Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Day 9 of CCT – Canapés and Oppsie’

Let’s open this segment with what kind of day it is. Today is Wednesday and I shall be posting about what we did last night. But first I allow you a small glimpse into my world.

The day begins with the alarm going off. Fall out of bed (no don’t worry this wasn’t a problem this is an every day occurrence) and head to the bathroom. Go through all the rituals and it’s time to get dressed. Now I’m going to share with you something personal. As I’m getting dressed from my nice hot shower I like to use some powder. I use 2 acutally, one is body powder and the other is foot powder. I wear my shoes for a very long time (8am till 1am do the math it’s a long time) and if you’ve ever had a case of athletes foot you know how miserable it is. So as I’m getting all powdered up and now putting on my socks I realize I’ve powdered my body with my foot my powder and my feet with my body powder. *Sigh* Yep…it’s one of those days.

So on to last night and our canapé prep. All went pretty well. Since there were different ones we were prepping for we each took one and created it. We had a few issues –

1 - On the Onion Bacon Tarts I noticed a small mise cup of balsamic vinegar still sitting on the table. “A” was working on this. “A..what’s this vinegar for?” “Oh no..that was for the onion and bacon *sigh*” I’m like “Ok just checking” well an hour goes by we’re working on other things and cleaning up and I notice that vinegar is still sitting there. “Um..A..this vinegar is still here…” “Yeah…” “Are you going to add it to the mixture?” “Do you think we should?” “Yes I think we should! That’s flavor and the Chef is going to notice is there is no balsamic flavor.” He sighs and slumps off to get a pan because it’s going to all have to be reheated to distribute the vinegar. Wait…it get so much better!! When he’s done it’s about 1 cup of bacon and onion. I use that order because the main ingredient in the cup was bacon. But the canapé is Onion / bacon tart. I asked about that too “I used the 4 ounces of onion it called for…” was his response. 4 ounces… “Where did you get 4 ounces? The recipe calls for 4 onions.” DOH! Well it’s 10pm by now and there is no way he’s going to be able to caramelize 4 onions in time. He’s promised that will be the first thing he does when gets into class. I’m worried because the flavor is going to be way off. But we’ll see what we can do.

2 – Ceviche this is fish and herbs and peppers all mixed with lemon and lime juice. It marinates overnight to allow the citrus to cook the fish. Sounds simple enough. “G” was in charge of making this. She dices and chops and I end up helping out because my stuff is all done so I cut her onions and juice the lemons and limes. I go to do some dishes and come back and she’s stirring everything together. As I come back to the station she asks “Red how does this look? I don’t want to take a bite to try it though.” Ok well one you wouldn’t until the fish is cooked. But the bigger issue was “G? Where’s the fish?” Yep seems that ingredient was forgotten. She finds the fish, I help her chop it up and she stirs some more and asks me again how does it look? Looks great…add the citrus juice and mix it all up. “Oh yeah!” Ok so that’s all fixed.

3 – We had to make puff pastry. If you’ve ever used puff pastries and love those flaky layers, you have to make it! If nothing else do it at least once so you appreciate all the work that goes into this dough. I know you can buy it a Trader Joes for $5, but trust me the effort is worth it. Well if you’re anyone but me. Out of our group my dough was, well interesting. I’m obviously not a dough gal. At least not yet. This dough is going to be used in one of our recipes. Thank goodness that one recipe of this dough is more than enough. Because if we had to rely on each of us, well mine would have been the weakest link. It was Puff Pastry Fear Factor style :). I will take it home and see what happens to it when it’s cooked. Might be an interesting science experiment. Or end up looking like a re-run of I Love Lucy.

Well tomorrow night we assemble all these little bite sized snacks and present. May the cooking gods have mercy on our souls.

Until Tomorrow!...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Day 6, 7 and 8 of CCT

Well sorry for the tardiness of my blog but since this term is very laid back I haven’t had much to post. That combined with a 4 day weekend – YEAH BABY!!

We’ve done several things, but most are done and then put into the refrigerator for days until it’s ready to have something else done to it.

For example on day 6 we started our gravlax. This is a salt cured, unsmoked, side of salmon. Yeah it’s still in the refrigerator and that was done back before the long weekend. We also rinsed all the ducks for smoking, made some oven dried tomatoes and presented our Pate and Pork Terrine.

Note – The tomatoes…well let’s say that you took a tomato and threw it into a fire pit till it was black and ash…that’s what we ended up having. I don’t know why they were done the way they were done. The oven was set at 250, I would have had it at 225 and I wouldn’t have had the fan on, or if so, I would have reduced the heat to 200.

Note – I don’t care how pretty it looks presented on a wood board Pate is still nasty.

So you can see how much the pace of this session (CCT) differs from the last one (PCA-II).

On day 7 we got kinda busy. We made salads and a lot of them.

Mizuna Salad with Prosciutto, Citrus and Sherry Vinaigrette
Radicchio and Endive Salad with Goat Cheese, Pear and Champagne Vinaigrette
Composed Cobb Salad with Roquefort Dressing
Warm Duck Confit Salad with Frisee, Apples, and Pomegranate Molasses

Interesting how ‘salad’ day just happened to be on the day before Thanksgiving. I said this before in another post, I am really enjoying duck. Ok so I should also say that our teams duck confit was more like duck jerky. We were to warm the duck in duck fat, add the pomegranate vinaigrette and let it caramelize a bit. Well ours caramelized within seconds. Of course we weren’t watching it assuming it was going to take several minutes. As for flavor no one could touch us!! Of course even though no one could touch us you could at least chew theirs within a reasonable time frame.

My favorite of the night was the Radicchio salad. This was just so refreshing with the cheese and pears.

On the Eighth day of Cooking Class our Chef did bring to us….8 separate dishes, 7 freaky salads, 6 odd prep courses, FIVE Forcedmeat snacks!!, 4 smoked meats, 3 edible sausages, 2 grinding methods and 1 whole hog fabrication!!

