Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Making the Grade-Needing more Salt!

We took our final Foundations test on Thursday, our last day. That meant we would not find out our final grade until after the weekend. Well, I got an A in Foundations and a B+ in ServSafe. The latter really isn't that important as we still have to take the certification test for ServSafe. However, in theory, I'm doing really well. And, I can make mayonnaise! Sort of a like being able to load a gun really fast, but not being able to shoot anything yet. Ok, bad analogy. But you get what I mean.

During the off week, I hope to make at least 4 of the 5 leader sauces. Last night I made Veloute, a leader sauce. That's a blond roux, this time with homemade chicken stock. That became a mushroom and white wine sauce over pan fried chicken breasts with peas and saute fingerling potatoes. Chris raved about it. She's my best, and so far, my only customer. My chef would have told me, "needs more salt". They always say that.

Can you tell I'm working on my dish descriptions? It's required in menu planning.

Man this is fun!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Break Time

A bit of a disappointment this morning as our ServSafe test did not show up from Chicago. So we get to take it when we come back in July. The final for Foundations I went well. So overall, I'm feeling good and looking forward to getting back to it next month. I got 90% on my practical exam. Without the final I'm at 97%. Who da thunk it?

Yesterday, the International class did a buffet of Oriental food. God, I love those buffets. After class today, I went in an observed the baking class do their practical exam. They were making chocolate something or other. This was the class I would have been in if I hadn't dropped out in February to go to the British Virgin Islands in April. They're finished in August. Believe me, it was the right decision to drop out. I got to go on a great trip and still get to do this. Looking forward to 11 days off and seeing my big bro Jimmy. He's coming down for a visit next week.

I want to thank those that have let me know they are reading this journal of mine. It's fun for me and I hope somewhat entertaining for you all.

I'll be back in about 11 days. Foundations II awaits me!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2 Down - 2 to Go

All right! That wasn't so hard. Our practical tests consisted of knife cuts of Julienne potato, Macedoine of onion , Batonnet of carrot and potato tourne. Piece of cake. Our "cooking" practical was making mayonnaise. Mine broke, (too much oil) but I made the save with one more egg yoke, in less than 12 minutes. We had 15 minutes to complete the mayo. Seasoned perfect, but not quite firm enough. I'd eat it with some tuna or egg salad. Yummy! Only forgot one thing, PRESENTATION! A zest of lemon would have made it perfect. Next time I'll remember!

Tomorrow is our written ServSafe certification test and our final foundations written exam. Then a beer to celebrate the end of our first six weeks.

Or better yet, some cheap Champagne.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bringing it Home Part II

So if I labored under a little self lamenting, pardon me. If I never pass one of these tests, by the way I have passed every one of them to date, I'm still a long ways ahead of where I began this journey. And, I'm loving it. Besides I have the South of France in my corner. Not to mention a dozen or so other fine people. That doesn't suck!

Thanks Linda.

Bringing it Home

After yesterday, we are done with demonstrations on Les Cussions and soup demo's. No more Leader sauces, mayo making or learning more French terms. It's time to take the tests. Now I have to tell you, in high school, test taking was not my forte. I knew the stuff, but sucked taking tests. In culinary and ServSafe classes I know the stuff, but I have sucked in taking tests. I shine during test reviews. Calling out one correct answer after another. Getting ooh's and ahh's from my younger classmates. But, I suck in taking tests.

So in the last few days of week 6, I have finals. Today is final test reviews, Wednesday and Thursday are the tests. I will shut up today during review. Not wow anyone with my superior pre-test knowledge and see if I can not suck in taking the finals. Time to bring it home.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Everybody Stay Together

Field trips. Remember way back when as school kids, you would go to the museum, or visit a fire station. A teacher in front, a teacher in back to herd you along, making sure no one got lost. I mention this because as I mentioned on my last blog, we were taking a field trip to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Now, as I get to the hotel, here stands twenty 20 culinary students, dressed in chef's garb, sans our hats, on the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave. Across the street is the famous Graumann's Chinese Theater. Tourist every where, posing for pictures with a celebrities star on the Walk of Fame. So finally, our Chef (teacher) says it's time to go inside. Thank God! Ah, but not by way of the front entrance. Nope, we went through the Service Entrance. Seems the hotel management didn't want a parade of chef's walking thru the lobby. I had to laugh. I better get used to it I guess.

