So here am I again, on a seemingly weekly basis posting about my exploits. But hey, I guess I have some consistency though!
My days at school are getting harder, there’s no doubt about it. The funny thing is, that’s when I’m learning the most. Unlike anything else in my life, I am truly learning from my mistakes and building upon that to make a better experience the next time. Case in point: We’ve moved from sauces into soups this week, and that has posed its own set of challenges. On Thursday, we were tasked to make consommé, French onion soup, and New England clam chowder. I didn’t finish my onion soup, my consommé was awful and my chowder was good. On Monday, we were tested on those soups from memory and I did quite well, finishing everything and making a consommé I was incredibly proud of!
Quick note (probably not going to be quick at all) about consommé for those who don’t know. It is a clear soup that is, when made properly, perfectly clear. I think the process of making it is so fascinating it, so I will just give you an idea right now of these crazy French and what they do to this soup… So you first combine a mix of flavoring veggies (onion, carrot, celery), a diced up tomato, and other herbs with finely ground lean meat and also some egg whites. Add some cold stock on top of that and heat it, relatively slowly while stirring constantly to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. As the proteins in the meat and egg whites coagulate (cook), they start to float to the top of the stock and form a “raft.” This is the crazy part. The heat then gets adjusted so the stock is simmering and perculating through this raft, which in turn removes the impurities and clarifies the soup. Crazy, huh?! The result, after carefully straining, is a very lean, CLEAR soup. And now back to your regularly scheduled blog post…
Moving from soups into vegetable cookery, we had a busy day yesterday making a delicious green bean saute, some risotto (and we got to use REAL saffron in this recipe!), a nice glazed carrot dish and braised leeks with vinaigrette. Everything was really good, except I overcooked my leeks (to death, actually), and they were pretty terrible. BUT, the vinaigrette I made for that was quite amazing.
Today we went into salad mode, but not iceberg lettuce drowned in Ranch dressing. More like lentil salad with bacon and vinaigrette, refried beans (not really a salad, but we ARE working with legumes right now), and cranberry beans with asparagus…and hummus. Ok, so not really in salad mode. More like legume mode. Don’t judge me.
Tomorrow we’re looking at an “easy” day working on only 3 dishes, one of which is polenta. I’m pretty excited and can only hope that this day is as easy as the chef was making it out to be. It seems like every day is hard, but the excitement is really a good motivator.
Friday is gonna be amazing. It’s potato day. And not like potato day like salad day up above. Actual potato day. Potatoes 4 ways, and should be a fairly stressful day.
As I was writing this post, I had this thought. I hope that there are some potential LCB students searching the internet for information on what to expect and stumble upon this blog. I mean, sure, I would love more readers, but I remember trying to find information. There’s not a lot of people out there documenting the culinary school experience (even semi-regularly like me). A blog like mine would have been fairly nice to give me some expectations.
And ya know, I feel like writing about personal cooking today. The crazy thing about all this cooking I do at school as that I get home on my off-nights from work and I want to cook. Guess that’s a sign that I’m doing the right thing at school. Anyway, I’ve got two pretty nice looking rib eye steaks in the fridge right now and they are dry-aging to be cooked on Saturday. For those of you that read regularly (or are family), you know I did a dry-aged roast for Christmas to mediocre results. I am hoping to increase my success rate here and put out a really nice product. I’m gonna grill it hot and fast on my grill, of course. I also have some veg I’m gonna cook. And heck, maybe I’ll make a risotto since it’s pretty simple and I just did it. I really like applying my new techniques from school at home. It makes me feel more fancy 🙂 If I don’t do the risotto, I am definitely going to make homemade truffle fries with the with truffle oil that I have had for some time. If done properly, that should be an amazing side dish. The one really great thing about moving out of the soup and sauce realm at school is that I can start really applying my new recipes and techniques at home. You see, during the previous sections, we were using a LOT of stock and demi-glace; two things that I really don’t have the means to produce at home right now. And yes, I know I can make chicken stock and it is cheap and yadda yadda, but I have nowhere to put it when it’s been made. Plus, we don’t really use chicken stock for a lot of things. It’s mostly veal stock. But moving into the vegetable world and potato realm on Friday, that will give me more ideas of stuff to do at home, and new techniques to try.
In closing, I would just like to offer once piece of advice to you all, in the words of Alton Brown: “Organization will set you free.” It’s true. The first thing I do when I get into class is get all of the ingredients I need organized and prepped so that all I have to do is put it together at the right times. I have been carrying this over into my home cooking, and I suggest you do the same. Until next time!Stay positive, love your life, and play with your food 🙂