Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sweetbreads are NOT Sweet!

Phase 3, Week 4, Day 18

OK, this is a fun one. Obviously, sweetbreads are not sweet. They are the thymus gland of a cow. The texture alone is enough to make you hurl, and those of you who know me know I don't really have much of a texture issue. But this one got to me. So, why do they call them sweetbreads? A brief internet search concluded that no one really knows why they are called that. I can't believe the internet didn't come through on answering something, I think that's a first for me. Apparently, I can't eat them but I can rock them in the kitchen.

Menu for today:

Veal Stew Vol au Vent
Tourned Potatoes

Sweetbreads with Sauce Maltaise
Pureed Butternut Squash

A couple of weird things for today. We are serving our sweetbreads with a sweet flavored hollandaise sauce, gross. During the demo the chefs commented how the sweetness of the orange cut down on the alkali flavor of many offal or varietal meets (cooking terms for stuff you wouldn't normally eat). I made a mental note.... Second weird thing is the vol au vent or puff pastry. It's not too weird but puts a different spin on presenting stew. Third, how the hell are we going to incorporate pureed squash with either of these dishes?

Production of both dishes was fairly easy. The fact the I always eff up stew has become a standard for me, and I just roll with it now. I have now added stew to the list of things I can't do well. The sweet hollandaise was a bit challenging to get it to the right consistency, although orange is an acid, it didn't quite act the same as vinegar or wine. Puff pastry, easy. Pureed squash, easy. Putting it all together, interesting.

Remember the last day of F2 when Adolf and Ava said you have to plan your entire dish ahead of time. I've tried to do this during F3 as best I can, and this is what I came up with this time around. A taste of seared sweetbread and candied orange peel w/ a quenelle of sweet squash puree w/ sauce malaise. Mini vol au vant filled with veal stew and tourned potatoes.

A taste of Sweetbreads

Veal Stew Vol au Vent

Sweetbreads- Both chefs liked the presentation, a bit too much sauce in the dish. They enjoyed the addition of sugared orange peel I added as garnish to cut the sweetbreads. But my sauce could have had more flavor...

Stew- Nice presentation, sauce was too thick and the potatoes were not quite done. Oops...

Grade for last two days, 87%. Not great, but not bad.

New Opportunities

Phase 3, Week 4, Days 16 & 17

Basically, these two days consisted of lectures about lamb and pork, three demos, and one cooked dish of Lamb Shank and Risotto. Nothing worthy to note, besides trying to plate an entire lamb shank was ridiculous! Talk about a truck stop portion of food, it might as well have been a turkey leg. Geeze!

I'll take this time to fill you in on some other stuff that's been going on. In the span of one week I got two new part-time jobs in the culinary industry. I got a job as a free lance writer for a St.Louis based online news periodical, calling it a news paper doesn't seem right. It's called Patch.com. It's is actually a collection of local online sites focusing on "local" news. Mine is based in Ballwin and Ellisville Missouri. I've written two stories so far and hope to have more published soon. I also got hired on as a demonstration cook for Your Commercial Kitchen in Springfield. I'll be teaching cooking classes on the weekends. So far I have started a Little Chef Culinary Series targeted to kids and of course, the first class is Holiday Cookies. I'll be scheduling more classes in the near future.

To keep up with all this stuff I attached a Twitter link to the bottom of my blog as well as starting a "fan" page on Facebook called Always Taste Enough. Feel free to follow either one to get the latest updates regarding my new ventures.


A ridiculous portion size....

Monday, December 6, 2010

Late for an Important Date

Phase 3, Week 4, Day 14 and Day 15

Looks like I have a little catch up to play here recently. Last Monday, was the half way point of the class, and I attended my regular class time since I had had the long weekend at home. In class we reviewed for our midterm written test and watched a demo on pork carnitas and strip steak. Seems lately the class has had a much more leisurely pace to it. We are only cooking every other day. Lecture and demo days are enjoyable, but tedious at the same time. Three and a half hours is a long time to stand and watch someone cook or discuss the primal cuts of different types of meat. And the cooking days move along pretty well but are much less frantic than they used to be, which is a great feeling to have!

Tuesday morning started off badly! I awoke when I hear my Uncle down stairs (I'm staying with my Aunt and Uncle while I attend school). This was not good! When I opened my eyes I saw light streaming through the window. Also not good! I looked at the clock, it was 6:20 am! NOT GOOD! Class started at 6:00 and we had a test and a practical!!! I shot out of bed, threw on my uniform and rushed out the door. I got to school in 25 minutes, in what was typically a 35 minute commute. I walked in just as the class was beginning the prep for the practical. I had missed the written test.

Ok- I just had to calm down and focus on the task at hand; which was:

Pork Carnitas
Salsa Cruda
Avacado and Sour Cream & Cilantro Quenelles

Grilled NY Steak
Maitre d'hotel Butter
Duchess Potatoes
Butternut Squash Gratin 

Working with Jeremy we got all of the dishes knocked out in record time. I couldn't believe it! It was actually pretty easy. Even the Duchess Potatoes, you'll remember from last phase, were pretty easy. Our only issue was I almost dropped our squash gratin when rearranging all the pots in the oven, but I saved it. Whew!

Steak- Great job, medium rare (who would have thought I would like mine that way now). Potatoes good color and flavor. Squash could have been dices in larger pieces and had a bit too much liquid in them. Otherwise very tasty.

Carnitas- They loved the presentation (took it's picture, always a good sign). Chef Bruce said it looked like the St.Louis Club was rubbing off on me. Good flavor over all. 

No Grade Yet. Good come back from a crappy start to the day.

