Wednesday, July 19, 2006

When whoever's in New England is through with dinner...

Could they please help Mr. Big Stuff with the pots and pans, since he's a bit overwhelmed and a bit sulky about it.


Today's class was all about regional New England cookery. Our menu included the following: a traditional Boiled New England dinner, a version of Boston Scrod (we used flounder instead), New England Clam Chowder, and an Apple Crisp. There were some other assorted veggies thrown in as well.

Let's dissect that New England Boiled Dinner, shall we? According to the recipe we were given, a traditional New England Boiled dinner consists of the following:

Corned beef brisket

Beef Tongue

With a Vegetable Garnish consisting of:

Red bliss potatoes
Green cabbage wedges
Pearl onions
Carrot tournés (little football shapes)
Parsnip tournés (which are a pain in the tuckus to do)
Rutabaga tournés (and we hate them and see no real reason for them)
Small beets, tournéed (eek!)
Green beans, cut into 2-in lengths

And, last but not least, a Horseradish Sauce, which started life as a bechamel sauce to which we added grated horseradish.

I think I finally met my match on being squeed out by a food. The beef tongue was just too weird for my little pea brain. I was kinda suprised at my very visceral reaction to Chef's demonstration of how to peel it. Yep, you read that right. After you boil the damn thing until the end of time, you have to peel it before you slice and serve it. I was having a very hard time with this. When I was a child, my great-aunt & uncle had a hobby farm of sorts. They mainly raised some livestock and crops to supplement their income. I remember this old Red Angus cow they had (Reddy was her name--originality not being a strong trait with them) and how friendly she was...for a cow that is. Anyway, she would lick you on the arm when you scratched her head. I remember her tongue felt like a giant cat tongue--sort of rough--but not totally unpleasant. And, I thought about that damn cow every time he would work with the tongue today. Arrgh!

I knew I had to try and eat it. And, it was much better when it didn't look so much like a tongue any more. (At one point when Chef was peeling it, it started looking very phallic, but I kept that to myself. It seemed to be the prudent course of action.) It was very tender, and it really didn't have a strong flavor...or maybe that was because I had slathered it in horsradish sauce?

Anyhoo, after it was plated all together, it was kinda pretty. It looked a lot like the photo on the right. The Cutest Chiclet and I are a team, and our main assignments for the day were to make New England Clam chowder and an apple crisp. We had the two easiest dishes on the menu, which was kind of surprising. I'm guessing that we'll get our turn soon enough for the more difficult dishes in other menus. I'll probably get to debone a whole duck or something.

Big Stuff and Dimmer Switch comprise another team, and they were in charge of the tongue and corned beast. I was not witness to most of their interaction today, because it was my turn as sous chef, i.e., "Chef's Little Helper," but evidently, Big Stuff was really ragging on Dimmer Switch, to the point that everyone got extremely pissed about it. Granted, we are all damned glad that she's not our partner and don't hesitate to admit it, but we're all well-mannered enough that if she was, we would not treat her like dirt. Personally, I think he was raised by hyenas and has no manners period. Case in point: As a treat, I brought in some banana pudding that I made the day before, since everyone (except him of course) has been thoughtful enough to save me some of their goodies from the baking class. I brought enough for everyone, including him. I handed out little cups to everyone, and when I give one to BS, he says, "it's probably not as good as my wife's, but thanks." It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him to give it back then, but I did remember that I'm not 5 any more, even though it would have been extremely satisfying to stick my tongue out at him. Nyaah!

During lecture, Chef Regional mentioned teamwork and assisting others with jobs, etc., all the while looking at Big Stuff. I think he was oblivious that Chef was talking to him.

But, he got his comeuppance in the end. Chef assigned clean up duties by team, and he and Dimmer Switch were put on pots and pans. And as an added kick in the teeth of his pride, Dimmer Switch was asked by Chef to perform some special tasks that delayed her from going back to the dish pit. BS is usually the one angling for these jobs, so he can get out of the actually getting his hands dirty part of the clean up, so I think it doubly stung him. He was muttering about DS not helping him, while the Chiclet and I were back in the dish area getting mops and brooms, and I told him she was doing something that Chef had specifically assigned. He expressed disbelief that *she* was so privileged, and Chiclet told him that "it sucks when you're not the one helping Chef, doesn't it?" I think the rubber glove has come off and tossed on the floor.

Just goes to show you that there's drama everywhere...


Erin said...

Tongue would skeeve me out, too. I'll settle for a nice (bland, boring, insert dry adjective _here_) pot roast any old day!

Belinda said...

No. No tongue, please. This would be my failing in cooking school, I'm afraid, when I refused to taste things. Gordon Ramsay made Irish stew with lamb neck (or neckbones, or both) the other day, and all I could think of was PRIONSPRIONSPRIONS! No way would I eat that, Gordon or no Gordon. Then years later when he comes down with K-J disease I'll know it was those sheep necks.

OK, you're from the South. So tell me, did you not grow up making this version of fruit cobblers/crisps?:

Can of fruit pie filling of choice, poured into baking dish.

1/2 box of yellow cake mix, with one stick of very cold butter cut into it until crumbly, spread over top of fruit filling.

Bake until topping is brown and bubbly.

Holeee canoli, that was some good, if white-trash, stuff!

Poodlebugz said...

Yep, we call those "dump cakes"...sort of along the lines of "dump" everything together. My great-aunt used to make a pineapple-cherry one that was sort of like pineapple upside-down cake.