Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Today's class continued our sauce education. We made several derivative sauces (deriving from mother sauce bases) and, as much as I hate to admit it, Mr. Big Stuff made a perfectly lovely Hollandaise. The Cutest Chiclet and I were assigned to make puttanesca (loosely translated as "whore's sauce"), which is a tomato sauce with the addition of olives, capers, garlic, and anchovy. When Chef demoed it in Principles, he added crushed red pepper. We asked Chef Regional if he wanted the red pepper, and he wasn't too keen on it. According to him, it doesn't have it. We both distinctly remember Head Chef going on about the spicy factor in the puttanesca, as it related to the "spicy" wimmen for which it is named. (Check out this entry on puttanesca at Wikipedia for more details about how it got it's name.) Wisely, on our parts, we did not continue the discussion and say things like "Chef said blah, blah, blah." Probably wouldn't do wonders for our grades if we pit chefs against each other.
For our puttanesca, we used tomato sauce prepared in Monday's class. It contain some onions that had been sweated olive oil. Tomato paste and puree were added, and it was simmered for about 3 hours, cooled, and refrigerated. We took that sauce, reheated it, and added in some chopped shallots and garlic that had been sweated in more olive oil, to which we added some white wine and reduced it by half. We took that shallot/garlic/wine reduction and put it in the sauce along with some capers, an anchovy that was "pasted," and some lovely little black Nicoise-style olives. Olives complete my own personal little fat triumvirate; my fat pyramid if you will, or should it be "fat pie chart"?, is Butter, Cheese, Olives...what more could you want? It's not from lack of trying that I don't weigh 300 pounds. I loves me some olives, I do!
And, a word about anchovies. Yeah, they are smelly, hairy fish, and I can't eat one of the oily buggers to save my life, but they really are little flavor enhancers. Up 'til now, I had just avoided including anchovies in recipes that called for them or for anchovy paste, thinking that they would ruin the flavor rather than add to it, but I think I'm becoming a convert. My friend "Juanita" pointed out this tidbit of culinary info to me as we were wandering around a farmer's market and came across a tube of anchovy paste, and I felt duly ashamed that I hadn't been using it so I got a tube...which has lain unused on the top of the microwave ever since it came to live with us. I continued my blatant ignoring of anchovies until we did the Caesar salad during tableside cooking. I was truly amazed at how it enhanced the flavor of such a simple dressing. It's worth trying if you've been an anchovy hater in the past.
Along with the puttanesca, we made cheese sauces from bechamel (added gouda and Swiss to make psuedo Mornay sauce, which is traditionally done with Gruyere), and a chasseur sauce. Chasseur, also known as "hunter" sauce, is an enriched brown sauce to which we added some tomato paste and sauteed mushrooms. The aforementioned Hollandaise had a little of our tomato sauce added to it, which turned it into Sauce Choron (named after the chef who created it).
The Baking I class had made French bread earlier in the day, and Chef Regional snagged a loaf for us to eat with our sauce tastings...I really like this guy! It's weird, but we all seem so much more relaxed this quarter than we were last quarter, despite the fact that we've been thrown 2 days of actual practical cooking. And, for the most part, we seemed to be retaining what we learned in Principles. Also, Chef Regional seems a little more laid back than Chef was during Principles, not that he was Gordon Ramsey or anything,...which is probably part of the whole culinary brainwashing...give them a break for a quarter, boys, and then hit 'em low and hard in the fall!
We got our menu sheets for the class, which basically comprise the syllabus, and the first region we'll be doing is New England. Next week, we're going to review sauces on Monday and do a couple that are part of the New England menu. Then on Wednesday, we'll have a test on sauces and get to fabricate chicken! It's weird, I know, but I'm really looking forward to this part. I've always had the hardest time cutting up chickens into decent and recognizable pieces. Sometimes, it looks like I have a KFC chicken...you know those weird pieces that look kinda like a breast and kinda like a thigh, but aren't clearly cut as either one? (Not that I have anything in particular against KFC, but WTH is up with disgusting bowl thing that is currently being touted in commercials? A bowl of mashed potatoes, with a layer of corn and one of chicken nuggets, covered in gravy and topped with cheese! Eeeeeh!!! And, if you look at KFC's website, you'll see a banner that screams "Famous Bowls!"--note the plural "bowls," which means they are thinking of more ghastly combinations to visit upon us!)
Back to hacking and whacking of chicken...Chef Regional mentioned that we would learn to make chicken supremes, which are semi-boneless breasts. It's basically a deboned breast with the drummette part of the wing attached. The drummette has been Frenched and the exposed leg bone is sort of a handle.
Not exactly something you'd expect to see on this chicken: (This is the "World Famous Big Chicken" in Marietta, Georgia. Many, many, many directions start with "Turn left/right at the Big Chicken."
It was a pretty uneventful class overall...no real drama or major disasters. Mr. Big Stuff did manage to avoid dishes today, but we're going to band together on that little project and make sure he pulls his fair share. Each class has a new sous chef and a sanitation steward...who is in charge of setting clean-up tasks. There's 5 of us and 1 of him...in the normal rotation of things, we're going to have more chances at sanitation steward than he is, so even I can do the math on what that means for him and his dishpan hands. Bwwwaaaahhaaaahhaaa!