An apology, a summary and a new beginning

It’s been a while.  I know.  It’s already the end of February, so I truly owe you all an apology.  You see, I had my final post about Baking & Pastry all ready to go at the end of 2009…and then it never got posted.  2010 began, and with it I began my internship at Chicago magazine, which I had been offered a few days before I left for break.  Between working at the magazine four days a week and six more weeks of classes at night, I just got REALLY busy.  I know that’s a poor excuse, but that’s what happened, so I’ll try to catch you up in abbreviated form to where I am now — still working at the magazine and doing my externship (the six-week practical kitchen experience/the capstone to my certificate) at Bake, a lovely bakery that’s just down the street from my apartment and thus an ultra-convenient 5-minute bus ride away.

So here is my photo-sprinkled synopsis.  First, here’s how my Baking & Pastry class ended up!  Behold, my final platter:

A pretty delicious final exam.

In case you can’t read my scrawled pink captions, that’s nine each of chocolate brownies, tea cookies, chocolate-raspberry tarts, vanilla cheesecake, carrot cake and macarons (French spelling) with raspberry filling — all in petit four size.  I was pretty proud of putting this together over our 2-day practical, and though Chef wasn’t a fan of the whipped cream garnish shapes on my cheesecake, or of my over-mixed macarons, everything else was to his liking.  But rest assured, I did NOT eat all those treats!  Instead, since we were all on sugar overload and couldn’t bear eating any more sweets, a group of us took three big trays of desserts to a favorite bar, and let all the other patrons feast on our final product.  Adriana even went table-to-table — we wanted to make sure it all got eaten!

"Here, sir, have just one more brownie!"

We also had to turn in a portfolio that included every recipe we used in class, both formula of  ingredients and method, as well as photos of all our final products and class notes.  I’d be happy to send you the PDF if you’re interested!  Even though it was a bit of work to type everything up and format it, I’m very glad to have it as a resource when, say, family members ask me to bake something special for them!  I held a croissant lesson while home for Christmas and New Year’s…have to make the most of my two-week break from school!

Then, when I got back, I began Cuisines Across Cultures, my final culinary class.  We covered a lot of ground in this class, but the format was somewhat different: We were divided into three groups, and each group made a different dish or set of dishes for that night, all following the same theme but not necessarily from the same country’s cuisine.  Chef demonstrations were minimal, and we were mostly on our own following recipes.  Themes went along the lines of “Grains of Asia,” “Grains of Western Europe,” and so on; the next week, it would be “Noodles and Doughs of the Americas,” “Noodles and Doughs of Asia,” etc.   It was a little confusing to keep skipping all over the place country-wise, but we still ended up doing a lot of different recipes and discussing a variety of ethnic ingredients.  Adriana and I remained partners in this class, which was of course a highlight, and made everything from sopes with shredded pork and all the fixings, to a failed attempt at some sort of African turnover, whose dough was made from cassava and plantains and a shrimp-dominated filling.  We discovered that when in doubt, deep-fry (that may seem obvious…but really.), and that even though it was our last class of culinary school, it was probably the least demanding.  It was fun to make lots of ethnic dishes — some I’d enjoyed many times, some I’d never heard of — but since we cooked so many random things, I don’t have much to share.  We had three written tests (plus a final), but no practicals in between, so I might as well just skip to my final practical.

Oh wait!  The day before the practical, we took an ethnic cuisine field trip!  We went to Uptown’s “Little Saigon” neighborhood.  We shopped in a large Vietnamese market — I came away with all sorts of fun ingredients and a matching set of miso soup bowls/spoons — followed by dinner at a Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant.  Here’s a few photos:

Adriana, Theresa, Tanisha and me at dinner

Some of the food on our table's lazy Susan

Well, it's rare I find a food I don't like, but here's one: tripe. Had to try it though.

