Thursday, November 18, 2010

Black Box

I can't believe Thanksgiving is here already! We only have about 4 weeks left in the semester, and our finals start the week after Thanksgiving break! I hardly have had time to blog about all the food we make - cooking and baking, let alone take any photos!

I do however, keep track of all the dishes we make for class -- I have logbooks for each lab class where we keep track of all the recipes, production sheets, class handouts, notes, etc. The purpose of these are so we have a collection of base recipes and a book organized enough that we can reference throughout our careers.

Today we wrapped up the beef chapter and healthy cooking chapter. I find that pretty hilarious we covered these in the same week. Today in class we finished up the short ribs (OMG - they are delish!) and I made saffron vegetable risotto. I was really thrilled that my risotto came out well -- many students have attempted risotto, but only a few have had success! I didn't think it was that hard, but I've had some really chewy risotto in the past few weeks!

One of my classmates (he's a total showoff and I can't stand him) caught the grill on fire today. Chef had to put it out with baking soda so the hood system wouldn't go off. I guess it was something in the marinade -- who knows -- but thank goodness I stopped wearing hairspray, I'd have been a mess! To top it off, his steak did not have that much flavor.

The cool thing about getting to taste everyones cooking (and my own) is that you get to know what is missing in a dish or also what is overpowering it. Chef encourages us to learn the technique -- and a few of us, he tells not to focus so much on the recipe -- but know the technique and the ingredients will come. One of the benefits of my experimental nature is that our practical exam is basically going to have to be dishes on the fly. They are called "black box" for a reason. We get a "box" of ingredients and have 3 hours to come up with a menu of a soup and an entree including: a protein with a sauce, a vegetable, and a starch. We have no idea what the ingredients are ahead of time, and we have a half hour to produce a menu, the 2nd hour we have to turn in the soup, and by hour 3 we have to turn in the entree. Chef will try the dish and grade us accordingly. I am a little nervous, but very excited!!

Just to be cute, I should make pierogi with my ingredients! :)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's This?!

Inspired by Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, we created a scene from Christmas Town with Jack Skellington for our entry into the gingerbread competition!

We ended up taking 2nd place in the college category!!! I am so thrilled that we placed! I was just happy to be a part of the competition! The houses are going to be auctioned off for charity this weekend -- I hope it makes a great contribution!

The house itself is made of gingerbread, as is the sign and Jack's body. We had some challenges with the house mainly because using store bought candy would mark us down. My classmate that I entered the contest with made a ton of rock candy that we didn't end up using a whole lot of. We used it for the windows only. He also made some seafom, which is what we used under the piles of snow. I did the design, scaling and baking of the main house. I also did the decorating and assembly of the house, roof, Jack, sign, and the trees.

I learned a lot of lessons in the short time we had for assembly. I couldn't start assembly without the windows, and my partner didn't come over to my house until Friday at 9pm! We worked through the night until 5am. I got up at 8 am and finished the assembly, and had to redo Jack. The gumpaste Jack my partner made the night before was all dried out and crumbled. I didn't think we were going to make the 3pm deadline -- but we did and had only 5 minutes to spare!

The funny thing is that I have never made a gingerbread house before. I didn't even know what gum paste was. I am so excited from all the knowledge I have gained in the few weeks I worked on the house. It was thrilling to win an award -- and even more satisfying was when the head of our culinary program came up to us and complimented the roof, piping, and lettering. That totally made my day.

I have decided I can handle this myself next year, and already have a list of potential themes. The best part is there is an adult category, so once I finish school, I can still participate! I am very thrilled to have my very own annual holiday tradition!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

While visions of sugar plums dance in my head....

I've been smelling gingerbread for days here in my kitchen, aka Gingerbread Central. I entered a gingerbread house contest at school with a class mate of mine -- our house will be turned in 3pm on Saturday for judging, and 5pm is the announcement of the winners.

I have to admit it was totally on a whim -- I have never made a gingerbread house before in my life! Good thing I picked someone who knows a bit about candy making, because the judges will mark you down for using store bought candy. So much for gumdrops and candy canes!

I will post pictures when we are finished, but I don't want to spoil the surprise -- or get you thinking we are some kind of ginger-sperts. Let's just say we consider ourselves novice.

In the past week I've made pounds of fondant, gum paste and royal frosting. I think I've used about 10 lbs of powdered sugar, no exaggeration what-so-ever! I can't wait to start the decorating!