I got docked 25% of my daily grade for being late, but Chef let me take my test right after class. Scored and 83%, not great but apparently par for the rest of my classmates. They keep sticking some zingers in there to keep you on your toes. What the hell is a Fourth anyway? I still don't know.

Sexy Carnitas

I'm hooked on the d'hotel butter

Monday, November 29, 2010


Happy Monday after Thanksgiving. I was so excited about Thanksgiving this year. It really is a cook's holiday. I mean, what other holiday completely focus around food for all of the festivities? This year I actually knew what I was doing and could kick it up a notch with out any issues. I had several new recipes picked out and a few old standbys on the menu . I was doing it all, except for the Turkey, sweet potatoes, and canap├ęs. This is what I had planned:

Fried Turkey (Shawn's request)
Fig and Black Walnut Dressing
Whipped Potatoes
Fresh Green Beans with Roasted Red Pepper (sound familiar?) 
Winter Citrus Salad
Cranberry Pear Relish
Pan Gravy


The stage was set.

By Wednesday afternoon; Shopping was done. Stock was made. French bread for dressing was drying......

Enter sick child. 

Yes, at 9:00 pm Rhys stared throwing up. He did this on and off until 9:00 the next morning. Yuck!

Therefore we did not share the wealth, we did not go to Thanksgiving. We spent the day quarenteened, together, at home.

Through my wonderful friends I cooked my highly anticipated meal by phone. All of the little helpers in the kitchen did a fantastic job, BTW!

Rhys and I got a care package of leftovers on the doorstep to enjoy, at least I enjoyed them. Rhys was still on soup and crackers until Friday when things began to come out the other end. But that's a different story all together....

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Half Way Home!!!!

Phase 3, Week 3, Day 13

Today, I'm half way home literally! Not only is it a short week but today marks the half way point for me. Our last phase of the certificate program is an externship, and since I'll be doing mine in Springfield, I will be back home in 15 weeks. I can't believe it! 15 weeks and I'll be home! YEA!

In class today to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, we made rabbit. Just kidding. We didn't celebrate Thanksgiving, but we did make Braised Rabbit with Mustard Sauce, Fresh Carrot Pasta, and Snow Peas. A classic French dish.

I needed to redeem myself after yesterday's fiasco. Yesterday afternoon, I just slept and wallowed in self pity. Until, that is, my ex told me to get over myself. Everyone has a bad day, he said. Harsh, but true. I guess that's why he's my ex.....I digress.

For this practical we were just making one dish AND it was a joint effort. Which was very cool. First we had to break down the rabbit, which I did not enjoy. Chef Bruce made the mistake of equating the rabbit carcus to that of a cat, after that reference he lost me. We watched Chef demo the breakdown and perform two different cooking methods for rabbit. Chef Tim demoed fresh carrot pasta and holding methods and with a "bop on the head" we were off to cook.

Jeremy and I rocked today. Jeremy took the rabbit. Typically we share the process of breaking down the meat produce, but after the cat comment, I was done with rabbit. I took on the peas and fresh pasta. The instructors gave us some lientency as how to prepare our rabbit, what cuts, and what accompanying sauce to serve . We decided to plate two dishes,  I chose the hind quarters and Jeremy chose the loin. We agreed to serve the mustard sauce.

Our timing was impeccable. The dishes couldn't have turned out better. No negative remarks from the Chefs. And Chef Bruce even took a picture of our dishes! 100%

Rabbit, it's what's for dinner.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Phase 3, Week 3, Day 12

Discomboobulated is what Chef Bruce calls discombobulated, or when things get all mixed up and you are disorientated. That's what today was all about. Although, I made the barded beef dish last night and I figured I could make Calves Liver Lyonaise with Haricot Verts, what is basically liver and onions with green beans, with out a problem, it was not a good day.

Right off the bat, the liver was looking good and with in the span of 10 seconds BAM! It burnt! Crap! I flipped it, carefully watching the cooking process and the pan grabbed a hold of the meat and wouldn't let go. Now some would say, that's ok, the Maillard Reaction is taking place, let the meat do it's thing. Well, I could tell the damn thing was burning, AGAIN. Crap! Now any chance of making a pan sauce from this disaster would taste like licking a charcoal briquette.

Remember, this is a test, but since I wasn't "in class" the day before Jeremy could help me out. During this process of an epic fail of a liver lyonaise, Jeremy is "helping me a long"and laughing. Thanks J.

I learn from Jeremy that yesterday Chef Bruce totally used a different recipe for his Souffle, so different that cooking time for the side dish went from 30 minutes to 10 minutes. A BIG difference, and of course, the procedure is completely different too. For the last straw, Chef's Sauce Maderia was constructed in a different manner as well. I found myself arguing with Jeremy about processes. ARGH! At this point, I was completely discomboobulated, I had to change game plans and my overall thought process. Not too sure if I can save this one at the rate the ship was sinking......

Filet seems to be going well. Good. Wrapping up veggies. They just need to be sauted  after they have been blanched and shocked. No biggie there, we do it all the time without issue. Wrong!  Both the green beans and artichokes carryover cooked in the pan too far. In fact, the chokes totally burned. As Chef Bruce would say, "Sabotugie!"

Beef Filet- Could use more color on the searing. Temperature was good.
Sauce- Nice sheen and flavor
Chokes- He didn't even try them. (ouch!) I should have taken a page from Jeremy's book. He burned his too. He just served one piece of choke on top of the filet.

Soufflet- Very good. Liked the garnish of a cheese wedge.

Liver- All was well, until, he checked the underneath side of the liver. Fail.
Sauce- Could have used more onion. Remember, I had to borrow what I had because mine was burnt.
Beans- Overdone.

Grade: 87.

Needless to say I was definitely down on myself after today. Am I really going to be able to do this?