The final practical threw everyone a little off-guard.  After we completed the written final exam (including a chili pepper identification section, using unmarked peppers on a sheet tray), we knew we’d be asked to prepare multiple dishes, and that they could be any of the recipes we’d done, even recipes that other groups had made, and thus that we hadn’t.  As it turned out, we were each assigned an appetizer and an entree (there were three options each from which the assignments were drawn), and then we had to come up with a side dish that would make sense with the entree, based on the dish and its culture.  All the available ingredients were laid out on one side of the kitchen, and I have to admit it felt a little Top Chef-esque.  My assignment was pierogis and a Moroccan lamb tagine (spiced stew), and I decided to pair it with spiced rice.  Couscous would have been ideal, but I couldn’t find any.  I was a little flustered because I had never made either one before, and didn’t even have a recipe for pierogis.  But I tracked one down and somehow my potato-and-egg filled pierogis came together.  They were  about the size of empanadas, mind you, so much too large and certainly not perfect, but they came together.  My tagine started out fine, and I was even able to find the ras-al-hanout spice blend among Chef’s stash of ingredients, so my spiced rice and stew both had authentic flavor.  My stew was nearing completion, but the meat still wasn’t quite tender enough, so I uncovered it to let it cook more but made sure to keep the heat turned down.  As I tended to my pierogis for awhile on another set of burners for a few minutes, I returned to find my burner had been turned up and my stew scorched and smoking.  I panicked for a moment — was the stew that had been on the stove for an hour and a half and ready to present for my final practical of final class REALLY ruined?!? — but, with the help of calm-and-collected Stu, I was able to salvage enough of the non-scorched part to plate and serve.  I stretched out the little sauce I had to work with by adding stock and letting it reduce back down.  It worked and I presented my dish: a molded mound of rice and pile of stew, garnished with hard-boiled egg, parsley and lemon zest.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, Chef must have seen my near-failure experience (or just caught a drift of the burning smell), because among the comments on my grading sheet was “Good recovery.”  Ha.

And with that, it was all over.  My last class came to a close, capped off with champagne (courtesy of Tony) and an ice cream cake reading simply, “DONE” (courtesy of Val).  We celebrated for the next two evenings before starting our externships and knowing we wouldn’t see each other four nights a week anymore.  I was a little nostalgic, for sure — it was nothing like the end of college, but still had that same element of wistful finality.

Brendan and Flavia playing around in our last moments of our last culinary class.

Made some great friends (like Stu) in 7 1/2 months!

And that brings me to now, the externship phase.  I have friends working everywhere from Alinea to Moto to Vie to Bice Bistro — and the list goes on.  As for me, I’m perfectly content at Bake, a bakery in Wicker Park that’s only been open for a few months but has already gotten well-deserved acclaim.  (Vote for them in Time Out Chicago’s Eat Out Awards here!)  I love coming into their kitchen, mixing doughs or assembling tarts or cutting brownies and bars, and not even feeling like I’m working!  The days go fast and I feel very much at home there.  Every day’s a little different, and it’s a nice schedule (I don’t have to be there too early…).  I LOVE having my evenings back and have already cooked several post-work meals to be proud of.

Again, my sincerest apologies that you had to wait so long for this post.  Once I have a little more time on my hands (read: post-externship.  Hopefully.), I’d ideally like to start an actual food blog…so more on that to come.  Thanks for following my experiences!

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Pies, pastries and pâte à choux — plus Thanksgiving!

Our second unit in Baking & Pastry has come and gone, meaning there’s only one more left!  Since I last blogged, we’ve learned how to make double-crusted apple pie, pear-almond tart, key lime tart, lemon meringue tart, quiche, éclairs, cream puffs, Paris-Brest, and puff pastry items like pithivier, palmier, and cheese straws.  Whew!

We began with the doughs needed for pies and tarts: pâte brisée (pie dough) and pâte sucrée (tart dough).  The latter tasted a lot like a sugar cookie (and has basically the same ingredients); meanwhile, the flaky pie dough is more like biscuit dough with big chunks of butter.  We also made frangipane (an almond cream mixture used for the pear-almond tart and other pastries), lemon curd for the tart (SO delicious), and poached our pear halves in a great-smelling spiced liquid.

The next night, it was time to assemble the apple pie, the quiche Lorraine (with bacon, caramelized onions and cheese), and the tarts.  Between the two of us, Adriana and I produced some great product!  We didn’t have any trouble with the fillings, except that later we discovered the lemon curd was incapable of setting correctly (we learned this in transporting it…)  We were especially proud of the apple pie, and each had some great desserts to take to Thanksgiving!  More on my feast at the end of the post.

