they have extra shrimp because I’m going to be hungry tonight.

Until tomorrow!....

Day 19 of PCA II – Game Hens and Pork Tenderloins

We learned the art of Poele’ Roasting (Roasting in something’s own juices and basting) and regular roasting.

Tonight we did Poele’ Roasted Game Hens and Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Duxelle. The game hens I found to be blasé. While we browned the skin a bit, roasting covered doesn’t allow for the skin to get golden brown. They end up look pasty. Not something very appetizing looking to me. They were also stuffed with a mixture of bread cubes, sautéed apples and seasonings. I love stuffing and dressing. But I prefer to have them mixed together for a good texture. Not all gummy or all dried.

The pork tenderloin was good. The Duxelle was made by another class. While it is a mixture without a lot of moisture I think I would have added something to pump it up a bit. Mushrooms sautéed in butter, wine with shallots are bland. I will have to experiment with this one and see what I can come up with.

We lost another classmate tonight, Jay. He finally got into the morning class that he’s been trying to get into since he started but it was too full. We’re now 14 from our original 21. He was one of the chefs favorites in our last class. Not so much this class. I will say the Chef Instructors treat us all with the same level of professionalism no matter what our backgrounds or educations. Very refreshing. I am concerned that one of the students is trying to take advantage of one of the chef instructors. He’s a smart guy so he’s probably already very aware. I hate girls who do the “Oh woE is mE” ploy to get what they want. Or they cry for attention. Several of us have discussed this at some depth to try and figure out why she does it. It’s not going to make her grades any higher. She’ll get the same certificate as the rest of us. *shrug* There is not figuring some people out. It also amazes us how this person can look so incredibly busy doing absolutely nothing until the very last second and then gets noticed and has made herself look like she’s working all alone and working so hard and the rest of us hadn’t done a thing.

It’s very interesting when I read cooking magazines now. I remember reading them 1 year ago and when they’d describe a technique I’d have to read it a couple of times to get the gist of it. Now I read them and they’ll say something ‘truss the chicken’ ok don’t have to read that just do it. Or to make a pan sauce…don’t need this paragraph move on. I believe I’ll get a lot more out of my magazines and cookbooks because so much is clearer. Perhaps recipes I was intimidated to try before will jump off the page and say “You can do this with ease!”

It’s very hard to believe that PCA II is winding down and we’ll be off to CCT (Cold Prep) and then baking. (called PCA III) I’m not feeling as excited to move on this time. When I was going from PCA I to to PCA II I was ecstatic! I could not wait to get in the new kitchen and really start pouring it on. But from what I gather of PCA III it’s very slow and methodical. What I hope to get out of it is attention to detail and more on presentation ideas. I hope we get another Chef Instructor who allows us to stretch out a bit and challenges us. We’ve gotten a bit spoiled here in PCA II.

A few of us went out Friday to relax. We ended up at a sports bar (Big Wangs hahahaha) and had a good time. It’s really nice to have folks to relax with after class so when you complain they’re right there with you nodding in total understanding.

We’ve all come a long way from that first day.

Monday we do insurance..I mean Aflac!...no I mean duck.

Until then!...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Day 18 of PCA II – Jimmy Buffet!! No just our Buffet :)

Well tonight was our buffet and I think it went fantastic! It was 10 times better than the other buffet we went to of the same class. Our flavors were off the hook. I only got a few pictures of us prepping and of our guests.

We even made Jamaican Tea. This stuff is addicting! I have never had it before and I swear I drank a gallon. I made the cornbread and churros and then helped out where needed and kept myself in the back of the house. There were a lot of folks that came last night which was good to see, especially because they get to see what we do. I wish they’d let them come in early and watch us prep so they have a really good idea of what goes into one of these events, because they just see the end results.

Kudo’s to Lynndy and her world famous hushpuppies (wink wink nudge nudge)! They went like hotcakes. Carrie made fresh tortillas. I filled one up with the carnitas, talk about flavor. Marcella made sopa’s. I had never had one of these, they’re really good. And Johnny made Indian fry bread. We really had a lot of different dishes going on and it was nice because it wasn’t just everything listed in the book. We got to branch out a bit. We branched out so much that our Carnitas which should have been beef became pork. I’m not sure how that happened but they tasted great so I didn’t care.

I also brought in decorations for the tables. Forgot to get a picture of those. I got small white candles and put 4 jalapeno chilies around the edge and then 4 red chilies in a star pattern around the candle. I then took a red checker table cloth and cut large squares of them and put the white plates with the candles and chilies on top of that. I also brought in caramels to spread out on the tables. I think they looked really good. At least this way the tables weren’t big empty blocks of wood. The serving table long red table cloths on with round red checkered ones on top of that. Then the chaffing dishes went on top of those.

The only confusing issue for the night was the servers who made certain dishes were up front serving. But we didn’t have a meeting before we got started so none of us runners knew where the extra food was. So when someone called out “I need more ribs” we had no idea what oven they were in. We had 9 ovens to check. Of course it’s always the last one you look in. And then..well why would you keep looking which of course makes it the last one…

I hope the Chefs were proud, they seemed to be. We’re learning more and more about flavor. I use a lot of salt when eating food and I now know why. Food you buy in a restaurant is rarely seasoned. They just cook up the ingredients and throw them out to the customers. But in quality restaurants the chefs taste everything before it goes out and add salt or pepper or whatever is needed for the dish. When I eat food that we’ve prepared and properly season I don’t need to add salt.

One kind of scary incident was when Scott was eating a piece of the fry bread and cut his tongue pretty good on it. Now how we don’t know as there shouldn’t have been anything sharp in the bread, but whatever it was did a number on him. I’m just very happy (in an odd sort of way) that it happened to ‘one of us’ than to one of our guests. That would have been a nightmare, particularly if it had been one of the kids. I hope the Chefs reiterate how important it is to keep your station(s) clean and neat.

We’re down to the last week of actual cooking and learning new stuff and then the following week (first week in Nov.) is our finals for PCA II. Can you believe that?! It seems like yesterday I started this blog not almost 12 weeks ago.

Tomorrow is stuffed pork tenderloin and game hens. Sounds delish!

Until tomorrow!...

Chef Romero checks for proper temperatures. Chef Rorschach (back ground) ensure students are on task.

The doors open and the fun begins.

The 'back of the house'. Oh boys will be boys. Here we have from left to right - Andy, Eddie, Scott and Edgar.

Our guests are enjoying a good meal. Posted by Picasa

Day 17 of PCA II – Buffet Prep

Wow seems like only yesterday I was posting about our buffet in PCA I when we did all the egg dishes. Yet here we are prep’ing for ours.

On the menu is – Carnitas, Sopas, Indian Fry Bread, BBQ Beans, Refried Beans, BBQ Ribs, Onion Rings, Hushpuppies, Mac n Cheese, fresh made tortillas, Spanish rice, fresh salsa, guacamole and churros. The evening went very well. We were each given a task(s) and we all got done in a good time.

I think Chef Romero was frustrated this evening because our boxes were not filled with the ingredients we needed. Granted we changed things up a bit, but there wasn’t the correct stuff in them even if we had gone with the menu in the book. But I think we’ll make him proud.

Chef Romero let Lynndy and I work on cornbread. This wasn’t on the menu but we think it’ll add a nice flavor. We decided to make Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Cornbread. This may have been the dish that pushed Chef over the edge. We needed cheese, about 5 cups of it. Well the folks on the Mac n Cheese dish used all the cheese they were given. So when I ask for cheese I was told to go get the extra from the Mac team. Well they didn’t have any. Chef says “Are you kidding me?” I’m thinking..um no wouldn’t kid you sir. But I kept my mouth shut and he indicated he would go check. Well on prep night everything is Chef this and Chef that, they’re pulled every which way but loose. And it’s only because we want to do it right because it reflects on us as a class, but also on our instructors – who we’re very proud of. So it’s in us to do well. So as he’s making his way to check on cheese he gets stopped like 5 times and works his way back to our station. Of course I only have 3 small things to worry about so my mood is still really good and high energy and my mouth opens (now my brain is say shut the hell up and let him tell you when he’s good and ready…but my mouth..well) “Hey Chef where’s the good cheese? You can’t get too distracted from the cheese.” Well I’m glad laser beams don’t shoot out of eyes for real like they do in the movies or I’d be toast. I truly meant it to be light hearted and fun, but wow did it get taken the wrong way. I just stayed out of the way from that point on.

Chef Rorschach and I worked on the Churros. I’ve eaten them a million times at the fairs and such but have never made them. It’s a fun sticky dough. I can’t wait to fry them up and cover em with sugar.

I don’t have any guests coming I gave my tickets to Eddie. So I’m hoping the chefs put me in the back again so those with family and friends can be out front and shine and showoff.

I’ll post pictures tomorrow of our event.

Until then!...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Day 16 of PCA II – Roasting

For me this was a very interesting night because it answered a question I always had about roasts in general. We did a flayed leg of lamb roast. Now I’m not a big fan of lamb but this tasted very good. But on to what I learned. No one is allowed to comment, text, email or post to me the following “You didn’t know that?!”

So I used to always buy a rolled roast- beef. I would season it very well, and cook it up nicely but to me the only flavorful part was the outside edges. My mother-in-law used to make small slits in her roasts and stuff garlic down inside, which I started doing. It helped a bit, but again only that meat what was near the garlic had any flavor.