Barded Beef Filet w/ Charcoal Chokes
Charred Liver Lyonaise and Limp Haricot Verts
Souflet no. 2

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Barded Beef

Phase 3, Week 3, Day 1

Back to the night class today. I still like spending time at the restaurant on Monday mornings and of course the extra night with Rhys, but going to the night class on Monday nights sucks. I like the class, I even have a nickname, "Monday." However, with so many practicals this phase I end up repeating tests or missing lectures because the classes aren't on the same schedule.

Today we had a 1/2 practical, where we are only doing one dish. My class demoed this and one other dish this morning for our test tomorrow.....menu for tonight was as follows:

Beef barded Filet of Beef (Filet Mignon) w/ Sauce of Madera 
Saute of Artichoke Heart
Blue Cheese Souffle

So several firsts today. Breaking down a fresh artichoke, making a souffle, and pan searing a filet. Awesome. Luckly there was only one dish and the chef instructor demoed the whole thing for us. Otherwise, not sure I could have pulled off the souffle.

Breaking down the artichoke was interesting. You end up throwing away 3/4 of the artichoke and keeping the little tiny heart. I also had no idea the thing was super prickly. The artichoke is part of the thistle family, so I guess that makes sense why it's full of spikes. The choke part is on the inside and is full of little spiky needles, many people are have been said to have eaten this part and choke. 

History note: In the 16th century, eating an artichoke was reserved only for men. Women were denied the pleasure because the artichoke was considered an aphrodisiac and was thought to enhance sexual power. Weird.

The cheese souffle was even more interesting, but not as difficult as I thought it would be. But it had some very precise steps in the process. Whipping the whites and folding them in to the mornay sauce was critical, as was the temperature and timing to determine doneness.

The Filet was easy, but we were required to "call" the doneness of the filet before the chef cut into it. Without a lot of experience in this arena I was kind of in the dark. My advice to the galls out there, don't just let your husband grill, you need to know about meat too!!!


Filet- Nice seasoning, on the line of medium

Sauce- Very good color and sheen 

Chokes- Nice flavor, but underdone

Souffle- Nice color, good texture and flavor



Filet, Souffle, and Chokes

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Poultry Practical

Phase 3, Week 2, Day 10

Practical menu for today:

Plate 1
Turkey Scaloppine w/ a Mushroom sauce
Potato Croquettes
Mixed Green salad w/ vinaigrette dressing

Plate 2
Poeler Duck Brest with Bigarade sauce a Gastrique
Gratin Dauphinoise
Sauted tourne of Cucumber

I still have not mastered the element of heat or sauce making. Two MAJOR things I need to accomplish and be able to do well before I leave school. Most of my sauces either break, where the oil separates from the main liquid, or I over reduce. Concerning heat, I have no control. My stuff is either not brown enough or burnt. WTF! It's not that hard, but for some reason I can't get it. URGH!!!!

In general, most of my dishes are typically "good with nice flavor", but I'm not really sure what that means. Is that like "Yeah, it's good, I'm not going to send it back," type thing or does it mean "it's good, I'd come back to eat here again."

I'm also trying to work on my plating and presentation, but chefs have such different opinions on what looks good. There are modern styles and classic styles. I don't know which is the right way to go. It boils down to two basic camps: 
  •  all garnish should be functional and edible, but not always required if dish is done properly
  • garnish is a requirement and should reflect herbs in the dish (ie; NFG , Non Functional Garnish)
The garnish debate is annoying to me because Chef Tim and Chef Bruce are exact opposites on this concept. I don't think our grade is reflective of the garnish, but I wish we could get some more ideas of NFG besides putting a bush of rosemary on my dishes. I tried a lemon spiral on my salad today and both of them scoffed at it. I mean what's the difference between a bush and a peal? I got props for using a bit of salad to top my duck. I guess I'll need to do some research to see if I can come up with a compromise.

Turkey- Could have used a bit more color
Sauce- Broke (having major issues here!)
Croquetts- Good seasoning, a tad too much pepper

Salad- Very nice vinaigrette, less on the plate with more height. Didn't like my attempt at garnish...

Duck- Good flavor, but should be served medium. A bit over done.
Gastrique- Very good flavor, over reduced
Dauphinois- Very good, nice color and texture
Cucumber- Good

Again; good over all. No grade yet.

Salad with a twist

Turkey Scaloppine

Poeler Duck with Gastrique

Friday, November 19, 2010

Duck, Duck, Goose

Phase 3, Week 2, Day 9

Today was all about poultry. turkeys, duck, and game birds. Chefs lead with a demo and finished with a lecture about various market forms and classifications of types of poultry including a lengthy tangent about foie gras.

Foie Gras is a pretty interesting topic in the food world. It was pretty controversial a few years ago and event banned in some cities, including Chicago. Many well known chefs including Wolfgang Puck stopped using the produce for a while. The main point of contempt is over how the ducks are fed. For those of you not familiarized with fioe gras, it is basically fattened duck or goose liver. The ducks are force fed a corn diet using a feeding tube. There are two manufacturers of foie gras and other duck products in the US, Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras.

During my first phase at school we had a representative from Hudson Valley come to school and give a lecture and demonstration on their products. Due to all of the bad press fois gras has received in the US in the last few years, foie gras purveyors have had to result to a grass roots campaign to educate the public and new and aspiring chefs about their product. Hudson Valley actually has a standing invitation to chefs and culinary students alike to come and visit their farm in New York so that industry professionals can make their own decision about the controversy.

Who would have thought that food could be so controversial?

Here is a link to pro foie gras articles as well. The choice is yours, but also think about where your chicken comes from and how they are treated....