Ok sorry the 12 days of Christmas was playing and I decided to get in the mood. Where was I? Oh yes day 8. After tonight I can officially say I know how to make a sandwich. (shrugs) So on the menu for this evening was a Caesar Salad in which we made the dressing and croutons. We also served –

Reuben Sandwich with Braised Sauerkraut, Russian Dressing, and Coleslaw.
Croque Monsieur with Frisee, Radish and Cornichon Salad
Italian Submarine with Mediterranean Oven-Dried Tomato/Potato Salad (yes these are the same oven dried tomatoes)

I love corned beef so the Reuben I was looking forward to. That was until they insisted we use the traditional bread, being Rye. *gag*

Croque Monsiuer is basically a ham sandwich. The bread is toasted, the ham and cheese is layered on and put back into the oven to melt. Once out it is then topped with other piece of bread and then Mornay sauce is smeared over the top and chives sprinkled for garnish. I was very hesitant about this one, but not one to allow anything we make to go un-tasted (and yes I did taste the pate) I took a bite. Not bad, the Mornay sauce does add something. However the ham was very sweet and ham (in my opinion) should never be sweet. I don’t even put glaze on my ham when I bake them. (Jean from C@H is going to slap me silly I’m sure over this comment hahaha) I think I’d make these again but instead of ham I’d use beef or turkey.

Italian Sub…what can I say it’s a sub. Pile on some meat, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic and it’s dinner, or lunch, or whatever meal you’re making.

I had this question once before so I’ll specify here – Cornichons are those little sweet pickles.

Tomorrow we begin all the prep work for our appetizer presentation on Thursday to the rest of the school. We will be prepping the following –

Gravlax and Herbed Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches
Warm Gruyere and Roasted Ham Profiteroles
Savory Bacon, Onion and Saint Agur Tartlets
Snapper Ceviche in Cucumber Cups
Vol-au-vents with Smoked Duck Mousse

Will be a busy night with all the prep but I know our group, we’ll have it knocked out in no time at all.

Until Tomorrow!...

King Crab Cakes

Ok so I promised pictures of these. Now keep in mind these we did not do in class. These were done at home. I had made King Crab legs for dinner the night before and we had a lot of meat left over. So not being one to waste good stuff like crab I decided to make these cakes. They were served with a spring mix salad which was dressed a homemade lemon vinaigrette. I chose lemon because the crab was very sweet and the greens were mild so we need some tartness to balance things out.

The recipe for the cakes was -
1 lb crab meat shredded
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg beaten
1 Tbl Mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbl Old Bay Seafood Seasoning
2 bunches of green onions (green and light green parts only)
Butter to finish
S & P to taste

Now for the bread crumbs I used a stale baquette and broke it up into very small pieces and did not use the crust. I then added about another 1/4 cup of regular bread crumbs because my crab was so moist I needed the extra binder.

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. I formed mine into patties that were each 1/3 cup and about 1/2 inch thick. I allowed these to chill in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes.

In a big fry pan I added Olive Oil and Canola Oil so that it would come 1/3 of the way up on the patties. I fried them till golden brown on both sides, but only did 4 at a time so that they would fry and not end up steaming themselves. I placed them onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and finished them off in a 350 degree oven till hot all the way through. (About 10-15 minutes) Once removed I added 1/2 Tbl of slice butter on the top to melt.

You can go one extra step if you choose but since I did not have any Panko Bread crumbs I omitted this step. Before browning, dip cakes into flour (making sure to pat off any extra), then into an egg wash, and then into Panko Bread Crumbs. Cook the same as above. This will add an extra crunchy texture. For those that like crunchy on the inside, add a can of rinsed chopped water chesnuts. You may need to ajust your bread crumbs to compensate for the extra moisture.


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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Day 4 and 5 of CCT – Does this fat make me look fat?

It’s all about preserving in fat.

On Day 4 we fabricated 2 ducks. Ducks are a very interesting bird. First they don’t have any ‘white’ meat only dark meat. Also they’re very, very fatty. So it’s best to render this stuff out. But this ‘stuff’ makes some tasty ways to cook duck – Duck Confit.

We also made Pork Rillettes. This is pork butt that is braised for a long period of time to allow the meat to become very tender so it can be shredded easily. This seasoned meat is then packed into a ramekin. Meanwhile you’ve been rendering pork fat in another pan taking care not to brown it. You just want to extract all the fatty goodness out. The ramekins are then topped off with the liquid fat sealing out the air. The meat by itself, covered with plastic wrap would last maybe a week in the refrigerator. But covered in the fat it will last 3-4 times as long. When you’re ready to use it you simply skim off the fat and you have a nice pork ‘paste’ you can spread on crostinis.

Our brine injected pork loins were ready for trussing and then placed into the smoker to be hot smoked for a few hours. Smelling it made me hungry. It’s like standing outside and whiffing someone else who’s bbq’ing in your neighborhood. No matter if you’ve just eaten a huge meal, you smell that and you salivate.

Last but not least we started the first process of our Bread and Butter pickles. My dad used to make these only I recall we did them with zucchini instead of cucumbers. So they are still in the fridge awaiting phase two. We just cut the cucumbers and onions up, tossed them in kosher salt and then put them in a perforated pan and covered them with ice and plastic wrap. The brine solution was cooked up and stored till Monday.

The dynamics of the class now is very different. Not only is the pace a lot slower but there is a lot of team projects. So far nothing has been individual. This can cause problems if you teammate(s) and you do not gel. We’ve always made a point of when team work had to be done; we knew who we could rely on and who we wanted to work with. Hey, we’re paying the tuition this shouldn’t be a problem. We all know that out in the real world things don’t work out that way. But then in the real world I’m being paid to do a job or work with whomever and I shall do so. But when I’m paying…different story.