Outcomes this leg of lamb, boneless, wrapped in twine like my beef roasts come. Well darn if the Chef didn’t take all that twine off, open that puppy up and butterfly it out to make it even. He then scored it inside and smeared the seasoning mixture all over it. Then tucked the sides in and rolled it back into shape, trussed it up and then roasted it. Talk about day and night in flavor! All I could think about was this weekend getting a roast and playing around with some seasonings and having fun with it.

We also did a roast chicken with stuffing and roasted vegetables. These there done separately and I must say the parsnips were really good. It included carrots, parsnips, onions, sweet potatoes and a beet that was roasted in foil to avoid turning everything wine color. Ok as for the beet. I’m trying to Google search farms near nuclear power plants. Every beet I have ever seen has been the size of about 2 golf balls. These suckers were the size over stuff softballs – not baseballs but softballs. They were flippin huge! Let’s put it another way. One half of one of these freak vegetables would have fed a family of 4 and gave them leftovers! The chicken came very well. I love a good roasted chicken.

Our roasted lamb came out a bit overcooked. But it sure looked better than some of the others that were still bleeding. I was really pleased with the flavor. We served salt roasted fingerling potatoes along side of it. I felt the dish was missing something. Can’t quite put my finger on it, other than ‘greens’. The star of the show was the roasted lamb, but I don’t think the potatoes were an enhancement. Since I have so little experience with lamb I really can’t input an idea or thought here. The rub we put on it was a mixture of Dijon mustard, garlic, onion, olive oil.

Tomorrow is prep day. The ONLY nice thing about this is no dishes to present, just a lot of work to do. Gotta bring the energy tomorrow! I’m hoping to change their minds about a few of the recipes. The hush puppies have GOT to go. I would love to see dishes with big bold flavors. Had I know we had the option of changing it I would have been thinking about an entire menu. But I didn’t know of it till Friday and my brain was fried by then. They needed the ideas because in case they have to order anything special they’d have time. But we’ll see what happens.

Until Tomorrow!...

Day 15 PCA II – Let’s eat the fluffy white thing! Lamb Day has arrived.

Today we cooked lamb. We did two braised dishes, Lamb Shank Provencal (a garnish of sautéed onions, diced tomatoes, garlic and balsamic vinegar.) I wish I had my camera because it was a very lovely dish. Our other dish was Lamb Daube with Pappardelle (a shape of pasta).

The night went by relatively quickly. A lot of time was spent waiting for our meat to braise. We got it all done within 2 hours, but for meat to properly braise it should have gone for a couple of hours more.

This week we are also getting ready for our big buffet on Thursday. It’s a TexMex cuisine theme which makes me question why we’re doing Macaroni and Cheese, Hush Puppies and Onion Rings. We’ve decided to add homemade tortillas and churo’s. Now if only we can tell them to omit the country themed food.

Not much to report tonight so it’s a short read for you. However, someone wanted the recipes for the Dim Sum we did a few nights back. It’s a lot of stuff to type up on here so let me know your email address and I’ll email them to you. But don’t post your email addresses in the comment lines or you’ll get a lot of spam.

Until Tomorrow!...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Day 14 of PCA II – Curry Time

This was a good night. We again worked in teams of 5 for our curry dishes, but solo for the Coq au Vin dish.

Our last team of 5 included Emma, but she was out on Friday so we got Jay. Of course I had to pop off with my big mouth “Come on over to the ladies team Jay and we’ll teach you how to cook!” Of course the whole class did the OOOoOoooOOoo. Hahaha. I must say I was concerned about him joining our group and wondered how his arrogance would mesh with us. We were all pleasantly surprised. He pulled his weight, and got the message right off that we all check with each other on flavor, ideas etc. Made for a good team.

Tonight we made Yellow Curry, Green Curry and a totally 180 dish to the curry, Coq au Vin (Chicken that has been marinated in red wine and spices) and then is braised and topped with a pan sauce made from the marinade. Oh this was funny… the Chef was demo’ing this dish. Brown your onions and mushrooms, remove and set aside, then brown the chicken and remove and set aside. Then add ¼ cup brandy and reduce. Of course brandy + flame = Flambe and we all know this. Even those leaning on the edge of the stove looking over as the Chef pulled the pan off the stove, poured the brandy in and put it back over the flame. While it was funny as hell, it wasn’t funny…no..no..it was. That flame must have shot up 3 feet and common sense should have told the 2 gals to step back. We’ve done flambe’ foods before, we know the end result – Whoosh! One gal stepped back while feeling for her eyebrows. I think that’s where I lost it. Ok so maybe it wasn’t funny but I laughed like hell.

The curry came really, really good. The green was nice and spicy and yellow had that deep rich curry flavor. We served it with Raita and Naan (a flat bread normally used as the main utensil). I’ve only had a form of curry, nothing like what we made Friday evening. We wrapped it all up and packaged it to eat later, but more soon than later. We had another tailgate party, only this time at one of the students house. I won’t get into whom because they may not want it known. I don’t know about them but I laughed so much that night. It’s nice to have others who understand what it’s like to go through culinary school to talk with and laugh with outside the school. We all go home and talk with our families about what happened that night and they listen politely but just don’t understand why you got so upset when your hollandaise broke. To them it’s just a sauce no biggie. But to us it was a lot of work.

I also found out I’m show impaired. Not that this has anything to do with cooking, just thought it should be noted. I have the least amount of shoes to everyone. I think I have 9 pair total and my favorites are my chef shoes because they’re comfortable. It almost gave Carrie a heart attack. I might have pushed her over the edge with my comment of “I buy all my shoes at Payless”. Thank goodness that curry was hot and kept her heart going.

Next week we being our Lamb Fabrication along with our big banquet on Thursday. So I’ll assume that Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll be making the dishes for that banquet. Again I’m not bringing any family as the drive is just too long. I think the only thing I’ll bring them out for, if they do anything, is our graduation.

Here is a picture of our Curry dishes. Yes you can smell them from there.

Until Tomorrow!... Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 20, 2006

Dim Sum Platter

Here is a picture of the Dim Sum Platter. Does this look yummy or what?! Everything was made from scratch. Well except the sesame seeds. I got those out of a bag. But we toasted them!

 Posted by Picasa

Day 13 of PCA II – Dim Sum

What a fun night! The only thing I was familiar with was the pot stickers so everything was fun, fresh and new. But I jump ahead. The menu for tonight was –

Pot Stickers, Shu Mai, Har Gau and Cha Shao Bao

For those who don’t know what these things are

Pot Stickers – Won Ton wrappers filled with a mixture of meat and veggies and sauce. Ours was chicken, Chinese cabbage and scallions. These are then folded like a taco and crimped on the edges. They are browned in peanut oil on the bottom and then steamed to cook thru. Very yummy and served with a spicy soy mixture.

Shu Mai – Using the Won Ton wrappers again they are crimp to form small bowls. They are then filled with a pork and shrimp mixture. These are steamed only. I couldn’t eat enough of these.

Har Gau – Very pretty looking. The dough is made from wheat starch and looks a lot like fondant. A shrimp filling is then added and they are folded to resemble a purse. They are then steamed until the dough becomes translucent and you can see the beautiful pink shrimp inside.

Cha Shao Bao – First you make a bread dough. This is then formed into small rounds that you flatten out a bit. You then add a chopped pork mixture that has a wonderful sweet and spicy glaze. A small amount of this is added to the center and the dough is then closed over the top and sealed to form a round ball. These are placed into the steamer till the dough becomes firm. We then took some of the glaze and brushed it over the top and put them in the oven for a couple of minutes to finish them off. Holy cow these were delicious!

This night we did a groups of 5. Everyone in our group did so well. We had 4 dishes and then all the sauces. So Emma made all the sauces, I was in charge of pot stickers, Carrie did the Shu Mai, Abbie the Har Gau, Lynndy the Cha Shao Bao. So we all made our fillings and got them chilled and then we all help assemble each item.

Our creative sides all came out. Abbie made some fruit and onion garnishes. I sliced up some won ton wrappers and put them in the fryer for something crunchy and I also took the extra ginger, sliced it thin, put it in boiling sugar water for 30 minutes then covered them in sugar and finished them in the oven for candied ginger.

Next it was time to put everything on a platter and present. We did such an awesome job!! Our platter was beautiful and very nicely arranged. I hope to have a picture of it soon.

One of the groups had a melt down. I don’t have all the details but one of the people of that group was in tears. I don’t think it was because of the stress but rather something(s) that was said during the course of the evening by one of her team-mates to the other members. It really amazes me how as the class goes on the true personalities of people show. You can only hide yourself for so long and act the part you wish others to believe. But as you get tired, worn down and the days/nights go on your guard slips and the real you peeks out. I would love to be the quiet one, just here to learn type of person but I know I couldn’t hold that for more than an hour. I am who I am. But some came in with one persona when they started and now I start to see another persona. Not everyone is like this. But I would say there are at least 4 who put on airs so people will think of them in a certain way. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s my parents raising me to like who I am that I have never felt the need to be someone I’m not.

They were not kidding when they said this is the portion of the program that will make or break you.

But the best part for now is – Tomorrow is Friday! We’re making curry and we’re going to have a tailgate party and enjoy our food and look forward to the weekend.