The kitchen at the hotel is small. Only 7 cooks work in the kitchen at a time. The hotel has 250 rooms, three restaurants, a pool cabana that serves food, food at the bar and lobby sitting area. They put out 500 meals (covers) a day, which includes room service, working 24/7. Not including banquets, which can include up to 600 people. All with 7 cooks and one dishwasher.

Maybe I should look into that truck driving school. Truck Master's I think it is?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Soup anyone?

That's right, we are talking about soup. A little history for you; In 1765, a Parisian named Boulanger began advertising at his stew shop that he served a thin sauce, which he called Restoratives or Restaurants. The word Restoratives which roughly translated means "to fortify" that later became Restaurant. The very first entree at his Restorative was, you guess it, sheep's feet in a cream sauce. Well, maybe you didn't guess that. However, never let the facts get in the way of a good story. He also served this thin sauce called soup. He actually had to win in court the right to serve his soup to the public because a guild of stew makers sued him for making it available at his shop. Uppity French!

We observed Chef making Shrimp Bisque and the ever popular Vichyssoise. Better than observing was tasting what Chef made. Vichyssoise, or cold soup, was first tasted hot and was excellent. Once chilled, the soup needed a bunch more salt. So if you make cold potato soup, be sure to taste it once hot and then again when it is cold. It will need more salt. Hot soup in a hot bowl, cold soup in a chilled bowl. One of the soup rules you need to know about. Friday, we get to observe the making of Consomme.

Thursday we are going on another field trip to the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Site of the very first Academy Awards. We get to tour their kitchen. "Pretty cool stuff," as our Chef is always saying.

Monday, June 14, 2010

So we continue Les Cuissons or 8 Ways to cook chicken

Friday we learned about plating our entree's. I will post the pictures as soon as I can.

Les Cuissons literally means 'the cooking', action or manner of cooking food. "How would you like your steak cuisson"? "Medium rare please". Not much more to it than that.

Poaching and Saute were are next venture into les cuisson. Again with chicken. Poached chicken breast doesn't even sound good. However, put a nice sauce of Beurre Manie (raw butter and flour) and a Veloute stock with it and, voila, a great dish.

Sauteing is much more fun. Literally it means 'to jump'. High heat, low fat, usually clarified butter, not too much, and rapid movement usually cooked through. Not cooking it through is Searing. A different cuisson there. Add a nice mushroom sauce with sauted chicken breasts, really good.

So are these the only ways to cook. Absolutely not! However, these are the Classic French cooking styles that we are to use the most. Remember and earlier post when I told you we get to make bacon. That's smoke cooking. Not classic, but oh so good!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Les Cussions (continued)

Earlier, I talked about French cooking techniques called Les Cussions. First up was Roasting or Le Rotier if you're taking notes. Roasting can be done dry or Poeler, with moisture. We roasted a truss chicken Poeler. The poeler was Mira Poix. Another term we learned was the term WOG , (without giblets). Salt, pepper and quite a bit of butter inside and on top of our WOG chicken. It was delicious. Very French!
Next up was braising or Le Brasier. This was a cut chicken, browned or 'a brun' and we did one 'a blanc' white or not browned so much. See, you guys are getting all this cool stuff for free. Braising requires browning either slightly (a blanc) or darker (a brun) depending on how you want your sauce and the color of the item you're going to braise. Adding aromatics, de glazing, adding liquid and then cooking at low temp on the stove or in the oven are all steps in braising. Braising liquid is used as the sauce at the end. Just so you know, there are nine steps in braising. The sauce making is step 9. Also very delicious. Step 10 is eating!
Today was grilling, le griller and frying, le frire. Again chicken, which is what we'll be cooking most of the time, cuz it's cheap. One thing to remember when grilling are the numbers 10 and 2. That's how you get those diamond shaped grill marks on your meat by placing in at 10 o'clock for a minute or so and then turning it to 2 o'clock. You do this on the side you're going to present. There you are, more cool free stuff.
Frying was deep frying using a three or two step coating method. You know, milk, flour, eggs and breading. It's called three step even when there are four ingrediants. If you watch the cooking shows, you know always to keep one hand dry when going from dry to wet back to dry. One last cool thing. Le Cordon Bleu has their own method of breading. To find out what that is, sign up for classes!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Les Cussions in theory