The ‘snafu’ is Chef divides us up into 3 groups. So we don’t know who we’re working with. Needless to say this can cause a lot of anxiety among a few of us. We also have one student that is starting to concern me and not sure how I should address it. Lately he’s become very aggressive and he’s always touching the younger students. On the shoulder, or the wrist. Never mean like just a finger brush here or there. He did it to me once or twice and I told him to never touch me again. He’s also recently out of prison. Spent 8 years locked away. He is not allowed to carry his knives home. He must leave his knife bag at the school and pick it up just before walking into class – a violation of his parole if he doesn’t. I had to correct him this week, as he was in my group, because he was doing a procedure wrong. He usually laughs and jokes around me a lot but this time he just glared at me and then walked away. I don’t feel I can talk to the Chef instructor about this because, to be honest, he turned 3 shades whiter when this student introduced himself and mention he was an ex-con. May have to take this to the director.

Day 5 brought us back to the duck and the pork.

From Day 4 being on a Friday we had a lot of the class projects that normally would have been for tomorrow being done today. Its ok we were up the challenge. Well let’s say Eddie was. Lol this guy is just “get it done” mentality. He took it upon himself to get the projects finished up so the teams could focus on the ones they had to do. Eddie rinsed the whole ducks we were brining. He also washed off the dry rub from the duck quarters and got them drying for our duck confit. Sounds simple but it was a lot of duck.

For the team production we made Pork Terrine with Dried Cherries and Pistachios and Goat Cheese Mousseline with Nicoise Olive Tapanade.

I have to say the jury is out on the pork terrine. I just cannot see this dish as being tasty. Pork, cherries and pistachios just don’t do it for me. But I’ll reserve judgement till I try it. Tonight we just precooked it and then it has to set up in the walkin overnight. We’ll present it tomorrow.

The Goat Cheese dish looks like it’ll be very tasty. I love the olive tapanade. This one is sitting up as well and will be presented tomorrow so I’ll let know how they all taste.

The only ‘nasty’ dish we made was the chicken liver pate. Now I know some love this tasty ‘treat’ but not I. Also the chicken livers needed to be soaked a lot longer than 10 minutes in milk. No matter how long they were to soak I’m not a fan.

Tonight that same student from the other night became aggressive yet again. I approached him because looking at all pork terrines in the oven his group didn’t have theirs done correctly. Meaning it wasn’t covered in foil or in a deep enough water bath. Since it was their entire team that would fail I thought I’d be nice and mention it. He made his hands into fists and put them knuckles down on the counter and leaned forward (totally over posturing) and told me “Stay out it, it doesn’t concern you.” I’m like WHAT THE HELL was that?! So I’m going to make a call to the director tomorrow and just make them aware of the situation. I don’t like the thought of coming to school and not feeling like I’m in a safe environment. I’m going to talk to a couple of other students and see if they’d be willing to talk to the director as well.

It’s a short week due to the holidays. Yeah a 4 day weekend for me from work and school!! Let’s see Thursday is Thanksgiving, busy making pies and helping with dinner. So that’s not a true day off of relaxation. But I have Friday! No wait…I’ll be cooking a full dinner myself for my family and father in law. This way I don’t have to take my parents leftovers since I’ll be making my own. Fine I’ll relax on Saturday. Shoot can’t do that I have to get ready for my daughters birthday party over at my sisters house. (My sister has the perfect home for entertaining if you were wondering) Ok that leaves Sunday, the ultimate relaxation day. DOH! Can’t do that either, will be over at my sisters to clean up as there is no way I’ll let her do any cleaning. It’s our mess. But after that my husband and I are going out to dinner with some friends who live about 2 hours away. And we’re going to take the motorcycle. (I’m hoping for cold weather because if it’s cold enough I get to wear my Christmas present – riding leathers) So that leaves us with…Arg! I’m out of days off! Oh well it’ll all be fun – family, good food, celebrations and friends. Can’t get much better than that.

Until Tomorrow!...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Day 3 of CCT – I’m going to explode!

No one person should ever eat as much sausage as I did tonight.

Let me further add that along with not eating as much sausage as I did last night I should have also not eaten 2 pieces of chocolate cake from the other class.

Let me further add to that of not then going home and having a vodka gimlet and a bag of potato chips.

**whimpers and looks for the pepto bismol**

So all that sausage we made up the day before got cooked off tonight. We smoked the kielbasa, poached the brats in beer and then finished them off on the grill. Others were sautéed and poached in other liquids. Then we made a sausage board (just typing the word sausage is making me nauseous) of all the sausages with various mustards, grilled onions and peppers, a few pickles and some bread.

We may have lost another student. She was out on Wednesday and last night and we were told will not be there on Friday so she’s 3 days down. Supposedly after 3 days you’re dropped, but we’ve seen that change so will wait till Monday and find out.

This class has a whole different dynamic to it. We’re not able to work with the people we want to. Chef breaks us into the groups he wants. So for the musketeers it’s hard because we want to work together and can’t. I am positive that our previous chef’s and our current chef had a long powwow about who’s who in the class and who works and who doesn’t or who needs more help. Thus our chef has put a strong student in each group. I can work with just about anyone, you find their strengths and expand upon that. You have to accept people for who they are. If they don’t work like you do, you have to let it go and find out how to get them work within the parameters you set. Some get very frustrated with others, this is probably just due to lack of experience working with a wide variety of personalities. I also have years of managerial experience so I use that to my advantage.

There is a song called Accentuate the Positive by Johnny Mercer and the lyrics are perfect –

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

At least the sausage fest is complete. Now we’re off to make salads, appetizers and sandwiches.

Until Tomorrow!...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Day 2 of CCT – Who wants Sausage?

‘Cause we have a lot of it, Kielbasa, Chorizo, Bratwurst, Breakfast, Boudin Blanc, Hot Italian and Country Style Crepinettes.

Pretty neat getting to use a lot of new equipment. The grinder then the buffalo chopper, which was missing a piece it had a hard time chopping the chunks of chuck let alone a whole buffalo. Then the sausage stuffer, which took 4 people to operate. Oh how I wish I had pictures. See we didn’t have any clamps to secure it to the table, so one person had to really hold it down. For our group that was Johnny, and good thing cause that was hard. Then one person had to hold the casings while the meat was pumped into them, and that was Abbie. Next our sausage stuffer was missing a piece so someone had to put their finger over this hole to keep the meat from squishing out, that was Gabby and finally we had to have someone crank the device to pump the meat and that was me – yes my arms are sore.

