Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Vacation Over

I’m back from a mini blogging vacation wherein I:

-Managed to eek out an A in my second of four lab classes
-Slept. A lot. Probably too much.
-Watched an obscene amount of movies thanks to my new Netflix subscription.
-Made 14 batches of pancakes. Each of them different, but equally delicious.

I have moved on to two new and rather interesting classes:

Cost Control – which teaches you how to manage food, beverage and labor costs in your business, but somehow seems to steer itself into more entertaining conversations about how to catch a thieving bartender with stamps and black lights.

Wine – which teaches the science of enology and also includes weekly wine tastings where we will be required to describe the organoleptic qualities of wine using words such as burnt tar, cat urine and wet dog.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Exam Fun

This week is my last week of meat cookery. Hoo-ray! It has been a loooong six weeks.

Monday night was our written final. We all arrived at 5:30 pm for class and Chef Instructor graciously gave us an hour long review. Then he dismissed us until 9 for a dinner/study break. Score! Extra study time for me, the nerd, is always appreciated. As we are filing out of the classroom he says:

“Now don’t do anything stupid like go home and get high or drunk. I don’t want anyone standing out in the parking lot taking a few puffs and then coming in to take the test. I’ve seen too many people fail the exam by doing stupid shit like that.”

Man, does he know our class, or does he know our class?!?!

I don’t know how many people actually showed up high or drunk for the exam because I was too busy checking and rechecking all of my answers. Nerd alert!

Tonight was our practical exam. We were each assigned two different proteins and two different vegetables. We could prepare them anyway we like and serve them with any starch we desired. I was assigned pork loin, shrimp, spinach and eggplant. With these, I came up with the following dishes:

Roasted Pork Loin stuffed with cherries, finished with a white wine veal stock reduction and garnished with candied cherries and pecans
Fried Eggplant Coins
Potatoes Noisette


Broiled Shrimp with Lemon Butter Sauce
Sauteed Spinach
Potatoes Anna

I was proud of both dishes. I used molds to make fancy shapes and added spiffy garnishes. My pork was horribly overdone, despite my taking it out of the oven at the proper temperature. That resulted in a 65. However, I sorta redeemed myself with a perfect score on my Potatoes Anna, which Chef Instructor called “sexy.”

Overall, I ended the night with an 87 average on my practical exam. It isn’t an A. I guess I’ll have to deal.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lobster Trauma

I’ve spent the good majority of the last 5 days trying to get Friday night’s class out of my mind.

Up until this point, we’ve had to cut up a lot of animals – chicken, beef, pork, quail, rabbit and fish – just to name a few. I normally wear gloves to protect me from the slime, but other than that, I am un-phased.

You see, everything we’ve worked with until this point has been dead. Friday night changed all that. I arrive at class to the eerie sound of something live scraping on the sides of a Styrofoam cooler. Upon peering in, I see a mound of lobsters, slowly moving to escape contact with their fellow detainees.

When it comes time to cook them, Chef Instructor offers us two options – boiling or chopping. Of course, he demo’s both. He flippantly grabs a lobster with a pair of tongs and drops it into a pot of boiling water. I look away and plug up my ears to avoid hearing its scream.

Time for the second option. Chef Instructor sticks his tongs into the cooler and pulls out another lobster and places it on his cutting board. He picks up a 10 inch chef’s knife and plunges the tip into the head of the lobster and splits it right down the middle. 2 lobster halves lie on the board, both still twitching.

I couldn’t believe it. I’d read about it, but I didn’t realize how it would affect me upon seeing it.

I couldn’t do either method. I had to rely heavily on my partner to deal with our lobster slaughter.

Since Friday, I’ve been questioning my ability to be a chef. I can’t kill a lobster. What am I going to do – stand in the kitchen at my first job and refuse to cook it? Maybe. But then they will probably just show me to the door.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Please Come Back

While I thought Chef Instructor Hot was going to be THE Chef Instructor for my current class, it turns out he was just a substitute while Real Chef Instructor was off getting married in Zihuatanejo.

Chef Instructor Hot ran the class quite nicely. He focused on technique, not recipe. We could damn well make any sauce, use any herbs or spices and concoct some wicked flavor combinations as long as we followed the proper technique.

We could present our dishes for grading at anytime, as long as we met the specified deadline. Nice. Relaxed. Calm. Learning.

After two weeks, Real Chef Instructor returns. It’s back to the original grind. Assigned times for grading, and if you’re 1 minute early or 1 minute late, minus five points for the entire day. Ouch.

Real Chef Instructor spends almost 2 hours demo’ing the dishes we are to prepare. Once we know what we are supposed to do, he turns us loose and posts our deadlines. My partner and I are Team 2. We have 1 hour to prepare our dishes:

Coconut Basil Shrimp with Coconut Infused Rice
Frog Legs and Crab Cakes with Remoulade
Calamari Frito with Saffron Aioli

We are 2 minutes late. We get a stern scolding. “Ladies, what took you so long?”

Um, Chef? It took you TWO hours to do all this and you’re a pro. You want me to cook this shit in 1 hour? Um, okay. Minus 5 points.

I want Chef Instructor Hot back.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Food and VD

The scene: A plate of lunch on my lap as I sit on the couch watching Giada do her thing on the Food Network.

The interruption: A lengthy commercial for herpes medication, complete with instructions on safe sex and prevention tips.

The problem: The fact that some marketing guru thought that the Food Network would be an appropriate forum for this type of advertising.

I'm eating and I'm watching a show about eating and none of this has anything to do with VD!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Recipe: Force Me to Eat

In a food processor, puree chopped chicken thigh meat, garlic, shallot, cream and egg white. Hit the off button when the mixture resembles melted pink ice cream.

Spread out some caul fat on a cutting board. Caul fat is stomach lining that, when spread out, looks like a white, crocheted doily.

Take a whole chicken, completely remove the carcass and all flesh. What remains is the skin, fully intact, roughly resembling the shape of a bird. Scrape off all excess fat.

Pound out a chicken breast until you can almost see through it. Stay with me here. We are almost done.

Layer, in this order, chicken skin, pounded chicken and pink ice cream. Roll it up all nicely and then wrap it in caul fat.

Sear in a hot pan and finish in oven.

The main component, Forcemeat. The technique, Galantine. The finished product, Chicken Doria.

Shame On Me

I didn’t feel like going to school last night, so I didn’t go. I know, I know, how irresponsible. And believe me; I did feel a twang of guilt. Enough guilt in fact that I decided to, at the very least, cook dinner.

Roasted Rack of Lamb Persille – which is just a fancy way of saying lamb chop coated with breading that contains lots ‘o parsley.
Parmesan Risotto
Greens with Sesame Oil Vinaigrette