French cooking techniques.
Le Rotir
Le Saute
Le Frire
Le Griller
Le Brasier
Le Poulier
I'm sure you can translate most of these. Linda C. in France surely can. Thanks for your emails by the way. Is anybody else out there?

All ways we cook our food. Dry heat, moist heat, direct and indirect heat. And do you know why we use these techniques? Simple, to get the desired results you want in what you're going to eat.

This isn't so hard, in theory.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Keeping them down on the Farm

Monday, as a class, we went to a farmers market in West Hollywood. Anyone who has been to a farmer's market knows that there are good vendors and not so good vendors. So our assignment was to talk to the vendors and ask questions about how they raised their food. How they brought it to market and ways to use the food they were selling.

Really interesting was a mushroom vendor. His card says LA FungHi. He claimed to be a certified master chef, the highest order in chef-dom. Since there are only about 50 in the US, I believe he may have been smoking some of those mushrooms. But, I took his card and purchased a few mushrooms. He also had black truffles. But at $57 an ounce, that's an ounce, not a pound, I declined to purchase. But I did learn, because I asked, that when you buy a truffle, cut it half, put one half in dried rice to control the moisture and the other half in olive oil. You now have truffle oil that if stored properly, is good for about 6 months. You can also store them next to eggs. The shell, being semi-permeable, absorbs the truffle scent and you will have terrific tasting eggs.

All in all, a fun day was had down on the farm.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

We are cooking!

I mentioned yesterday that we were finally going to be able to cook. All be it a Hollandaise sauce, who cared. So, today, I got to make Hollandaise sauce. We were also to make mayonnaise. However, our class time is only three hours, of which half is taken up by ServSafe class and then we get into Culinary Foundations. After watching our Chef make both items, which are emulsions, we only had time to do one or the other. I made a Hollandaise sauce. Maybe not revolutionary in taste or consistency, but damn it, I cooked. And my sauce did not break (too much butter) or scramble (too much heat).


It's amazing what gets you off sometimes!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pass the Sauce

After a great Memorial Day Weekend, we were back at it. The topic this week is Sauces.
The 5 mother sauces, or better known as, Leader sauces. I guess cuz they lead to other and better sauces. The chef used the stock he had made last week to incorporate into the sauces he made. You might notice a small theme here, the Chef is doing all the stock and sauce making. We get to watch and take notes. But, tomorrow, we get to make mayonnaise, by hand, and the always tricky Hollandaise sauce. Don't cook your eggs! Keep them below 156 degrees and you'll be fine.

So what are the 5 leader sauces you're probably asking?
Bechamel or white sauce, Veloute a light brown sauce, Espagnole a brown sauce, Tomato sauce and Hollandaise sauce. From these, the sauce world is your oyster. The first three are made from a roux, that's flour and butter. Ahh but there are three kinds of roux, white, blond and brown.

I'll stop now, it gets a lot more involved from here.

Meanwhile on the food safety side, all the students had to give a report on food born illnesses that have been reported in the press. So two things I learned from these reports;
1. Don't eat institutional food. They don't care if you get sick and die. One less mouth to feed.
2. Stay away, far far away, from the buffet lines. Not really, but it makes you think twice about those "all you can eat sushi buffets".

Oh and always wash your pre-packaged salad mixes. Hemorrhagic colitis is nothing to mess with.