Until Tomorrow!...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Day 12 of PCA II – Salmon Run

Tonight we started off by taking a test. Chef Romero made a point last week of telling us that he wants a lot more detail in the answers. Some of us had given a lot of details and others not so much. Thank goodness I’m detail oriented.

Well one of the questions this week was “How many filets does a salmon have?” I know the answer is 2, but how to make that detailed…spell it out two? I found that question to be lacking in it’s own detail. So I gave the following – The Salmon is classified as a round fish thus providing 2 filets.

We also got our tests back from last week. I got an 11.9 out of 12 so can’t complain. We also got our weekly grades and I went from a B to an A, but still feel out of balance. Last week I really felt out of whack and this week I’m still feeling it. I don’t think I’m the only one and I have a great partner so I know that’s not it. My biorhythms must out of sync.

I was looking over what we have for finals and if I complained about PCA I and doing potato dishes, well karma is back and said you thought that was bad?

Day One – Written exam, equipment ID, primal cuts, sub-primal cuts, fabricate a chicken then prepare – Sautéed chicken breast with polenta, sautéed brussel sprouts with a mustard pan sauce. Also fabricate a halibut and prepare – sautéed halibut with potato/artichoke gratin with spring onions and fine herbs beurre blanc.

Day Two – Fabricate snapper and prepare Seared Snapper with Mélange of baby spring vegetables and fish consommé. Fabricate salmon and prepare – Salmon en Papillote with fingerling potatoes, fennel, olives and tear drop tomatoes.

Day Three – Grill 2 New York steaks to medium and medium rare. Serve with 2 sauces – béarnaise and bordelaise. Also serve with them red bliss smashed red potatoes and spicy broccolini with garlic.

Day Four – Lamb Shank Provencal, Bouillabaisse with Rouille and Pork Schnitzel

Day Five – Everything to be served like a meal – First course is Miso soup, second course is shrimp and vegetable tempura with tentusya sauce, third course pan roasted duck breast with spiced butternut squash, roasted plums and plum gastrique.

I hate finals. I'm all stressed out about them and they're not for a few more weeks. And there is nothing anyone can say or do that will make me look forward to them. Haha.

Anyway tonight we did Salmon again, poached and in a bag. I’ve done ‘en papillote’ many times before. Basically means “in paper” and it’s where you take your fish, chicken etc with your vegetables, sauces etc and fold the paper around it to make a pocket. You place these on a sheet pan and let them bake for the time needed. Nice thing about this dish is everything is in the bag so the only dishes you have is the plate you put them on and the cutting board you used to prep the veggies. The poached salmon to me was just nasty. It had no flavor to speak of even though the poaching liquid wasn’t just plain water. We took water, carrots, onions, bay leaf, pepper corns, salt and lemon juice and let that boil for 30 minutes. Strained it off and poached our salmon in that liquid (blech). Then that liquid was reduced and mounted with butter and poured over the salmon. It was served on a bit of water cress that was tossed with a form of tartar sauce. At the end of class Chef Rorschach suggested this be served chilled. And after having tasted it and went yuck I know she’s right. The salmon flavor would come out more if it was chilled vs. warm from the bland poaching liquid.

We also fabricated chicken tonight; it was a nice refresher before finals. Odd thing is I enjoy doing this task.

Our class is now 15 from the 21. I think I mentioned that before but it’s a different feel now that some of the dead weight is gone. But the class is clearly divided into 3 groups. There are 5 of us in one group and I’d like to say we’re pretty tight and work very well together. Then there is a small group of those that need more help or are being carried. This isn’t a bad thing if they’re learning and retaining. The hard part is when some continually question what we’re doing when they have their recipes right in front of them and can read them. I sort of snapped at one the other day because I was concentrating on what I was doing and double checking all my steps and I kept hearing “Red…Red…hey Red” I looked up and snapped “What?!” They then asked me to come help and I had to tell them “I can’t right now I have to finish what I’m doing first.” I felt bad because I pride myself on always being available to help anyone at anytime. Not just here at school but in life. So I felt like I let them down. But then I had to realize I’m there paying like they are to learn and gain experience. I’m not the Chef Instructor. It’s a hard line for me because I will always stop what I am doing to help someone else first. Then there is another group that I can’t quite put my finger on. I don’t want to use the word prima donna, but it’s the best description I can give. They do their own thing when they want and disregard anyone else. I have a very low tolerance for arrogance. I can only hope that get a good dose of humility and soon.

Tomorrow we’re doing a whole bunch of little dishes. Four to be exact and they sound like a lot of fun – Cha Shao Bao (Pork Buns), Shu Mai, Pot Stickers with Dipping Sauce and Har Gau. No clue what these things are but the Pot Stickers so can’t wait. It’s all done in teams of 4 so since there are four dishes we’ll each do one.

Until Tomorrow!....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Day 11 of PCA II – A Very Off Day

Tonight was sluggish. I think over 1/2 us were just dogged tired and it showed. We only had 2 dishes to prepare and they basically cooked themselves, not to mention the fact that one of the dishes we did in a team of four.

So tonight was – Pot au Feu (Translation Pot on the Fire) and Beef Goulash with Spaetzle in Brown Butter, Candied Lemon Zest and Crème Fraiche. The Pot au Feu we did in teams of four.

The Pot au Feu is made with stocks, cooked veal bone (in cheesecloth to retain the marrow) short ribs, and veggies. The short ribs and bones are removed and the broth is strained of the mirepox, then the baby carrots, turnips etc are added back into the mixture to cook.

While we got this dish out, we didn’t exactly wow the Chefs. I think because we were all so tired (all for various reasons, felt like a Thursday to me) we lacked focus and none of us took the reins to lead the other 3. On Thursday we have another team dish and I’m going to suggest one person be in charge and direct the rest of us to tasks. Also no one should leave to go to the bathroom or take a break without checking in with the team-mates first. That happened tonight twice and when you’re down even one person everything feels off balance and it’s harder to recover.

Our presentation on this dish bombed. While it was a rustic dish by ingredients it ended up being just piled in the platter with no rhyme or reason and looked messy. But because it was already thrown on it would have been harder to re-arrange. Both Chefs made note of it. So did I and it won’t happen again.

The goulash was an individual dish. This was beef round that we diced into small pieces, browned and then put back in the pot with veal stock and spices and let braise for 2 hours. It actually needed to be braised about an hour more but our class time isn’t sufficient for braising and the Chefs took that into consideration. We put the goulash onto spaetzle. Spaetzle (Shpeht-sehl) is a lot like funnel cake. Whereas funnel cake is pancake batter poured through a funnel into hot oil, spaetzle is pancake batter drizzled into boiling water. We ladled ours into the water via a steaming tray. The holes in the steam tray help control the size of the spaetzle. They ended up looking like sperm. Yeah we’re all so immature and tired we had a lot of fun with that. The spaetzle is then put into a sauté pan that has browned butter and they are in turn browned a little. On top of the goulash is the candied lemon zest, crème fraiche and then a bit of lemon syrup. This confused me. I had never heard of putting candied lemon zest or lemon syrup on goulash. But I figured ‘Hey I haven’t heard of a lot of stuff so try it first’. Which I did, and it was nasty. Think of lemon drops how they’re sweet and sour, and now melt them down and pour them over braised beef in wine and veal stock with this wonderful rich flavor. Gag.

Tonight was an off night for all. For me it was also off because I didn’t like anything I was cooking. And it’s really hard to pour your energy into stuff you don’t like, and your family won’t like. For example the clam chowder from a while back. I can’t stand the stuff but my husband loves it. So it was no problem to me to make it extra good. I knew someone would enjoy it. But tonight’s dishes to me were time wasters. I don’t feel I learned anything. Maybe that’s the crux. I always try and get the most out of the lessons, even it’s not till the next day when my brain can focus. But even after sleeping on it I cannot think of one thing I learned yesterday.

Well tomorrow is a different day and you won’t believe what we’re preparing – FISH!
Salmon to be exact. And you just know we’ll have to fabricate the little buggers.

Until tomorrow!...

Day 10 of PCA II – Beef is just Good!

I love beef. I really feel sorry for vegetarians on beef day. But I’m very happy for me cause I get more beef.

This evening brought us back to the grill for New York Steaks and Filet Mignon. The NY steaks were great but the filets were iffy. They are not my favorite cut of beef and they take a long time to get cooked just right because they are so thick.

Now let’s talk sauces. We served with the NY steaks Bordelaise. This sauce is made my reducing veal stock and adding shallots that have been sautéed in red wine. Right at the end you add fresh veal bone marrow. You let the marrow melt into the sauce. Now I know what you’re thinking…”Oh gawd…bone marrow? The pure fat from INSIDE the bones?” Yes that is exactly what you do. But when it melts into the stock it creates a very rich intensely flavored sauce. At the very end before service you mount this with butter to give a glossy sheen and yet another layer of flavor. This is one of those sauces you had better serve the dish with bread so it can all be mopped up.

The second sauce was for the filets, Béarnaise. In a nut shell it’s Hollandaise with tarragon added. I didn’t care for this sauce because to me it had way to much vinegar flavor still left in it. We were told not to reduce the shallot/tarragon/vinegar mixture as much to allow for more flavor but I think it over powered the flavor of any other flavors in the sauce.

The other dish we prepared was a Steakhouse Salad. This was made with heirloom tomatoes, arugula, fried shallots and our house vinaigrette. I call it house vinaigrette because it’s the same one we’ve been making since PCA I. It’s very tasty though.