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Phase 3, Week 2, Day 8

Today we had a practical covering three dishes:

1) Grilled Veggies
2) Chicken Ballontine w/ Latkas
3) Grilled Airline Chicken breast, Fruit Salsa, and Curried Lentils

The day went pretty smoothly.However, I cut off the second joint of my chicken wing off of the breast. Oops! That wasn't what I said though. ;0). An airline chicken breast has a bone from one of the wings left on it w/ the skin removed. Secondly,  I did burn my first batch of latkas. Man, if you turn your back for just one minute your food will turn on you like nothing else. Always be vigilant of what you are cooking and know how it will react to heat. For instance; all oils cook differently at different temperatures. Sauces with cream or eggs will break or separate on you if not handled with care. A sauce to go from nappe to burnt in 30 seconds.

The interesting thing we got to play with today was caul fat. Caul fat is the fatty membrane of a pig's stomach used to wrap meat. We wrapped our chicken ballontine in it and then sered it. The caul fat holds it all together and then melts away when exposed to heat. It's kind of cool.

Grilled Veggies: Good, nicely seasoned, nice little presentation
Ballontine: Good. Nice presentation, good flavor. Made a second batch of latkas ;0). Sauce, good.
Chicken: Even without the breast, the dish was "Good." A bit too much salsa on the plate. Lintels, good.

Overall it was all "Good." I finally asked if Chef Bruce had anything else to say about any of the dishes. Nope they were good. What does Good translate too?

Apparently a 97%. I'll keep chugging along to attempt to come back from my 300 pt deficit....

Chicken Ballontine

Chicken and Lintels

Grilled Veggies

F3- Written Test 1

Phase 3, Week 2, Day 7

Got and 89% on the written test. Not too bad considering I missed 2 days. I was stumped a few times with some of the identifying of primal and sub primal cuts of meat. I'll need to go back and review that.

Our lecture covered chicken classifications, market forms, and a brief discussion about the difference between free range, organic, and farmed poultry. It's very interesting to get a Chef's point of view on such controversial topics. They don't seem to take a side really, but they weigh out all the options including but not limited to; cost, convenience, usability, availability, and demand. Choosing product is not just an ethical issue to them, their decisions are based on may layers of of things and how those things inter relate for the best result for their customer.

Chef Tim demoed grilled chicken, fruit salsa, and curried lentils. Stemming from that demo, I can't wait to go to CAC (Cuisine Across Cultures). Chef Tim typically teaches that class and his demo is infused with history of the foods he is preparing. You can tell he's holding back a bit because he doesn't want to repeat himself when we have that class in the spring. The history behind food is one of my favorite parts! He made his own curry and his fruit salsa was amazing! We will see how mine turns out tomorrow.

Back in Class

Phase 3, Week 2, Day 6

I attended my regular AM class today because I had missed the two days last week and feared I'd miss more information specific to my class. It was odd to be here on a Monday morning. I was glad I showed, because I found out we were going to have our fist written test on Tuesday. I was able to get all of the pertinent info I needed to have a successful test result. The evening class took their test on Monday. Wow! I dodged that one!

We spent the day watching a demo of Ballontine Grandmere, ladka's and grilled veggies and reviewing for our test. The structure of this class is very interesting. With a full day of demo and lecture followed by a practical the class feels slower paced, but I feel I'm learning more. It's kind of weird. We are also receiving a lot of anecdotes   about the industry and their experience from the chefs. It's very interesting!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Phase 3, Week 1, Day 3&4

I skipped days 3&4 to be in Springfield with my son for his third birthday. At first I was not going to go and just thought we could do it on the weekend and then I found out I had to work both Friday and Saturday. So I missed my first class in 13 weeks.

When I told Chef Bruce why I was going to miss class, he told me there wasn't much he could do for me according to school policy as a birthday is not an excused absence, but he told me I was making the right decision. Originally I intended on just missing the one day, Thursday. However, by the time I was ready to leave Springfield on Thursday night at 10 pm, I was way too tired to make the drive. I've made the drive between Springfield and St. Louis so many times by now I know when it's not safe for me to hit the road. Thus, I missed class number two and a test. Figures we'd have a test on Friday. There are no make up practicals, so I'm out the 100 pts for the test, and 200 pts each day for participation and attendance.

Even if I get a B in this class, it was worth spending the day with Rhys.
In the kitchen helping Mommy
Watching the magic happen!
Star Wars cookies we made together

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

F3- Practical 1

Phase 3, Week 1, Day 3

Wow, a test already!!! We did not have time to prep anything yesterday after the Chef demo and a lecture on the composition of meat we ran out of time. So we started out the day with 30 minutes to prep for two dishes. Then we had 2 hours to prepare them.

1) Pork Loin, Braised Cabbage, Bulgar Pilaf, and Jus Lie
2) Beef Stew, Sauteed Vegetables, and Cocotte Potatoes

At first, I was thinking there was NO WAY we could get it all done. Jeremy and I just started down the list of Meis En Place. We could help each other do prep, but we had to prepare everything our selves. I cut the stew, he prepared the loin. We tourned our own vegetables, and started the pilaf. We just whittled down the list. We finished both dishes with 10 minutes left in class. Not too bad, and I didn't feel super rushed. The only weird part was we had an ingredient list but no instructions. We had to come up with that part on our own based on the demo and our past experience.

Pork Loin- Meat a bit over done (5 min), needed an odd number of pieces. Pilaf good flavor, but I forgot the the chopped chive for color. Cabbage was good. Presentation was very nice, he liked the dam I created with the pilaf.
Stew- Very nice flavor and consistency of the stew. Meat was good. Cocottes were over cooked. Veg were
good as well. (forgot to take a picture)

I didn't stay at the tasting table to get me grade. I'm sure I did ok...

