Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Day 2: Not So Hellish

Ah, the "easy" practical day. Couple of sushi rolls, Asparagus Polonaise (instead of the broccoli version), a couple of eggs over easy, and a couple of oranges to segment. How bad could this possibly be?

Ha! It's never as "easy as it seems," especially at Fine Technical College's School of Culinary Arts. It's absolutely impossible to make good sushi rice under these conditions...especially when you are trying to cook your rice, and Dimmer Switch keeps moving your pot off the eye. Aaargh! Rice turned out too mushy, of course, but I was using it anyway...who has time to waste making more rice, because time moves at triple speed on practical days.

About 10 years (cannot believe it's been that long!) I took a couple of afternoon sushi making classes at a local Japanese restaurant. It was great fun, not that I was any good at it and ever really wanted to make my own sushi on a regular basis. No, the main reason I did it was to have all I-could-possibly-stuffed to the absolute gills (pun intended)-eat sushi for about $35. A bargain, I tell you, a bargain! I did learn how to make sushi rice during that class, and believe me, there's just no way, given the equipment we had, that anybody's rice was going to turn out anything but gummy. And, not the my class instruction went to waste. I have made sushi at home, and my rice turned out just fine, so I know I can do it.

Also in this class, I learned that you should toast the nori (aka "seaweed") sheets before using them to make a roll. The little hamster wheel in my brain begins to turn, and I think at least I can do something a little different than my other gerbil classmates. I grabbed a sheet pan and put my nori on it and headed towards the salamander. The Chiclet gives me a look that says "what in the name of all that is holy are you doing?" I explain about the toasting, which she hadn't heard of but thought sounded grand. So, I trot over to the salamander and stick my nori sheets in. About 2.5 seconds later, they almost burst into flames. Smoke starts to waft out of the salamander along with an odd smell. I grab the sheet pan out and see 2 little seaweed cinders. The Chiclet is about to pass out because she is trying to contain herself and not laugh out loud since this was supposed to be a test.

Luckily, no one noticed but her, and I quickly buried this latest disaster in my garbage pan. Dumb hamster me forgot that the little box that a sushi chef toasts nori in is probably a 1000 degrees less than the salamander. (If you want to know more about the finer points of sushi eating/making/etc, check out this guy's site. A quick comprehensive guide with pictures! WE loves the pictures!)

Anway, I got so wrapped up in dealing with seasoning and cooling the damn rice that I forgot my egg (for the Polonaise topping), which was boiling merrily away. Amazingly enough, it was perfectly fine--cooked through with no "ring of green death" that signals overcooking. But, it didn't really matter, because I overbrowned the bread crumbs for the polonaise. Eep! And, I was down to 3 eggs, which I felt I was going to need all of them and more for my attempts at fried eggs over easy. Decisions, decisions...in the end, I grabbed some of the Chiclets leftover polonaise topping and mixed with my overbrowned one to try and achieve some sort of balance. Which didn't really matter in the end, because I had overcooked the asparagus when I blanched it. (And, I can blanch asparagus...been doing it for years, both stove top method and the new favorite microwave method...I ask you, why the heck can't I do this in class? I am so not the next Food Network Star!)

My orange supremes (segments) looked pretty good...of course, the one that still had a shred of pith on it was the one that Chef picked out of the bowl to look at. Cannot win for losing, cannot win for losing...cannot...you get the picture.

Amazingly enough, I did manage to produce 2 fried eggs over easy, although it took all 3 of the remaining eggs to do it. I've always had the hardest time flipping eggs, and it's probably because I over think it. Plus, I really like scrambled better anyway. Honest.

Now, I'm slaving away trying to finish the brunch for 250 project that we were assigned several weeks ago and that I've been studiously ignoring until this weekend...and it's due on Wednesday. To give myself some credit, I've been fairly good about staying on track and schedule for projects. I had sort of decided that I would be a better student this time around, and I'd like to think I've been pretty successful up to this point. For some reason, I just could not get into this project, so now I'm scrambling around like a mad woman to finish it. Bad me! Bad me!

Tomorrow is Cheese Test day, and unfortunately it's not an "identify it by taste" kind of test...or maybe that should be "fortunately." I need to catch a break somewhere!

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