My partner this week is Carrie. This woman is focused and very fun to have for a partner. I grilled all 4 of our NY’s and she grilled all 4 of our filets and while the other was grilling we were able to continue our dishes and get things done.

The Béarnaise sauce was a single dish. Meaning we were to each prepare our own since it’s on our finals. Well we did and we didn’t. I started the yolks and whipped them for a while and then she did. Then I went back to whipping while she added the butter and then we switched. So it’s not like one of us did all the work, we both did but put it into one bowl to save on time and dishes. Then we separated it out and seasoned accordingly. Darn if we both didn’t more salt. Now I’m a salt freak and it tasted fine to me. But then I don’t like this sauce so if crap was salty enough this was good.

Very fun night. I enjoy grilling. It would have been a lot better if they gave us a beer to drink while standing at the hot grill.

Until Tomorrow…

Monday, October 16, 2006

Day 9 PCA II – Cheese Burger, Cheese Burger, Cheese Burger (old Saturday Night Live reference)

For being such a simple night we were busy! On the menu was pan seared ribeye steaks and grilled hamburgers. The steaks were easy as they were already fabricated and in cryovac bags. The hamburgers we ground ourselves. Well half of the class worked on the hamburger meat the other half worked on peeling, slicing and blanching the French fries…er…steak fries. I was on the latter. Once the potatoes were done we got to see a fabrication of where we cut the ribeyes from.

Then it was time to grill the burgers. These things where thick! And I think the part that bothered me the most was; we had to cook one medium and one well. I’m sorry anytime I have ground meat I want it cooked well. I do not want any pink meat in my hamburger. (luckily we get to take them home and I’ll just cook it up a bit more to fix that) Oh let me give you a GREAT tip on how to make your hamburgers taste FANTASTIC! If you like bacon on your burgers get that bacon cooked up nice an crispy. Pour off some of the bacon fat, but keep it, and just leave enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. Then take your mayo and smear it on the buns and then place them mayo side down into the skillet till they are golden brown. Then flip them to give them a little glossy color on the other side. This makes such a difference in the flavor!

Before we started the burgers I was sent on the task on taking burger orders from all the Chef Instructors. I had to sell my soul to Chef Greenspan to get some bleu cheese for my burger. But it was worth it. I also had the task of cooking my 2 burgers from presentation along with 4 other burgers for the Chefs. Eddy volunteered to help me out, he’s hellacool. So between the two of us we got 8 burgers knocked out. Then it was time to present. We had to get ours ready and of course by the time we were done all the fries were gone, but luckily we didn’t get dinged for that. Carrie and Lindsey saw Eddy and I getting our burgers ready and said “You guys haven’t presented yet?” “Nope I replied…” and before we could say another word they took the Chef Burgers from us and said you guys get your stuff done we’ll finish up these for you. What a TEAM!!!! So bless them they made up all the custom orders for the Chefs so Eddy and I could get our food up for grading.

I mean everything seemed so simple but it amazes me still how time can get away from you. But it was such a fun night.

After all was done a few of us decided to have a tailgate party. We walked to the local store (lol we had like 5 minutes to spare) and bought (well Carrie bought and snacks too) the beers and munchies. She and Lindsey were smart, they wrapped their burgers in foil and kept them warm in the oven so they could enjoy them with the beer. So there we all sat in my car drinking a beer, laughing, talking smack and here comes the security guard. Well we’re not drinking in ‘public’ but we are on ‘private property’ Ok everyone look normal! Which in turns makes us look guilty as hell. We decide it’s time to move on. No no not end the party but move the car. Great so now we’re drinking and driving and have open containers in the car. I’m going to hell. We only moved up one level and what a view! We were on the top of the structure now looking at the LA skyline. Very lovely since there was no more rain.

Anyway it was a great way to close out a busy week.

On Monday we’re whipping up New York Steaks and Filet Mignon…YUM!

Until Then….

Friday, October 13, 2006

Day 8 of PCA II – The Fish – She is Back

Tonight was Albacore night and these suckers were BIG. I would like to personally thank Chef Romero for fabricating that monstrosity for us and going further to fabricate the pieces we would be searing. We also cooked up a nice Bouillabaisse.

So we had Seared Tuna with Forbidden Rice, Maui Onion Confit and Pineapple and Mango Salsa. Add to that our Bouillabaisse with Shrimp, Mussels, Clams, Diver Scallops, Snapper and Lobster with toasted baguette with Rouille on the side. While only two dishes there were several components that had to be done separately that caused some slow down. The rice had to cook for quite a while, then everything had to be chopped up for the confit and salsa. The peppers had to be roasted for the rouille and then everything pureed together. Shell fish had to be cleaned and steamed and held. But it all came together nicely.

I finally got to play with a mold. No not that stuff you see in your fridge a lot. The metal molds you can form your food with. While simple in design it can really make a difference in presentation. Of course you have to have the right foods to use in the mold. (my favorite mold is the ones for jello shooters…but that will have to be another class)
That’s the other nice part of school. You get introduced not only to different foods and cooking techniques but also devices. I had never used, or seen a food mill until doing this school or a pasta machine, fillet knife, chiniois, china cap, a spider and a lot of other things.

Oh I forgot to tell you, the word of the day is Schmutz. This is Chef Rorschach’s word for dirty spots, smudges, spice flakes, basically anything that should be wiped off or away. And DO NOT make her do the Schmutz Walk. You had better make darn sure your area is clean or she’ll find the stuff for you and then some. I cannot stress enough how important cleanliness is. Thank goodness they’re watching for cross contamination and general messes because some just are not use to paying attention to so many details. I think many of us take time for granted and use short cuts. I’m glad I have 4 different cutting boards at home that I can set up easily for various items. I wish I had that luxury at school.

There are nights as I’m driving home I wonder – what have I learned today? Everything happens so fast you don’t really have time to reflect. You’re much too busy remembering the Chef demo’s, reading the recipes and preparing the food. It’s usually not until the weekends as I’m preparing dinner that I find myself doing things differently. Then other things start coming to mind and I have many “Ah-Ha” moments. By Sunday I’m amazed at how much I actually retained. It gets even more fun when folks at work ask me questions about a recipe or food and dole out the advice with calm assertiveness. I never realized how many questions people have about food but never ask because they never knew anyone to ask. But now that they all know I’m going to culinary school it’s “Denise how do I..?” or “Denise what should I…?” and “Denise do you have any suggestions…?” and so forth. The hardest part is when I have to stop talking about food, recipes and school.

Sidebar – I’m starting to develop a twitch from my drive home. Every other night as I’m bee-bopping home I get the CHP, Sheriff or PD right behind me and they light me up. My adrenaline starts going, instantly I’m sweating and of course I’m looking at my speedometer thinking “67 mph is a bad thing?” and just as I start to merge right they zip past me after someone else. Now while I’m really glad they’re not after me I think I’ve had 5 years taken off my life because of this. The other night I, somehow, got in the middle of a pursuit. Next thing I know I’ve got the bad guy right in front of me, 2 CHP’s up my rear and one on either side. Instantly you think “Lights, sirens merge to the right and get out of their way..” but I can’t because well one is there. So, do I brake, maintain speed, back off…I have no clue. I’m just praying they don’t have a spike strip up there waiting for him and get me too, or that he’s already been spiked and is about to loose control of his car and get me in the process. Lucky for me Mr. Assailant decides to get off the freeway and off they all go and I get to continue on my merry way. With enough stomach acid to eat through nails and will probably be constipated for a week.

Nothing much out of the ordinary happened tonight. But I do have a few pictures to share.

The Seared Tuna

The Bouillabaisse

Here is Chef Rorschach. As you recall she subbed one day during our first class. She’s a kick.

This is Chef Romero. He got really mad when I tried to take his picture and told me to get back to my station.

I hope to get more pictures of different things. It's so hard to remember to take the camera out of my pocket. Chef Rorschach was kind enough to remind me each time she tasted a dish "Which one do you want me to taste so I don't ruin your picture?" That's when I go Oh yeah I have a camera!

Until Tomorrow...

PS- Chef Romero wasn’t really mad about the picture, he actually posed for that shot. He’s been razzing me because of what I posted a while back about the music bugging me. So it was my turn. (evil smile) He is really a great guy with a wealth of information and seems to have a lot of patience. I'd say that's a pretty good thing with us. He has a way of explaining things so they make sense and everything comes together. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Day 7 of PCA II – Send in the executioner…

First off tonight was just fun. We did 3 totally different dishes all of which were new to me. The grilling part wasn’t new as I BBQ and grill weekly.

On our menu for this evening –

Grilled Lobster Tail
Grilled Pizza with Pesto, Prosciutto and Buffalo Mozzarella
Grilled Quail with Israeli Couscous with Pomegranate Molasses, Pomegranate seeds and mint.

We first made our pizza dough so it would have time to rise. Luckily this wasn’t new to me as we make pizza often. So while that is rising and doing it’s thang we must begin to fabricate our lobster(s). Some of us got two (super big grin). Yes they were alive. We only had 2 students who were squeamish about it. One looked sick when the chef demo’d the procedure for killing it. Basically you take a big knife jam into his head and pull down which in turn cuts his head in half. The thing that freaked everyone out was they keep moving. Their brain is destroyed so they are dead. The claws and tail are then twisted off and put into boiling water. The heads we kept for a lobster stock we’re making for our Bouillabaisse we’re making tomorrow.