What a difference a week makes.


Phase 3, Week 1, Day 2

Chef Bruce and Chef Tim are our instructors for this phase. They both have a ton of experience in the industry at various "Clubs" around town. Clubs can consist of dining clubs, like the St. Louis Club, where I work or county clubs, golf clubs, athletic clubs, or other social/business clubs.

The Club experience is very different from that of a typical restaurant. They often have large kitchens with several departments and many staff. Clubs often have several "outlets" or restaurants including a banquet department, pastry department, fine dining- a la carte, and casual dining. All of the departments have to work together for the club to succeed; for example, the revenue from weddings, parties, and meetings produced in the banquet department will allow for more high-end dishes to be made in the a la carte outlets of the Club. If the members are happy eating in the club then they will think of the club when planning their social events.

Clubs generally have a discerning clientel that wants both a fine dining experience as well as healthier choices. Chefs in a Club setting also have to be versatile and cater to the members needs and will generally make anything a member requests to eat. Clubs will often serve three meals a day and have seasonal revolving menus. Like most restaurants, they will offer specials of the day as well.  Working in a club can be challenging, although the outlets may not produce high volume the quality of cuisine that is produced is generally at a higher skill level than most restaurants.

As a bonus, Clubs often offer chefs health insurance and paid vacation both of which are hard to come by in the food service industry.

I am very excited to be learning from both Chef Bruce and Chef Tim this phase.

Today in class Chef Bruce demoed a pork loin, braised cabbage, bulgar pilaf, and a jus lie. We will be replicating this dish tomorrow.

Chef Bruce with Chef Tim in the background

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Foundations III

Phase 3, Week 1, Day 1

Today we began the final part of our Foundations classes. We will build on the first two classes and additionally develop skills in the identification, butchery, and fabrication of a variety of meat and seafood. We will also begin to apply techniques of plating and presentation that are used in modern kitchens, and hopefully begin to realize our own style.

The class is set up so we will have three written tests and some additional assignments just like the two other classes before. The biggest difference in this class is that we have a timed practical test twice a week, instead of three times a phase. However, for the most part, we will be able to do our mies en place the day before the test. So we won't have to be so strained on test days. Also, all those extra tests will compile to the same percentage as the first two tests did in our earlier classes. Down side, there is no practice session- it's a one shot deal, but with a little wiggle room because there are so many of them.

F3 Classroom, the TV screens are cool!!!!
Today, as most first days, we went over the syllabus and the assignments for the class. We finished up with a lecture on plating and modern plating techniques.

Some things to consider when putting a plate together are:

  • Use large plates; crowded food looks messy.
  • Use neutral colored plates; white or earth tones will compliment all colors of food.
  • Negative space makes a dish look elegant.
  • Find the focal point of the meal.
  • Think about color contrast when creating a dish.
  • Garnish should suit the food (there are many different lines of thought about garnish-depends on what you like or what your chef likes ;0)).
  • What grows together, stays together; preparing fresh ingredients that are in season tastes and looks better.
  • Use odd numbers of pieces
  • Create height with the dish, but nothing too elaborate
  • Consider the rim of the plate as your frame
  • Use a variety of shapes and forms
  • Be able to serve it quickly
  • Keep it simple
Got all that? Easy, right? That's what I thought too. I just figured you used a little artistic flair and Voila! You had a beautiful plate to present. Apparently , it's more complicated. Isn't it always?

To simplify, remember BUFF (Balance, Unity, Focus, Flow).

A few examples of some modern plating techniques
Salmon w/ Dauphine Potatoes, Roasted Veg & Herbed oil
Roast Beef, Purple Potatoes, & Pesto Fettuccine
Veal Meatballs w/ Whipped Potatoes & Root Veg

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Drum Roll.....

An A. Thank God! I truly had no idea what I was going to get. We never received our papers back and never got a progress report during the entire 6 weeks. This was a completely trying Phase. I don't think next phase will be like this one was.

On a side note, I stayed back after class on Thursday and asked both Adolf and Ava what they both thought that I personally needed to do to bring it to "the next level". They responded, that I have the individual components and I need to bring them together. I should begin thinking about what the plate should look like before I even begin cooking. While I'm getting the Mise en Place together, I should be planning it out and then making adjustments as the cooking process takes place. That made me feel pretty good and for me Ava and Adolf ended on a high note.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

F2 Final Practical

Phase 2, Week 6, Day 27 & 28

For the final practical for F2 we were assigned 4 total dishes to prepare over 2 days. Each dish would consist of a protein, starch, vegetable, and a sauce.We didn't know what dishes we were going to make until that morning. I drew the following combinations:

Day 1
Fried Fish w/ Tartar
Pomme Fritse
Green Bean Saute

Roasted Chicken w/ Jus Lie
Rice Pilaf
Glazed Carrots

Day 2
Grilled Pork Chop w/ Sauce Chaucer
Parmisian Rissotto
Glazed Carrots

Beef Stew
Fried Eggplant
Rosti Potatoes

Roast Chicken
Plate one was actually pretty crappy. Things just did not flow well. In the first dish my stuuuuupid roast chicken would not cook! The chicken was in for almost 1.5 hours, and I was still concerned about it, but I was running out of time and I still had a whole other dish to prepare. I pulled it hoping it would continue to cook while I was getting everything else ready. Problem, the chicken took so long my carrots got cold, way cold. I rolled with it anyway....

Result: Very nice chicken (continued to cook while I waited to be graded ;0)), but don't put your sauce on top!!! Rice was a bit under done. Jus Lie was too thick. He liked the cuts of the carrots I used, but they were cold. 19.75/25. Ouch!!!!!

