Wednesday, June 7, 2006

No longer the NKOTB

As I stepped off the subway today, I noticed someone in a business suit and sneakers carrying an awkwardly shaped bright orange toolbox and a knife kit slung over her shoulder. She walked up to the station agent and asked for directions to Broadway and Grand. It was then that I interjected and said to her she seemed like she was walking to the FCI and that she could follow me. Later on, in the locker room, I overheard chatter about taillage and tournage. Looks like there's a brand new crop of Level 1 students that just started. Though we're far from being veterans at the school, it's nice to feel like we're no longer the bottom rung of the ladder.

Day 3 of Level 2 went well. It was our third and last day on Saucier. Our mishaps in the last lesson were a blow to the ego, so I'm glad to be rotating out of it and into Patissier (Pastry) next. I thought we would be a full team, but we were only three members today. Our fourth still wasn't 100% so he decided to take another day off after his trip to the hospital last week, but everything ran smoothly nonetheless. For sure, it was a hell of a lot better than last Friday.

The first recipe we did was a repeat from Day 1: Poulet Saute a l'Estragon (Sauteed Chicken and Tarragon Sauce) and the second was Cote de Porc au Sauce Poivre Vert (Pork Chop and Green Peppercorn Sauce). As soon as we got to class, the three of us took inventory of our bins, collected everything we needed from the walk-in and the main kitchen, and started off the enriched stocks for the two sauces we would be doing that night since they were the most time-consuming steps.

It was our third day of substitute Chefs and we're still a little unsure of who our permanent Chef will be. Unlike the first two, our Chef today we'd had many times before and the class seems to have really warmed up to him and his Dali-esque moustache, which he told us he grooms with wax to get it to up-curl. Chef came up to us and asked us what our timelines for the night would look like; we told him we would be doing the sauces first, then working on the sides, and finishing each of the meats closer to the plating times since they took only about 20 minutes to cook. He gave us a thumbs up and we got to it.

We worked and communicated really well together, plus we're becoming more and more familiar with where everything is now. Our first dish was finished right about on time and most of the prep for our second dish was done before the dinner break. After dinner, we practically had nothing more that we could do before the plating so instead of just standing around doing nothing, we asked Chef if we could just plate early and he was fine with it.

For the most part, our plates were OK, Chef had a couple criticisms like how we put too much garnish on the chicken plates that it overshadowed the main ingredient. We loved the sauces that we made, one was a veal-based tarragon sauce and the other was a pork espagnole sauce. They were both full of flavor and richness and had nice viscosity. Our one bad screw-up was that we overlooked the thickness of one of the pork chops and it came out very underdone - a huge mistake in a production kitchen and something to keep wary of next time around.

Overall, the first week of Saucier was a little disappointing and definitely a learning experience. There's a lot of constructive criticisms to inherit for the next go round with the station five weeks from now, but for the time being I'm looking foward to the Patissier station for the next 3 classes.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

A Strawberry and Rhubarb Cookie?

I made some tart dough (pate sucree) the other day. I rolled it out onto a mini-tart pan and put it back into the refrigerator to rest.

After letting it rest overnight it became a really solid raw tart shell. It was solid enough that I wondered what would happen if I baked the shell without the tart mold. I filled it with some strawberry compote, topped it with rhubarb, and put it in the oven.

I guess it was so well-rested it decided to fall flat after 5 minutes and I was left with strawberry and rhubarb cookies.