This class is so 180 degrees from our last class. I mean I know there are days that can be laid back, but if this class gets any more laid back we’ll end up in last week.

We lost another student so now we are 12. Seems odd when I look back on the very first day.

Tomorrow we begin smoking some of the sausages and cooking up a few others. I sure hope things pick up a bit.

Until Tomorrow!...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Day 1 of CCT – Here Piggy Piggy!

Well today marks our first day in CCT. Today we got to fabricate an entire pig. (Babe) Our new Chef Instructor is Chef Colin True.

I will include photos, but be warned they may be considered gruesome for some (wonders how many people stopped reading the blog at this point and instantly scrolled down…)

Not much on recipe preparation. We removed the head (I got to do that – so cool!) and then fab’ed out the hocks, hams, bacon, belly for bacon, tenderloins etc. Nothing gets wasted. I ended up de-boning a lot of the parts. I just really got into this task and wouldn’t mind doing a whole on my own if I’m ever afforded the opportunity.

Tomorrow we will start grinding up the meat for sausages. We began the brine for the hams and the rub for bacon. The hams will brine for seven days and the bacon takes a long time as well to dry. I’ve never made sausage so looking forward to it.

The newbies arrived today as well. They’re so cute in their new shiny white coats. But wait…why is their knife kit so much thicker than ours…? So I grabbed one as they were walking by “Hey come here for a sec. I want to see what’s in your knife kit and since you’re freshman you have to comply” whoa she did! Well come to find out they have all the pastry stuff in their bags we didn’t get in ours. Tips for piping, piping bag, pasta wheel, veggie/fruit peeler, pizza cutter even a zester. Well if that didn’t get our goat up and before you could even raise the other eyebrow Carrie was on it. Turns out we can buy the extra stuff and I will admit at a pretty good price. I’ve added so much other stuff to my bag it’s already quite full. We did find out the tuition was raised, but not sure by how much as it’s no longer on their site.

Our school has also just opened another one in Sacramento California and in 3 years one will be opening in Oregon.

Well that’s about it for tonight.

Until Tomorrow!...

Here is Babe - note the very big knives in the back.

I got to remove the head. Yes it still had its teeth and you can see the tongue.

Babe is then held and cut into the needed primals so we can start making hams, roasts etc.

Eddie looks thrilled, Lynndy I think is just happy we didn't have to kill it, Abbie I think had as much fun as I did :)

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Day 29 of PCA II – Last Day of Proteins

Wow I cannot believe this course is coming to a close. I look back on all the meats we’ve fabricated and all the dishes we’ve prepared and I’m amazed. Tonight we did Miso Soup, Tempura and the pan seared duck breast with plum gastrique and roasted plums.

Everything came out very good. I was so happy that this time I didn’t over ‘pan sear’ the duck breast. Last one had a lot of color on it….ok ok I’ll be honest it was blackened duck breast. But this time it was a beautiful golden brown. It actually look edible. I wasn’t happy with the tempura. The dough, once fried, didn’t have that crunchy texture. It looked beautiful and tasted great, just missing that element of what makes tempura – tempura.

I am extremely pleased to announce I passed with a A!! Yes I’ll take the big WooHaa!

Oh forgot some drama from last week…let’s tune in shall we…?

~~As the Kitchen Burns~~

This episode opens with Carrie at the sink station finishing up some of her dishes. Denise “Red” approaches to do the same…we hear the whispering…

Carrie “So how’d you do?”
Red “Pretty good. I think I….what the hell is this?!?!” Red raises her voice in the shock of what she sees in the sink.
Carrie “No clue but that was here when I came over”
Red “Oh hell no this is just wrong! Chef!?”

As Chef Rorschach approaches Red shows her the parchment paper left in the sink (ok not a biggie) and on the paper is about 6 cloves of sliced garlic (wasteful yes, but not major) but then there in the middle is well over 4 ounces of butter in a perfect brick. Chef Rorschach was not happy and wanted Chef Romero to see it as well. Talk about wasteful!

At the end of the evening everyone is lectured on what it means to take that extra step, or 30 seconds and wrap up food and label it and put it away. The affects of cost management and how you pass that cost on to your consumers, not to mention how disappointed she was in whoever did it. Chef Romero even added on that he would have more respect for the person who did it to just own up to it. (No one moves) He also stated that he’s failed people on their finals for this type of behavior. That if he had seen it that person would get a zero for the day.

So class is wrapped up, we are told goodnight and everyone starts the slow migration to the door. Chef Rorschach calls out “E may we see you please after class?” Chef didn’t sound too ‘friendly or chatty’ when she asked. My guess is E is the one who left the butter. I think a lot of people tend to forget there are cameras everywhere and they see and hear all.

And thus ends this episode of As the Kitchen Burns. ~~~

So tomorrow I begin CCT – Cold Cuisine Techniques

The course run down is – An introduction to the fundamentals of cold cuisine and the unique aspects of the professional cold cuisine kitchen. Students start the course by fabricating an entire pig and utilize all parts of the animal. Students will learn about curing, brining, smoking, drying, ageing and sausage making as well as other finished products using the pork. We will provide the entire school with bacon, pancetta, ham, sausages (fresh and dry), hocks, Canadian bacon, ribs in an effort to illustrate both self-sufficiency and product management. Students will learn about pates, terrines, duck and duck products (confit and foie gras), salads, sandwiches, canapés, old appetizers, oysters, gravlax, caviar and chesses. Students will plan and execute an hors d’oeuvre presentation in the dining room of the school.

Well the only thing I was disappointed to hear was no sushi.

The cool thing is we get a whole pig tonight! Woot!

We lost another classmate so now we’re down to 13 from our 21. Which is good because our new lab is very small. I’m anxious to meet our new Chef Instructor and see how ‘measures’ up hehehe. I’ve heard good things about him. So…

Until Tomorrow!...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Day 25, 26, 27, 28 of PCA II – Finals Day 1 – 2 – 3 and 4

Wow I had no idea one could actually be this busy.

