Hello again. We are down to the short strokes here. We are one week away from finals.
On Monday, Chef Sakai was sick, the first and only time that happened. True to the ethos of a restaurant chef, he came in, but Chef Stockman, his boss, sent him home. So Raven and I actually got to eat at the Chef City Grill as paying customers. We found out about our 25% student discount. BONUS!
On Tuesday Chef Sakai was back, and we talked in class about plating. None of this was to be on the test, but it was good anyway. I know this is a weakness of mine. I have never been artistic, but I will need to develop some sort of ability in this if I ever want to have any sort of success plating food. While I don’t think I’ll work long term in a restaurant, I know before I get out of the program I’ll have to create dishes.
We then went into the kitchen where we made handmade fresh pasta. I had done this at home numerous times, but always used the bowl of my Kitchenaid and the dough hook. This time, we learned the “traditional” method where you make a well in the middle of a pile of flour (in our case 50/50 semolina and AP), put the egg in the well, beat it, and then slowly incorporate the egg until the dough holds together and you can kneed it. I actually like this more than I thought I would. For small amounts of dough, like you’d make at home for a meal, this is probably the best, and fastest way. The thing that I did like is you feel the dough and can stop adding flour when the consistency is right. You can see from the pics I had some flour left over.
On Wednesday we caught up on a “lost” topic that we missed during the quarter, that of cooking eggs.
Egg cookery in professional cooking is, or at least used to be, a pretty big deal. The pleats on a chef’s hat (the Toque) represent the 100 ways that a chef is supposed to know how to cook an egg. Old line chefs would tell a prospective cook to make an omelette during a job interview. How he or she executed this seemingly easy task could spell success or disaster. Eggs are arguably the most versatile protein available, save perhaps for chicken.
We talked about grades of eggs and how they cook. A couple of things I didn’t know:
- The gray coating on the yolk of an overcooked hard boiled egg is actually iron sulfide. This is what gives the egg it’s “rotten egg” small. Sulphur is in the white, and iron in the yolk. They eventually react anyway and the egg goes bad.
- An over easy egg is not flipped with a spatula in the pan. I always did that, then flipped it back onto the plates (I make them like this for myself all the time). We were taught to cook it very gently in a good non-stick pan, and then just flip it by jerking the pan back, then serving it the “bottom side” up.
- French and American omelettes are cooked differently.
Kirsten, who seemed to always be in my randomly chosen group, showed a famous Julia Child video during her presentation on the great lady. The pics here are Kirsten making a French omelette. She was the only one brave (dumb?) enough to volunteer. The French omelette is just agitated by a fork, and not flipped, while the American omelette is done with a spatula, pushing the cooked part back and allowing the liquid part to run into the void and then cook. Usually it’s folded over when it is plated.
On Friday, we prepped for a Wine Dinner that we have every quarter. This is in conjunction with the large wine industry we have in the area. The school is just a 10 minute drive from the St. Michelle winery and all the other wineries, distilleries, and breweries in that area. (One of the 3 Red Hook breweries is across the street from St. Michelle, and my favorite micro-distillery, Woodinville Whiskey Company is at the end of the street).
During class time we prepped vegetables. I spent quite a bit of time cutting up celery root into stars to make a decoration for the salad. The original idea was to make snow flakes (it was the cusp of winter, after all). After spending quite a bit of time at this, none of it was used at all. Another lesson of this industry, I guess.
I also volunteered to help with the dinner itself, earning bonus points once again. Unlike the charity breakfast (that I wrote about here) this was a multi-course meal, much more complex to plan, cook, and execute. The saving grace was we only had 50 people to serve instead of 220 that we had for the breakfast. In this case, each course had a wine pairing (which we didn’t pour). This was a fantastic deal, with 5 courses with wine pairings costing $75. I think I might actually GO to this next time, although if I’m serving, I guess not.
I’ll be a bit lazy here and just put some pics here with captions.
Next week, FINALS. I don’t know what it will entail yet, but we’ll soon see.