While those are boiling we get our pesto ready. (Well some do, Chef had extra for her demo she offered and I snagged it for our team – Booyah!)

Ok lobster is done let’s grill these tails up. The claw meat is also being reserved for the Bouillabaisse. This was a very simple dish, minus the killing spree. Onto the grill they go, get some nice grill marks, plate em up and drizzle clarified butter over the top. Oh lord we eat good tonight!

Lobster is out of the way so let’s marinate some quail. Holy cow these guys are TINY. They’ve been deboned for us which was a treat. Only the leg and wing bones remain. These were covered in the pomegranate molasses and grilled for a few minutes and then finished up in the oven. Our couscous is cooking up nicely. If you’ve never had Israeli couscous think of tapioca pudding. Those little ball things. Oh and for reverence if you go to Israel you’ll find they have no idea what you’re talking about. There is no “Israeli Couscous” over there they’ve never heard of it before. I have no clue how it got the name. So the couscous is mounded on the plate, arugula is then placed on top and the quail is split down the breast bone and then the pieces are criss-crossed on top. A bit of the molasses is drizzled around the edges and fresh pomegranate seeds on dropped on top. It really is a pretty plate. I have a picture below but can’t figure out why their so blurry. I’ve taken pictures with before that are fine, but I’ll work on it.

Next up is our pizza. My partner’s dough didn’t rise real well so we split mine. The dough is pulled out and thinned a bit and then brushed with olive oil and placed on a hot grill. Unfortunately our grill was white hot so our dough got some real good color on one side. (yeah we had to scrape a little of the black off) So when I flipped it I had reduced the heat a bit. Next it’s smeared with the pesto, topped with the prosciutto and mozzarella and then popped into the oven to melt the cheese. When it comes out fresh parmesan is graded on top. This was served with a salad from Frisee lettuce and cherry tomatoes.

Ok I’m a pizza snob. Well I am since going to Italy and eating their pizza. I will not eat any American pizza again. No more Pizza Hut, Pappa John’s, Domino’s for me. So I will say this grilled pizza was really, really good. I love trying new sauces on pizza instead of the traditional red sauce and what a better replacement than freshly made basil pesto?! The only thing I would have done different was instead of the fresh garlic in the sauce I would have put roasted garlic instead. If you have an indoor grill on your stove make this dish. You could do it outside on your barbeque, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I wouldn’t recommend a briquette barbeque. I think the olive oil would cause too much smoking and give the dough a smokey flavor rather than a grilled flavor.

So there you have it. We were minus Chef Romero tonight and will for the week as he’s helping out in PCA-1. I went over there tonight to clean the grill we used and I don’t think those newbies knew what hit them. It was quiet a church in there. It’s good to get focused. Even though it’s only been a little over a week since I myself was in that class it was felt weird going back over there like it had been years since I was in PCA I.

I think our class is finally starting to work better as a team. We’re communicating better and this is due to mising out the way we are. We’re fine tuning our space to maximize efficiency without making everything a mess. Consolidation works very well. I mean if you’re both making couscous, for example, use one pot and each of you take turns monitoring it and tasting it, when you agree on the consistency et al present it. Now you only have 1 pot to clean instead of 2. This of course only works well if you have a partner you can work well with and trust with the food. And there will be times you can’t do this, but learning to adapt and quickly is very helpful.

We still have a couple that like to drop their dishes off at a station and then walk around like their doing stuff, but don’t really do anything but walk from one station to another or stop and talk with the chefs to kill time. It’s just frustrating because those of us that get our plates presented and are washing our dishes in between and washing our stations down now have to do their stuff too, because we have extra time. I don’t mind wiping the fascia down, or the walk-in doors and stuff that just gets messy by all of us. That’s part of the job. But to have to clean the personal stuff of another to me isn’t fair. They should have to do their own. If you take it to the sink you wash it. If you can’t then store it at your station until you have time to do it.

That’s all for this evening. Tomorrow night we’re back to fabricating fish. It’s chicken of the sea! Mr. Charlie himself…ladies and gentlemen we give you Albacore!

Until Tomorrow…

Grilled Quail with Pomegranate Molasses and Israeli Couscous.

 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Day 6 of PCA II – The Salmon are Running!

Well today we did Salmon. Ours was farm raised and we were provided with the information on the difference between farm raised and wild caught. I’m always for wild caught.

Tonight we fabricated the salmon and made –

Grill Salmon with Maitre D’Hotel Butter, Peas and Mashed White Potatoes with Roasted Garlic ~and ~ Sautéed Salmon Cakes with Whole Grain Mustard Emulsion and Frisee Salad with Vinaigrette.

I think I am still most impressed with the little things. It’s amazing how a small thing can just make a dish come alive. For these two dishes it was the butter. I am so going to begin to incorporate hotel butter in more foods. They are so easy! Just take your butter and add things to it that you use in your dishes. Our butter tonight contain parsley, a bit of lemon juice and some of the soy mixture we used on the grilled salmon and fresh garlic. It’s also nice to note that your butters don’t have to be only ‘savory’ butters but you can make sweet ones too. Add a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon, or almond extract. Talk about a happy bagel. With two sticks of butter you could made 4 different hotel butters. (Of course if you have a bigger family or event you’ll need more) What a nice treat to have in your fridge to top off a dish.

I have also started saving the bottles my dressings come in. I refuse to buy it any more. It is so easy to make a vinaigrette and so much cheaper. I bought one the other day my Marie Calendar’s Blue Cheese Vinaigrette. Very tasty and I could so make it for 1/3 of the cost. Save your cash!

I’m not a big salmon ‘fan’. It’s a long story, but of course it’s my blog so I will share. Years ago my husband and I had a very large salt water aquarium. We started off with the small fish to condition the tank and then went on to create a reef system. Did that for while and then decided we wanted the big boys. So we shifted gears and went with a predator tank – a shark, lion fish, eagle ray. Well they had to eat and we had to ‘hand’ feed them (we used long tongs.) What did they eat? Well gold fish was the first option, but the darn things don’t live very long in salt water and these guys were not the greatest of hunters, and it was cruel to the gold fish. So it was time for salmon. We’d buy a whole salmon frozen and then spend the day in the kitchen with a hack saw cutting it up into little chunks and individually wrapping them up. There were salmon bits everywhere. Thus my aversion to salmon, it just brings back memories of all the years we’d prepare the fish food.

My car still has a slight fish odor. I have several fabric softener sheets lying about to help.

Tomorrow we’re doing our lobsters for recipes later on. Yes they are alive. We won’t be using the meat tomorrow as we’re doing quail and grilled pizza. I think everyone is happy to get away from the fish for a while. But then it’s right back into the fish with Albacore on Thursday.

Our class size is shrinking. We lost Alexandra (Jay’s wife also called Princess). And there is talk of us losing one more whose schedule is just too hectic to do all the things she needs to do. And yet another wants to move to the morning class. That would put us at 15 from our original 21. That sounds a bit more manageable.

Until Tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pictures from the Dishes of Day 5 of PCA-II.

This is the Snapper Dish. The picture doesn't do it justice because of the flash and the stainless steel counter.

Here are the scallops. I wish they came out clearer. Posted by Picasa

Day 5 of PCA II – Is it possible to get seasick from cooking fish?

Yes we’re still doing fish. I really shouldn’t complain. I like fish. My dad got me eating fish at a young age and so I’ve been exposed to many different kinds. I guess it’s like when I use to work at a restaurant called Bobby McGee’s. They were known for their prime rib, but being part of the staff we got to eat dinner and whatever was left over from the night. So we ate a lot of prime rib and to this day, I don’t care for prime rib as much anymore. At least with the fish it’s all different. Halibut, snapper some scallops thrown in for good measure.

Tonight we prepared –

Sautéed Snapper with Mélange of Baby Vegetables and Fish Consommé – This recipes name has a lot of those ‘ things in it. Must be fancy food. As far as the fish recipe goes - of all the ones we’ve prepared thus far, this was my favorite. First we had to fabricate the snapper. I’m starting to get the feel for cutting out the fillets. Not that I want to make a career out of it, and I’m still not great at it, but I’m at a point where I can muddle through pretty good and not panic. It also included whole baby carrots, baby turnips, baby zucchini, baby queen squash, green onions and 2 cherry tomatoes. The fish is cooked with the skin on and is first seared in clarified butter to get it nice and crackly. It is placed on top of the sautéed vegetables and then the fish consommé is spooned around it. A really beautiful dish with all the colors. Oh and the fish consommé? I was leery about this over powering the dish with ‘fish’ flavor, which to me should always be subtle. This was really good. Very light and complimented the fish and vegetables without overpowering them.

Next on our agenda was Coquilles St. Jacques with Scallop Roe Beurre Blanc –

I sure hope I don’t ruin this dish for anyone. First I have no clue who or what Coquilles are but they seem to come from France. St. Jacques is a tower in France and all that remains of the church of Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie. It was dedicated to Saint James and the church itself was demolished in 1797. Don’t say I never taught you anything on this blog.

