Culinary School Week 7 Part 1: More Cooking

I think I’ve fallen into a rhythm of 2 posts per week, and this is the case for this week.

We had Tuesday off for Veteran’s Day, and Thursday we just helped serve a Veteran’s Day meal.  But we had fun the other days, cooking, tasting, and eating.

On Monday we split into 4 groups to cook the chickens we had broken down on Friday. The split was:

  1. Saute chicken breasts with mushrooms, and make a side of Duchesse Potatoes.
  2. Red Cooked Chicken with white rice, side of Vegetables. This is an Asian braising technique that uses star anise, soy, etc. In Chinese it’s called “looing”.
  3. Chicken with Cous Cous. Use 4 drumsticks and 8 wings, vegetable side
  4. Deep Fried Chicken breasts with Mashed Potatoes, mushroom and pepper gravy, and a vegetable.

I was in group 4 with 2 of the more experienced cooks from the class. We split up the tasks. Kirstin did the gravy and the mashed potatoes, Colleen was going to do brussel sprouts, and I was to setup everything for the chicken and leave it for Chef Sakai to demo to the class.

It turns out we didn’t have brussel sprouts, so Colleen did broccoli instead. As for me, doing the deep fry involves setting up a standard breading line, first seasoned flour, then egg wash (mixture of egg and milk) and then panko breadcrumbs. I got some 1/3 hotel pans for this.

I took the skin off the breasts, took out the tenders (a little muscle underneath the regular breast meat) and then split the breasts lengthwise so they were all the same thickness, so they would cook in about the same amount of time.  One of the problems with poultry breasts is that they are thicker on one end than the other, so by the time the thick end is cooked, the thin end is jerky.  Splitting them or pounding them out solves this problem.

We decided to use regular fry oil, and set it up in a nice big saucepan. My pocket thermometer didn’t register the 325 I needed, so we found a candy/fry thermometer from the bakery. Time to bring a Thermapen!

Everyone was so busy that Chef Sakai never got around to the demo, so I just cooked everything up. The technique for doing breading is you use one hand for the liquid (egg wash) and the other for the dry. Even doing that, you still end up with breading sticking to the liquid hand finger, but it does help.

I cooked the tenders together as they are much smaller, then did batches of the breasts, while Colleen and Kirstin did their thing.


Team 4’s Contribution. Clockwise from lower left, the fried chicken (in the hotel pan), mushroom and pepper gravy, mashed ‘taters, and broccoli. You can see the cous cous in the upper left and some braised carrots and other veg to the right

Our stuff turned out GREAT. We basically put a mound of potatoes into the center, then put a couple of breasts over it, a pile of blanched/shocked/sauted broccoli, then poured the gravy over everything. We were in comfort food heaven.  Chef loved it, except for this normal “not enough salt” comment.

I wish I’d taken more pics, but all I got that day was a picture of our dishes laid out with everyone else’s. We took plates into the restaurant and had lunch, then came back and cleaned up.

I am proud to say my chicken was the only thing that was totally gone at the end of the meal! Booyah!

As mentioned, Tuesday we had off.

Wednesday we had lecture on seafood, then went into the kitchen to play with our food!

The first thing we did was oysters. Chef Sakai showed us how to shuck them. For once I was a bit ahead of the curve, I’d stopped before class at our local restaurant supply and picked up an oyster knife. I love fresh oysters, but had never shucked one, and was eager to learn how.

The oyster has a rounded bottom and a flat top, and it comes to a point where the hinge is (the aducter muscle that closes it). You lay the oyster on a towel and fold the towel to protect your non-knife hand in case the oyster knife slips (pros wear a cut or chain mail glove).  You force the knife in, pry up the top, and then run the knife around to detach the little oyster critter from the shell.

Chef Sakai prying the oyster open with a knife

Chef Sakai prying the oyster open with a knife


Oyster ready to eat





We then tasted them just as is. I realized I’d never really done that, and to be honest, I don’t really care for them just plain.  When I order them in a restaurant, they come with horseradish, sometimes cocktail sauce, and a classic accompaniment, a mignonette sauce.

My handiwork, with mignonette sauce, ready to be enjoyed

My handiwork, with mignonette sauce, ready to be enjoyed

The latter consists of fine brunoised shallots, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. Chef Sakai whipped up a bowl of the sauce, and I did like eating them much better with that. The acid adds a lot to balance the “oceany” taste of the clam. There were plenty left, so I practiced and had several more. Yum.

Following this we cleaned some mussels and then clams, and did a simple preparation with some garlic, fennel, herbs and cream (and some other things, I think).  Both were done the same way, steamed for a few minutes with this yummy broth, and then we tasted.

On Friday we did more with seafood, and I took a lot more pictures. I’ll put that all in the next post.


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