After the long weekend, we came back to make pâte à choux and blitz puff pastry.  Pâte à choux (pronounced paht a shoo) is the base for cream puffs, éclairs, and any other pastry made with that eggy, puffy base.  Our class had a lot of trouble getting our pâte à choux right, but Adriana and I managed to mix up nearly-perfect pâte à choux in our first effort.  The same cannot be said for my attempt during the practical, but I’ll get to that in a moment.  To make it, you first bring water, butter, salt and sugar to a boil, then add flour to form a paste.  Then, the paste goes in a mixing bowl and you add eggs one by one until the consistency.  We’re talking 10 or more eggs for a full batch.  So it’s tricky to get the consistency right, with enough eggs to bake correctly but not so many that it’s soupy or difficult to pipe.  Once the pâte à choux was made, we had to pipe it into various shapes — your typical cream puffs and éclairs, as well as swans (shell-shaped bodies and 2-shaped necks) and Paris-Brest, a tire-shaped pastry that was created in honor of the daring Paris-Brest bicycle race in 1891.  Then, the puff pastry — another flaky, butter-filled dough that’s rolled out with lots of turns similar to a croissant.

Finally, we made pastry cream to fill the cream puffs and éclairs, and creme Chantilly (your basic vanilla whipped cream) to fill the swans and Paris-Brest rings.  We also made our pithivier (Chef’s guide to pronunciation was to say the following letters in succession:  PTVA), with two puff pastry circles, a layer of frangipane in between, and a pinwheel design cut into the top, as well as palmier cookies (rolled puff pastry that’s sliced and dipped in sugar) and cheese straws (twisted puff pastry strips with asiago cheese on them).

And then came the monster practical in the two days to follow.  I thought my culinary practicals were intense…these two days were absolutely exhausting!  On the first day, I had to make pie dough, tart dough, pâte à choux, puff pastry, pastry cream, and frangipane, plus poach three pear halves.  Oh, and by the way, there was a written exam after all of that!  Most of my doughs were fine, but I knew the pâte à choux was problematic when I baked off my piped items.  The éclairs were about the width of my thumb (instead of all puffed up, like our practice ones had been) and the Paris-Brest rings were pretty flat too.  Uh oh.  No going back at that point though.  On day two, I had to make the apple filling and bake my apple pie; assemble and bake my pear-almond tarts; fill and chocolate-dip my eclairs; fill my Paris-Brests; and roll out, assemble and bake my pithivier.  Needless to say, it was a little chaotic in the kitchen.  I got it all done by 8:45, and was happy with everything except my rather pathetic pâte à choux and my pithivier, which ended up oval-shaped and didn’t puff up right.  And sure enough, I lost points on those but got full credit on everything else.  I think the whole class was hugely relieved when it was all over!  Next up is cakes and icings, which should be pretty great.

I also wanted to share a few photos from the Thanksgiving feast that I helped my mom and step-dad prepare.  Without further ado, the meal in pictures:

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Photos are up!

Check out the “photos” tab for pictures of what Adriana and I produced in our first two weeks!  I’ll try to keep it updated every week from now on.

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Cookies, croissants, pizza, baguettes…diving right in!

I’ve been in Baking & Pastry for two weeks now (sorry for the delay and thus length of this post!), and already I feel like a much more competent baker.  There haven’t been too many disasters, save for some exploding blueberry muffins and crooked baguettes — so Adriana and I (we make everything in pairs for this class) are proud of ourselves so far!  I’ll be posting her beautiful photos of all our creations soon, under the new “photos” tab above.

The first thing that’s very different about baking is scaling out ingredients instead of more roughly estimating.  We measure everything in ounces using digital scales, so no more roughs cups or pints or anything like that.  We’ve learned that correct scaling is absolutely essential in order for a product to turn out right.  Since we get all the formulae (bakers’ term for recipes) beforehand, we can start scaling before class, and there’s something oddly calming and fun about precisely measuring each ingredient and putting everything in its little container, grouped by product.  Maybe this isn’t your idea of a good time, but I’m enjoying it.  Another thing about the setup is that our scaled ingredients, plus maybe a couple mixing bowls or sheet pans, are all we need to have out (as opposed to setting up a station with a cutting board and pots/pans in culinary classes), so it saves a lot of dishes.  And — shockingly — everyone actually does their dishes as they go!  Again, just a much more pleasant class environment.

So, onto what we made.  Our biscuits and scones on the first day turned out great — they puffed up just like they were supposed to — and so did our first batch of blueberry muffins, but our second batch on day 2 somehow spilled out everywhere, and the tops all blended together in the muffin pan.  Chef had a few conjectures as to why that took place, mostly to do with scaling and overmixing, but we still couldn’t believe it!