The scallops we had to clean up a bit first. Not bad really as I had expected we were going to have to shuck them ourselves. But, they already came opened on the half shell. With their ‘roe’ attached. Now there is some debate as to what the ‘roe’ is. We were told it was the scallops’ liver. I have heard others say it’s the tongue. I think these folks are wrong because this thing cannot separate itself from the other part(s) it’s attached to, to work as a tongue. Roe is the ripe egg masses, the large egg sack in fish. In the case of the scallop both sexes can produce roe because scallops are hermaphroditic. They can change their sexes. (wow you all are getting a lot of interesting stuff here!) Red roe means the scallop is currently female, and white is male.

Ok the recipe. Well we took the muscle portion (the part most of us eat) and clean them up. Then we sliced off the roe which resembles red, wet mayonnaise, it smears real easy. Two of these were added to 6 ounces of butter to make – Roe Butter for our Roe Beurre Blanc sauce. This sauce is first prepared by adding a small amount of cream, wine and shallots to a pan and reducing to au sec. Then it is strained and the roe butter is added to slowly incorporate into the cream. This is the part where I couldn’t even taste it. It’s a mental thing that I will have to challenge and get past, but for now – no. I’m not eating mashed up raw egg sack in creamed butter. But it is very pretty. The scallops are seared in clarified butter on both sides. They are then put back into the cleaned half shell and the Roe Beurre Blanc is spooned around them. (3 scallops to a shell) The shell is then placed on a plate on top of rock salt and topped with chives. This was an appetizer dish.

All in all it was a good night. I got to fillet an extra snapper and they had left over and a halibut that needed to be filleted as well. I jumped on this because anything they say is going to be on the final and you can get extra practice on it DO IT!

It’s now 11:05pm and time to gather our belongings and head home. For some of us the drive is longer. This can be good and bad. Good because it gives me time to reflect on the evenings events. I go over in head the comments the Chef Instructors gave us to help commit it to memory.

It’s about 11:15 and I’ve exited the parking structure, my window is down because I have to use a key fob to get out. I leave and turn onto Sunset and roll up my window because it is a bit chilly out. (I love fall and winter!) As I get on the freeway and begin the sojourn home I realize I drive through a lot of different areas of Los Angeles. I’ve smelled a bakery at night cooking what smells like brownies. I’ve past through an area that smells like they’re roasting sunflower seeds…but what is that smell I smell right now? It’s a smelly smell. The kind of smell that smells..well smelly. It’s not a skunk, they have a very unique pungent odor. It’s close to that smell when you wonder if someone is cleaning a septic tank or the sewer is backed up. But that can’t be at this late hour. Whatever it is, it is getting stronger. Wow really strong…jesus what the hell is that smell?? I roll down the window to see if A it’ll clear it out B see if it’s coming from outside. Well I can’t tell, driving at 65 with the window down and being cold I can’t smell anything. Roll up the window and BAM…oh good lord it’s in the car! (Now remember that movie where the babysitter has just put the small child to bed and starts getting crank calls and then on the last call the police are involved and call her back and are yelling “The call is coming from inside the house!! Get out! Get out!” but she can’t because it’s too late…DING! You can now picture the look of horror on my face) Seems while I was fabricating that last halibut, whose entrails were quite odorous, a, shall we say, dollop of yack dropped onto my shoe. But wait, there’s more…as we all get into our cars we strip down to the bear comfy zone. Our nasty towels and aprons and hats are all tossed into a pile in our cars. Um..I don’t have a trunk, I have a hatchback. Can you fully appreciate my pain now? There is NO PLACE FOR THE STENCH TO GO! Chef Rorschach kindly told us during fish week to go to the store and get lemons or tomato juice to soak our hands in when we get home to remove the fish smell. I have that long drive with fish gut smells coming from my shoe, and the towels in the back and now my hands stink, I have no lemons in my car and I believe the fish smell has now permeated into the steering wheel. JOY. Wonder how I take this steering wheel off to soak in the sink with lemon. (note to self – wear gloves!)

Everyone was asking about why no music was played tonight. I had to fess up and say it was my fault. I had posted on here about how some of the music drove me insane. What I should have posted was how I can tune it out as well. I guess the Chef Instructors took it to heart. I’M SORRY! Please bring back the music. It makes the others so happy. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. (OOooOO that sounded so philosophical. I wonder who said that first)

Tomorrow we’re doing Salmon. Cakes and grilled. I can hardly wait to grind up the salmon. The carnage and shrapnel should be quite fun to watch. I’ll remember to check my shoes before getting into the car AND I’m bringing with a baggie to put my dirty stuff into.

Until Tomorrow!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Day 4 of PCA II – Let’s go Fishing!

Well tonight we got to fabricate a fish, Halibut to be exact. Now I cannot tell you how many times I have eaten halibut. I’ve eaten the steaks, fish taco’s the fillets you name it. But I have never seen this ugly fish up close and personal. Even my dad who used to go deep sea fishing would bring home these tasty critters but they already fillet and ready for us to enjoy. These fish are UGLY. They’re flat fish so they swim sideways. The bottom side is white or creamy color and while they started with 2 eyes on either side of their head, evolution said “wow this is stupid because he’s looking at the ground a lot and his enemies are up there” and moved it up to the top. And they’re real close together. The top part is darker in color, this helps with camouflaging him and helping him to absorb a bit of heat of the suns rays. (A tan is the last thing this guys needs)

Good points – he doesn’t smell as he is very fresh. There are some that think all fish smell bad, which prose’s the question if they smell bad when they’re fresh what do they smell like when they are bad – good?

He’s not very big only about 6 pounds. So it’s not like those giants you see on the fishing cattle boats that weigh in at 45 pounds. Yeah I can see slapping that on my 2 foot by 1 foot cutting board.

Bad points – He’s not been cleaned, at all.

I mean he’s not been cleaned inside either. Joy.

Time to eviscerate the body. This is an interesting experience for all of us. Find the spine make a small incision the length of the body, make a slice above the tail (don’t remove it you’ll need it later), make a slice behind the gills, turn Fred over and do the same on the other side. Now turn him back and begin long strokes down the length of his body keeping your knife flat against the bones and exerting a bit of pressure. (This is where if you don’t have a sharp knife you are SOL) Continue your cut all the way down to the bottom and cut away the fillet. One down and 3 to go. After you get the other fillet off the front it’s that magically moment time, snap his neck and pull away from the body and the entrails should follow. It was here that I decided to smell my fish. Very clean smell and the fish seem really clean and WHOA!! That smell isn’t fresh. I think I just singed my nose hairs what the hell is that? Oh it’s his guts. Man those are some rancid things. My partner sees my reaction and laughs. I told him be sure to smell your fish because the Chef wants to see us smell everything (evil smirk begins to form on my face). As he leans over I notice he’s heading right for the entrails first and BAM yep there it is, he snaps his head back and gets this disgusted look on his face. I just chuckle and said “told you”.

The back side fillets are a bit thinner but I manage to get my two. Hhmm…they sure don’t look like the ones I buy in the store.

Tonight’s dishes are –

Sauteed Halibut with Potato and Artichoke Gratin, Spring Onions and Fines Herbes Buerre Blanc


Sauteed Halibut with Fava Beans, Green Garlic, Caperberries and Aioli

I am happy to report no one got sick pulling guts out of the fish. I wondered about a couple of them but they mustered thru it. Took guts (hahaha).

We will be following a fish theme for the next few days which will include Snapper, Trout, Lobster, Scallops, Shrimp and a big ‘ol Tuna (sorry Charlie).

Ok this next part may offend some people, but please understand it is not meant in a mean context. It was a stressful situation and I just reacted –

I didn't tell you about my experience driving home the other night. As I'm humming along I look up in my rearview mirror and see a mass. I'm like "what the heck is that?" I look in my side mirror and again just a mass but I can't figure it out. It wasn't until it was a bit closer I realize it was a large SUV with no lights on and we're getting ready to head up Kellog Hill which can be dangerous enough as it is. It's time to don my Super Good Samaritan Suit. I let the SUV pass me on the left and I begin honking my horn. My horn that basically whispers out "hello? can you hear me?" What I needed was a can of air that goes "HEY BUDDY!!". Took me forever to get their attention. It was two middle aged Asian women. The passenger has that look on her face of "omg we're going to be killed by an angry white chef!" I give her the signal to roll down her window, the cranking motion. We don't even roll down our windows this way anymore but by god it's still the signal we use. They roll down their windows and I start yelling "LIGHTS!! Your LIGHTS are off!!" She yells back "What?" "YOUR LIGHTS ARE OFF!!" "What??" Ok I get it they're Asian - new tactic "YOUR RIGHTS!! YOUR RIGHTS ARE OFF" while making the light flash symbol with my hand. Still no communication. So I begin flashing my lights and that's when it dawns on them and they get their lights turned on. WHEW. That was just too much excitement for me after the day I already had. I see them up ahead of me, how I have no clue since we were doing 80 while I was yelling at them, turn their lights off again but right back on. I could hear the conversation in the car the passenger slapping the other woman on the arm “How could not see our rights were not on?!” And the driver looking over “With all these rights on the freeway it’s bright enough so I did not notice.” Passenger “Bah turn your rights off right now you see how dark it is!” at which point she does and it is dark, but that’s because they’re going up the hill at that moment and there a lot less lights.