Ok so I’m behind a few days. Let’s do the run down shall we?

Day 1 of testing – Fabricate a chicken and fabricate a halibut.

Pan Seared Chicken Breast, with Polenta and Brussel Sprouts

Sautéed Halibut with Potato/Artichoke Gratin and Spring Onions

I think I did ok on this night. I had a hard time getting those darn potatoes to cook up. My production schedule had to be completely flipped flopped. But I got everything out and on time.

I should first explain the rules. First up – NO TALKING at all, unless it’s to ask “Are you done with that chinios?” this type of thing. You must ensure you have all your ingredients. Once they put the box away there is no going back to it. When you come into the kitchen you’re to set up your station (which we do every night anyway) and make sure you have the items you’ll need. I try to make sure I have everything. Even spoons for tasting. I don’t want anything to take me away from my station and my cooking. Well I guess the no talking rule starts the minute you walk into the lab. DOH!

Day 2 of Testing – Fabricate red snapper

Pan Seared Snapper with Mélange of Baby Vegetables and Fish Consommé. The only thing about this dish is the consommé takes a bit of time, but it has to be clear…very clear. And when I do the chicken consommé it’s fine, but when I do the fish it clouds up.

Along with this dish we also did Salmon En Papillote (See Day 12 of PCA II) which is a dish I just love. Well not the fish, or rather not the fish they provide. I do this type of dish often with Talipia or Catfish. You can make anything this way and there is such a range of things to add! This dish would be great for a dinner party because you could have several types of fish, various toppers from peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes etc. Then everyone can top their own with the things they like, wrap them up, write their name on it and then just throw them all in the oven. Fun way to get kids to eat different things too.

Day 3 of Testing – Grill 2 New York Steaks with the following sauces – Béarnaise and Bordelaise. Also 2 sides – sautéed broccolini and smashed red bliss potatoes with caramelized shallots.

This night just totally came together for me. We almost had a snafu in that they removed the grill from our lab which left PCA I with the only grill for now. So we’re suppose to grill our steaks for grill marks and finish in the oven. Sure no prob…except that PCA I is doing their finals and tonight they’re doing grilled vegetables. Ok so that’s going to be a bit crowded. Chef told us to pan sear our steaks and then finish them in the oven for our final. I wasn’t happy with this, the recipe is for Grilled Steaks, not pan seared. Besides I was hungry and wanted that grilled steak darn it! Ok fine…I begin by starting my sauces and then hear Chef call out “If you want to grill off your steaks you may do so, so long as it is within the next hour.” YES!! I thought ok put everything here on hold I want to get over and get those done and I can then hold them till I’m ready to fire them. And I don’t want to have to wait for anyone…so off I go and they look beautiful! I get back to my station, finish off my sauces and my side dishes are just at the point where I can toss my steaks in the oven and finish them off. I hear the sizzle of a lot of cast iron pans and kinda look behind me. All but 2 others are pan searing their steaks. I was shocked. I figured everyone would want to get right on that. The recipe is “grilled steaks”.

Day 4 of Testing – Braised Lamb Shank, Bouillabaisse with Rouille and Pork Schnitzel

Interesting choice of items here, none of them taste good together (wonder if they did that on purpose?) The lamb shank had to get on first since it really needs 5-6 hours not the 3 hours it was given. My pork was partly frozen and then once thawed had a huge line of silver skin and gristle that I had to trim out. Not that this matters, but as I was pounding out this piece of pork for my nice schnitzel a pattern started. And Viola! My schnitzel is now in the shape of a butterfly. I so wish I could say it was on purpose.

**Rewind** - Before the grilled steak day I went to a kitchen supply store and bought one of those silicone whisks. Since I knew we’d be making Bearnaise sauce and I didn’t want to it to turn gray from over whipping the silicone whisk would be my ticket. If you haven’t bought one of these yet DO SO!! This was fantastic! It even shortened the time of whisking on the egg yolks. Needless to say I was impressed. ~~~We now return you to your blog reading….~~~

My Bouillabaisse came out pretty good, but all of the shell fish was opened so I wasn’t happy about cooking them up. Even after pinching them closed they’d pop open. So I had to head to the walk in for more clams. I think the flavor was ok, except to me adding Pernod ruins it. I believe you get enough of the ‘licorice’ flavor from the fennel. I believe it would be better flavored with a good white wine. But what do I know, I’m a student (wink).

It’s now 9:45pm and I’ve decided to pull my lamb shank. I wish I had had more time to braise it, but at least the Chefs are sympathetic to this and understand that they won’t be as tender as they could be.

Combine a week of finals with 2 days of being out of my office at manager retreat meetings and training seminars and hopefully you’ll understand and forgive my late posting.

Monday is our last day of testing in PCA II. It’s bitter sweet actually. I am looking forward to moving on and learning new things, but at the same time I shall miss Chef Romero and Chef Rorschach. I have very much enjoyed their company and class. The bit of good news (well for me its fantastic news) is that it looks as if we might get Chef Rorschach back in PCA IV. Can I get a big WooHaa! Finally an opportunity to pick her brain as this class is 3 days of lectures, 1 day of prep and 1 day of cooking. We’ll get the history of foods, techniques etc. I am THRILLED!

Still not sure who we will be getting for PCA III but I should find out Monday evening.

One more day…the time does fly.

Until Tomorrow!...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Day 25 of PCA II – And the Mystery Box Is…

Well chicken of course! We each brought in a whole chicken to practice our fabrication. Then we had to take that chicken and cook it anyway we chose. We only had to make one plate.

My dish? –

Oven Roasted Chicken Breast with Sage Dressing and Sautéed Spinach. I am so wanting Thanksgiving to get here! I took an orange and cut in half and used ½ of the fruit of it in my dressing and the other half I mixed into some butter and drizzled over the sautéed spinach. I also made a pan sauce with chicken stock and sage. Very tasty dish.

