Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Monday's menu was based around the cuisine found in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Our culinary adventure took us through New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. Here's a quick review of our menu:
Vichyssoise (eh, cold potato-leek soup is so not my bag)
Pork Loin Stuffed with Apples & Raisins (most tasty)
Ratatouille (it looked ugly, but tasted good)
Potatoes au Gratin (cheese + potatoes...how can you go wrong?)
Chicken Pot Pie (this was the chicken fricassee from last quartered remixed and remodeled)
Summer Squash Noodles (julienned yellow squash and zucchini...a conveyor for butter)
Duchesse Potatoes (Ack! The poodle poo potatoes...although they turned out much better this time)
Apple Charlotte (clearly the crowning glory of the day)
The Chiclet and I made the pork and the ratatouille. I thought I would never get done with the prep for the ratatouille, which is essentially a rustic vegetable stew. It has bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, the kitchen sink...everytime I would get almost done and ready to start sauteing, Chef would tell someone to give me their leftover vegetables to put in the stew. It took me an hour and a half to chop vegetables.
The Chiclet worked on the stuffing for the pork loin, where she diced apples into a brunoise, which is a very small dice but not minced. She did the same with some onions and then chopped up some raisins and currants. We sauteed this in butter (of course) and let it cool. Chef then demoed making a pocket through the pork loin and piping in the stuffing. He trussed it up, and we seared it and finished it in the oven. We served the pork rather pink, and I must confess that I am still a wee bit leery of that. I know that with modern pork production, the fear of undercooked pork is pretty much a thing of the past, but old habits die the hardest. It does taste better and is more juicy than well done pork.
Now, chicken on the other hand, always needs to be cooked to the proper level of doneness...as evidenced by last night's episode of Hell's Kitchen. The prisoner-cum-chef wannabe plated up chicken that looked about medium rare...hard to see with all of Gordon Ramsey's leaping about...but GR was spot on for screaming at the prison cook about how wrong that was. The prison cook's response was something about it being "faster that way," and I almost fell off the couch. These people are supposed to be "in the industry," or as Dimmer Switch says "in the real world," and they should have some freaking clue about safety and sanitation, shouldn't they? I realize that he was under an intense amount of pressure, but seriously--would you feed someone something that you wouldn't eat yourself? Well, other than sea urchin...
The ratatouille turned out pretty good, even with the overabundance of eggplant in it...I swear, Chef was pulling eggplants out of thin air for me to chop, because every time I looked up, he was winging another one my way. Mother Hen made the Duchesse potatoes, and they turned out perfectly lovely. Her piping was consistent, and they browned up nicely. This was such a major accomplishment, because we all had trouble with the damn things in the previous class. Why, oh why, does piping with a pastry bag and tip look so easy and yet is the equivalent of building Hadrian's Wall with popsickle sticks?
The Apple Charlotte was pretty damn fantastic, and kudos go to Dimmer Switch for her efforts. It has a lovely buttery crust with a yummy apple filling, and we had whipped cream to go on top. I'm all about the crust on desserts, and this was just the buttery crusty bomb. Here's the recipe if you want to try it for yourself, and somehow, I've missed out on having a Charlotte before, and I'm planning to try it myself.
2 lbs Tart cooking apples
1 oz Butter
1 tsp Grated lemon zest
¼ tsp Cinnamon
2 oz Puréed apricot jam
1-2 oz Sugar
12 slices Firm white bread, crust trimmed
4 oz Butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400°F
1. Peel, core, and slice apples. Combine with the butter, zest, and cinnamon in a broad, shallow pan. Cook over moderate heat until soft. Mash apples lightly with a spoon and continue cooking until they form a thick purée. Some lumps of apple are okay.
2. Stir in apricot jam. Add sugar to taste, depending on the sweetness of the apples.
3. Line a 1-qt charlotte mold, two 1-pint charlotte molds, or other straight-sided molds in the following manner:
a. Dip bread slices in melted butter and line mold with buttered side against the inside of the mold.
b. The bottom may be lined with one round slice or with wedges of bread cut to fit. Line sides with half slices of bread overlapping each other, shingle-fashion.
4. Fill with the apple purée and top with remaining bread.
5. Bake at 400°F for 30-40 minutes.
6. Cool for 20 minutes, then carefully unmold. Serve warm or cold.
I highly recommend warm with whipped cream...lots and lots of freshly whipped cream, very lightly sweetened. At one point, we just gave up all pretenses of civility and ate the whipped cream straight out of the mixing bowl. These are the days I really, really, really like culinary school.
Mr. Big Stuff is still copping a major attitude. He's now gotten it in his head that we're giving him grief because he's the only male in class besides Chef Regional. No, a jerk is still a jerk whether it's a he or a she or any variation in between. Has nothing to do with gender or naughty parts. And, a lazy jerk is even worse.
A shining example: Part of the homework for culinary classes consists of transcribing the recipes in our text into a specially formatted worksheet. This forces you to read the recipes before class, and gives you something to take notes on during class without dragging your textbook all over the kitchen. (BTW, the text, The Professional Chef, 7th edition, we're using is a great reference tool, even if you aren't a culinary student. It's written in fairly plain language and would be a good addition to any cook's library.) We were assigned all the recipes for 8 regions (Chef's giving us a recipe packet for another region). So, as you can see from the menu listed above, it's a whole lotta busy work. We were tasked to have the first 3 regions done by last Wednesday, and the remaining 5 by yesterday. Because we didn't have time for lecture and review during clas, Chef gave us a reprieve and said we would review them on Wednesday, and that's when they all had to be completed. (And, yes, I had all mine ready for yesterday!)
Near the end of class, Big Stuff asked Dimmer Switch if she had finished her recipes, and she said she had. He then had the nerve to ask her if she would email him all the recipes...this being his partner who he abuses and refuses, just refuses, to cooperate with in class. The cheek of the boy...it astounds.
Things do have a way of coming back around in a fashion...he forgot his knife kit after class...and Dimmer Switch, bless her heart, came out of the building with it in her hand. He was in his car and backing out, and you know, we could have collectively yelled and got his attention, but we all came down with this amazing attack of 2-minute laryngitis. Mouths opened, no sound came out...it was the damnedest thing. Introductory Chef came out of the building about that time and took the kit from Dimmer Switch and locked it up in the kitchen office. Now, I'm not down on him for forgetting his knife kit, because as we all know, I forgot mine (and much hysteria ensued), and I don't want any unfavorable comparisions to pots and kettles. But, I'm pretty sure if any of my classmates had noticed I had forgotten mine, I'm pretty darn sure they would have chased me down in the parking lot or called me immediately on my cell...because unlike Big Stuff, we've all communicated outside of class via cell and email, like members of...I dunno...a team, maybe?