Thursday, July 27, 2006

Frankly, my dear, I'd rather eat the hush puppies

(Which are not shoes, no matter how darn cute that bassett hound looks.)

Ah do declare, it's time for Southern Regional cooking. (fan, fan)

Today, genteel folks, our menu was...was...was sort of Southern in nature. There was cornbread. There was fried chicken. But, there were also things like pumpkin soup and leek timbales. And, our lemon chiffon pie had not set up by the end of class, so we got no dessert, dammit!

Here's what Chef Regional gave us as the South Regional Menu in all its glory:

Pumpkin Soup (dunno about you, but I think of this as more of a regional New England dish)

Southern Fried Chicken with Country Gravy (Do not ask how the gravy turned out. Just don't.)

Flounder stuffed with Crabmeat Stuffing (Crab--it had to be good!)

Creamed Corn (basically the same as from the veggie tales day)

Leek Timbale (ooky. Just ooky.)

Whipped Potatoes

Cornbread & Hushpuppies

Lemon Chiffon pie (which we have already lamented about)

The Leek Timbale was the weirdest thing. It's essentially a vegetable custard in a little mold that you buttered and dusted with bread crumbs. We took about 2 pounds of leeks and sauteed them and simmered them down. Then, we pureed them and added in some eggs, cream, and cheese and then put them in the little molds (kinda like little souffle cups). These were then placed in a water bath and cooked for about 45 minutes. The plan was to run a knife around the edge and invert it on the plate, whereupon it would slide out and sit there, looking like a little tower of yumminess. Not.

It looked more like something that the New Hotness yakked up a few weeks ago. It was pale greenish and unappetizing. I'm thinking who the hell thought to put this on the menu, because it is sooooo not Southern in my book. It really seemed more of a Mid-Western thing (not knocking our Mid-Western friends) than a Southern thing. I realize that not all Southern Cooking is fried chicken and the like, but I have lived all my decades in the South, and never, and I mean never, have I been served a vegetable custard. Maybe I'm not hanging out in the right places, but I'm not sure that I want to, if that's an integral part of the menu.

At one point, I wanted to pile them all up and make a Devil's Tower sculpture like Richard Dreyfuss did in Close Encounters...a greenish-tinged Devil's Tower. We had enough mashed potatoes today to actually do Mount Rushmore if we'd had enough time. Evidently, some class has been working a lot with potatoes, and there were tons of pieces, parts, odds, ends, etc. in the cooler, and we were tasked to used them all.

The Chiclet and I were tasked with the Creamed Corn, the dreaded Leeky Timbales, and the Flounder with Crabmeat Stuffing with Beurre Blanc sauce that we totally freakin' forgot to make. The sauce, that is. The fried chicken came out extra crispy and not in a good way. The cornbread was fine, until time for it to come out of the skillet...whereupon it stuck in the middle and refused to move. And the damned timbales refused to unmold proper except for 2 of them.

It definitely was not the best menu we have cooked as a whole class, and I think in part that it had something to do with all the extra crap we had piled on us. For the last 2 class meetings, we've had this large laundry list of prep work to do for Head Chef's events. While it's an extra opportunity to work on some skills, it's also taking away from our learning about the techniques used in our Regional American cooking.

Plus, we're constantly getting lectured on how we need to work faster and how we need to be done earlier with cleanup, etc. It doesn't help that Introductory Chef showed up with a van load of dirty stuff from an event that needed to be washed and put away, and the bulk of that got added to our cleanup pile. I'm sorry...there's only 6 of us, and when you add an extra couple of hours worth of tasks on top of our rather ambitious menu, it's no wonder we get out of there at 6 pm rather than 4:30. It's really starting to hack me off, this constant harping on hurrying up and the considerable additional workload. Last time I checked, my tuition was earmarked for "Regional American Cooking," not "Chef's Indentured Servant Course."

I can't even get a full head of steam rant/whine about it without feeling a twinge of guilt, because my poor classmates (even Big Stuff!) have been at school since 6:30 am doing a baking class, and they've not had a break, much less food or a bathroom break--because their class continually runs over into the 20-minute break between classes. Another thing that Chef Regional is threatening us with is if we can't get all our food done by the time he sets, then we're just going to clean up at that time and go home...not even going to taste the menu. Plus, get graded as incomplete for the day.

And you people thought culinary school was a great thing! Bah. Humbug.

Okay, that was a really grumpy paragraph...let's blame it on the leeks. And the fact that we got no pie today. No pie is a bad thing. A very bad thing. Really needed that pie...needed it bad.

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