We had some pretty neat things come out of this. Carrie made a balsamic chicken dish that I swear made my mouth water. Eddie’s fried chicken had a crackly skin on it that looked just yummy!

I wish I had time to see more dishes but only got to really see the ones around me.

Oh then there was the other dish. Yet another fish dish. I cannot fathom why we do so much fish in this class. The only reason I can see for it is there are so many different types of fish – flat, round, shell, mollusks etc…but come on enough fish! I am a better swimmer though I bet. Tonights fish – Skate which is a member of the Ray family. We also made what looked like ravioli’s but without my book in front of me I cannot remember the true name. These were stuffed with mashed potatoes and some of the black olive tapenade. They are then boiled and tossed into a pan of browned butter. There were ok.

Tomorrow we start finals. I am very nervous about these. The first night we have our written test, knife cut test and 2 full dishes.

Pan Seared Chicken Breast with Polenta and Brussel Sprouts and a Mustard Pan Sauce
Sautéed Halibut with Potato/Artichoke Gratin, Spring Onions and Fines Herbs Beurre Blanc

The only good thing is there is no demo so once we do our test we can head into the kitchen and start cooking. I AM SO NERVOUS!!! I feel like I’m back in high school and it’s test day and everything you’ve studied for just leaves your mind…what’s a chicken? How do you sauté again?

If you are reading this blog at 6pm PST please think good mojo my way. (Gads I hope I don’t have to cook that up too…haha)

Until Tomorrow!...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Day 24 of PCA II – Oh My Cod! – The Revenge

Tonight was bad. Oh lordy that’s an understatement if there ever was one. First off we only had 10 people show up for class. So we broke ourselves into 2 groups of 5. Odd numbers in groups always tends to throw people off. This is because some things are done in the group of 5 and others were to be in groups of 2 so there’s that odd man out. We managed pretty good with out group. 2 of our strong students that would have been on our line were gone. So Eddie and I stepped up. He kept the food prep going and I checked up on all the team players.

We cooked (if you can call it that) up Salt Cod. Let’s start with the preparation of this fish. It has to be soaked for a minimum of 48 hours in water that is changed every 12 hours. When you open the lid to change the water you are instantly greeted with a wave of odor and not a pleasant one. I like fish, but this about made me gag.

But wait there’s more. It’s like leather. We had to boil the first batch in milk to help draw more of the impurities out. If something has impurities that need to come out before eating it, it shouldn’t be eaten.

The other problem we ran in to was the mixer issue. Ours was broken and unfortunately during the mixing process the paddle kept scraping the bottom on the bowl. Our dish was more gray than a US Navy battleship. We got high marks on presentation, but since they wouldn’t taste it much because of the concern for metal shavings lower marks on that. (We live in S. Calif Los Angeles area…don’t we inhale more metal shavings than eat?)

Then we cooked up yet more and made fried fish balls. I wish I could think of a good reason to do this. I would have a really hard time cooking anything like this for anyone. I would feel it is my moral obligation to keep their palate away from such things. Oh I know what you’re thinking…it might be a delicacy for them, an old family favorite. Time to educate them on new delicacies.

The only 2 things we made that I like were the black olive tapenade and the green olive one. These were served on baguettes that were toasted and rubbed with fresh garlic.

We were done pretty early 9pm. So we cleaned some stuff and talked about our finals.

Mid-Terms coming! Heaven help me!

Until Then…

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Side Bar - Not cooking related

I am in so much hot water.

No I mean literally. Ok so we have this closet in my laundry room. It used to hold the hot water heater. This was before we even moved into the house - 12 years ago. Well we recently redid this small room. Basically new flooring, new paint. Nothing too serious. Well in this closet I've always just had misc. items, but never organized. That all changed today. I pulled all the crap out and got it all set up and ready to go back in nice and tidy like. Hhmm..what is this copper tube? Why does it have a valve on it..."Honey?" "Yes?" "Can you come get rid of this copper thing in the closet in the laundry room?" "Now?" "Yes or tomorrow. I just want to organize this closet and I've pulled everything out.." "Ok"

So here he comes, my little handy man hero. He looks it over, nods a bit and heads to the garage to get the tool(s) he needs. A few moments later he comes back in gets down to the task. I'm ironing my uniforms in the same room and making sure I keep out of his way and ready to hand him any one of the 18 tools he's brought in. A little rustling noise and then I hear "Oh crap!" followed by the sound of water escaping quickly. I ask "Was that still hooked up?" "No it might be the extra water in the pipe that's been under pressure all this time...and the tube is pretty long..." water is still gushing out "*t" My brain is telling me to keep quiet but my mouth just HAS to ask the question "Honey why didn't you check to see if it was still hooked up to water with that valve thingy that was on it?" I get the look and "The valve was stuck!" and again I hear myself asking a question "You only tried to open it with your fingers, not a pair a pliers?" Then I hear "Oh dammit! if that tube has fallen thru I'll have to go under the house." Now where this tube is and where the entrance is to go under the house you'll understand why I left the laundry room at that moment. (I have to admit I was laughing at this point but I couldn't let him see or hear me)

He comes walking down the hall asking me for money because now he has to run to the hardware store. I just hand him some small bills and of course ask if there is anything I can do? He just shakes his head and mutters as he's walking out the door. He comes back a few minutes later with what he needs.
Of course we're dealing with us so it's not an easy fix. 30 minutes later he believes it's fixed. I am so hopeful. I've even entertain the thought that I'll check it every day and even if I see it leaking I'll just leave a big towel there and never tell him.

I will sure think long and hard before coming up with any other tasks. :)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Day 23 of PCA II – Oh My Cod!!

Ok let’s get this out of the way because it’s a fast episode –

~~As the Kitchen Burns~~

The issue our team had with the dishes the other night…? Well that same person, for whatever reason (but me think she doth protest too much) left the class before it got started. She stayed and watched the fabrication but that was it. Hold on to your hats kiddos – we had NO dish dropoffs yesterday! Not one. Holy cow it was so pleasant it was almost surreal. The other sink had one person they’re dealing with who drops off. But our side…oh it was wonderful!


