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!...


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