You’ve been asking, so here’s my ode to culinary school leftovers. Or more appropriately, my eulogy for our leftovers. Why? Because we throw them out. Every. Last. Drop.
I’m not quite sure how, but it’s midterms next week already. With next week being Week 5, I have midterms in every class next week. Skills class should be interesting because we have to make everything by ourselves…and in class it’s all done in partners. We have to make mayonnaise (easy, practiced last night), hollandaise (easy), bechamel sauce, and cream of mushroom soup. The only one I’m a bit unsure of is the soup because ours wasn’t fantastic (not enough salt and wasn’t thick enough) so guess what I’m making for dinner tonight!
Yup, that’s part of it. I have a test on knife skills, so am practicing at home. Those funny shaped potatoes are called ‘tourned’ potatoes….although these ones really suck. I thought it would be fun to take a photo of literally my first attempt, so I can laugh at them when I hopefully get better. (And I will, in fact i just emailed the chef my potato order so I can go to tutorial tomorrow to work on my knife skills! We have a test on Wednesday so I need to practice…and if I go to tutorial, not only is Chef Daniel there to oversee and give pointers, but the potatoes are on the school’s dime. Sweet!)
But yes, there is much much more to homework than knife skills. There is plenty of book work, and I’m currently blogging to take a break from studying for my foodborne illness test I have tomorrow. For Fundamentals, our ‘skills’ class (as we call it), we have to do a hefty journal each and every day. I thought you might be curious to see what goes on in the kitchen, and luckily since I’ve already written it up for class, I’ll just post my homework assignment. I won’t bore you with the kazillion other homework tasks I’ve been assigned (tons of reading; writing French vocab words, essay questions, essay, and about a million pages of reading). Each week is one theme (last week: soups) and we have a list of recipes for the week. We have to copy all the recipes for that week onto 3.5 x 5 recipe cards and bring them in. We also have to keep a timeline of what we do when, as we have to do a journal write up for each day. It’s a good way to remember the ups and downs, what worked, what failed, and the learning process. Taking pictures is encouraged! So here is my journal from last Wednesday (it’s quite long…but this is what I have to do for both Wednesday and Thursday, and even still, this is only PART of the homework for just one class!!):
Objective: Make beef consommé, roasted corn chowder, and minestrone (ran out of time; will do minestrone tomorrow).
Information: Chef Daniel went over the characteristics and techniques for making a good consommé, including how to make a clearmeat and how to make consommé clear (including various ways of straining and degreasing). We went over the various temperatures that key stages occur at, and then reviewed the processes for minestrone and roast corn chowder. We were also asked to prepare the turned carrots by end of class.
Equipment/Tools Needed: saucepans (2 large, one medium), whisk, spoons, cheesecloth, twine, cutting boards, Chef knives, paring knives, Chinoise, metal mixing bowls, liquid measurers, small container for egg yolks, coffee filters, paper towel, serving bowls, ladle.
Practical Summary: Sous chef Seth asked me to get the beans going for the minestrone, so I started that while Katie started our mise en place. We started with the consommé because it needed to simmer the longest: I chopped the mirepoix and made a sachet, while Katie measured out the meat and stock, and whisked the egg whites. She peeled and seeded a tomato, and I started the oignon brule. Within 10 minutes all our mise en place for the consommé was done, the oignon was black, and all went into the stockpot. We brought it up to a simmer. The forming of the raft wasn’t as obvious as it was in the video, because the proportion of clearmeat to stock was quite high (about 2:1 clearmeat to stock). We were somewhat able to make a ‘hole’ in the raft, and set our time to finish the consommé at 11.00am. With the consommé simmering, we got going on the roasted corn chowder. We both chopped a lot of veggies, and Katie cut the corn kernels off of the husks.
As we were rushed for time, we decided to pair up with Joyce and Leslie for the béchamel, because we thought that infusing our small amount of milk with the onion and bayleaves would be too strong. Joyce made the infused milk, and once it was ready I removed the onion, made a roux and added the milk. I whisked it in and added the milk slowly but somehow still had lumps in it, so I’ll need to work on my roux-incorporating technique. I whisked the béchamel, seasoned it, and set it aside to keep warm. I strained the béchamel through a cheesecloth-lined Chinoise though, which corrected the problem. We then put butter in a saucepan, added the veggies, and sweated them until they were shiny and limp but no change in colour. We then added the béchamel and the corn, and let it simmer. After 20min, we added the cream and seasonings. It still looked too thick (maybe because it was whipping cream we used?) so I added a bit of milk and that fixed the consistency.
Everyone’s chowder was quite different in texture, so we weren’t really sure how it was to turn out, but erred on the thicker side. The consommé was now done, so we let the chowder simmer while we finished it up. It took both of us to ladle the consommé out, into a cheesecloth-lined Chinoise. We then slowly poured the liquid though a coffee filter, plated it, and then ran a paper towel over the surface. It worked incredibly well, with barely a sign of grease.
