Tuesday, August 22, 2006
"Just as I thought. 'Mary Poppins, practically perfectly in every way.'"
Monday, we had a written test and a practical cooking test...whee...fun...yep.
The written test was a breeze--it was on the South and Creole-Cajun Cooking. If I didn't do well on this test, then I'll probably be shipped off to Ohio or New Jersey and have my Southern Womanhood Magnolia license revoked.
The practical test involved fabricating and cooking 2 portions of chicken and 2 portions of flounder. The fishmonger did not cometh, so we had to thaw out some flounder fillets and use those instead. Which I was grateful for, since I really overthought my chicken cutting and went about getting two breast portions off in the most backassward way possible. And, to top it off, every single time Chef Regional walked by while I was whacking away, I did something stupid or in the most awkward position/way possible. Geez! I shudder to think how I would have mutilated a flounder.
The menus were very basic, and we got the ingredients but no directions. Flounder Florentine (stuffed with spinach) with a vin blanc sauce with capers, tomato, and parsley, and Pan-seared Chicken Supreme with a Chasseur sauce and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Chassuer sauce, or hunter's sauce, is a brown sauce with mushrooms...y'all know how it is with me and brown sauce, and I'm sad to report that today was not all that different. For one thing, my brain went com-freakin-pletely blank when it came to even the basic mechanics of how to put the sauce together. And, to top it off, there was no demi-glace for us to use. Chef gave use a hint about taking the veal stock and fortifying it with mirepoix and reducing it. So, that's what I did.
I get that on first, along with throwing a head of garlic drizzled with some olive oil in the oven for the potatoes, and let it simmer for about 2.5 hours. Yes, I was stalling for time and hoping my brain would re-engage and start spitting out the know-how for the damn sauce. It never happened. I'm staring at my mise en place and wondering what the hell I do with the tomato sauce and the white wine, much less the mushrooms. I finally girded my loins and sauteed up some minced shallots and added the mushrooms. I then dumped in the white wine and a little of the tomato sauce and my reduced stock mixture...it was demi-somthing at that point. I swirled in some arrowroot slurry, salt and pepper, finished it with a little butter, and called it a day. If nothing else, it was the right color. It was too tomatoey, but the good news was that it did not taste like dirt. He said I should work on my brown sauces a little more. So polite, he is.
Of course, while I was worrying around with the stupid sauce, I let my chicken get a little overcooked. Not to worry, so did everyone else in class. Misery loves company.
On the other hand, the fish turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so my self. I seem to be able to pull off the white sauces for some reason. When Chef reviewed my dish, he said the spinach was a little overdone...I sauteed it a bit too long and it got overcooked while I poached the fish, but the good news was the fish was not overdone and the sauce rocked.
The mashed potatoes were pretty tasty, too. Chef said I could have used more butter, but the garlic flavor was not overwhelming. This was a simple recipe to do: take 1 head of garlic and cut off the top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roast at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour. Then, you squeeze out the roasted garlic and incorporate it into the mashed potatoes, with hot cream and butter.
I mentioned mashed potatoes before, and how you should use a rice or food mill to break them up so you don't lose too much starch. Somewhere in my travails, I have read something about cooking them whole as to not lose the starch as well. So, I had some time to kill and I cooked my potatoes whole, after peeling of course. And, I could have sworn I saw Head Chef do this last quarter, but maybe not. One of the advanced baking students said something to me about cooking them whole (in a condescending tone, I might add), and I politely told her about the starch theory I had read about, and she sort of sniffed and said "oh, really"...and now I need to find out where the hell I read that so I can make her eat my source. : ) The potatoes were fine and held together well and did not become the dreaded wallpaper paste, so phftt!
Wednesday's class begins the first of our team projects. The Chiclet and I are Team 1, so we get to go first. We'll be in charge of the class and have them doing our menu, which is Pacific Rim. Wish us luck!