Monday, May 22, 2006
Tall, Dark, and Fricasseed
Once again, I gazed into my crystal ball this weekend and made the dish that I had to make for the practical today. Am I psychic, or what? (Don't answer that.)
Saturday afternoon, the In-Laws put in much indentured servitude on our behalf, so I cooked the Chicken Fricassee for dinner. At one point, I thought I had really screwed up, because when I went to make the roux for the sauce, I grabbed the bowl of salt and white pepper mix instead of the flour and threw it in and had stirred it around before realizing my mistake. Crap, crap, crap! I just knew it was going to be too salty to eat. Enter the sage words of wisdom from The Man: "well, you said that it was amazing how different things could taste just by straining them, so I'll bet when you strain the sauce, it will turn out fine." Whaddya know? He was right. I'm having him pick lottery numbers next.
Anyway, luck of the draw today has me making the Chicken Fric and a Double Chicken Broth with homemade fresh pasta noodles. Never having actually made the pasta before, I was a bit nervous about that, but it turned out fine and was the funnest part of the day. My fricassee was okay--Chef said the sauce was good, but the chicken was overdone. The reason it was overdone had to do with the fact none of the pots at school have lids that fit tightly. Plus, whenever someone would add something to the oven, they would knock my lid off center of the pot, so my chicken more or less baked instead of braised and got too dry, which was highly irritating, because I have made this before and it has turned out perfectly fine. (How was that for the blog's longest sentence?) Textbook tender and all. I did the salt and pepper trick and threw in a huge amount on purpose this time, and it really did strain out nicely...go figure. Tomorrow, I'm going to ask Chef if I can bring in my own pot to make the rice pilaf. I can do that one in my sleep, and the little blue Le Creuset pot makes it perfectly each time.
In Dining Room, or Disaster Room as I was thinking about it today, we did tableside and I was supposed to do the cooking. I did make the guacamole appetizer and the classic Caesar salad, but our other Chef took pity on me and said she would cook the entrees and dessert. I did offer to wash her car in return for delivering me from more stress than I could handle. I thought I did okay on the guac and the salad. The interesting thing about the salad was the adding of the croutons to the dressing before tossing in the Romaine. Hadn't really thought about doing it that way before. In case you're interested in how to make a classic Caesar, here's what I did; this is salad for 4
1. Take 2 anchovy filets (good quality, if there is such a thing!) and place in salad bowl. Take a couple of forks and mash up the anchovy, breaking it apart.
2. Throw in some minced garlic and a little salt (for friction) and mash that all together.
3. Then stir in 2 egg yolks (pasteurized is what we used and were very clear about that in case anyone wanted to wig out about raw eggs). You will stir these around with the garlic and anchovy mixture--be aggressive with it and it will start to look creamy.
4. Add in some finely grated Parmesan cheese--about half a cup or so--to the egg/anchovy/garlic mixture. Add 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice (need that acid!), and then, drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil to make an emulsion; about 1/4-1/2 cup.
5. After all the oil is incorporated, add in your croutons and toss in the dressing. Then, toss in a head of Romaine torn into pieces and roll it around in the dressing. Put some on a plate, offer more freshly grated Parm, and some freshly ground black pepper. Viola! Caesar Salad!
I did manage to have some witty banter with my guests and inform them that the Caesar Salad was name after Caesar Cardini, a famous restauranteur in the 1920s. He had a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, and it was all the rage for movies stars like Clark Gable and Carole Lombard to drive to Tijuana just for the salad. This tidbit and $3 will buy you a small cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Our dessert today was Cherries Jubilee, which was created by Escoffier in honor of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. She evidently liked cherries a whole heck of a lot, which is why he made it for her. It looked really good...note that "looked" is the operative verb here, because it's not like we got to eat any of it!
I dragged my worn out self home today and what did I find? A care package from my oldest (as in known the longest!) friend Cheryl!! She sent me a big ol' tin of Jacques Torres' Wicked Hot Chocolate ( check out www.mrchocolate.com for more yummy goodness). There was a miniature Zen Garden with sand and rake (she knows I'm really whacked out about this quarter and need something to do other than contemplate hari kari), and a book...you know how I love to get books! Don't Try This at Home is a compilation of "culinary catastrophes" from some really famous chefs. I'll read a couple of chapters tonight, and maybe someone else's FUBAR will make me feel better about Wednesday's menu... And, last, but not least, Foodie Craze, which is a food trivia game. This will really drive the classmates up the wall now, since they're already teasing me about being around when Escoffier created Cherries Jubilee. Being pop culture literate can come in handy at times, but I still can't do higher math functions...
So, the pain killer for the feet has finally kicked in, and I think I'd better turn in for the evening and spare you some really outlandish ramblings. 'Sides, I gotta polish the ol' crystal ball and see if I can figure out what's going to happen for Wednesday's practical.
UPDATE 5/24/06 5:13 a.m.: I forgot to post this last night--After Dining Room Class on Tuesday, I spoke with Chef about the Fricassee, and why it was overdone and why I thought it turned out badly. He reminded me that it wasn't really overdone per se, it was more that I had cooked it too hard in the simmering stage, which was why it felt tacky to the teeth. He said the leg was fine, which I hadn't tried because I usually am a breast girl (insert Beavis & Butthead laugh here). It may have had something to do with the breast being boneless as well, because I have been cooking bone-in chicken at home. Chef 2 who was in the office at the time I spoke to Chef reminded me that it was 2 different kitchens, different stoves, etc., which can account for some differences in how things turn out.