On cookie day, we first made tea cookies (your typical butter/sugar cookie), and had to pipe them into rosettes and shells with a pastry tip.  I had already learned how to make “the shell” and other techniques in the cake decorating class I took with Jenny last spring (thanks, Norris Mini Courses!), so I was familiar with piping, but Adriana’s cookies still turned out better than mine…haha.  We also piped a little raspberry jam into the center of the rosettes.  That night, we also made brownies (which we were instructed to freeze and save for later), peanut butter cookies (which we didn’t end up baking until the next night, but ours were just underbaked enough to be perfectly chewy and delicious!), and of course, the macaroons (see Adriana’s blog from my previous post).

Then we started into bread.  We started with baguettes and soft rolls –both of which require a fairly intensive rolling and shaping process — and then went on to brioche and croissants.  Baking bread really is a beautiful thing.  Chef has been teaching us about the 12-step baking process, listed below:

  1. Scaling (ingredients)
  2. Mixing
  3. Fermentation
  4. Punching
  5. Scaling (dividing dough)
  6. Rounding
  7. Benching
  8. Makeup and panning
  9. Proofing
  10. Baking
  11. Cooling
  12. Storing

So for each bread we make, we learn what to do at each of those steps: how long to let the dough ferment before dividing it up, rounding it and letting it rise some more; then how to shape it and let it proof one more time; and finally, how to bake it.  It’s been neat already to see the different consistencies of doughs, and the intricate ways that they turn into shapes we’re familiar with, like baguettes and rolls.  Rolling an even baguette is harder than it looks, I assure you!  Ours came out a little…lopsided.  And they got too dark, because we baked them in the convection oven instead of the huge deck oven (or a big pizza oven, if you’ve seen that before).  Our rolls looked good, especially since we eggwashed the tops to make them shiny and a rich brown color.  I hope to make more for Thanksgiving!

The most eye-opening process so far has been making a croissant.  Now, most people know that croissants are high in butter content, and know that becaues they’re so flaky and delectable, there has to be some kind of catch.  Well, here’s how you start making croissants.  Once you have a square of dough (about 12″ square and 3/4″ thick), you flatten out a pound of butter into a slightly smaller square, and set it in the middle of dough at a diagonal.  Then you fold all four corners of the dough in so you have what looks like one of those paper fortune-teller things.  So yes, you just wrapped up a nice package that hides a POUND of butter inside your dough.  Then, you roll it out into a thinner rectangle, so that you can then fold it into thirds (like a letter) and turn it a quarter-turn.  This is called a “turn” (here’s a video).  You do three turns total, letting the dough rest for 20 minutes between each one.  By the time you’re done, you’ve folded tons of layers of dough and butter, so that once you cut/shape them and finally put them in the oven, the butter melts and the steam that’s created makes the layers puff up into the croissant we know and love.  Fascinating, right?  (Chef explained it really well!).  And oh so yummy.  We baked them off the next day, and ours turned out beautifully golden and puffy!  Very much a success.

We also made pizzas one night, another very worthwhile endeavor.  Since it was my job to scale everything for Chef’s demo that night, he also had me cut up tomatoes for the sauce…for everyone in the class.  He handed me two #10 cans of whole tomatoes to dice up, then had me add olive oil, salt and pepper for a make-shift pizza sauce.  Strangely enough, it didn’t seem right to get out a knife and cutting board again!  How quickly I’ve slipped into pastry mode…Anyway, we also had grated mozzarella and asiago cheese and some fresh basil for topping our pizzas, which we also baked in the deck oven.  Flattening the dough into a round crust wasn’t too hard, though I didn’t try to throw it up in the air or anything (even Chef admitted he didn’t know how to do that).

And that brings me to last night’s first round of exams!  For our practical, we each had to make buttermilk biscuits, tea cookies and baguettes.  The first two I felt fairly confident about, but our whole class is still having trouble getting the hang of the baguettes, especially when it comes to shaping and proofing and slashing them correctly.  So my biscuits were going along fine, and I was all ready to pipe my tea cookie dough using my new pastry bag…until I realized that the tip I had was too small.  I had a decision to make: Try to pull out that tip through all the dough and put in a new one, or move the dough into someone else’s pastry bag with the correct tip already intact.  I chose the latter, but ended up losing enough dough in the process that I barely had enough to pipe the required 12 cookies.  And let’s just say a few of them were less than perfect, so I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t have enough for extras.  Alas, I just had to go with it.  And then, to the baguettes.  Oh, the baguettes.  I thought I had shaped them just fine and had loaded them onto the long pizza peel to put them in the oven.  There were a lot of other people waiting to put in their baguettes as well, so they were gathered on either side, watching as I was about to slide them in.  For some reason, I started pulling out the peel way before I was supposed to, so the baguettes were only half in, and then when I tried to push them in, they basically became S-shaped.  I was mortified.  Chef was also standing there, and of course jumped in to tell me how to fix them.  I tried to tap them back into place myself, but I was so flustered that it wasn’t working.  Thankfully, Chef came to my rescue and took matters into his own hands to get them mostly straight again.  But I knew my grade would suffer for my misshapen baguettes, and I was not feeling too good about myself.  Once I had everything ready for grading, Chef didn’t go too hard on me, and said he could tell there were a lot of perfectionists in this class.  I told him I learned all about that at Northwestern 🙂 But his advice to relax and not be so hard on myself was much needed.  We took our written test at the end, and went on our way.