Fish n Chips
I was left with 25 minutes to complete the other dish!!! While waiting for the Stuuuuipd chicken I had preped all stuff for the second dish, so I basically threw it together. Luckily frying doesn't take long. Besides someone snagging the special plate I was going to use, this dish was decent. I made three little tents, 1 of green beans, fish, and fries. Kind of a tapas presentation.

Result: He like the presentation. Beans were good. Fish could have been cut differently, they looked like "fish sticks".Tartar had nice flavor. Fries were seasoned well but could have gone a bit longer in the fryer. 22/25 Better.

New day, new dishes. I drew two pretty easy ones for day two.

Beef Stew
I started with the stew because it always takes longer in the oven than you think it should. I whipped this out first and began mise en place for the second dish while the stew was in the oven. After some of the pieces were tender enough I fried the potatoes and dropped the eggplant. The challenge with this dish was going to be the plating. When I originally saw the dish components, I realized I needed a creative solution and mulled it over. I decided to stack the eggplant and potatoes in a base of the stew. One thing I learned very quickly was that you don't have to plate every bit of product you make. Use enough to look good, you don't need to plate a pound of rossoto or an entire bowl of stew...

Result: "Wow, that is a very nice solution to the beef stew problem. Hey Chef Ava, take a look at this!" When Adolf said that I knew it was going to be a good day. Potato and eggplant, good. Stew, tasty but beef could have gone even longer. 23/25 Awesome

Pork Chop
No issues or complications during the process of completing this dish. Even finished 20 minutes early. The rosotto and sauce chaseur were amazing together. I didn't know I could make stuff that good....

Result: Nice cuts on the carrots again, could have used more glaze. Pork, nice markings. Risotto, good a bit more pepper. 23/25

Overall and 87%. Our grades post on the school portal on Friday. I have no idea where I am at this point....
Roast Chicken
Pork Chop
Beef Stew

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Written Test

Phase 2, Week 6, Day 26

Someone was looking out for me today!!! When I got to class at 6 am. Jeremy lent me his review notes from Monday. I looked over them briefly, cramming in all I could. As luck would have it, Adolf announced that we were to study for the first half hour of class as the F3 students took their written test. Hallelujah! I was saved!!!!! I took advantage of the 30 minutes and went over several additional things for the test that the boys had mentioned and I hadn't studied.

Result: 100% Oh, yeah!!!!!!!

Remainder of class was spent making things we had difficulty doing the first time around. I opted to write out preplists and timelines for the 8 dishes that were to be on our final in the next two days. So no cooking today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Finals Week-Phase 2

Phase 2, Week 6, Day 26

Thank God!!!! I never thought this phase would end. Although I haven't said much about our instructors lately, they have a constant impact on our class. I've tried to give the benefit of the doubt and have even found myself finding positive attributes about each of them. But as soon as I do that, they piss me off. It's amazing. I definitely haven't had as hard of a time as others have had, I've just tried to brush it aside and move on. I've also tried to wait a few days before I blog about my classes so I don't spew forth as much venom. This technique has worked successfully, although several of my classmates have enjoyed my ranting and ravings about Adolf and Ava. They've even encouraged me to vent more through the blog. But I just didn't think that was wise. It IS the internet after all.

Last day before testing we did a cooking technique called Le Poeler. Apparently it doesn't have a literal translation.  Stupid French. Basically, the meat is seasoned, seared, roasted, and basted. To accomplish this technique we used a duck leg and thigh. Oddly enough, I had duck for lunch at Nonna's- go figure....

We also made a sauce using an edible mire poix or matingon.

I was not really "feeling" it today and was extremely tired. I just kind of went through the motions. I already missed Rhys, Halloween was super fun with him, and I think I'm getting sick....

Result: Could have seared the presentation side a bit more and the matigon could have been cooked longer. But very good flavor on all preparations.

To top it off, I found out this afternoon I have a test tomorrow in my class (thanks for the heads up Jeremy). The night class decided to take their test on Thursday. So, no class review for me. GREAT! I guess I'm studying when I get home at 10:30 pm tonight....

Ducked Out!!!!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall Festival

Phase 2, Week 5, Day 24

No Class due to the Fall Festival, which of course, I worked. The festival was fun, it had a chili cook off, pumpkin carving, pie eating, ice sculptures, and several demos. I helped w/ the pie eating contest (too funny), cleaning up the kitchens after all was said and done, and I helped at the LCB graduation ceremony that evening. I suckered Jeremy in to helping at both events and we meet a cool girl from the Baking and Patisserie program, Lauren, to boot. Not a bad day.

Here are some pictures from the Festival. LCB raised over $1,100 for the Ronald McDonald House from the various offerings through out the day....

Student Carvers having fun with the fall theme

A few pumpkins by class mates (not as cool at the STL Club pumpkins I would see on Friday)

Jeremy winning the pie eating contest, 1.75 pies in 10 minutes

Artisan breads by a visiting LCB instructor from Ottowa 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy

Phase 2, Week 5, Day 25

Crash course in poaching fish today. I'll sum up what I was told for you....

1) Two types of poaching; Deep (submerged, usually a whole fish) and Shollow (1/2 submerged, for fillets, and finished in the oven.)
2)Shallow poach in a liquid called a Court Bouillon (water, fish fume, seasoning, herbs, and an acid), the Bouillon will be used th make the sauce for the fish.
3) Two basic types of fish- Flat (halibut, sole, and flounder) and Round (salmon, tuna, tiliapa)
4) Make friends with your fish monger (sales guy)

And, that was it.....

We filleted some sole which I butchered one side but did a good job on side two.....

Finished dish was a Poached Sole Dora w/ Burre Blanc and  Quinoa Salad.