Ok so cod…what a big fish that was. We got a big lingcod but at least the head was gone and the innards were removed. We had to remove the filets on both sides and cut them down to small chunks for fish and chips. Lucky for us our ‘chips’ were already sliced for us. We got those fried up and held (I added salt and pepper to ours. 1 – my partner Eddie peppers his fries and 2 – just another flavor aspect) Now for the cod, batter is made and up we go to the fryers. We served them in the paper cones too with malt vinegar and tartar sauce. These were so good!! That batter came out so crispy and golden brown. I wish I could have brought some home. But ate it there. Besides it wouldn’t have been as good reheated. I love fish and chips.

Next we did fried calamari. Ok I knew going in I didn’t care for this dish, but I was so fascinated with the squid it didn’t matter. We had to clean these little buggers and I found it fun. (sick huh?) You have to remove the beak, the pull the head from the body. On the body part you have to skin it, pull out the cartilage and squeeze out the innards. Then you cut the tentacles from the head. I could have cleaned a lot more than I did. I wonder why something like this are more enjoyable than others? We sliced the body into rings and put them all into buttermilk for a good soak. Now comes the interesting choice of batter. I have never used this product before – phyllo dough. We unrolled the dough and put it into a 200° oven to let it dry out, but not brown. You keep taking it out and removing the part that is totally dry and put the moist pieces back in. Then you crumble them all up. (funny how it looks like fish food flakes…) So you take the squid out of the buttermilk and dredge it in flour (we added cayenne to ours) then another quick dip into the buttermilk and then they’re put into the phyllo dough flakes and immediately placed into a deep fryer till golden brown. These came out look delicious and even chef said I did a very nice job. (poor guy was deep fried out since he pulled a double shift and ended up tasting a lot of fish and chips and fried calamari) So while I knew I didn’t like this dish, I chalked it up to the fact I had a bad experience with it. Years ago I tried it and it was so rubbery I couldn’t chew it and I ended up getting sick on it as well. (or possibly something else I ate that night) So I figure if it’s good enough for chef it’s good enough for me. Here I go!! Dip into the cocktail sauce and into the mouth…cocktail sauce is great – tangy, spicy but not too spicy…oh very nice crust on these, crunchy goodness there…and there’s the squid…ok…and…nope this is not going well…and out it comes into my hand to be tossed in the trash. It’s gotta be a texture thing because there really isn’t any strong squid flavor. I guess I’ll stick to cleaning them. At least I can get some small measure of fun out of the darn things.

That’s all we did tonight. We were done by 9pm but then they found more catfish for us to fabricate. Good practice. Then Eddie and I had to change the water in the lexans that had the skate (another fish) in it. Skate is part of the ray family. And they stink. Holy cow did they stink and to think we get to cut them up and eat them…joy(?).

Well tomorrow we’re doing ..hhmm my notes are 4 pages shrunk down from 8 so it’s going to be a lot…heaven help me. Why do have us do a lot on Fridays I’ll never know. Don’t they realize we’re trying to wind down from the week? Sheesh! Hehehe that’s ok, I love a good challenge. Gets us ready for finals – NEXT WEEK!!

Until Tomorrow!...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day 22 of PCA II – Southern Comfort Food

I loved everything we made tonight! Fried Catfish with Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens, Shrimp Gumbo and Crawdad (Crawfish) Etouffee’.

So I have to tell you about my first experience with collard greens. This night not being it. I don’t know where I was but I got to try them and thought wow these are really good, I must do these at home. We had recently come back from Italy and I found I loved cooked spinach, which I had never had till I went there. So off to the store I go and I find them. Took me a bit because I didn’t know just how large the leaves were. I even had to ask someone to make sure I was grabbing the right thing. So armed with my new veggie I head home to prepare dinner. Grocery stores really need to put better labels on fruits and vegetables. Labels like “Denise, collard greens are not like spinach. Please cook them a lot longer.” I could not understand why these things came out so tough! Gads you could floss your teeth with the fibers. But that wasn’t enough, they have a really boring flavor and all I did was boil them in a very low amount of water I might add. Needless to say I looked up a recipe for collard greens.

Tonight we cooked them with ham hocks, Tabasco and garlic. Yeah I can feel my mouth start watering too.

The Black-Eyed peas had all the traditional yummies in them. Bacon, onion, garlic, thyme, ham and of course fresh peas. Remember it’s good luck to eat these on New Years Day…you have to eat at least 365 of them on that day to bring you good luck throughout the year.

These two dishes were served with fried catfish. Ok so it wasn’t so much fun fabricating them, but once those filets were dredged in flour, cornmeal and a lot of spices the fun started. My taste buds were practically giddy at this point.

Next up Gumbo! I think I’ve had gumbo maybe 3 times in my life. I don’t know why it’s called gumbo (sounds like a name of a character on Gumby who’s hocked up on steroids) but it’s just like stew, only a bit spicier.

The fun dish, in a sick sort of demented way, was the Crawfish Etouffee’. Yes the crawfish were alive. Yes they climbed out of the bowl and often ‘went on the lamb’. (Hhmm maybe the next class should do their braised lamb shanks the same day they do the Etouffee’ then the crawfish can really go on the lamb) I ended up cooking 12 pounds of crawfish, this is the equivalent of 4 very large mixing bowls of feisty critters who fight back. I treated them with respect and didn’t shake them around to make them move and made sure my water was at a full rolling boil before dropping them to their fate. Some filled the pot with the crawfish and their water temperature dropped so they didn’t die as fast as they should have. I only put about a dozen in at a time so the boiling point kept at a constant and thus their death would be quick. Now prepping these guys once cooked was an Olympic event. We had our line of 4 and Eddie and Edgar began the tedious process of pulling off the tails and extracting the tail meat. (think of tiny lobsters) I tried a few and failed miserably. I ruined more of the meat than I extracted. I cleaned the shrimp instead. Those I can quick.