There is a lot of action on my freeways at midnight. I know why I’m up so late but some I can’t figure out. ‘Tis one of the mysteries that will go unsolved. I wonder if any of them are reviewing recipes in their heads or even thinking of recipes. I wonder if they have dreams of sautéing onions and deglazing pans. Or nightmares about forgetting to turn an oven on or if that’s just me? I wonder if when they go to work the next day and their boss asks them to do something, if they too respond with “Yes Chef!” and watch their boss stare at them like they’ve lost their mind. Do they eat lunch the next day and close their eyes and try and guess the ingredients? They embaraass their family with always thinking out loud at grocery stores or restaurants with “You know what would make this better?” or “Oh this isn’t that hard to make.” Some poor woman in the grocery store asked me a question and my daughter told her to run for her life. The question was “What do you do with avocados besides makes guacamole?” 15 minutes later the woman has that glassy eye look small children get when you try and explain to them for longer than a minute how to do something. I stopped talking and can sense my daughter behind me mouthing the words to the woman “I warned you…”

I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking of food and how to prepare it or of things I wish to learn. I am more excited that at this stage in my life I have yet another thing to be passionate about.

Until Tomorrow!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Day 3 of PCA II – Pork the Other White Meat

Well I got all my dishes done – Yeah! But I feel like I got my arse handed to me on a serving plate – Boo! The only saving grace was it wasn’t just me, we all felt it tonight.

Now while cooking a ‘dinner’ isn’t a big deal…I mean heck I do it all the time. Let’s talk about the big wrenches that get thrown into the cogs. We are in teams, so a few of our dishes are prepared together. Ok so far not too bad. We have 6 burners between the 2 of us. Ok I can hang with that…what do you mean I have to cook up 12 things at once?! I only get 3 burners! Breathing…let’s evaluate this. I need 16 oz veal stock for one dish and another 16 oz for a second dish that’s 2 pots and they both have to reduce. Ok use a slightly bigger pot to account for extra evaporation and put all 32 ounces into one pot. Yes one less pot. Ok I have to caramelize a lot of onions for 3 different dishes and so does my partner. Well let’s just take all of them into one big fry pan and ‘get her done’.

Now while all this seems simple enough, the confusion starts because you don’t what you can combine even after you read the recipes for the tenth time. It’s not until you see the chef demo it that you begin to get a bigger picture of what’s going to happen for the night. Then you have to watch the chef demo both recipes (tick tock tick tock). Of course by that time you’re so clustered and can’t figure out which end of the knife is which. So you go back to your station and confer with your partner, who has that same dazed look on his face and you can see he is hoping beyond hope that I have it all under control. HA!

The second issue comes from mise-ing out. If you remember 1 group gets the proteins, another the veggies etc. Well when you get recipes that have a LOT of ingredients and often times similar ones the chaos is rampant. Then you come back to your station after handing out the stuff you were assigned to do only to find all these little black cups of liquid all over and no clue what they are, must less what they are for. See before when we each mised out our own items we’d put them at our station in a way that made sense to each of us. Now we’re picking them up, sniffing them trying to determine if it’s red wine, sherry or white wine. Then there are herbs everywhere. Everyone as their handing stuff out yells out what the things are, but hell at this point no one is listening. We’re all so focused on getting our stuff handed out and yelling what our stuff is I can’t listen to them yelling about their stuff – sheesh!

It’s now 7:45pm and we have to have all our dishes out by 10:15pm. I believe I heard 3 brains snap, one is whimpering at their station and the rest of us just stand there with this little bit of drool running out of the corner of our mouths. At that moment is when Chef Romero yells out “Ok let’s get on that bread pudding! I want that in the oven in 15 minutes – GO!” Everyone shakes the cobwebs out, wipes the drool of their face and gets moving.

On the menu for this evening we have –

Roquefort stuffed pork chops with savory kale bread pudding and a mushroom ragout. Also we will be presenting seared brined pork chops with a veal reduction sauce, and caramelized sweet potatoes with romesco sauce and braised kale.

The dishes were very good flavor wise. I wasn’t sure about the savory bread pudding with the kale but I was pleasantly surprised. I wonder if my family would like it. I would have to say probably not only because of the texture. Now the romesco was something that will get added to my favorites. What wonderful flavors. I’ve already pondered putting that on chicken and then grilling it and the when served add a bit of fresh to the top.

Here’s the recipe –

4 oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large or 2 small Ancho Chilies
2 Tbl Almonds
1 oz bread (French would be perfect about 2 slices ½ inch thick or a baguette 4 slices about ¾ inch thick.)
1 clove garlic
2 plum tomatoes
1 tsp parsley
Lemon juice, as needed (we only need ½)
Kosher salt, as needed

Heat oil in large sauté pan. Toast the chilies in the oil and set aside (be sure to cut the top stem portion off but leave the seeds intact). Using the same pan toast the bread and set aside. Next add the almonds and toast those making sure not to burn them. In a food processor grind the nuts, garlic and bread to a coarse meal. Add the chilies and grind till fully incorporated. Add the tomatoes and parsley and pulse again till fully incorporated. If you need more moisture begin to add a bit of your lemon juice. Now with the machine running slowly drizzle in the oil to emulsify. You may have to scrape down the sides once or twice. Continue adding the oil to the desire consistency. It will be thick. Add a bit more lemon and salt.

Got all my dishes out and pretty good marks. But it took the entire allotted time to do them. I always try and shoot for 15 minutes before they’re due but that did not happen. And not just me, almost all of us. I think another part of the problem is music. Once we get started the chef will put music on for us. How nice right? Well sometimes it’s this head banger hard rock music that makes me want to SCREAM! And then you look up at some of the younger kids in the class and they’re poppin their heads to the beat. Then the music may shift and be jazz and now I’m happy. I don’t mind the music it helps to break the tension, but they need to find a happy medium for all of us and I’m not how to address this.

I have redone my recipes a bit differently. When they give us our addendums it’s really screwy how they look. On the first page will be each dish and its ingredients. Then on the next couple of pages will the directions. So you’re going from the front to back constantly. I made copies of mine, reduced them and cut them up. Now they are all on one page with recipe name and below that ingredients and off to the right the directions. I’m hoping that helps with the organization. I’ll let you know.

Wish me luck. Tomorrow we’re filleting Halibut! It’s time to go fishing!

Until Tomorrow!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Day 2 of PCA II – This Little Piggy went to the Market…

This is one heck of a quarter. Tonight’s menu was Schnitzel, no you’re thinking Schnauzer that’s the cute dog with the mustache. It’s Schnitzel, no now you’re thinking Strudel that’s the one tasty pastry. Schnitzel is German for cutlet. We each got a pork tenderloin that we had to remove the ‘silver skin’, that tough membrane that protects the juicy goodness inside, and then cut 1/3 off to use for our Schnitzel. The other 2/3 was used for a sautéed pork tenderloin.

So first up Pork Schnitzel a la Holstein with a Traditional Garnish and Brown Butter.

The traditional garnish was a Gremolata made with anchovies, lemon zest and capers.
The pork was pounded out thin and then dredged in flour, dipped in egg and then into panko bread crumbs. It was then fried in a mixture of oil and butter. In another pan we melted about 3 ounces of butter and browned it. We also foamed it for presentation. This was a relatively simple dish. The cutlet was placed on the plate and topped with the gremolata. Then the butter foam was placed around it in small peaks, then a bit of the browned butter was drizzled over the cutlet. I took it up to Chef Romero for reviews. He criticizes in such a way you learn a lot. However this time I was floored. He tasted it and then tasted again and just looked at me and very seriously said “Take this to Chef Greenspan right now.” My face must have fallen to the floor. Why? Why must I take it to him I pondered and figured maybe Greenspan was an expert at Schnitzel and he would be the one to tell me what was wrong. I picked up my plate with what to be a very sad dejected look, because Chef Romero said “Red…it’s for him to eat” I stopped and looked and replied “Chef Greenspan is going to eat my Schnitzel?” He just nodded. I headed out of the class over to Chef Greenspan class and walked up and said “Hi Chef here’s your Schnitzel.” He smiled and said “So you made the best one eh? He only sends over the good ones. Hey nice foam!” I was speechless! As I came back into the classroom I had that stupid grin on my face.

That grin lasted all of 3 seconds because it’s time to fire off the next dish and it has a lot of components!

Next up is – Sautéed Pork Tenderloin with Salsify Puree, Sautéed Apples and Golden Raisins and Calvados Pan Sauce. (Calvados is an apple liqueur)

Stay with me here, because since I’m going to type this really really fast I expect you to read it even faster to get an idea of what it was like…and…GO!