Perfectly poached fish. Liked the plating, would have put a bit of sauce under each fillet. Quinoa dressing was a bit vinegary.

Shallow Poached Sole w/ Burre Blanc and Quinoia Salad

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stuff it!

Phase 2, Week 5, Day 23

Ok- this is random. Today we made two types of stuffed  or farcie chicken. Not the stuffed kind like a chicken filled with stuffing, but more like a pasta is stuffed with a filling. We completed two types of stuffed chicken:

Chicken Brest Dora is a breast stuffed with herbs, sour cream, and bread crumbs. It is served with tourned cucumber and white wine and sour cream sauce. The breast is pounded, stuffed, and rolled into a tube and deep poached.

Ballotine de Poulet is a stuffed chicken leg and thigh meat. The bone is removed and the chanel it created is stuffed with a mixture of shallot, carrot, celery, and panko. The leg is then rolled, tied and seared. It is finished in the oven (braised) and served with a sauce of bacon, pearl onion, and mushrooms.

It as very good we thought. Jeremy and I teamed up for this on. Instructor comments were quite different.
Dora- Good. Better cucumber tournes and more pepper. I personally loved it!!!!
Ballotine- Good. Needs more seasoning in filling and could have been seared longer.

Ballotine de Poulet

Stuffed Chicken Breast Dora

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chicken, Pilaf, and Vegetables. Oh, My!

Phase 2, Week 5, Day 22

Le Rotir or to roast. Just like your Thanksgiving turkey. No more puttitng the turkey in at 7 am on Thanksgiving morning and letting it go low and slow all day. That's why it's dry people. Follow these steps to a super moist roasted chicken.

  • After Trussing  and seasoning the chicken pop it in the oven at 425 and let it brown. 
  • Once browned tent w/ aluminium foil and turn down the oven to 350
  • Cook until it's done. About 160 and juices run clear, because the chicken will continue to cook after it's been removed from the heat.
We also did a pan gravy, apparently we are not supposed to use the "G" word, at culinary school it's Jus Lie. Basically, pan drippings and stock heated to a simmer and LIGHTLY thickened with a slurry of cornstarch and water.

The dish was finished off with Green Bean Saute (again) and Rice Pilaf.

Result: Pretty good (I get that a lot). Chicken was barley done. There was an issue with the ovens due to the electrical storm last night and it took FOREVER to cook. Could have been a bit browner skin and you don't want to cover the crisp skin w/ the Jus Lie. Apparently, I didn't learn from the night before...... Oh, well....

One Complete Meal, Pantry to Plate in 1.5 hrs.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Monday, Monday.

Phase 2, Week 5, Day 21

Mondays are still tough and I seem to have very little energy by the time class rolls around. I started my required tutoring sessions this week for the Ambassador Program. They are from 5-6pm, just before the evening class starts. Since I'm at school anyway, I might as well be useful, but basically I just hang out in the computer lab and do homework.

Today we are beginning to test our skills by being given two entire dishes to complete in two hours. This task is preparing us for our two day practical next week and for the next phase. Today, we are making-

Sauted Veal alla Marsala, 
Brown Butter Tourned Potatoes
 Roasted Red Pepper and Green Bean Saute

Grilled Pork Chops with Sauce Chasseur
Glazed Carrots
Bulgar Pilaf with Lemon and Chive

We were still able to help each other out with our prep work and even some cooking of items. We are also having to think ahead about items from one plate to the next. For instance, the sauce in plate #2 needs a demi glace to be prepared and that take time so you have to begin that process BEFORE you start plate #1. Additionally, they have begun combining things in a different way- Brown Butter Glazed Potatoes are new to us but by analyzing it was have the skills to make it.... similar process to the glazed carrots, but using browned butter instead of water and sugar.

Pork Chop- sauce should be more on the side, don't cover up the grill marks of the meat, otherwise good.
Veal- very good, potatoes a bit overdone, otherwise good.

Grilled Porkchop with Glazed Carrots

Sauteed Veal with Green Beans and Brown Butter Potatoes

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fish and Chip Friday

Phase 2, Week 4, Day 20

Written Test Results: 91%, now that's more like it!!!!!!

Today was all about Frying or Le Frier. We fried up some pieces of sole and pommes frites, or french fries w/ tartar sauce. I'm more of a vinegar with my fish and chips gal myself, but apparently that wasn't an option. There are two types of frying; battered and breaded. I know. you are asking "what about french fries?" They aren't battered or breaded. And they are the exception to the rule....they do have a little trick to them though. After they are cut, wash them and dry them thoroughly. This will get off the excess starch and help them crisp up. ALso, fries are made in two steps just like other veggies, blanch them in the fryer for 3-4 minutes at 375 and them cook them at 325 for another 3-4 minutes until golden.

Breading is a fairly easy process. But can be messy. There are typically three compartments you need for breading.
1) Seasoned flour, always season your flour-that is what is directly touching your product not the coating
2) egg wash, generally made from egg and milk or water
3) coating, can be anything from bread crumbs, panko, herbs, cereal, cornmeal, crackers, etc....

Results: Nice presentation, good frities and tartar. Fish had nice color, but was not thoroughly cooked. Bonus, the instructors took the blame for it, because it was still partially frozen when we got it. They didn't mention that the fish needed to be fully thawed, because the cooking process of frying would not finish the fish for us. As is the case with many other processes.

Mmmm.... Fish and Chips at 8 am.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Le Braisier

Phase 2, Week 4, Day 19

No, not like a bra. Like braising. Braising is a two step process that involves searing and then slow cooking in a liquid in the oven. For example, chili is braised. There are two different types of braising au brun (brown) and au blanc (white or no browning). We did a beef stew and a chicken fricassee today to cover both types.

