Culinary School Week 6 Part 2: My first Practical Test and Chickens aplenty!

Thursday – I haven’t been really nervous about something for a while. The reality is, I have a perfect score going in the practical midterm, and figured this would be the most likely time that streak would be broken.

I was right.

We had to do the following in 45 minutes, with limits on how much produce we could use:

  • Medium Dice Potatoes (10×1/2″ cubed)
  • Batonnet Potatoes (5 x 1/4″ x1/4″x 2″)
  • Tourne (that stupid football shaped thing I’ve discussed before)
  • Small Dice Carrot (10×1/4″ cubed)
  • Julienne Carrot (1/8″x1/8″x2″)
  • Brunoise Carrot (take those juliennes and cut them into 1/8″ cubes, a couple of tablespoons)
  • Concasse Tomato (I talked about that here)
  • Supreme a Lemon (here)


Knife Cuts – From bottom clockwise – Concasse (dice and core remains), supreme’d lemon (core and sections), potato batonnets, medium dice, tourne, brunoise carrots, small dice, and julienne.

The Tourne and the diced carrots were not perfect, and I was docked a point each (out of 10). I sort of kicked myself. I had time to really make them perfect, but didn’t. Oh well.

I am proud that I only used 1 carrot and 1 potato.

Half the class started on the cuts and the other was making sauces. Then we switched, and I had 45 minutes to make a Veloute. This is basically a sauce made by thickening chicken stock, and adding some herbs and aromatics that are filtered out. Once again, the higher heat of the commercial stove got me, and I overcooked the roux a bit, making it a little browner than it should have been. I almost put cilantro in it rather than parsley, and Chef Sakai generously questioned what I had my little ramekin. Whew. That would have really tasted funny.

My Veloute. The color is a bit dark. Had too much heat when I cooked the roux

My Veloute. The color is a bit dark. Had too much heat when I cooked the roux

In the end, he said it wasn’t salty enough (it tasted perfect to me) and the color was dark, so I got 18 out of 20. So my total was 96/100.  Still a 4.0.

That stress behind me, we took a break and got our chef coats. FINALLY.  6 weeks into the quarter (and 7 1/2 weeks since I paid my money) the order was in. But astoundingly, the book store screwed ALL of them up, only ordering our last names to be embroidered. I was livid, but walked out of the store before I said something I would totally regret later.

As I write this a week or so later, the rumor is they re-ordered them and they should be in “soon”. We’ll see.


Chef Sakai showing how to use the weight of the bird to aid in cutting off a wing

The rest of the day was a lecture on Poultry. I have been breaking down chickens for decades.  I am constantly amazed when I find people who actually cook who don’t know how to do this. You save a LOT of money buy buying whole chickens and breaking them down yourself.  It’s not that big a deal, although like any sort of butchery, as I learn more about it, you find there are many, many ways to do it, lots of variations of the details.


Chicken fully broken down. From left – Carcass, thigh bones (top), wing tips (bottom), wings (top), boneless thighs (bottom), boneless skin-on breasts (top) and drumsticks (bottom)

On Friday, we went into the kitchen and got a demo from Chef Sakai on breaking down chickens. His method of trussing the bird is different than what I do, but as I’ve said, there is no one “right” way of doing this.  Uh, except in the Culinary School world, the American Culinary Federation specifies a “right” way to do it, and if we were to enter a competition, their method would be required. (We will ultimately get an ACF certification when we graduate).


Bird trussed the “ACF” way

We then each got a chicken out of the box and practiced what he’d demo’d. There were two things I did differently than I normally do. One is I preserved the “oyster”, a small rounded piece of meat that is attached to the thigh that sits in an indentation in the bone structure on the back. I had always broken down chickens with a chef’s knife, which makes preserving this little jewel of chickeny goodness almost impossible, but it’s a cinch with a boning knife. The 2nd thing is that we boned out the thighs. There were extra chickens, so I did some more practice. It was fun. We saved all the pieces for a future batch of stock, and the dressed out parts went into a hotel pan for a purpose that would be revealed later.

Come back again and I’ll “reveal” how we cooked all this up the following Monday and made a bunch of “good eats”.


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