Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Oops, We Hors-d'oeuvred Again!
Just when you think we're finally dunzo with the apps and hors-d'oeuvres and moving on to fruit, Chef says there's a few things we didn't get to complete last week, so we'll do them today. We originally had fruit for both class days this week, but he says we only need 1 day for fruit, so get back on the tray and pump out the apps, pump them out!
Here's what we got:
Broiled Shrimp w/Garlic
Calamari w/Spicy Tomato Sauce
Samosas with Tamarind Sauce
Corn Crepes with Asparagus & Smoked Salmon
Scallop Mousse on Toast Points
The Rissoles were interesting...a sort of little deep fried empanada thing covered in bread crumbs. The filling involved a sauteed mixture of onions, shrimp, apples, and curry powder. Then, you popped some of this filling into a little pie dough crust, dipped it in egg wash, rolled it in bread crumbs, and fried that puppy. It was odd, to say the least, texture-wise, but not bad tasting.
The Broiled Shrimp with Garlic were a disaster...and I hate to say it, but it was because of Dimmer. It's an easy dish--basically butterflied shrimp sauteed with garlic in butter, topped with a mixture of buttery garlicky breadcrumbs, which were quickly browned under the salamander. How hard is that? Actually, they get really hard and burned when you leave them under the salamander for more than 30 seconds.
A salamander is not a little amphibian that I fish out of the pool or a mythological fire-dwelling lizard, but rather an extremely high-heat broiler. A piece of equipment that we have discussed the uses of and how it works, etc. throughout several classes. The biggest lesson being "don't walk away from the damn salamander when you put something under it because it will burn into cinders if left unattended," and which she should have known. Nope. She pops the shrimp under the salamander and walks away...way away.
I'm busily screwing up samosa making when I hear the dreaded cry of "who's stuff is burning?", and I look up to see Big Stuff (who, by the way, has really turned himself around in the teamwork department and may need a new nickname) snatching a sheet pan out of the salamander with some rather toasty blackened bread crumbs on top. Dim was all "oh, that's mine," in a rather nonchalant voice and meandered over to the pan. I think there was a collective rattle down the line as all our eyeballs rolled completely to the back of our heads.
Then, she sticks them in the oven to keep warm, where they continued to cook. This dish was supposed to be done a la minute (i.e., basically at the last minute), and we're a good 20-30 minutes from plate up. A few minutes later, I see her wandering over to the line with another sheet pan in hand and asking whose stuff was on the work table (it was Big Stuff's sheet pan of the risotto croquettes) and announcing that it needed to be moved because she needed the space. Excuse me? Big is in the middle of frying his croquettes and needs that space himself. He just ignored her and kept on frying his stuff, and she just wandered away, pan still in hand. I don't know if she has a learning disability, if she's just so tunnel visioned that she can't see any sort of a big picture or what, but I'm thinking she could be very dangerous in the kitchen. It makes me wonder what a day spent shadowing her at her regular job would be like. Then again, I have a hard enough time sleeping lately that I think I'll forego that idea.
The Vitello Tonnato is a classic dish involving veal that is ruined by the addition of a sauce made with canned tuna. Granted, it is the leg of veal and not the most tender part, but still, I don't think it deserves the fate of being paired with canned tuna. Nothing deserves that fate. Big Stuff and the Omelet King were in charge of that, and they were very careful during plate up to barely drizzle the sauce on the meat so we could still salvage it and eat it. Chef is mildly amused by my, Big, and the King's aversion to all things involving canned tuna, and he tells us all to be sure and taste the sauce and looks pointedly at the 3 of us. Ha!
Big and the King also made some risotto croquettes, which basically involved making a nice thick rissoto, chilling it down, and then forming it into smallish balls, rolling the balls into breadcrumbs, and frying. Did I mention that there was a yummy cube of Fontina cheese in the middle? Oh, yeah! They were very filling, so I would only want 2, maybe 3 at the most in an appetizer portion, but very, very tasty.
The Chiclet and I were in charge of making samosas, which are popular in South Asia, primarily in India and Pakistan. I frequently got them at the international farmer's market near where we used to live, and The Man always referred to them as "mashed potato hot pockets." I liked the vegetarian ones best, which were mostly a curried mashed potato mixture : ), but the real star of the dish to me was the tamarind dipping sauce. Love that stuff. As far as I was concerned, the samosa was merely a conveyance for the dipping sauce.
The samosa recipe we had called for a shrimp filling, and since we were using shrimp in 2 other dishes, Chef said we needed to come up with something else. I piped up with the potato idea, which he liked, and to which the Chiclet looked at me like I was nuts. Trust me, I told her, this will work. Then, I noticed there was no dipping sauce, tamarind, or otherwise, with the dish. I mentioned this to Chef, who said we needed to come up with one. He's musing aloud about how to do it, and mentions something about seeing "Bobby Flay do one the other day." Hee--Chef watches the Food Network! He did a little surfing and came back with a simple one that involved a little tamarind paste, brown sugar, water, garlic, and ginger cooked to a syrupy state and finished with a little garam masala...which we were out of the pre-mixed version, so I had to concoct some out of a melange of spices. A little cinnamon, ground coriander, ground cloves, and ground cardamom did the trick, and we had a fabulous sauce.
The samosas? Well, the technique was not so fabulous, but we managed to make some passable little football triangles. That was a funny thing, too. Chiclet was trying to figure out how to fill and fold the dough, and Chef says "fold it like a football." She, not being from this country orignally, says "soccer or American?", which cracks up me and Chef. He tells her no, like the footballs you played with in class--paper football. She's drawing a blank still and reminds him that she's "not from around here." He looks at me and says, "I know *you* know what a paper football is," and I confess that I do, having been made to stand in the hall in my 7th grade math class for playing paper football instead of doing fractions.
My favorite thing of the day was the calamari. Love the little squid rings. Mother Hen made those, and she did 2 different styles of breading. One was the standard breading of flour, egg, and bread crumbs, which made a heavier breading. The best was the seasoned flour one. She dredged the calmari in seasoned flour, shook off the excess, and fried them, and they were so light and crispy. And, you got more of the calamari flavor. The heavier breaded ones tasted more like well, breading. She did a lovely spicy tomato sauce to go with them, and they were the first things to go. Even Head Chef and some other chefs who were there for a meeting came out and devoured them. They ate a couple of other things, but they were all over the calamari.
Wednesday is the fruit day, and Chef promises that I will be able to properly segment an orange after that class. I told him that if I could do it without screwing it up and tearing it to pieces, I would consider it well worth whatever money I've paid out for school so far. He grinned a little evil grin and said that I would be sick of peeling oranges after he got done with me. Can't wait!