Next week, pies and tarts just in time for Thanksgiving!

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Macaroons!

Check out Thin Crust, Deep Dish (Adriana’s blog) for her account of last night’s macaroon-making — and her similar sentiments about our new chef! We also made tea cookies, brownies and peanut butter cookie dough (we’re baking them tonight, along with baguettes and French bread). More soon!

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Baking & Pastry is already rocking my world.

Just a quick update after my first night of Baking & Pastry: I am in love with this class.  The difference between this class and the past three culinary classes is already like night and day, and that’s in large part due to our chef.  He is such a breath of fresh air!!  Here are a few reasons why Chef is a welcome change of pace: He is extremely positive and relaxed; he loves what he does and really wants us to learn; his jokes are actually funny; he’s skilled and clearly knows what he’s talking about but very humble about it; he’s just someone you want to be friends with; he’s hip to new media (he has a blog, a podcast, AND actually posts things on the student portal); he jams to his classic rock music in the hour before class starts…did I mention his teaching strategies are quite effective and he succeeds in making class a FUN environment?!?  I’ve probably gushed enough at this point, but it really feels like I’m going to a whole new school.  Being in the nicer main building is convenient, and even though we technically have less table space, the kitchen and dishroom are both larger and all the equipment seems to actually work!

And I haven’t even mentioned the syllabus…cookies, breads, pies, tarts, pizza dough, ice cream, croissants, all sorts of French pastries I’ve never even heard of.  In our first class, we learned to make biscuits, chocolate chip scones and blueberry muffins.  Mmmmm.  Adriana and I are partners now (yay!) and we were pretty proud of our first team effort.  We intend to be an unstoppable baking duo this term!

Can you tell I’m just a wee bit excited for the next six weeks? 🙂

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I’m all done with my Foundations classes!

I have now completed Culinary Foundations I-III — which means I’ve been in culinary school for 18 weeks.  Wow!  I have learned a ton in that time, and I’m glad to feel relatively competent in sauces, soups, starches, vegetables and meat fabrication.  But I am really looking forward to an entirely new format, kitchen, set of ingredients, chef (who has a great reputation from what I can tell) — all this when Baking and Pastry begins on Monday!

But first, to recap the past week and a half of class:

First, we spent two days on lamb.  Chef showed us how to break down a leg of lamb, and then we made navarin (lamb stew) and noisette of lamb with red pepper coulis.  The navarin, however, was supposed to be garnished with three carrot tournés, three  potato tournés and three turnip tournés.  Grrrrreat.  And I thought turning a potato was hard!  A turnip is even trickier, and a carrot is basically impossible.  Firm vegetables don’t like being cut into smooth, rounded shapes!  Mine turned out average, at best, but for me, average was more than adequate, and I was just glad I didn’t cut myself trying to maneuver my knife around and around.  Chef actually didn’t fully demo the stew, so we had no concept of what it was supposed to taste like.  When I presented mine to him, much to my surprise, Chef couldn’t find anything wrong with it and said the flavor was really, really good.  Moral of the story: I perform best when I have no example I’m aiming toward.  Or else I just lucked out big time.  The next night, Chef broke down a rack of lamb and we crusted our chops in parsley, garlic and parmesan and served them with cauliflower gratin and the white beans and bacon dish we’d made before.  Pretty simple and delicious night.

