Its been 2 weeks since I last posted. my excuse is that I’ve have a series of long and stressful days, when coming home and sitting at a computer to write a few hundred words seemed like the worst way to spend an evening. To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t seem like the best thing right now either, but I’m determined to get back on track.
Rather than try to go back and write in depth about everything I’ve done lately, I’m just going to give a couple highlights::
Regional Meals:: Periogord and Rhone Alps.Perigord was my least favorite so far; prettymuch every course featured foie gras and pork. It was just too much for me, and I didn’t think that any of the dishes really matched my tastes.Rillettes de Canard. A pate of duck and pork and more than anyone’s share of fat, served with toasted bread and a pickle. However, this menu did have one really incredible highlight, in that we got two whole ducks to use for our recipes. And by whole, I mean WHOLE….even the foie gras was intact, even though it’s technically against the rules to ship ducks with their foies outside of the region (the school was able to get an exception so we could have one to see). It really was astonishing to see such a massive organ inside a bird. I have an awesome video of us taking it out, would love to post it but if someone doesn’t like seeing bird innards, it might be slightly disturbing 🙂
As for the second Regional Menu, Rhone Alps, I have no pictures because I forgot my camera. It was noteworthy for two things, though—1) Lots of vegetables, none of which were pureed (HALLELUJAH FINALLY) 2) An incredibly disturbing chicken liver mousse served in a shellfish broth made from crawdads. Unlike Americans, however, who prefer to throw the creatures into a pot and let them boil to death, the French have to make everything as painful as possible, with the added step of PULLING THEIR INTESTINES OUT THROUGH THEIR TAILS WHILE THEY ARE STILL ALIVE. Then, the tail was cut off and set aside before the rest of the poor squirming animal was finally put out of its misery with a meat cleaver. It was horrific, and it must have been obvious on my face what I thought about it, because chef actually sent me out of the room before he continued with another. I’m sorry, unnecessarily cruel. How hard is it just to put them in the freezer first?!
We officially wrapped up the fish unit. So since Thanksgiving, we’ve been focused on birds. Ducks, Chickens, Quail, Rabbits (why are rabbits always grouped in with birds??), Pigeons…I’ve done them all now. Just about every way you can imagine. Perk of the job::: bringing home a whole leftover bird every day means you don’t have to go grocery shopping anymore. Although, I’ve eaten so much chicken salad lately, it’ll be a while before I can face anymore.
Check out the feet in the picture, by the way. We had to peel the scales off (fun times) and then cut off the two outside toes, so just the middle one remained. I’m understand this is supposed to be an aesthetically pleasing way of serving a chicken, I think it’s kind of weird.
Oh, but those waffle fries were DELICIOUS.
Macarons. I made mine pistachio flavored and got carried away with the green food coloring. I then experimented with gold shimmer powder, which was an interesting effect. Maybe not the most beautiful macarons you’ve ever seen, but they were perfect and delicious.
Not the best of photos (it was dark in the cave!!) but you can see how they store the bottles upside down on racks, so that the yeast particles can sink down into the neck for easy removal before the final bottling. more on this process here.
Last Tuesday, we all hopped on a bus and rode to the Champagne region of France…just a few hours from Paris. Obviously, this region is famed for its sparkling wines, and our tour focused around a visit to the Tattinger Cellars, to see the hows and wheres of Champagne-making. It was nice to get out of Paris, but overall I think most of us felt the trip wasn’t really a good use of time, especially since we didn’t get to see any vineyards or learn about any processes that happen before the champagne is barreled or bottled. A shame, but i think we all still enjoyed ourselves with the tour, a nice catered lunch (that we didn’t have to cook!) and some free time to browse around town.
Diner Des Chefs.