The Etouffee’ has an interesting flavor. It’s first made by browning the flour, then with the browned flour make a dark roux. Then the shrimp stock is added and it should be a lot like cream of tomato soup, this is reduced to nappe’ (remember nappe is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon), the crawfish are then added, test for seasoning and serve with rice. So let’s talk about what went wrong with this dish. I think they had the amount of flour/roux to shrimp stock really out of whack. When each of us added our stock and started whisking it was instantly the consistency of wet cement. (note we were to add 2 oz of clarified butter with 2 oz of browned flour and 8 oz of shrimp stock) We ended up needing to add another 8 ounces of stock to each of our recipes. Even after the extra stock was added and the texture was to the correct consistency, it still had a grainy texture to me. Like flour that wasn’t dissolved completely. The crawfish were good though!

All in all a hearty night for food. Tomorrow is Fish n Chips and Calamari (ick).

Until Tomorrow!...

Day 21 of PCA II – Fryday

Well tonight was…let me preface this by saying there’s gonna be a new kid in town. More details in a bit.

Tonight mark the beginning of us frying things and utilizing the deep fryer. I love all things deep fried. Whoever invented this device should get a prize. It makes everything good. Even Butterfinger candy bars make for a tasty treat.

So we did tempura – Shrimp and assorted vegetables and we also did Miso Soup. These two dishes were individual dishes. Our spring rolls and lumpia rolls were a team effort.

I had no idea how fast and easy miso soup is. You first have to make Dashi, which is the base for it. It is also the base for the Tentsuyu sauce we serve with the tempura. Ok get ready – You take a piece of kombu ( which is seaweed) and place it into a stock pot with cold water. You bring the water up to temperature, but DO NOT let it boil as it will ruin the flavor. Remove from the heat and add the katsuo bushi (dried bonito flakes) and let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain and the dashi is done. To turn this into Miso blend in the white or red miso (soy bean paste – white is available in the spring and red fall/winter) through a chinois to taste. Add soy sauce, mirin (Japanese equivalent of sherry), some firm tofu and reconstituted makame (seaweed that is more edible than that of the kombu). Bring up to temperature, but again do not boil or even let get to a simmer. Just hot. Garnish it with sliced green onions. When I was adding the bushi I wondered how fishy this dish would taste because they were very odorous. There is a mild fish flavor, which I think you could control by lowering the steeping time or the amount added. But a very nice soup.

Tempura is fun. Of course there were like 3 of us up at the fryers at a time. We were to dredge our items in cornstarch, then the batter, then fry till light in color. Sounds simple right? I cannot understand how each of us forgot to batter some of the items. Do you have any idea how nasty corn starched dredged, fried veggies are? So there I am at the fryer, Chef is standing on the other side watching us. I take my piece of squash (with no batter) and slowly lower into the hot oil. Holding it to let the ‘batter’ set up so it won’t fall to the bottom and stick. Chef casually asks “Aren’t we battering these things guys?” We’re all like “yes chef” while we continue to stand there watching the items cook. I look to my left and right and then down and all of us just put stuff in the fryer with no batter. We all mutter, pull them out, plot them off, put them in the batter and start over. Then the next piece goes in, which we did remember to batter and the next. Get to the 5th piece and the batter step flies from our minds. Needless to say we got them all done – correctly.

I love spring rolls and egg rolls. I didn’t understand why we did the spring and lumpia as they’re basically the same just one is long and thinner. The chili sauce that was served with it was a sinus cleaner which means it was GREAT!

And now for the soap – As the Kitchen Burns. We begin this episode with the class forming the teams…

Well we got 2 extra added to our team because one of ours was out. Not everyone has the energy level Carrie or I do, and I totally accept that. She and I both have learned to work around it assigning tasks that we know each of the others can handle. I’m beginning to look at this as not only school but a job. You’re going to have good students/employees and bad ones. I just have a big problem with liars. We had one student who knew she wasn’t the caliber we were and offered to do whatever we needed done, just let her know. Ok great. So we had her chopping and dicing etc. It got to a lull where we’re looking at the production schedule and deciding what to fire first, how will it time with the other dishes. She offers to take my dishes to the sink and get them done for me. I said “Wow thank you so much that would be a huge help!” and it would be…or would have been had she done them. She was gone for 15-20 minutes and silly me, I assumed she was over there doing dishes. I have no idea what she was doing. About 5 minutes after that I go to the sink to wash my knife. I look over and in horror see all my dishes sitting there. Carrie came over to do her knife and saw the look on my face and asked what was up so I explained. She yells for her to get over to the sink. She comes over and we ask “Did you do the dishes like you said you were going to?” “Yeah I got all of them done.” I looked at her and said “No you didn’t! Those are mine!” She replies with “No those are everyone’s.” What the hell? “NO those are mine, you laid them down and didn’t do anything with them! That’s my trash bowl because my production waste is still in it. She just mumbles “I’ll do them later…” and walks away. Livid doesn’t begin to describe the emotion I was feeling. Turns out quite a few others feel the same way about her. 8 people came up to me and commented about how she spends more time doing nothing and trying to look busy and they’re fed up with it and her lies about how hard she works and what all she’s done. She’s been seen doing drop offs all this time. Why no one called her on it till now is beyond me, but I will if I see it. She will never make it in the real world. She’ll be fired within a week. Here she might get away with it because she’s paying tuition like the rest of us, but out no one will pay her to screw off. Liars never win in the end. They get stuck in their own web of deceit.

Chef said he’s preparing us for the ‘world out there’ and he wants us to communicate more and if it means fight a little then so be it. (now I don’t think he meant literally fight, but communicate firmly if necessary our points to other team members) So, I shall. I have kept my mouth shut till this point and retained a professional attitude in that I will not cause waves, I’ll concentrate on my tasks. But now if my tasks are being jeopardized by the actions of another (or lack of action) then I shall do or say what needs to be done.

So lesson – Don’t ever lie to me I’ll call you on it and make an example of you.

Well tomorrow we’re making Gumbo and we get to cook up some Crawdads!

Until Then…Oh and stay tune for more drama…this stuff could get good!