We presented our consommé, and it was perfect (!!). This surprised us both because with the ratio of stock to clearmeat it seemed like it was doomed for the start, but ended up just perfect. I’d never tried consommé before and was impressed. We then plated and presented the chowder – it was just right, especially after we both tasted it and decided to add a bit more salt which really brightened the flavour. We finished right on time…without having had time to do the minestrone. Chef Daniel informed us that we’ll be very busy tomorrow, as we’ll be doing that in addition to our other soups. We are to do the minestrone first thing, and we’ll do lecture afterwards.
Clean Up: Clean up went really well, even though it seemed that our class used every single stockpot and saucepan available. Looking at the pile of dirty dishes is pretty scary, but it doesn’t take as long as you’d think. I put dry dishes away, and we were finished and dismissed right on time. I really wish everyone would personalize their tools because every class there are extra tools left over that no one seems to recognize, and the few that are personalized are so much easier to bring back to their owners! The tools are expensive, and the drop of pink nail polish I put on them should help to keep my tools with me for as long as possible. Cleanup doesn’t seem to be as arduous a task as I would have thought, and by helping with putting the dishes away, it’s teaching me where everything belongs which will make me more efficient in the kitchen.
Summary: By the end of the class, Katie and I made a fantastic beef consommé, and a very rich and flavourful corn chowder. We will be making our minestrone tomorrow, as we ran out of time today.
Sanitary Requirements: With soups, it is important to remember the importance of temperature (for example, not to garnish a hot cooked soup with a cold raw garnish, for food contamination purposes). Same goes for washing pots and tools well in between uses (as we’d have to use the same spoons etc., and tasting spoons, for different product).
Personal Observations: While we were worried that such a large quantity of solids in the clearmeat would affect our stock negatively, I was really impressed with our final product. It was very clear, and very flavourful! The chowder was delicious – it takes some getting used to with using so much butter and high fat milk and cream, but it really wouldn’t have been the same using skim milk. I’m already looking forward to tweaking some of these soups for home use…they are very good recipes. I’ve always tended to make soups when I have a bunch of veggies to use up, but never follow such strict recipes for soups, so this has been an interesting class. I’m really looking forward to making the cream of mushroom soup tomorrow.
Wednesday’s Time Line:
12.05pm Class dismissed.
11.20am Start clean up.
11.10am Plate and present chowder.
11.05am Paper towel ran over surface to degrease; plate and present consomme
11:00am Ladle consommé into bowl, strain through cheesecloth and then coffee filter.
10.45am Adjust consistency (add milk) and seasonings. Simmer till 11.05.
10.40am Vegetables ready; add in béchamel.
10.35am Béchamel done – slightly lumpy, strained once through Chinoise and once with cheesecloth.
10.25am Cut veg for chowder, sweat in pot.
10.20am Whisk in milk, stir continuously. Taste: add salt, white pepper, nutmeg.
10.15am Milk infused; remove onion. Melt butter in saucepan, make roux.
10.05am Start béchamel sauce (cooperate with other team for sauce: Joyce and Lesley simmer cream with onion. I measure ingredients for roux.)
10.00am Beans done – off heat, shock in cold, into cooler 9.55am Raft formed, make hole in centre.
9.50am Raft begins to form
9.45am Add oignon brule to pot. Bring temperature up to heat.
9.40am Make sachet, add to pot. Pour stock into pot and put onto heat.
9.35am Put cut onion on range for oignon brule.
9.30am Tomato concasse done, add to clearmeat mixture.
9.20am Make clearmeat for consommé (whisk egg whites, measure meat and mirepoix, cut celery for mirepoix).
9.10am Rinse beans and bring to simmer (to be done at 10:00)
8.45am Up and running: wheels locked, tools out, begin gathering ingredients
8.35am Review day’s recipes
8.25am Lecture on consommé, garnishes
8.20am Watch consommé video
8.15am Review of uniform requirements, check recipe cards
8.10am Finish quiz and marking; role call taken
7.20am Administer quiz
7.00am Brief review of Escoffier’s brigade, sanitation and knife skills, turn in homework
6.45am Arrive to class, mise en place, ready to go.
Chef’s Critique: Chef Daniel said that our consommé was perfect, and we each earned a high five (that’s got to be the highest mark possible!). Our chowder also was very good and the right consistency. I was quite pleased he said that, because it proved to us that it’s ok to deviate from the recipe. If we hadn’t followed our prerogative and not thinned it with milk (we added about a cup) it would have been too thick. It’s a good feeling to please a chef with your product, so we’ll hope tomorrow goes just as well.
Homework for tomorrow: Do journal, read Ch. 11 (soups) if not already read, read over recipes for tomorrow. Have game plan for how to execute recipes, as we are doing four soups (including minestrone). Plan to arrive at 6.30am to get head start on minestrone.
So that was homework (and we do include pictures of the final dishes). Here are some more pictures from class this week:
If you ever had a romanticized view of culinary school that involved simply showing up, putting on a cute outfit and baking cakes all day, then whooooooaa nelly, don’t sign up! It’s intense. Seriously, intense. I probably have more reading to do now than in university (or perhaps it’s because this is actually interesting so I’m actually reading it, rather than waiting till mid-term time and pulling all-nighters to catch up!). I’m in class for 20hours a week, and have probably 18-20 hours of homework a week. But it’s fun for the most part. More on homework in next post…