The highlight of the week. For this restaurant service, two visiting chefs from popular restaurants took command of the kitchens, providing us with their recipes and guidance as we created their food to serve our guests. It was a really special experience, to work with two guys who have “made” it in this tough industry, learn from them, and also get a little insight into how real-world restaurant work goes, and what it’s like to work with other chefs. My group was paired with Chef David Toutain, who leads one of the trendiest restaurants in Paris, Agape Substance. I was on team Amuse Bouche this time, which happened to be little balls of crabmeat, with a wedge of grapefruit and a tiny piece of the rind. It looks a little plain in this picture, but it was also served with a little pitcher of consomme that was poured at the table. As for the crabs, their deaths were a little traumatic too but not quite so bad as having to pull out innards and meat cleaver them. Instead, we squeezed them in socks to keep their wiggling to a minimum and so their sharp feet wouldn’t pierce the plastic, then put them in heavy-duty sous-vide bags and vacuum-sealed them. The pressure from the sealing machine probably exploded their little brains, I figure. At least it was quick and I didn’t have to swing a knife at little wiggling creatures. But seriously, why can’t the French find a good way to kill animals??
At the end of the night, we all got our tired, sweaty selves together for a group picture with our chefs.
The chef leaning on the stove at the right is my every day chef, and the one in jeans kneeling just in front of him is David Toutain, our visitng chef. kneeling next to the stove on the other side is the other Anglo class’s chef, and just to his left, bending over behind the stove is Alexandre Couillon, the other visiting chef. And of course, us!
And now, the last thing I want to share before wrapping it all up::
The most exciting class this week was on Wednesday, when we received a mixed basket of ingredients to prepare a meal of our own with. We had about 4 hours start to finish…which didn’t seem like a lot at first, but turned out to be more than enough. Since we knew beforehand approximately what would be available to us, I spent a lot of time coming up with ideas, planning a menu, practicing a couple ideas for recipes, writing out the entire progression of cooking from start to finish so I knew how to pace myself and finish exactly on time, and even drawing how my plate should be arranged. Imean, I put in a LOT of effort.
My vision was to create a plate that felt farm-fresh, balanced, bright, and comfortable while still being elegant. I knew i didn’t want anything pureed, and I wanted to try something we hadn’t done in class. I settled on deboning my bird whole and creating a gallotine of chicken with a mushroom stuffing, garden vegetables, a zucchini-goat cheese biscuit and some fresh tomato jam. Test runs seemed promising, and I went in feeling pretty confident.
Unfortunately, a few incidents derailed me, and the plate i ended up serving was a total disappointment. My bird, which I’d carefully tied up before cooking, reopened along the cut seam when I began carving into it. It was an absolute mess. Filling went everywhere.Thus, the slice you see in the picture doesn’t have much stuffing at all, because it was the one that stayed together…the slices with more stuffing just weren’t very presentable, and were nothing like the perfectly stuffed chicken I envisioned. The biscuits were delicious though, so at least they worked out ok. I had originally planned to make them rectangular so they’d fit on the plate better, and the veg aren’t really on the plate right either. The tomato jam wasn’t my most successful effort either, despite that i’ve made it several times at home with good results. I really think the reason was i strained the seeds out of it for school, when at home I would have just left them in. It changed the consistency quite significantly.
Overall, the plating in this picture is a horrific mess….part of the reason is this picture was taken after chef had poked around on it and moved some things and taken bites out of others, but its also cuz i just had too much food on the plate, I think. BUT, at least you can get an idea of what I made and hopefully see what I was trying to achieve with it….
Anyway, I was really pretty upset how this dish came out. Not only was my chicken a total mess (although chef did pardon me a bit because i took a chance and tried something we’d never done before), most everything else on the plate just wasn’t how I wanted it to look, either. It’s hard when the reality doesn’t match the vision in your head, especially when you KNOW something better was within reach, despite having done the absolute best you could with it.
I can’t wait until the next Mixed Basket so I can redeem myself.
SO thats that…Maybe not the most positive,upbeat post I’ve ever written. But I’m still having fun, I promise! There have definitely been more ups than downs 🙂 I’ve got a lot on my mind still regarding internship choices, which will need to be decided soon, but I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend before gearing up into another hectic 2-weeks….after that, though, Christmas!!! I’ve never been so looking forward to a holiday in my life.