Then came sausage madness, which I referenced in my last post.  Each pair made its own sausage, mostly either andouille or chorizo.  Will and I made andouille, and then we had to make it into a real charcuterie plate, with a few different side dishes (Chef showed us some examples).  We made a salad with celery hearts and parsley, topped with a warm bacon vinaigrette; sauteed potatoes with bacon; and quick-pickled shallots, cucumbers and garlic.  In case you were wondering, you “quick-pickle” something by putting the vegetable in a pan with some vinegar, salt and pepper, then bring the liquid to a light boil, then turn it off and let it sit there for several minutes.  My charcuterie plate looked pretty legit!  We also randomly made gyro meat out of the leftover ground lamb, but Chef only told us which spices to use and not how much of each, so most groups didn’t really end up with meat that tasted like gyros.  Ours was fine, but tasted more…Italian?  Maybe too much oregano?  It was a pretty fun night overall.

Then, when we got back on Monday of this week, the time had evidently come for another disasterous, awful, stay-late night — it had just been too long, I guess.  I was initially very excited about this night because lobster was on the syllabus!  Real, live lobster, undoubtedly of questionable quality, but lobster nonetheless!  I had ignored the other item on the syllabus: chicken galantine.  Oh, the horror.  Wikipedia explains it pretty well, and I will draw your attention to this sentence in particular: “Since deboning poultry is thought of as difficult and time-consuming, this is a rather elaborate dish…”  Understatement of the century. (Fun fact: Turducken is a type of galantine!)  Here’s how you make a galatine:  You break down an entire chicken, debone all of it, very carefully remove all the skin without tearing it, use the meat (except breasts and tenderloins) to make a mousseline-style forcemeat (you know, putting chicken in a food processor and then mixing it with egg whites and whipped cream), pound the breasts thinner, cure the tenderloins in a salt solution, lay out the skin, place the breasts side by side in the middle, put a line of mousseline across them, put the tenderloins on top of that, roll the whole thing up with plastic wrap, poach it, chill it, slice and serve it cold.  I don’t know if that description does justice to how long the whole process takes, but oh my gosh, it was torture.  Oh, and did I mention that a balantine is the exact same thing, only instead of wrapped in plastic wrap, it’s trussed with twine (add another 10 minutes), seared in a saute pan and then finished in the oven?  Yeah, we had to do that too.  But what about the lobster??  Well, we had seven total for a class of 24, and Chef briefly told us how to prepare it (either boiled with mirepoix in a big hotel pan, or grilled), but we were short on time to begin with, as Chef’s demo of the galantine/balantine took at least an hour and a half.  So, as we embarked on the 2+ hour journey that was this ridiculous dish, I managed to get our lobster in the water within the last 15 minutes, and just wrapped the whole thing up and took it home (after consulting with Adriana and Will, my group members).  Sorry, but I was NOT about to waste that lobster because we spent the whole time on a labor-intensive log that wasn’t even that good!  (It made a nice lunch the next day!) We didn’t leave the kitchen until 10:50 or so — we were still cooking right up until 10, and then tons of dishes from that crazy million-step process!  Not a fun night.  But if you ever want to make a galantine of chicken, I’m now qualified to teach you…

Our two days of final practicals were basically identical to the final practicals at the end of Foundations II (and the beef and chicken practicals a few weeks ago in this class).  Why, oh why, did we have to make sauteed chicken chasseur with mashed potatoes, coq au vin, strip steak and tenderloin with sauce madeira YET AGAIN??  Chef claims it’s all about demonstrating mastery of techniques — and he’s pretty sure that no matter how confident we were, we still wouldn’t make them perfectly this time either.  Which is correct, but still makes tests pretty boring.  I’m at the point where I don’t even want to taste coq au vin anymore, and I will probably never make a chasseur sauce for chicken at home.  Ever.  Anyway, the practicals were fine.  I felt relaxed during the chicken one, and worked quite efficiently.  The steak one was a bit more chaotic, mostly because I endured a steak-stealing incident which stressed me out a lot (yes, a classmate took my steak out of the oven and tried to claim it was hers.  This is a fairly routine occurrence in the kitchen, unfortunately, but it’s never happened to me during a practical).  I presented my filet pretty rare, just because I’d had it and didn’t want to risk putting it back in the oven!  And the written final was a little harder than I had expected (as was the case with most of the written tests in this class).  But once we were done cleaning up and Chef shared a few more parting words (including an invitation to visit/sit in on his Catering and Buffets class that we won’t get to take), it was over!

I think I have a pretty solid foundational skill set at this point, but it’s funny that none of that will really apply come Monday.  We’re in a fancy baking kitchen in the main building with tons of KitchenAid mixers and table space, and I’m hoping it will feel like an entirely new school experience.  Stay tuned!!

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