Results: Stew- needed more "sauce" and to cook a bit longer in the oven. The meat was still tough. I thought that implied it was over done, in fact, it's the opposite. The beef needed to cook longer in order to break down the meat and denature it, making it more tender.

Chicken- Not bad. Chicken was good. Sauce was not. I accidently added too much lemon and there was no going back from there. Oops!

Beef Stew

Chicken Friccasse

Thursday, October 21, 2010

F2 Mid-term Practical

Phase 2, Week 4, Day 18

We had a feeling when Adolf said, "You'll have to wait and see." in response to my question, "What are we doing tomorrow, Chef?". We figured it had to be a practical. It was.

Today we were to make Green Beans w/ Roasted Red Peppers on Rice Pilaf and Eggs Benedict sub english muffin for Roesti Potato. Those two dishes covered everything we'd learned thus far, but pasta. He was kind to us and gave us two hours. That was a huge relief, that would enable us to basically work on one dish at a time. The only thing I was worried about was the Pilaf. In our practice session my Pilaf was horrible and I didn't turn it in for a critique. It was the first time I didn't turn something in. So I wasn't sure what it was really supposed to be like. No use worrying about it. Here we go....

No real issues during the preparation process. I was a bit jittery and kept forgetting simple little things. I guess it was test anxiety kicking in. Additionally, with everyone doing everything on their own our table was very crowded and there were a TON of dishes piling up. That was a source of a bit of frustration. My new, and now permanent, table-mates didn't want to take the time to do dishes or clean during the test so things just piled up and there was very little work space. Yuck!!!

I started with the green beans and rice. I had done the green beans first in the Monday night class, there were some differences between the procedure instructions between the two classes. I did my best to get on board with this class as these were the instructors that were grading me. On the rice, I miss read the white board. I  thought Adolf had written 1/2 of the entire recipe, when he actually meant 1/2 cup of rice (I didn't see the c. after the 1/2), but I caught it in time and added enough liquid before placing it in the oven.

Eggs Benedict procedure was great, my Hollendaise got a bit cool so I changed out my water in the double boiler to warm it back up. Otherwise smooth sailing.

1) Overall, good presentation.Very nice green beans, bacon not crispy enough (Chef Kim had told me it was too crispy the first time). More seasoning in general. 4/5
Rice, was not done. Good flavor, but some grains were tough. 2.5/5 (ouch!)

2) Eggs Benedict, nice presentation. Roesti could have been a bit larger in diameter in order to be seen a bit better. Nice flavor, perfectly poached egg. 4.5/5

84%, not bad, and on par with my other peeps in the class. So I'm happy with the result. We'll see how the written test goes on Friday.

Green Beans w/ Rice Pilaf

Eggs Benedict w/ Roesti Potatoes

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Incredible Edible Egg

Phase 2, Week 4, Day 17

Eggs. Finally, some breakfast food at 6 am and not risotto or green beans! Egg cookery is actually a pretty difficult thing to master, additionally everyone is so particular how they like their eggs cooked it's kind of like you are fighting a loosing battle before you even take the field. A few tips and tricks from Adolf:

  • Add vinegar to your poaching water to help speed up the cooking process of the white
  • There should be no brown on your finished egg product (including fried eggs)
  • Take your time cooking eggs, to high of heat will brown your egg.
  • Hard Boiled eggs should actually be simmered, not boiled.
  • If the yolk in your hard cooked egg is green, it's over cooked. The green coloration is sulfur-dioxide.
  • The different grades of eggs have different applications.
    • AA- Poached or Fried
    • A- Hard cooked
    • B- Baking
  • Don't crack your egg directly into your pot/pan, always open it into a bowl or other container.
  • Teflon is an omelet's best friend
  • French omelets are rolled and American omelets are folded..
  • And yes, omelets are supposed to be runny....
Today was fun. We were to make a single fried egg-over easy, a parsley and scallion 2 egg omelet, and eggs benedict.  I was psyched! I LOVE eggs benedict. It is my total favorite breakfast food and I get to make it from scratch. Well mostly, we didn't make the english muffins.

It was a good day from the judges too! I am expanding my use of culinary vocabulary and by doing this I am able to have a valuable critique that I can build upon.

Fried Egg: Very good, slight browning on 1/4 of the edge. But overall good. Key, take your time.

Omelet: Very nice flavor, too much garnish. (sorry, no picture)

Eggs Benedict: Egg cooked perfect, hollendaise good. "Overall, very tasty. However, DO NOT put a garnish on a dish just for color. It is not functional and therefore a waste of time!" Ok, I think I got that bit of advice down....

Fried egg w/ brown along the top right edge.
Eggs Bene w/ non functioning garnish

Monday, October 18, 2010


Phase 2, Week 4, Day 16

Oddly enough we had no lecture we just made stuff. I was a little out of sorts and couldn't quite get a hold of what was going on. I didn't have the recipes from Friday so I was kind of playing catch up there. It always helps to read through the entire recipe and ingredient list before you make anything. We just kind of jumped in and I never really got my thought process and timeline in order. Luckly, one of the girls at the table  helped me along.

Not much to report here- we produced three basic salads. Potato Salad, White bean salad, and Salade Nicoise. Salade Nicoise is what you might call a deconstructed salad, where all the components are separated and the customer puts it together. This concept is becoming popular and can be drawn out to great lengths, so much so the customer might as well go to a salad bar or their own refrigerator from some of the salad presentations I've seen (example).

Potato Salad: Very Good, looks very nice
Salade Nicoise: Ok, Could be fuller on the plate, "Don't sprinkle pepper over something like this."
White Bean: Nice

Potato Salad w/ Pimentos

Salade Niceois

White Bean Salad