Peel the Salsify and get it simmering in the milk and cream. Make sure to not get it too hot or it’ll boil over and milk burn is icky. Ok now get pork tenderloin marinating, it has to set in the marinade for 30 minutes. Ok that’s in the fridge, get started on the Cider Jus because we need this to make the pan sauce. This is going to take a bit. Caramelize the onions, deglaze, add stock and cider and let it reduce…come on…reduce! Check the salsify almost tender but something is amis that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’ll come to me. Cider jus is reducing, let’s start on the apples. These are peeled, cored, sliced and then browned in oil with salt and pepper. Once that’s done we add the Calvados – FLAME ON! Oh yeah…as everyone reflects back to PCA I and the Crepes Suzette and remembers their eyebrows fondly. Add the raisins and pull of the heat. Get the pork out of the fridge and get that pan hot. Let’s sear this baby! The happy sizzle noises start and we get seared on all sides and the end. Pop that bad boy onto a sizzle plate and get him into a 400° oven. WooHoo Salsify is tender, something still odd about this, but I get it over to the blender and whirl that stuff around and pour it back into my pan….ok found the problem. Seems when the person did the measuring for the salsify for everyone they didn’t exactly measure correctly. So my salsify that should have the consistency of mashed potatoes has the consistency of cream soup. Well this isn’t going to present nice at all being runny all over the plate and too late to start more. It’s time for ‘Recovery Mission’ (insert Mission Impossible theme music here) – Your mission Red is to take your liquid salsify and turn it into something consumable. You have 7 minutes to do this and you can choose 3 members from your kitchen utensils. This tape will self destruct in 10 seconds. (well if you wouldn’t mind just throwing it away because if I go up in a puff of smoke they’ll think something is burning and then you’ll just get more questions and…well…you get the gist) So over to my stove I go. I put the salsify on and get the heat back up and use a whisk to help move it all around and let it simmer and reduce. By whisking it I keep tension and allow the moisture to evaporate quicker than if I just let it simmer on its own.

While that’s reducing I get started on my pan sauce because my cider jus is reduced perfectly. I stain the jus into a clean pan, bring it back to a simmer, add Calvados and Dijon mustard and let it get to the perfect consistency and turn the flame off. Take out my tenderloin and let it rest, check the salsify and it’s coming along very nicely. I add the butter to my pan sauce to finish it off, slice my tenderloin. Let’s plate it up! A bit of salsify, lay out thin slices of the pork in front, put the apples and raisins around. Then take the pan sauce and dribble a bit around the dish and drape a couple of small spoonfuls over the pork itself. What a wonderful dish.

Yes I carry a camera with me and yes I forget to use it every time!!! ARG!!!

This dish is one I would definitely make again at home. Looking at all I am learning I wish I knew then what I have learned now when I redid my kitchen. I would have spent the extra money and gotten a convection oven. But that won’t stop me from having fun!

Tomorrow night is one of those nights someone will crack. Probably me. We have several dishes to prepare along with the fact that each dish has like 5 components and veggies. I wonder if I could drink the liqueurs….

Oh you thought we were done didn’t you? No, no you can’t leave yet. See we had to prep a couple of things for tomorrow. We had to take a rack of pork and fabricate our pork chops. Normally as this is done you end up with nice ribs and some nice chops. But we kept the ribs attached and Frenched them for a pretty presentation. But first we got to remove the chine bone(half of the back bone). Yeah you all don’t get the chine bone and if you did you’d never buy your meat from that butcher ever again. Removing this thing is a B*tch. We had to do 1 rack per 2 students. Guess who got to do the one for me and my partner. Yeah – moi. At least my partner (Edgar) is a great partner. He didn’t just sit there and watch like some of the other partners did. First because I was working on it and it was getting late, I was behind on a few dishes. Without a word he just came over and picked them up and did them for me. THANK YOU!! As my arm began throbbing from hacking at this thing with a clever that has the edge of a butter knife he came over and said let me help and he went at it for a while. Between the two of us we got it done. Then we had to trim the meat from between the ribs and clean them of all meat and sinew. This takes a while. So he started at one end and I at the other. We got our pork chops fabricated, 2 larger ones for stuffing and 2 thinner ones for marinating. Now it’s time to clean up and it’s 5 till 11pm and there is shrapnel everywhere! It looks like a bad scene out of a ‘B’ horror movie. Hahahaha!

So everything is done, kitchen is clean and chops are ready for tomorrow. Now you can breathe and close out this blog (smiles).

Until Tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Day 1 of PCA II – 0-60 MPH in a blink of an eye!

Well as you can see the number will change and we begin at day 1. We have two new chef instructors – Chef Romero and Chef Rorschach. Chef Romero is the head chef of the academy. He talks softly, walks around often giving input and tips. He’s only been in the culinary field for about 6 years but has such knowledge for what he does. He said after graduating from culinary school he was fortunate enough to hook up with the right people for his externship and rose very quickly in the culinary world.

Chef Rorschach was one of the chefs that substituted for us when Chef Richardson was out sick for a couple of days. She is a stickler for details and she is the one that has such a passion for students to learn and get as much as they possibly can out of their experience. What an interesting pair these two make. The mood in the class is so drastically different. You can see the other students get that focused look in their face and we’re all smiling like “Yeah now this is what we’re talking about!”

They even had us Mise out differently. Before we all grabbed our lists and went off and got our stuff. Well this time they divided us into groups – Protein, Fresh, Dry. One section of the class got all the meats, the next section got the wines and cheeses, yet another for herbs etc. It was so organized! As you’re passing out stuff to others you come back and find you station filled with goodies.

So our first night was Sautéed Chicken Breast with Polenta, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Pan Sauce. Well we first had to learn how to cut up a whole chicken. I’ve never done this. I buy my chicken already cut up. I’m lazy and figure my time is worth something hehehe. So if I buy a chicken whole I cook it whole. We had to remove the legs with the thighs and include the ‘oyster’ meat from the back. Then we had to separate the thigh from the leg. One thigh we had to French and the other de-bone. We then had to French both legs as well. For those not familiar with this technique you scrape the meat from the bone done a bit and cut off the ‘knob’ from the end. It’s for presentation only. Next was to remove both breasts. One would be a boneless ‘Supreme’ and the other we left the first wing joint still attached and Frenched that one as well. We kept the two breasts for our dishes that evening.

I’m a big multi-tasker. The problem I have in kitchen is multi-tasking while sharing a small space and having to share a stove. I can cook 15 dishes at once but when I have to do it on 4 burners, share a small refrigerator and have 2 feet of counter space I have to stop and refocus. Tonight I intend to really stand at my station and restructure my mind.

So while we’re cutting up our chicken I start my chicken stock reducing, get my water boiling for my shocking of Brussels sprouts (keep in mind I only get for burners) I start my bacon rendering so I can get that done and off the stove, but I also have to start heating my stock/milk for my polenta (I am now at four burners) I still have to sear my chicken breasts and pan fry my sprouts. This is all while sharing a space and knocking elbow both on the right and left side. It’s a good thing I really like my fellow students.

Sprouts are done, but water stays where it is. It was easier to keep 1 pot and share it and let everyone get their sprouts done. Bacon is rendered but I need the pan for later so stow it below. Get my next pan on to sear the chicken. And then get the chicken into the oven.

(Flash Back – Early days on PCA I and the lasagna and why it took twice as long to cook. One word – Convection)

I was calculating 30 minutes to cook the 2 chicken breasts. Well it took about 5 minutes. Long and short I get everything plated – Polenta first, chicken on top, sprouts around, sprinkle with the bits and the pan sauce. This making 2 plates will take some getting use to. My flavor was very good, my polenta wasn’t as thick as it should be. I’ll keep learning. I have never made polenta except in the first class and it was so gross. This stuff was pretty darn good.

This class will definitely keep me on my toes. I have made notes on everything the Chefs said and will type them up along with the recipes over to help memorize them. And tonight was a slow night according to all the past students. All I can say is Wow!!

Until Tomorrow…

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Day 30 – The Giants Win the Pennant!! The Giants Win the Pennant!!

Oh sorry got so excited about it being my last day in PCA-1 I lost all control.

Well tonight marked a mile stone for all of us. We are now heading to PCA-II which is meats. It was a fun night and bitter sweet. I think we’re all excited and nervous since we’re going on to something new and yet leaving our comfort zone.

As we finished up our 2 recipes – New England Clam Chowder and Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage, Chefs began gathering our final reviews. Chef Knight gave each of us a nice card with words of thanks and support. I thought it was such a nice touch and very considerate of her to do so. I mean let’s face it, we were not an easy bunch.

Then it was time for final grades. Drum roll please (tatatatatatatata) I got an A!! I was very pleased to see that. I thought I missed a lot more on my final written test, but I only missed 3 questions for a total of 4 points. (One of the questions was worth 2 points)

We also celebrated a birthday. Scott turned a whopping 32!! I swear 3 gray hairs popped out as we watched…he’s SOOOooOOOoo old now. (grins)

Tomorrow we go from 0 – 60. We begin working with meats. First up will be Chicken. The interesting part I’ve noticed, as I look through the first couple of days, is we are doing complete meals. No longer are we making what would be deemed 4 different side dishes, but rather a protein a starch and a veggie. Now is when we start to eat real food. Well so long as it’s consumable Hahaha! Our Chef Instructors seem tougher as well. Now we have to relearn how to do things and do them their way. I can’t wait!

The cutest thing will be going into the ‘holding cell’ (This is where we sit and wait till we can enter the labs. It’s like a big dining room but with office like chairs and tables on wheels) and wait with our fellow classmates and watch the confused looking newbies come in. Tonight is their first night to start PCA-I. I remember my first day very well and one individual who has just been a wealth of information, Thank You Tiny, and I hope that I can pass that along to another newbie.

We officially lost 2 students – Chris and Anthony. Interestingly enough our dish problem went way down too. Our predictions are during PCA2 we’ll lose at least 4 more. Only because they barely kept up during the first section. Right now I like everyone in our class. They all want to be here and everyone tries really hard.

Now I just need to learn how to properly sharpen my knives. I want to get that filet knife razor sharp.

Until tomorrow!!

Our Group Picture. This is our last day in the PCA-I Kitchen. Are we good looking or what?! Posted by Picasa